The Daily Briefing Monay, August 13, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

An interesting comparison from TE MARTELLUS BENNETT on the two greatest quarterbacks of the moment.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Martellus Bennett, the tight end who retired from the NFL this year after playing for both the Patriots and the Packers last year, had an interesting comparison of the two teams quarterbacks.

 

Bennett told Doug Gotlieb that Rodgers throws the ball better than anyone, but Brady is the better quarterback.

 

“I think that no one has more arm talent than Aaron,” Bennett said. “Aaron can pretty much do anything with the ball. I feel like Tom Brady is precise, easier to play with. It was easier to play with Tom than anybody else.”

 

Bennett said Brady has the leadership you want in a quarterback and that makes the difference.

 

“He makes the game easy, what he expects, where he wants you to be, where he’s putting the ball, he does so many repetitions with you, mental reps, physical reps, walk-through, he’s always letting you know,” Bennett said of Brady. “He communicates the best of what he expects. The communication between him and the receiver is on the highest level: What you like to do, what he likes to throw, if you ask him to do something he’ll try it.”

 

Bennett’s description pretty well sums up what most observers would say: Rodgers, at his best, throws a football better than anyone. Brady has accomplished more than anyone else to play the quarterback position.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Peter King thinks GM Ryan Pace if fighting a bridge too far in his battle with first round draft pick LB ROQUAN SMITH:

 

I think if you’ve read this column over the years, you know I think Chicago GM Ryan Pace is good at his job, overall. There are times when GMs have to do the right thing for their teams, and the right thing for the Bears is to sign the guy Pace drafted to be the centerpiece of the defense, linebacker Roquan Smith. This is day 29 of a holdout over something exceedingly minor in the grand scheme of things. It’s got to end. Principle is one thing. We’re talking about the reality of getting the best players ready to play in an uber-competitive division. Drop the fight. Get Smith in camp, and get him ready to chase Aaron Rodgers four weeks from last night at Lambeau.

 

 

DETROIT

Peter King senses the Lions are trying to get more physical on offense.

 

One other thing that surprised me: The three solid backs in camps are Theo Riddick, rookie second-rounder Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount, who I believe in on pace to play for all 32 teams in the NFL. “I can try!” Blount told me. “But I might age out!” On his sixth team now, Blount is 31, and quite valuable. Two 11-on-11 periods in the practice I saw, and both had 247-pound power back Blount, the closest thing to Jerome Bettis (but not really close) in football today, carry the ball on the first snap. So what is Patricia doing? A couple of things, as I read it. He wants to establish a toughness on the offense that he thinks just wasn’t there in the last couple of years, when the running game has stunk. Two: He wants to tell his players, The days of living and dying with Matthew Stafford are over.

 

 

MINNESOTA

QB KIRK COUSINS was impressive in a small sample size on Saturday.  Nick Shook of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Kirk Cousins’ playing time on Saturday night was short, and boy, was it sweet.

 

The anointed man under center looked every bit as advertised in his lone drive versus the Denver Broncos, completing all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings in their 42-28 win. The yards and perfect completion percentage don’t quite jump off the page, but the tape will, length aside.

 

Cousins was confident, precise and looked as comfortable as a new quarterback will ever look. Buoyed by two 20-plus-yard runs by Latavius Murray, Cousins was free to test things out with Stefon Diggs, and all three worked out. Cousins first found Diggs for six yards to open the drive, and then made a key completion, connecting with Diggs on a perfectly placed pass over the shoulder of Bradley Roby for a 28-yard gain. It was the first throw that showed why Minnesota handed the keys and a fully guaranteed contract to Cousins.

 

He capped the possession with an equally impressive completion, firing a dart into the chest of Diggs, who beat Isaac Yiadom on a quick slant for a touchdown. From there, it was a ballcap and Gatorade for the rest of Cousins’ night.

 

“[Diggs] makes plays,” Cousins said. “He makes plays and gives you the motivation to give him the ball more and more. To trust him and throw him open and make the contested catch. Once again tonight, he proved me right.”

 

Last season, the Vikings won with their defense first and offense second over the majority of their run to the NFC title game. Case Keenum — now starting for the team on the other sideline Saturday in Denver — was impressive at times, but not a world beater. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr explained to me in June how a Cousins-led offense will take some pressure off the defense “because we know the offense we’ll have is capable of putting up points.”

 

It sure looked like that on Saturday night with Cousins leading the way.

– – –

The Vikings have a new eden, and it is not in Eden Prairie.  Peter King:

 

In 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars spent $121 million to build a shiny new stadium close to downtown, using some parts of the old Gator Bowl structure.

