The Daily Briefing Friday, August 4, 2017
There are three teams in the NFL, all AFC actually, where the starting QB position has become shaky due to injuries, which is causing COLIN KAEPERNICK coverage. Besides what is below, check out Baltimore, Indianapolis and Miami for that latest.
Here’s CB RICHARD SHERMAN of the Seahawks weighing in on the entire situation per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com who adds his own two cents at the end.
While fans may hate Colin Kaepernick because he didn’t stand for the national anthem in 2016, the NFL has shunned him for a fundamentally different reason. Indeed, plenty of other players didn’t stand for the anthem during the 2016 season, and most of them remain gainfully employed.
They remain gainfully employed because none of them became the name and face of the movement. Kaepernick did, and he’s the one paying for it with his career.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has become the highest-profile player to recognize this hiding-in-plain-sight reality, in comments to Jarrett Bell of USA Today.
“What is it about?” Sherman said. “It’s not about football or color. It’s about, ‘Boy, stay in your place.’”
“Not a lot of guys are willing to step out there,” Sherman added. “So the guys not speaking up for him are doing him a disservice. There should be a lot more guys saying something. Most guys are like, ‘I don’t want my job to end up the same way.’”
Sherman told Bell that Kaepernick would have been a great fit in Seattle, but the Seahawks decided not to sign him. At least the Seahawks didn’t engage in an awkward, clumsy, slow-motion crowdsourcing exercise aimed at determining whether fans and sponsors would revolt before deciding whether to offer him a job.
“For you to say you have to check with sponsors and fans because this guy took a knee and made a statement?” Sherman said regarding the Ravens’ apparently ongoing deliberations. “Now if you told me this guy threw eight pick-sixes last year and played like a bum, had no talent, that’s one thing. But Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett or whoever is playing for the Jets right now — whoever is starting for the Jets is terrible — have jobs. You’re telling me fans would rather you lose and put a worse player out there because a guy took a stand? That’s where it’s so troublesome to me. . . .
“Blake Bortles has shown you enough to where you don’t think Kaep would be a solid fit? Kaep has won games.”
Yes he has. He has nearly won a championship. But team personnel throughout the league have been feeding “football only” nonsense to willing members of the media who pass it along happily to the public because they either don’t like what Kaepernick did or they hope to curry favor with their sources.
For months, the “football only” narrative had prevailed. Baltimore’s decision to be somewhat transparent unwittingly has exposed what’s really happening.
The owners want players to realize that they don’t own the fields, the stadiums, the uniforms, the logos. The teams possess and power the platform, and they choose to let the players occupy it. They’re not going to let players occupy it who step out of line in a way that both triggers criticism from the public and prompts other players to follow suit.
That was Kaepernick’s biggest sin, in the eyes of the vast majority of the league: He did something that caused other players to become aware of their rights, and to act on them.
Everything else that’s been said about Kaepernick is excuse-making and window dressing, no different from the Commissioner dealing with CTE concerns by essentially saying “yeah, but pro football players live longer than those of you who don’t bash your brains into broth.” Some of us see through it. Some of us don’t. Plenty of us don’t really want to.
However, there are those who have noticed that Kaep has done more than just the Anthem behavior. The latest is an inflammatory Tweet about his prospective employer in Baltimore issued by his girlfriend. TMZSports.com:
Colin Kaepernick’s staying quiet. His girlfriend? Not so much.
Nessa — the famous radio host — posted a photo of 2 guys who have made all sorts of news by talking about her boyfriend — Ravens legend Ray Lewis and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
The pic essentially compares the two to characters from “Django Unchained” — Samuel L. Jackson’s slave-master-loving character and Leonardo DiCaprio’s racist master role.
And made sure to @RayLewis.
See photo here.
Clearly, she’s not happy with Ray’s comments — in which he advised Colin to keep his mouth shut about his off-the-field activities … including social activism.
Bisciotti is reportedly resisting an effort to sign Kaepernick — though the team has disputed those reports.
Still, Nessa ain’t happy about it. Guessing Kaep feels the same way.
If this tweet is news to you, apparently you get your sports news from The Worldwide Leader. A series of tweets from Jason Whitlock:
How is Kaepernick’s girlfriend’s tweet/picture analogizing Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis to a slave and a slave owner not a news story?
The Ravens have interest in signing Kap. His girlfriend calls the owner and the franchises’ greatest player Django characters. Not news?
When people say ESPN has an agenda and a bias. This would be exhibit A. How is Kap’s girlfriend’s action not news? This is crazy.
Even on vacation in Costa Rica, Clay Travis of OutkickTheCoverage.com picks up on Whitlock’s thread. His main point is that if all Kaep had done was take the Anthem knee he would still be employed like most of his fellow travelers. It is the pig socks, the Castro tee-shirt, his police are slavecatchers remark that sets him apart.
I wanted to link the latest social media post that has doomed Colin Kaepernick’s chances of playing in the NFL this year, and potentially ever again.
While the left wingers in the sports media at MSESPN and other networks continue to assert Kaepernick is unemployed because of his protest, that’s not accurate. Kaepernick’s most incendiary comments weren’t related to his protest of the national anthem at all — indeed, every other player who kneeled during the national anthem is currently on a roster and playing in the NFL this fall — it has been his endorsement of Fidel Castro and statement that Cuba treats minorities better than the United States does and his assertion that police officers are modern day slave catchers that has made his employment toxic.
Then last night Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend decided to Tweet that the Ravens owner is a racist and Ray Lewis is an Uncle Tom.
You can read the whole thing here. One point Travis goes on to make is that if Kaepernick is so employable, how come ESPN hasn’t jumped on the chance afforded by his absence from the gridiron to employ him as a commentator?
Isn’t it awfully convenient for all the left wing sports media employed by these companies to tee off on NFL owners for not hiring Kaepernick without even acknowledging the fact that their own employer wouldn’t hire Kaepernick either. It’s the latest in left wing sports media hypocrisy.
QB AARON RODGERS wants to be like TOM BRADY (his new BFF) and play to age 40. Ryan Wood in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reiterated Thursday he believes it’s “realistic” to play until his 40th birthday, but he has a specific hope for how the end of his career unfolds.
“I hope it’s in this locker room,” Rodgers said. “That would mean it’s been at a high level.”
On the day New England Patriots counterpart Tom Brady turned 40, Rodgers said he’s learned from how the future Hall of Fame quarterback approached his late 30s. Rodgers, who turns 34 in December, credited Brady’s eating habits, preparation routine, talent and intelligence for extending his career.
Another thing Rodgers admires about Brady is how his career was played in one place. Brady, famously the draft’s 199th overall selection in 2000, enters his 18th season with the Patriots this fall.
Rodgers made it clear he has no desire to finish his career anywhere but Green Bay. He of course was with the Packers in 2008 when Brett Favre was traded to the New York Jets, and he later played against Favre’s Minnesota Vikings.