 

Some 23 years later, the Minnesota Vikings spent $140 million to build a training facility.

 

The Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, a training and team office complex on the east side of Minneapolis, joins The Star (Dallas’ complex) as NFL training kingpins and overtakes Seattle’s beautiful facility on a lake south of downtown. It includes:

 

• Four grass practice fields (two heated), an 6,500-seat outdoor stadium where the Vikings can scrimmage and where local high schools are booking games, and an indoor facility with a ceiling high enough to avoid punts hitting it.

 

• A stand-up three-person Cryotherapy chamber, where players go for three-minute treatments to alleviate muscle pain and inflammation and improve blood flow. Some players, like tight end Kyle Rudolph, go twice a day.

 

A cafeteria that does not contain an ounce of junk. Last Wednesday, for lunch, you could have had a cup of pinto bean stew, and a plate of grilled Arctic char, bulgar lentil pilaf, grilled asparagus and a spinach/kale/beet salad.

 

• A outdoor sand pit for rehab and training for all leg injuries and leg fitness.

 

• A pool room. Here, there are three pools: a cold pool, a whirlpool, and a pool with a treadmill with a sort of elevator; the lower you’re dipped in the pool, the most energy you expend while running or walking on the treadmill. On the end are several more traditional single-person ice tubs.

 

• A draft room/personnel meeting room with rising auditorium seating that is so advanced that … well, I was shown the room off-the-record, so I can’t talk about the specifics. But it’s other-worldly. Very 2032.

 

One more thing: The locker room has fireplaces.

 

“I feel like there’s no place in the United States that has a facility so well-designed to take care of the players,” Rudolph told me. “No pro team. No college team—and college teams are in an arms race with those facilities they have. No national-team training center. Usually in the off-season I go to Newport Beach for six to eight weeks to work out and live. It’s 75 degrees. Every day’s perfect. But this year I stayed here.”

 

Where, presumably, every day was perfect inside this nirvana of a facility.

– – –

TE KYLE RUDOLPH (as interviewed by Peter King) is a man after the DB’s heart:

 

“Skyline chili.”

—Minnesota tight end and Cincinnati native Kyle Rudolph, when I asked him one of my weird questions for NBC Sports the other day in Vikings training camp: “If you could eat just one meal for the rest or your life, what would it be?”

 

I love that answer. Those of the Skyline persuasion—I lived in Cincinnati from 1980 to 1985—will understand exactly why Rudolph pines for his chili.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

One of the problems with being an Anthem Respect Purist is that the media is always on the lookout.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke for the first time since he failed to remove his baseball cap during the playing of the national anthem. It happened two weeks ago at the opening of training camp in Oxnard, California, with Dale Hansen of Dallas-Fort Worth’s WFAA calling out Jones with video evidence of Jones violating the United States Flag Code.

 

On Sunday, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News asked Jones if he had a comment about it. Jones answered, “No. No. No.”

 

Jones has said the Cowboys have a team policy that requires players to stand with “toes on the line” during the playing of the national anthem. Executive vice president Stephen Jones has made it even more clear that standing for the anthem is a requirement, not a request.

 

The Cowboys are one of the few teams never to have had a player protest during the national anthem.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Why would the best team in football sign the worst quarterback?  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Hack is back.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles signed former New York Jets second-round pick Christian Hackenberg on Sunday.

 

Hackenberg had been unemployed for nearly two months before signing with Philly. After two disappointing seasons in the Big Apple, the Jets shipped Hackenberg to Oakland for a conditional seventh-round pick. The Raiders waived him within three weeks. The quarterback was last seen working out for the Patriots in June. That is, before Sunday.

 

The Eagles don’t need Hackenberg. Philly employs MVP candidate Carson Wentz, Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles and third-year quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan. But with the former two currently sidelined by injuries, the Eagles’ addition of Hackenberg lightens the work load of the latter two and gives the former Penn State signal-caller another chance to continue his career.

 

Hackenberg has never taken an NFL regular-season snap.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Nick Shook of NFL.com thought QB JOSH ROSEN had a successful debut with the Cardinals:

 

Josh Rosen had to wait until Sammy Sleeves completed his one drive before Rosen got his first crack at NFL competition.

 

He didn’t set the world on fire in the Cardinals’ 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. But he showed some small signs Saturday that he might have a productive career in his future.

 

Playing with the second-string linemen for the majority of his stint, Rosen was subjected to constant pressure, but rarely crumbled. The rookie felt and evaded pressure, escaping the pocket before resetting and completing his best pass of the night, a 21-yard strike to tight end Gabe Holmes.

 

Rosen also stood tall in the pocket late in the first quarter, releasing while getting slammed and completing his first pass as a Cardinal to Christian Kirk.

 

Frankly, it seemed as though those years spent under duress at UCLA benefited him in his first game as a professional. Sure, Rosen missed a target here and there, but he also completed multiple passes on plays that began with poor snaps from backup center Daniel Munyer and ended with Rosen getting hit, or grabbed by someone wearing a different-colored jersey.

 

Through it all, he remained unshaken, even trusting his arm a little too much on an attempt to Kirk between three defenders. His final line — 6 for 13, 41 yards — is unmemorable and the highlights are few, but the small details that bode well for quarterbacks are there. Line him up behind the starting offensive line and arm him with Larry Fitzgerald and Co., and abetter result likely awaits.

 

In the meantime, we’ll wait with anticipation for more preseason tape.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Peter King on QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO:

 

I talked to quite a few Niners about Garoppolo and his early impact with the franchise. The most interesting thing I heard was from veteran tight end Garrett Celek, when I asked when he knew Garoppolo was a keeper.

 

“The first time he got in the huddle with us,” Celek said.

 

Huh?

 

“I’d said maybe two words to him,” Celek said. “I didn’t know what kind of guy he was. He came into the huddle for the very first time, and he talked to us and called the play like he’d been in there 10 years. It was awesome.”

 

If the Niners win this year, it will be because of Garoppolo’s quick decision-making and accurate right arm. This team is not talented enough yet to win 12 games in a tough NFC West. The level of talent versus, say, the Rams, is lacking. But a great quarterback levels the playing field. Shanahan thinks Garoppolo got better by witnessing Brady, regardless of how much Brady helped the kid who might one day take his job.

 

“Tom’s not sitting there trying to be his teacher every day,” Shanahan said. “Tom’s taking care of Tom, as he should. You get to sit there and watch really the GOAT do it. It’s cool to see. You can envision how you wanna handle that situation when you get in. But I still think that a lot of that, he’s gotta get in and do it. He’s gotta find his way to do it. You can’t be someone else.”

 

Here’s the way Garoppolo was the anti-Brady on Sunday: In a two-minute drill, on the first snap, Garoppolo, under a heavy rush, lowered his arm angle and throw sidearm to Raheem Mostern. Beautiful throw, and not a long one. But Garoppolo know when to take a short gain and when to risk his field position for a long one. This was the right choice at the right time. “I don’t think he at all tries to be Tom,” said a friend, Vikings backup quarterback Trevor Siemian.

 

There is one thing you don’t know yet about Garoppolo. He’s a little bit of a wise guy. That means he fits into this team well.

 

“I like Coach Shanahan,” Garoppolo said, “because we’ve both got that smart-ass thing going on. Just our attitude—that little bit of sarcasm. I grew up with three brothers, so if you can’t make fun of someone or can’t take being made fun of, you’re going to have a tough go.”

 

We don’t know yet if they’ll be Walsh-Montana, or even 60 percent of that. It sure is fun to contemplate, though.

– – –

The 49ers signed RB JERICK McKINNON to an ample contract, so there were some anxious moments when their new back went down on Saturday.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

The San Francisco 49ers avoided disaster following running back Jerick McKinnon’s injury scare Sunday.

 

McKinnon underwent an MRI on his right knee after reportedly injuring it in practice, the team announced. However, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that McKinnon’s injury “does not appear to be major.”

 

The 5-foot-9, 205-pound McKinnon suffered the injury during practice and was observed grabbing the back of his right knee, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Maiocco added McKinnon watched the remainder of practice after being checked out by medical personnel.

 

McKinnon, who joined San Francisco on a four-year, $30 million deal in March, was projected to open the regular season atop the depth chart.

 

The 49ers’ other running backs include Matt Breida, Joe Williams and Raheem Mostert, among others.

– – –

Tony Romo thinks the world of Kyle Shanahan.  Peter King:

 

Now, with Kyle Shanahan, (Garoppolo) is getting an offensive genius. I don’t throw that term around lightly—Kyle really is. I would argue there’s three or four guys in the league who really separate themselves as head coaches or offensive coordinators getting chunk plays. You’re dropping back and you’re having a guy come open 20, 25 yards downfield. That’s a huge load off a quarterback’s shoulders for always having to produce on third down to move the chains. That’s where Kyle really separates himself.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

They are holding a room at the Bustville Inn for QB PAXTON LYNCH as the question is Denver isn’t whether or not he will start, but whether or not a seventh round rookie will take his roster spot.  Aric DiLilla of DenverBroncos.com:

 

As Keenum and the starters talked on the sideline, second-string quarterback Paxton Lynch encountered some problems of his own. The former first-round pick finished 6-of-11 for 24 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He was also sacked once as he compiled a quarterback rating of 22.2.