But Rodgers said his desire to stay in one place stems more from watching the way Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and even former teammate Charles Woodson split teams in their careers.
“The legacy,” Rodgers said, “you’re going to be remembered for multiple teams. It would be cool to start with one team and finish with one team.”
Jerry Jones, on the eve of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, works the refs with his contention that RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT has not done anything that should deny the Cowboys his services. Drew Davison in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
A domestic violence accusation that didn’t merit legal charges isn’t the only issue that could land Ezekiel Elliott a suspension by the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the league is looking into Elliott’s pattern of behavior, during an interview on the NBC national telecast of Thursday’s Hall of Fame game.
“There are a couple of issues that might or might not fall — and that’s going to be up to the league to the decide — under the behavioral guidelines,” Jones said. “But in my opinion, we’re preparing our team for Zeke and should.”
Elliott, 22, was invovled in a bar altercation last month at a Dallas establishment, although police have suspended their investigation as the victim has refused to come forward.
Elliott also made headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this off-season for exposing a woman’s breast during a St. Patrick’s Day festivity.
Jones said on the broadcast that players will “hit that hot stove two or three times and then learn not to touch it,” particularly players of Elliott’s stature.
“I know first hand what it’s like for Zeke to go out in public,” Jones said. “It’s like a rock star. It’s almost uncontrollable, and so that’s a challenge. That would be a challenge for anyone. He’s got to learn to basically meet that challenge. It’s been my experience that when players have that type of attention, create that type of dynamic, they learn.
“Zeke is exceptionally intelligent. He’s obviously a great player, and I can’t emphasize enough how hard he works. There’s nobody who works harder than he does, and is more professional about how he gets ready to play a game.”
Jones reiterated that the Cowboys are preparing as though Elliott will be available for the season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 10.
Elliott, 22, has been under investigation by the league for more than a year. The investigation began after an ex-girlfriend accused Elliott of domestic violence last summer. But the Columbus, Ohio city prosecutor’s office declined to go forward with charges because of inconsistencies in the victim’s statements.
Jones has repeatedly stated the NFL has no grounds for a suspension on that matter, and did so again Thursday.
“From the domestic violence issue, there’s not an issue,” Jones said. “I think that my hope is that Zeke is with us opening night, and I don’t want to get into anything that might in any way influence negatively that decision from the league office.”
An NFL spokesman said Thursday that a decision has not yet been made by the league regarding Elliott and a possible suspension.
But a source confirmed an ESPN report earlier this week that commissioner Roger Goodell is having an outside expert panel of four people review Elliott’s situation and offer their thoughts and perspectives on the matter. Goodell will make the final decision.
Elliott, the fourth overall pick last season out of Ohio State, led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Cowboys are expected to utilize him even more in this year’s offense.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on conflicting reports about Roger Goodell’s role in the prolonged Elliott investigation:
Last week, Deadpan.com reported that Commissioner Roger Goodell has had no involvement in the proceedings related to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Tonight, Michele Tafoya of NBC reported that Elliott had a hearing in late June that Goodell attended.
Per Tafoya, NFL investigators, Goodell (pictured Thursday in Denver with Broncos coach Vance Joseph), and a four-person independent panel participated in the hearing. The four-person panel will make a recommendation to Goodell, who eventually will decide whether to suspend Elliott.
The league didn’t comment on the Deadspin story, either before or after it was published.
Tafoya reported that the league regards the case, arising from domestic violence allegations, as “complicated,” and that it focuses only on the claims made about Elliott last July and nothing that has occurred since then.
Elliott will have a right to appeal any suspension. The league presumably will issue a decision far enough ahead of Week One so that Elliott would be able to exhaust his appeal rights before the season begins on a Sunday night against the Giants.
Should we be worried? He’s coming off March shoulder surgery and QB CAM NEWTON has not thrown in the last three days. The AP:
Coach Ron Rivera was vague on if this is part of the team’s plan for Newton or if he’s had a setback.
Rivera said after practice Thursday, “We are going to do what the doctors and trainers tell us.”
Rivera said it’s unclear if the league’s 2015 MVP will participate in Fan Fest in Charlotte stadium on Friday night.
WR BRUCE ELLINGTON is going to be an early cut. The 2014 draft choice missed all of last year with a hamstring problem.
A thug’s going to do what a thug’s going to do. DT FRANK CLARK is tossed out of Seahawks practice. Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times:
The Seahawks have long taken pride in how they practice with an intensity and aggression they say can sometimes be misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with their culture.
But an event that happened Thursday — defensive lineman Frank Clark punching helmetless offensive lineman Germain Ifedi in the face forcing Ifedi to head to the locker room and miss the rest of practice — was one that even veteran Michael Bennett, who is often at the center of such incidents, said crossed a line and one coach Pete Carroll termed disappointing.
Carroll said Ifedi is “fine” but did not elaborate and also referred to him as “hurt.” Clark was escorted out of practice after the incident while Ifedi, who lay face down after the punch for a few seconds, got up and left alongside a trainer with blood visible from his face.
Neither player was involved at the start of the incident, which began during pass rush drills in which a defensive lineman tries to rush the quarterback against an offensive lineman.
Near the end of the drill, recently-signed defensive tackle Rodney Coe was called on to rush against backup offensive lineman Will Pericak. Pericak appeared to grab a hold of Coe by the waist and didn’t let go as the play continued and the two moved near a water cooler. Coe then appeared to push Pericak over the water cooler with both players falling. Offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo rushed into the fray in apparent defense of Pericak and then both defensive and offensive players moved into what became a big scrum.
It appeared that maybe the incident had passed as players began to move to their respective sides of the line of scrimmage. But Bennett appeared to continue jawing at the offense and then Ifedi — who was not wearing a helmet — took a move toward the defense. Clark, a third-year player out of Michigan, then rushed Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick last season, and appeared to throw a punch, decking Ifedi.
At that point there was more rushing into the group and players from other drills ran over to try to break it up, notably safety Kam Chancellor sprinting 20 yards or so from the other side of the field.
Coaches also rushed into the pile and it ended there and there were no more incidents the rest of practice.
Carroll has sometimes shrugged off such incidents as showing how the team plays close to the edge.
But he appeared merely chagrined and upset about this one, volunteering comments about the incident in his post-practice press conference before he was even asked.
“Disappointed we had a couple guys get after it today,” Carroll said. “There’s no room for fighting in football. It is not part of this game. It’s not supposed to be part of this game, and we frown upon that very heavily. Real disappointed that that happened today. We have to learn and get better and be right.”
Asked how Ifedi is, Carroll said: “Don’t know. He’s alright.”
Asked a followup question about the incident, Carroll said: “Tempers flare. Frustrations and stuff like that. And then somebody goes overboard. Can’t do it. Can’t do it at all. I know it’s happened all around the league, it happens everywhere, but it’s not OK and it shouldn’t be part of it. You can’t do it in the game; you get ejected, which is just what you saw happen. Somebody can get hurt, which you saw happen. We’ll take a big stance against it, and really disappointed it happened on day four. But that’s it.”
Clark became one of the team’s most productive players on the defensive line in his second season last year after arriving in the NFL under a shroud of controversy in 2015.
Seattle picked Clark in the second round in the 2015 draft after he had been kicked off the team at Michigan late in his final year in 2014 following an arrest for domestic violence. Clark eventually plead guilty to disorderly conduct.
Like Clark, Ryan Phillips of TheBigLead.com pulls no punches:
This isn’t the first time Clark has been involved in a fight this week, he and Luke Joeckel went at it on Tuesday.
Let’s all remember that multiple witnesses told police that Clark brutally assaulted his girlfriend in 2014. In the end, she refused to cooperate with the investigation because it might end up damaging his career.
Despite that black mark on his resume, in May Clark decided to go after a female writer who wrote about domestic violence and had written about Clark’s past. He sent the following tweet to her:
frank clark, seahawk, just tweeted he had a job for me cleaning his fishtank and that i would lose my job
Clark then offered quite possibly the weakest apology ever:
Apologize to anyone who felt offended by my tweet earlier. We gotta do better supporting these major issues we face in this world.
He also set about liking a bunch of tweets telling him he had no need to apologize for what he said.
Aside from being wildly disrespectful, it shows that he has absolutely no care for anyone who would criticize his past actions. I wrote then — and still believe now — that the Seahawks should cut Clark because the fact that he’s a talented pass rusher should not make up for what are some seriously troubling character defects.
This fight was just the latest in a long line of issues for Clark. I don’t care that he had 10 sacks last season. The Seahawks can and should demand better from players they put on their roster. Clark has been an embarrassment to the franchise, and was again on Thursday.
GM Brett Veach on whether or not he or Andy Reid is calling the shots in KC. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
New Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach says his job gives him, not coach Andy Reid, final say over personnel decisions. But Veach, who was promoted to G.M. last month after the surprise firing of John Dorsey, says he and Reid are on the same page.
Veach said this morning on PFT Live that he and Reid report directly to Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, with neither above the other on the organizational flow chart, but he can’t see a scenario in which he and Reid are directly at odds on a personnel move.
“At the end of the day I’ll have final say, but it will be a collaborative effort with Coach,” Veach said. “We’ve been together a long time. We’ve butted heads on more than one occasion but we’ve always been able to be proactive in our approach, identify problems early and come together with a resolution before it gets to that point. So I’ll have final say, but our personnel staff is phenomenal, our coaching staff is phenomenal, and we’ll all work together and always make decisions that are in the best interests of the Chiefs.”
Veach and Reid have worked together for 11 years; Veach spent six years with the Eagles when Reid was the head coach in Philadelphia and is now heading into his fifth season in Kansas City. So the two of them know they can work together.
Rodger Sherman of The Ringer has his thoughts about Steve Bisciotti, Colin Kaepernick and the Ravens:
Even when people talk about Colin Kaepernick as a football player, they rarely talk about football. Popular opinion about whether Kaepernick is talented enough to merit an NFL contract seems to be divided along political party lines. I have yet to find anybody who believes that Kaepernick is right to protest the societal injustice against black Americans who also thinks that Kap’s early-career success was a product of only head coach Jim Harbaugh’s system. I have yet to see any Pepe-avatared Twitter Trumpets say that Kaepernick should leave America if he doesn’t love it while simultaneously commending the quarterback’s individual performance on last season’s hapless 49ers. This is America in 2017. You have to check in with your political camp before deciding how you feel about somebody’s touchdown-to-interception ratio.
I have read multiple in-depth explanations from football analysts I respect detailing why Kaepernick’s tape and numbers prove he belongs in the NFL. I know that the people who wrote those articles have also come out in support of Kaepernick’s protests. I’ve also read an article citing Kaepernick’s tape as proof that the QB is worse than Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley. Has the author of that piece discovered that interception-happy backups are the new market inefficiency, or is he just masking political opinions with football talk?
This ambiguity over what constitutes a football opinion of Kaepernick and what constitutes a political one has proved useful for NFL franchises this offseason. When asked about why Kaepernick remains unsigned, team officials have been reluctant to say that the quarterback’s protests outweigh everything else about him: Kaepernick takes part in community service; he’s donated significant sums to various charities; and he accepted a demotion last season and competed until Week 17 for one of the worst teams in the NFL, earning an award from his teammates in the process. But it is much easier for team officials to wave at a big box vaguely labeled “football,” shrug, and carry on.
After all, there’s a decent football-related case to be made for why Kaepernick isn’t signed. He’s not the only prominent quarterback who hasn’t found a gig: No team has signed Robert Griffin III, and Jay Cutler slid into retirement rather than wait for a phone call few thought would come. The NFL quarterback market is odd: Most teams have invested heavily in a starter, whether via a big-money contract or a high draft pick. The league’s backup QB jobs are not awarded on a purely meritocratic basis. A team’s motivation for signing a backup can range from seeking youthful promise to wanting veteran leadership; players can get jobs for mimicking a starter well, or for having a strong relationship with a team’s coaching staff, or for countless other factors. When a team signs Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Geno Smith, Case Keenum, EJ Manuel, or Austin Davis, it isn’t necessarily a statement that the team thinks that player is better than Kaepernick, just that he is a more apt fit for the team’s particular situation. (Even if, as in the Seahawks’ case, the reasons for that fit seem convoluted.)
As the NFL offseason has trickled into its final month, every team has managed to stick to the company line. This is about football. Every team, that is, except the Baltimore Ravens.
It would make sense for the Ravens to sign Kaepernick. Starter Joe Flacco is hurt. Their backup, Ryan Mallett, is bad. The team’s coach, John Harbaugh, says Kaepernick is a “great guy,” having sparked a mini-friendship with the quarterback since he played for Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, in San Francisco. Even though Flacco should be healthy in time for the start of the regular season, Kaepernick would be an improvement as a backup, and insurance in case Flacco’s back injury flares up. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome is reportedly in favor of the signing, and Flacco has spoken positively about Kaepernick as well.
There is no argument for Mallett being a better quarterback than Kaepernick. Mallett throws interceptions about twice as often as Kaepernick does (Mallett’s career interception percentage is 3.0; Kaepernick’s is 1.8) and touchdowns roughly half as often (Mallett’s career touchdown percentage is 2.1; Kaepernick’s is 4.3). Mallett averages 5.4 yards per pass over his career; in the worst season of Kaepernick’s career, he averaged 6.6. Mallett recently turned heads at training camp for the massive number of interceptions he’s thrown, leading to personal frustration and mockery from his teammates. Kaepernick is worlds better than Mallett solely as a passer; it should be noted that Kaepernick is also an excellent runner while Mallett has minus-2 career rushing yards.