 

“We didn’t really put a lot of drives together and move the ball, so I’m sad about that,” Lynch said. “We didn’t score a lot of points, but I’ll watch the film tomorrow. We’ll move on from that and work on Chicago.”

 

Joseph said his evaluation of the quarterback’s night won’t be complete until after he watches the game film.

 

“[He was] up and down,” Joseph said. “He made some plays, he didn’t make some. Up and down. I haven’t watched him yet, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what I saw. But up and down.”

 

Lynch, who said he did feel like he’s taking steps in the right direction as a quarterback, already knows there’s plenty of room for improvement.

 

That, he said, won’t ever change.

 

“There’s always things to work on, obviously,” Lynch said. “You can go out there and throw four touchdowns and 300 yards and there’s still things to work on.”

 

When third-string quarterback Chad Kelly took the field with 6:01 to play and his team trailing by seven points, he seemed capable of delivering a stat line that at least rivaled Lynch’s hypothetical performance.

 

Kelly had already led a pair of touchdown drives that spanned 160 total yards and took the Broncos from a 13-point deficit to a 1-point lead.

 

“I was looking forward to throwing touchdowns and getting hit and making plays, doing whatever it takes to get my team in the end zone,” Kelly said. “It was a decent first game, and I’m blessed to be in [this] situation with a great franchise.”

 

Kelly’s third drive didn’t end as successfully. On the second play of the drive, Kelly forced a throw toward Jordan Leslie that was picked off by Vikings safety Jack Tocho, and the Vikings added another touchdown on the ensuing drive.

 

Kelly would flash one more time on the night as he led the Broncos from their 25-yard line to the Minnesota 1-yard line, but time expired as the Broncos attempted one final fourth-down pass.

 

“He played well tonight,” Joseph said. “Outside of the one interception, which led to a score for those guys. He is a guy that plays with a lot of confidence. That’s a good deal.”

 

Kelly’s play left the Broncos Stadium at Mile High crowd chanting his name, but Joseph wasn’t ready on Saturday night to say Kelly had earned second-team snaps for next week’s game against Chicago.

 

“We’ll see,” Joseph said. “We’ll watch the tape and see where we are. Obviously Case is the starter, so that’s my main concern.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Someone was impersonating a Steeler at Sunday’s practice.  Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

 

For a brief moment, a fan lived out his dream of suiting up and practicing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

A man, dressed in full uniform, sneaked onto the turf practice field at Saint Vincent and joined the players for a few moments during the team stretch before practice Saturday afternoon.

 

The first giveaway the player was not legit was his uniform number. He was wearing No. 43, which had not given out by the Steelers since Troy Polamalu retired after the 2014 season. Also, the numbers were in block format, and the jersey color was a slightly darker yellow than the bona fide Steelers players were wearing.

 

Another indication something was amiss was the pads under the man’s jersey. The Steelers weren’t wearing them for practice Saturday.

 

Other than that, the man looked the part, and he apparently arrived on campus seeking a tryout with his favorite football team. His scheme was quickly snuffed out, and he was escorted off the turf practice field by conditioning coordinator Garret Giemont.

 

Steelers players seemed amused by the man’s diligence, and Antonio Brown laughed and talked briefly with the intruder.

 

The man, whose identity was not revealed, was assisted to a golf cart where he was greeted by security personnel and a policeman. After a few moments of polite conversation, the man jumped into the back of the golf cart and was whisked away from the practice field.

 

Steelers officials declined comment about the situation. When asked about the intruder at his post-practice press gathering, coach Mike Tomlin said “I’ll pass” and walked away.

– – –

Heir apparent QB MASON RUDOLPH did okay in his first preseason action.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Ben Roethlisberger may not have wanted Mason Rudolph from the start, but he liked what he saw in Rudolph’s first preseason game.

 

Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Steelers starter praised the third-rounder, who went 7-of-12 for 101 yards Thursday against the Eagles.

 

“Threw some really good footballs. The moment wasn’t too big for him,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he had fun and enjoyed it.”

 

After the draft, Roethlisberger didn’t embrace the idea of Rudolph with open arms, suggesting the team would have been better off with a player who could contribute more immediately.