Beyond downplaying Kaepernick’s football abilities, those who argue that teams shouldn’t sign him have taken to labeling him a “distraction.” This approach doesn’t necessitate going on record with opinions about his political views; instead, it attempts to explain how the mere fact that Kaepernick has political views could distract a team. Is Kaepernick a bigger distraction than Ryan Mallett? Mallett’s “off-field concerns,” including a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge for public intoxication, have been known since college; his “chronic tardiness” (and a missed flight to a game) got him cut from the 2015 Texans, whose best quarterback was Brian Hoyer.
Still, the Ravens have not signed Kaepernick. Team officials have just spoken a bunch about how they’re pondering a signing. According to ESPN sources, the reason Baltimore hasn’t signed Kaepernick is because Harbaugh and Newsome have been opposed by the team’s owner, Steve Bisciotti. Newsome denied that report, but Bisciotti has said publicly he didn’t like the method of Kaepernick’s protest and that he didn’t think Kaepernick would help the team win. The Ravens have asked their fans how they’d feel about signing Kaepernick, and Bisciotti reached out to franchise legend Ray Lewis for his opinion. Somebody let a reporter know that the Ravens have heard from fans who would be upset if they signed Kaepernick.
Bisciotti has overruled Harbaugh before. According to an ESPN Outside the Lines report, the Ravens coach wanted to cut Ray Rice when video emerged of the running back dragging his unconscious fiancée from an elevator in 2014, but Bisciotti prevented that. Then, Bisciotti valued winning over morality. Now, he seems to be denying a move that Baltimore’s braintrust thinks could help the team win games. And per ESPN, he is not the only owner to override football staff to keep Kaepernick out of the league.
It is easy to gesture at the NFL and say football reasons are why Kaepernick isn’t signed. It is hard to look at the Baltimore Ravens and say football reasons are why Kaepernick isn’t signed. The season is approaching, and with each day of Flacco’s recovery, the amount of time for an incoming quarterback to hypothetically get reps with the first-team offense dwindles. If this situation were entirely about football, the Ravens would either sign Kaepernick or move on to a more feasible option. Instead, they’re wasting time pretending to embark on this awkward, all-encompassing process that no team has ever used to sign a player.
The risk here isn’t that Kaepernick signing with the Ravens would derail the team. To Bisciotti, the risk is that Kaepernick would be a productive football player. Kaepernick’s non-football pursuits used to be the subtext to his lack of a signing. By ditching the NFL’s script, Bisciotti has made them the text.
Influential Indianapolis media figure Bob Kravitz, now at wthr.com, comes out in favor of the signing of Colin Kaepernick by the Colts.
Chris Ballard loves competition; that’s been his mantra since the day he arrived in Indianapolis, stockpiling players who will compete for the many open spots on the Colts’ half-formed roster. Given that desire, and given the fact we have absolutely no idea when Andrew Luck might return, this next move makes so much sense, it hurts my brain just to write it:
Go sign Colin Kaepernick.
Go sign him now, before somebody else steps up to the plate, like a Miami Dolphins team that is now dealing with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury. Or the Baltimore Ravens, who’ve been debating the possibility in recent days.
Sign him now, because Kaepernick’s presence would force the Colts’ offensive coaches to do what Jim Harbaugh did so brilliantly in San Francisco; namely, build a college-style offense around him. That takes time, but, then, the Colts still have plenty of time. If you bring in Kaepernick and ask him to run the same offense as Luck or Scott Tolzien or Stephen Morris, you’re doomed before you start. But show some creativity, give him the kind of offense that allows him to use his legs as well as his arm, and you could potentially have a quarterback who can win in this league while Luck recovers.
“No question, it would be a challenge for the coaches, regardless of any so-called baggage he might have,’’ said former NFL coach and current analyst Rick Venturi. “You’d have to re-shape your offense. But if you give him the kind of offense he had at [the University of] Nevada or in San Francisco, he’s shown he can be very productive.’’
Nothing against Tolzien, who seems like a nice guy and played reasonably well in his only start last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but you can’t convince me that Tolzien is a better option than Kaepernick. Shoot, some of us thought Morris outplayed Tolzien in last year’s preseason games.
Tolzien is workmanlike at best, a short-term fill-in who has played in nine career NFL games and thrown two touchdown passes against seven interceptions.
Kaepernick, who is currently unemployed and, in my mind, blackballed for his national anthem protests, has started 58 games and has thrown 72 TD’s and 30 interceptions. One year ago, while playing for a truly horrific 49ers team, he had 16 TD passes and just four interceptions in 11 starts. In 2012, he led the Niners to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Baltimore 34-31. One year later, he got them to the NFC Championship Game, which they lost to Seattle.
This is a league that currently employs several substandard – OK, lousy — backup quarterbacks, including the immortal and utterly hapless Blaine Gabbert. You’re going to tell me that Kaepernick isn’t a better player than him, or most of the backups in this league, including Tolzien?
But he sat and then kneeled for the National Anthem, and that makes all the difference.
What is going on here? This is a league that routinely employs domestic abusers, performance-enhancing drug users, all kinds of miscreants, and does so without batting an eye. This is a league where teams would sign Ted Bundy if he could tackle in the open field or run a 4.3 40. But a guy declines to stand for the National Anthem, and he can’t find a job in a league where quality quarterbacks are next-to-impossible to find.
I keep hearing about distractions, as if Kaepernick routinely stands up at team meetings wearing his Fidel Castro shirt and espouses the sociopolitical rhetoric of “Black Lives Matter.’’ Look, the young man has a distinct political viewpoint, one borne of study and his upbringing as an African-American in this country. He has not allowed himself to be fully defined by football. I mean, isn’t that a good thing?
Distractions…what a joke.
“Kap was awesome,’’ former Niners coach Chip Kelly said on an Adam Schefter podcast. “At the beginning of the year, he made a stance in terms of what he believes is right, and we recognized and supported his ability to do that, but he never brought that into the locker room. We had a meeting the day after the Green Bay game in the preseason [when he knelt for the anthem], and he explained to all the players his thought process and mindset for what he was doing. And there were some players who agreed with him and there were some players who didn’t agree with him.
“After that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is. Except those people aren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. And Kap never brought that and never turned it into a circus. He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic in the weight room, in terms of his work ethic in the meeting room, and I really enjoyed Kap.’’
Let me ask this question: Is David Parry a distraction? He got drunk, got arrested and dropped both homophobic and misogynistic slurs on police officers this offseason. Where are all the complaints about the distractions he has caused? There haven’t been any complaints because there hasn’t been a distraction. Parry talked to the media on the first day of training camp, and that was it.
Look, Kaepernick isn’t for everybody, but he’s not trying to be for everybody. The National Anthem protests? I will fight to the death his right to protest in any form he chooses. Kaepernick, like so many of us, expect more and better from our government and our countrymen; he just chooses to use the anthem as one of his many platforms to protest oppression in all its forms – a platform he has used exceedingly well in most cases.
I don’t agree with everything. I would never celebrate Castro. I would never kneel or sit for the anthem. I would never wear socks depicting police officers as pigs. But I respect and, at some level, understand his point of view, freely acknowledging that people of color are not treated fairly in this country. Protest is central to all great movements. Protest is the highest form of patriotism. And silence is the enemy.
Kaepernick refuses to stay silent when he sees injustice, but somehow, in our twisted world, that’s a bad thing. Even if you disagree with the man and his methods, don’t you have to respect his willingness to put himself out there, even at the risk of being blackballed and becoming a pariah?
Look, we don’t know when Luck will be back. It could be tomorrow. It could be seven games into the season. Healing is an imperfect science. We all want the Colts to give us a return date, but they won’t because, well, they can’t.
CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora came by Colts’ camp Tuesday and raised some eyebrows, speaking with Chuck Pagano and then writing he has “heard plenty of rumblings about [Luck] starting the year on the physically unable to perform list.’’
A couple of things: First, this was not a hard-and-fast report that Luck would open the season on PUP. In fact, it was dropped into the seventh paragraph of his story. “Heard plenty of rumblings’’ is very different from saying “Luck will start the season on PUP.’’
Now, he could be right. Luck could start the season on PUP. And then, he could be wrong, and Luck will be ready for Sept. 10. I don’t think the Colts know. I don’t think the doctors know. I don’t think Luck knows. Not at this point, anyway.
Whatever the case may be, there’s a very good insurance policy available to the Colts, and his name is Kaepernick. All it will take is one team with an open mind.
In other words, don’t count on it.
The Jaguars are looking for a new long snapper as incumbent LS CARSON TINKER is done for the year with a torn ACL.
WR MIKE WILLIAMS of San Diego isn’t the only rookie receiver taken with a top 10 pick having injury issues. Marc Sessler at NFL.com:
Injuries are catching up with the Tennessee Titans.
First-round receiver Corey Davis left practice Thursday to undergo an MRI on his hamstring, per Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website.
Coach Mike Mularkey revealed that veteran running back DeMarco Murray is also dealing with a tweaked hamstring that kept him out of Thursday’s session.
Wyatt tweeted that Davis “has looked good so far in camp,” noting earlier this week that the former Western Michigan star has operated as Tennessee’s “X” receiver alongside Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker.
Decker is still learning the offense, but will be asked to immediately step up if Davis is lost for any amount of time. The rookie spent the spring as a limited participant following ankle surgery, so this setback only delays his meshing with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
One of the most exciting rookies on either side of the ball, Davis — if healthy — is in position to post impressive numbers in this increasingly tantalizing Titans attack. He’ll need to be healthy to do so.
Initially the word was that QB RYAN TANNEHILL might not have really injured his knee seriously. But that is changing.
Jay Cutler? Colin Kaepernick? Brock Osweiler who has history with Adam Gase.
Jeff Darlington at ESPN.com:
The Miami Dolphins now fear quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need season-ending knee surgery; however, no decision to have it has been made at this time, according to sources close to the situation.
As second and third opinions await, Tannehill still could decide to rest the knee for six to eight weeks and try to come back from the injury again, sources said.
But the Dolphins are growing increasingly concerned that surgery will be the most viable and likely option as they and their starting quarterback sift through their choices.
“He’s done, I think,” one source predicted Thursday night, referring to Tannehill’s hopes of returning this season.
But nothing is final, and options still are on the table.
Tannehill must decide whether he wants to wait at least six weeks to let the knee heal and take another shot at playing this year, or go ahead and have the surgery, which would end his season.
The Dolphins recognize they might have to step in and recommend the surgery that Tannehill has avoided since he initially injured the knee in December against Arizona.
One source said Thursday that, because Tannehill did not repair his partially torn ACL during the offseason, his knee was “a ticking time bomb that was going to go off at any time.”
It happened Thursday, on a noncontact play, when Tannehill crumbled to the ground while scrambling in practice.
Tannehill underwent an MRI, and now the Dolphins know they will be without him for at least a significant amount of time, and quite possibly the season.
Who steps in?
The Dolphins do have a competent backup in Matt Moore, who took over first-team reps for the remainder of Thursday’s practice after Tannehill was hurt. But Moore was prone to some big hits last season that could make him vulnerable to injury, as well.
Sources said Jay Cutler would be willing to delay his broadcast career at Fox to play for Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who helped him revitalize his career when he was the QB’s offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015. But Cutler plans to consider such a move only if he gets the chance to be the full-time starter (and get starter money) for the entire season. Cutler views this as the only practical QB job he would consider at this point, sources said.
Sources also said Cutler is the one who has the initial interest in playing for Gase, and the Dolphins have not yet gone down that road.
In addition, sources told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that Colin Kaepernick’s name has been brought up within the Dolphins’ front office as potential insurance at the position. Miami owner Steve Ross has shown in recent years to be very open-minded regarding social issues, defending the choices of some Dolphins players last season when they decided to join Kaepernick by taking a knee during the national anthem. Gase, too, is known as a player’s coach willing to maintain an open mind on off-the-field beliefs.
Does a liberal owner give Kaep a chance of finding employment? Mike Sando of ESPN.com:
Kaepernick could be a good fit for the Dolphins, whose coaching staff has already shown the flexibility required to build around a quarterback with a non-conventional skill set. However, the support Kaepernick has shown for former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro could be a deal breaker in Miami, where a large population of Cuban exiles remains fervently anti-Castro.
That is where we begin in sizing up the Dolphins’ QB options if Tannehill’s knee is a lingering issue, and he is lost for any great period of time.
The Kaepernick conundrum
Kaepernick played his best game of the 2016 season against the Dolphins, completing 29 of 46 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 10 times for 113 yards. He was everything the Dolphins hoped Tannehill could be, and then some.
The Kaepernick decision is obviously about more than football. In addition to kneeling for the national anthem in protest of racial inequities, Kaepernick showed up to a 49ers news conference last summer wearing a T-shirt depicting Castro and Malcolm X, with a caption reading, “Like minds think alike.”
Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero called Kaepernick an “unrepentant hypocrite” in a column detailing his own escape from Castro’s Cuba. Many others in Miami could feel similarly, which could lead the Dolphins away from Kaepernick if Tannehill is lost.
When then-Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen expressed admiration for Castro in 2012, protest groups organized and the team suspended Guillen for five games. Guillen apologized and called his comments the biggest mistake of his life.
The Dolphins know this history and know signing Kaepernick could upset fans on multiple fronts.
The Osweiler option
Brock Osweiler was so ineffective in Houston last season that the Texans traded a second-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for the Browns taking on his $16 million salary. The Browns immediately tried to unload Osweiler, only to discover teams weren’t interested in him even if Cleveland agreed to eat some of the salary.
Osweiler was a more promising prospect previously in Denver, where current Dolphins coach Adam Gase was once his offensive coordinator.
The Browns and Dolphins would have to figure out how to handle the $16 million salary that followed Osweiler from Houston to Cleveland. Perhaps the Browns would agree to pay a portion of the money in exchange for a draft choice or whatever else the sides could agree upon as compensation.
Osweiler, though toxic around the league at large, would come to the Dolphins already familiar with Gase’s system. The credibility Gase has earned among Dolphins players could help him revive Osweiler at least to some degree. Imagine Gase’s standing in Miami if he could win with Osweiler.
What else is there?
The Dolphins proved last season they could win in the short term with Matt Moore in the lineup. Moore might make the most sense for them in the short term this season if a serious injury befell Tannehill. But with 2016 seventh-rounder Brandon Doughty and college free agent David Fales as the only other alternatives, the Dolphins would presumably want another option in that circumstance.
Robert Griffin III is unsigned, but no one in the league seems excited about him. New England has resisted trading Jimmy Garoppolo and may or may not care about sending him to a division rival (the Patriots once traded Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, so anything is possible). Former Buffalo starter EJ Manuel is having a good camp with the Oakland Raiders as he tries to revive his career. Could he be available? What about Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron?
There is at least one other potential veteran option: Jay Cutler, who left a tepid market in free agency for the Fox broadcast booth. Gase coached Cutler in Chicago, so there is at least familiarity.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. It remains to be see just how desperate the Dolphins might be.
Cuban-American Armando Salguero in the Miami Herald lets Ross and Company know there will be no forgiveness for Kaep on his part, even as he second guesses the lack of surgery for Tannehill last December.
You want to second-guess Ryan Tannehill and his doctor, the Miami Dolphins and their doctor, and everyone who agreed the best way to address a torn anterior cruciate ligament was not to have surgery like everyone else in the sane sports world?
You have a fair case to make, even if you’re coming to the issue as a second-guesser. Last year, when we all heard Tannehill was going to forgo surgery on his partially torn ACL, it raised plenty of eyebrows.
On first glance.
But here’s the thing: If you want to be in the group questioning the decision because Tannehill on Thursday went down in a heap after he apparently hyperextended that same left knee, then you must believe yourself more of an expert than the actual experts.
Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins consulted the experts in making the decision to avoid surgery. Respected team surgeon John Uribe and renown specialist James Andrews told Tannehill and the Dolphins that embarking on a workout and rehab regimen that lasted two months and included stem cell treatments would bring the player’s knee back just as good as surgery.
And avoiding that surgery provided the added benefit of not ruining the 2017 Dolphins season before it even began.
Consider that if Tannehill had opted for surgery last December or January, he would not have been on the field for Thursday’s practice. He would have been inside the team’s building rehabilitating. Still rehabilitating.
A surgically repaired Tannehill wouldn’t be playing for his team until around Thanksgiving, which would probably be too late to mount a chase of the New England Patriots, assuming one could be mounted at all.
So the Dolphins took a gamble, sure. But it was a worthwhile one.
I’m told Tannehill’s new injury is hard to gauge right now because the MRI was inconclusive. And although the Dolphins are hopeful Tannehill won’t be lost to them based on this injury, that is not certain. The team’s braintrust actually met for a significant amount of time Thursday afternoon to figure out what to do.
And a final decision has not been made.
But what if Tannehill escapes this incident as he did last year’s? What if he can continue, albeit after a rest to recover from the current injury?
You going to continue second-guessing the experts then?
The sports world is full of arm-chair quarterbacks, arm-chair coaches, even arm-chair general managers.
Some folks are no doubt advocating the Dolphins move forward immediately to putting Tannehill under the scalpel and signing free agent Colin Kaepernick.
So sign the captain of chaos?
The face of a movement that turned off tons of NFL fans last year?
The Fidel Castro sympathizer?
Only someone who is tone deaf or bankrupt of wisdom could think giving police officers, the military, Cuban-American exiles and other folks who respect the flag a raised middle finger is a great idea. I hope the Dolphins don’t believe that.
This Dolphins season is going to turn on the fate and the play of one and perhaps two quarterbacks and neither of those is named Kaepernick.
The Dolphins will either learn in the next couple of days that Tannehill can continue and everyone can then exhale; or the team will find out Tannehill is going to miss considerable time and perhaps even need surgery, in which case Matt Moore inherits the locker room.
No third quarterback is going to ride to the rescue. If the Dolphins are playing a third quarterback this season, trust me, this team will be competing for a very high draft pick next spring.
So pray for Tannehill and the right answer from that inconclusive MRI, if you’re of the mind. Trust Moore can be a capable replacement if Tannehill goes out.
But spend breath second-guessing a surgery that never was or advocating for a free agent quarterback to come to the rescue?
Don’t waste your time.
Fellow Herald scribe Greg Cote, on the other hand, has no problem with Kaep in Aqua and Orange, calling Salguero’s opposition a “minor stir” which is a sure way to infuriate a colleague:
Can we separate the politics and morality from this? Can we not make it about police shootings and the national anthem? Can we try? For just a minute? Can we make it simply about football even though “simple” and this man have lately been at odds?
If your answer is a stubborn and resolute “no,” which I’ll imagine you saying with incredulity or even anger, you might not like my suggestion today for the Miami Dolphins:
The time is right. So is the quarterback.
– – –
Can you live with that? With your quarterback having opinions about stuff that matters and feeling free to use his voice?
Not all can, which is why this quarterback has remained out of work while nomads and bums like Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have found jobs.
The NFL has been afraid to give Kaepernick work because his social activism and conscience are as much a part of who he is as his throwing arm. Just last week, the Baltimore Ravens were about to sign Kaepernick as a hedge against Joe Flacco’s back ailments, only to have scared owner Steve Bisciotti quash the deal after fearing a fan backlash. Also last week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly made it known players who declined to stand for the national anthem would not play for his team.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, more progressive, supported the four or five of his players who knelt last season in support of Kaepernick. Recently, Ross said he did not think Kaepernick was the victim of NFL collusion or being blackballed, saying of teams: “They’ll do whatever it takes to win. If they think he can help them win, I’m sure they would sign him.”
Now let’s see if that belief applies to his own team, whose need arose suddenly Thursday — as suddenly as Tannehill buckled and fell.
The Dolphins should be pragmatic and think first of football in doing due diligence on whether to sign Kaepernick.
Yes, Kaepernick caused a minor stir in Miami last season when he was seen wearing a T-shirt depicting the likenesses of Malcolm X and Fidel Castro, the latter el diablo to much of Cuban Miami. Kaepernick made it clear he is an admirer of Malcolm X but dodged his feelings about Castro, naively pointing out Cuba’s literacy rate and investment in education. Miami is bigger than just anti-Castro obsession, though. Most Dolphins fans will care little about a T-shirt he wore last year if he proves to be the season-rescuing answer to Tannehill’s injury.
Sure, he’d bring the circus to town with him, for a minute. His first day here, the attention would be a swarm, the questions about standing and kneeling, maybe even another one about Castro.
But the controversy is apocryphal at this point, a tumult because we keep discussing it as such, an issue because he has remained unemployed. Kaepernick already is on record that he’ll resume standing during the anthem; his point has been made.
He’ll continue to have opinions, but it doesn’t make sense to imagine his priority upon joining a new team would be anything but winning over his new teammates and getting his once-bright career back on the rails.
You want a motivated quarterback? How about one who wants to show everybody how absurd it was that he was jobless for so long?
Well, actually Kaepernick’s agent or someone else is a “source” about his client’s change of heart. Not sure Kaep is formally on record about anything. This is the Adam Schefter leak that broke the story:
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will stand during the national anthem next season, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, sources told ESPN.
Truth or hubris? Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald sees the Patriots far outstripping their foes.
We’re only a week into training camp, and the gap between the Patriots and the rest has already gotten wider.
Just watching how some of the new players have fit in, and have dialed it up in practices, whether it’s speedy wideout Brandin Cooks working late with Tom Brady to get his rhythm and timing down, or cornerback Stephon Gilmore not backing down on his aggressive play to the point of locking horns with Julian Edelman. Those two players alone make the defending Super Bowl champions better.
You also see a healthy Rob Gronkowski, hell-bent on avoiding injuries and staying on the field, now committed to Brady’s training and diet regimen with Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Therapy Center at Patriot Place. This has to be viewed as a positive development for the team and the tight end, who didn’t play in Super Bowl LI.
Sure, there have been a few things to make you pause, like defensive end Kony Ealy starting off on the wrong foot, but overall most of the club looks to be in form, including the now-40-year-old quarterback.
But then, you look out and see what’s going on in the rest of the AFC, and the problems some of the contenders are having make their long path to catching the Patriots seem even steeper.
On Thursday, fans in Miami, along with Dolphins players, were lighting candles and praying for the health of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who left the field after his left knee buckled without contact during practice.
– – –
Add it all up, and the gap in the division suddenly looks like a canyon.
The Bills are rebuilding under new coach Sean McDermott – who’s cleaning up the mess Rex Ryan left – while the Jets have already thrown in the towel. The only news out of there is how many times Todd Bowles rolls his eyes watching the so-called quarterback auditions.
Meanwhile, outside the division, the Texans lost wideout Wes Fuller indefinitely to a collarbone injury. That won’t help Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson, or whoever happens to be the Texans quarterback. Joe Flacco has a bad back forcing the Ravens to look for another quarterback. On and on it goes.
The Pats have a few injuries, too, but nothing like that. As it is, it’s still hard to fathom a better team. Former Patriots fullback Heath Evans, who was in town with NFL Network on Wednesday, definitely sees the gap.
Evans thinks it could stretch to the point of the Pats running the table if they stay healthy, which is a huge if.
“I’ve said now for a couple months, and Bill hates it, if every team stayed flawlessly healthy, and every team coached as well as they’re capable of coaching, and every player across the league played as well as their potential would allow them to play, the Pats would win every game,” Evans said. “On paper, they have the best team in the league, and it’s not even close. But that’s not the way it works.”
NEW YORK JETS
S JAMAL ADAMS didn’t die on the field Thursday, but he did sprain his ankle. TheRedZone.org:
Jamal Adams eased the concerns of the New York Jets and their fans with one simple tweet, the Associated Press reports.
The New York Jets rookie safety sprained an ankle during practice Thursday and coach Todd Bowles said the severity of the injury was not immediately known — although it doesn’t appear serious.
“I’m okay,” Adams wrote on Twitter about an hour after practice concluded. “God is good.”
Bowles said that Adams, the team’s first-round draft pick out of LSU, was hurt during 7-on-7 drills and sat out for the remainder of practice. Adams remained on the field for the rest of the session and Bowles didn’t think the safety would need an MRI exam on the ankle.
“I don’t know how bad or how much he sprained it,” Bowles said. “But I know he sprained it, so we kept him out.”
THIS AND THAT
SHORT-TERM HALL OF FAMERS
The selection of RB Terrell Davis for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has given new hope to some players who flashed across the NFL sky like comets and a new conundrum for the already beleaguered Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Tim Rohan of SI.com:
Looking ahead, some on the committee fear that Davis’s induction, which takes place on Saturday, will set an unwelcome precedent. There are dozens of star players who, like Davis, had their careers shortened due to injuries. As voter Rick Gosselin, a longtime writer for The Dallas Morning News, who voted for Davis, puts it, “Everybody’s going to [say], ‘Here are my three best seasons. Judge me on that.’ ”
Look at running back Priest Holmes’s three best years, for instance—with the Chiefs from 2001 to ’03, he had 456 more yards from scrimmage and eight more touchdowns than Davis had in his three-year stretch. Sterling Sharpe of Green Bay played just eight seasons from 1988 to 1994 but led the NFL in receptions in three of those years.
And Tony Boselli, the first pick of the expansion Jaguars in 1995, made five consecutive Pro Bowls at left tackle and was first-team All-Pro three times until a left-shoulder injury cut short his career in 2001. Back then Boselli didn’t have the Hall on his radar. “I had heard people tell me, ‘You’ll never make it,’ ” he says. “I thought to myself, Why go there if it’s not going to happen?”
But each summer Boselli would see the new class and compare himself with the linemen being inducted. One such player was Orlando Pace, who made seven Pro Bowls and earned three All-Pro nods and went in last year. Fellow players started whispering in his ear: You belong in there. In his ninth year of eligibility, in 2016, Boselli made the semifinals of the selection process. “It’s funny how perception changes,” he says. “I didn’t become a better player from [one year to another].”
This year Boselli was in the final 15. Because the announcement is made in the city in which the Super Bowl is being played, he awaited the outcome in the same hotel as Davis. Boselli spent an hour and a half alone in his room—he was too nervous to have other people around—waiting for Baker to come knocking. For the first time, Boselli allowed himself to dream a little. What if he did make it? Who would be his Hall of Fame presenter? What would he say in his speech? It was getting close to the time Baker would be making his rounds when . . . knock, knock, knock.
The maid. Did Boselli need anything?
A few minutes later the phone rang. Boselli hadn’t made it.
He was at least heartened to see Davis get in. “Obviously it can’t just be one year,” Boselli says of the longevity debate. “But if over multiple years if you’re considered one of the greatest to ever play the position, then you’ve made an impact on the game. That’s a Hall of Famer to me.”
FANTASY RB BREAKOUTS
Michael Beller and John Paulson at SI.com with some late round backs to keep on your draft lists:
AMEER ABDULLAH, DETRIOT LIONS (ADP: ROUND 8)
Through 18 games over two seasons, Abdullah has averaged 4.34 yards per carry on 161 rushing attempts. He served as the Lions’ lead back to kick off the 2016 season, and turned 17 touches into 120 total yards and a touchdown in a Week 1 win over the Colts. There are usage concerns, mostly related to Theo Riddick’s excellent receiving skills, but let the way the Lions treated Abdullah to start last season be your guide. He’s coming off of a Lisfranc tear suffered the week after his great showing against the Colts, but reportedly looked great in OTAs. DetroitLions.com beat writer Tim Twentyman said that Abdullah showed “great burst” in practice and that the team’s offense is “noticeably different” with him in the lineup. 4for4’s Joe Holka studied Abdullah for his Rushing Expectation series, and he argues that “a breakout is imminent” because Abdullah is “that special of a talent.” Holka adds that Abdullah has “rare” mental processing, “elite balance” and “unique athletic ability.” Fantasy owners can nab Abdullah in the middle rounds as their second or third running back. — John Paulsen
MIKE GILLISLEE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (ADP: ROUND 7)
One of my favorite draft tactics is to target talented free agent backups when they land in good situations with new teams. It has worked in the past with Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, LaMont Jordan and Chester Taylor—remember those last two names?—and Gillislee can become the newest member of that club this season after leaving the Bills for the Patriots. Over the previous two years, he gained 844 yards on 148 carries (5.7 yards per carry) and found the end zone 12 times (11 rushing, one receiving). In fact, among running backs with at least eight rushing attempts inside the opponent’s 5-yard line over the past two seasons, Gillislee is tied with Le’Veon Bell for the highest touchdown conversion rate (70%) in the league. With LeGarrette Blount off to Philadelphia, the Patriots are looking for a runner who can handle the power running game along with those short-yardage duties, and Gillislee certainly fits the bill. As 4for4’s Chris Raybon mentioned in his in-depth examination of the New England backfield, the Patriots consistently rank in the top four in number of plays run inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, so double-digit touchdowns are a distinct possibility for Gillislee. He’s also better equipped than Blount to stay on the field in some passing situations. If he starts getting third-down or hurry-up work, watch out. — JP
BILAL POWELL, NEW YORK JETS (ADP: ROUND 6)
Powell was the No. 32 RB through Week 13, before he took over as the lead back, so he should have flex value even if he doesn’t win the starting job by Week 1. Fantasy owners likely won’t have to worry about that outcome, though. Powell was clearly more effective than Matt Forte last season, and is expected to unseat the incumbent in the Jets backfield. In the final four games of 2016, Powell averaged 23.7 PPR-league points per game, second only to Le’Veon Bell at his position. When Holka studied Powell for his Rushing Expectation series, he noted that Powell has “rare finishing ability,” and that he “attacks defenses, and runs with authority.” Powell’s receiving chops are self-evident—he had 58 receptions last year, 47 the year before—so even if the Jets find themselves playing catch-up more than they’d like, he should stay very involved as a receiver. A sixth-round pick is more than fair for a back with Powell’s upside. — JP
DALVIN COOK, MINNESOTA VIKINGS (ADP: ROUND 6)
It’s looking more and more like the rookie Cook will line up as Minnesota’s starter in Week 1. The Vikings had all sorts of problems running the ball last year, but in an effort to rebuild the offensive line, they signed tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency, then selected center Pat Elflein and guard Danny Isidora in the draft. Cook had a good spring and his primary competition, Latavius Murray, has been sidelined as he recovers from ankle surgery, allowing Cook to take advantage of extra reps. Head coach Mike Zimmer, who is not prone to hyperbole, said that he was “very impressed” with Cook, and that the rookie “has a chance to be special.” Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune would not rule out the possibility that Cook could see 300 touches as a rookie, noting that he’s a “versatile backfield weapon” and a “legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield.” — JP
JORDAN HOWARD, CHICAGO BEARS (ADP: ROUND 2)
I know, I know. Howard was second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards last season, added 298 receiving yards for good measure, and scored seven touchdowns. If that’s not already a breakout season, what is? While that thinking is valid, Howard still has his doubters this season, based on the facts that we’ve only seen him do it once, and that the Bears offense could limit his productiveness. In that vein, a second straight monster season would qualify as a breakout, because it would establish Howard as one of the five or six best running backs in the league, from both real-life and fantasy standpoints. Howard started 13 games last season, one of which he left early with an injury. In the 12 games he started and finished, he ran for 1,224 yards on 233 carries, good for 5.25 yards per rush. He picked up at least 4.5 yards per carry in all but two of those games, and finished the season strong, racking up at least 5.3 yards per tote on a minimum of 13 runs in all of his last four games. By comparison, Todd Gurley, who’s offered as a Howard cautionary tale, ran for fewer than four yards per carry in five of the last eight games of his banner rookie season. The inefficiency that plagued Gurley last year was already showing the previous season. Howard dealt with no such inefficiency as a rookie. He proved himself a capable receiver, and will run behind the same offensive line Pro Football Focus graded as the fifth-best run-blocking unit in the league last year. Howard is the one player in the early rounds for whom I’ll break my “no-bad-QB” pledge (hat tip to Yahoo’s Michael Salfino for the name). — Michael Beller
TY MONTGOMERY, GREEN BAY PACKERS (ADP: ROUND 6)
At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to point you to the debate I had with T.J. Hernandez where I argued that Montgomery is a superior pick to Dalvin Cook this season.
Montgomery ended up with 77 carries last season for 457 yards, good for 5.94 yards per carry, and three touchdowns. He had six or more totes in seven games, totaling 423 yards on 64 rushes, bumping his yards per carry to 6.61. Montgomery showed how lethal he can be on the ground when the team commits to him as the primary rusher in the one game in which he received double-digit carries. In that contest, Montgomery rumbled for 162 yards and two scores on 16 rushes.
A lot of the Montgomery doubters want to focus on his size, suggesting that he’s too small to handle a running back’s workload. They don’t seem to understand that being a small receiver doesn’t automatically make someone a small running back. Montgomery checks in at six feet tall, and bulked up this offseason, weighing in at 223 pounds at the start of training camp. By comparison, the Cowboys list the hulking, bruising, powerful Ezekiel Elliott at six feet and 225 pounds.
Aaron Rodgers took over as the starter in Green Bay in 2008. In the nine seasons since then, the Packers have finished outside the top 10 in total yards twice, and outside the top 10 in points once. Last year, a season in which the Packers didn’t figure out their backfield until almost November, they were eighth in yards and fourth in points. Rodgers-led offenses rack up yards and points, the lifeblood of fantasy production. Montgomery has top-10 running back written all over him. — MB
The DB doesn’t think DALVIN COOK will last that long in most drafts.