 

And while parsing his comments about mentoring Rudolph backed that up, that’s since been settled and everyone’s happy.

 

For now, Rudolph is splitting third-string reps with Josh Dobbs (behind veteran backup Landry Jones), and making the most of his work.

 

“We had some good drives, we just kind of stalled and had a few miscommunications,” Rudolph said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to practice today and ironing out the mistakes and looking forward to Green Bay.”

 

And Roethlisberger said something nice about him, so he’s got that going for him.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Peter King with this quote from the Colts GM:

 

“The league ought to mandate all 32 teams go to training camp. We are losing so much, all these teams staying at home and not connecting to their fans. Think back to when you were a kid and you got to meet one of your football heroes, or get an autograph from one of your football heroes. You never forget that. We’re losing that connection. Going away to training camp is great for teams, and it’s great for the fans.”

 

—Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard, passionately telling me how much the league misses as team after team goes away from the classic going-away-to-training-camp model and instead stays at their home facilities.

 

The DB would think that a team can still make plenty of “fan time” in August if they do the home facility camp the right way.  We note this from elsewhere in King’s column:

 

License plates seen Tuesday in the parking lot at Lambeau Field, where people attending training-camp practices park:

 

Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois

Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota

Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina

North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina

Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ontario

 

That’s 27 states and one Canadian province … and this was not even a particularly packed practice session either.

 

The real question about “going away” for camp is team bonding worth moving all of a 21st century teams stuff (see VIKINGS above) 50 miles to some small college?

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

A tempestuous Sunday leads to the suspension of two of the best Jaguars defenders for a week.  Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA TODAY:

 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are giving a star defender and another key contributor a warning to cool down.

 

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler have been suspended by the team for violating rules and conduct unbecoming of a player, the Jaguars announced in a release. The team did not disclose how long the suspensions would stand.

 

On Sunday, a Florida Times-Union reporter tweeted out a video of a confrontation at practice between Fowler and fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. At the end of the video, Ramsey instructed the reporter to stop recording.

 

@phillip_heilman

 After 11 consecutive padded practices, tempers flared during a #Jaguars team period Sunday and continued afterward when Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue repeatedly had to be separated by teammates. http://www.jacksonville.com/sports/20180812/video-ngakoue-fowler-scuffle-following-jaguars-practice-sunday

 

Ramsey later sent out a tweet lashing out at the reporter as well as other media members.

 

@jalenramsey

 @phillip_heilman you know you done messed up right? Lol if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all. & Iknow the rest of y’all (you know who you are) gone read this too so just know #LameAssReporters

 

Ramsey, 23, has been an outspoken presence for the Jaguars throughout his first two seasons with the team. After helping Jacksonville defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional round, he guaranteed his team would not only advance to the Super Bowl but also win.

 

Ramsey was an all-pro selection in 2017 after he intercepted four passes and was one of the critical figures on the Jaguars’ top-ranked pass defense.

 

Fowler, 24, was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and is entering a crucial season. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft is in the final year of his rookie contract after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option.

 

He already has been suspended for the first game of the regular season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

 

Ramsey sent out the following tweet in the aftermath:

 

@jalenramsey

I’m always gone take up for my teammates kus I know what type of men and players they are forreal! Love my dawgs! If you don’t like it, oh well. God bless 🙏🏾

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

QB RYAN TANNEHILL throws rookie RB KALEN BALLAGE out of his huddle.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com:

 

Sometimes getting vocal leadership from a player is better than instruction from a coach.

 

Ryan Tannehill showed a surprise glimpse of that midway through the Dolphins’ practice Sunday when the QB yelled at rookie Kalen Ballage and kicked him out of the huddle after the running back missed a blocking assignment that resulted in a clean sack by Charles Harris.

 

The typically reserved Tannehill temporarily stopped practice to show his displeasure with Ballage. He continued to get his point across to the rookie out of Arizona State a little later in practice, too. Ballage seemed receptive to Tannehill’s ribbing.

 

It was unusual to see that from Tannehill, but the Dolphins may need that fiery leadership if they are to exceed expectations and push toward a playoff spot. Dolphins coach Adam Gase was happy with what Tannehill showed and said it was appropriate for him to react that way.

 

“I would have been upset if I was him because he knows what the result in a game would have been. It would have been painful for him, for sure,” Gase said. “He was in the right, kind of making an example there. When he does things like that for our offense, it’s a good thing.”

 

Tannehill was not available to speak to the media after practice. Ballage didn’t take the chewing out personally and said he understands he still has things to learn about the Dolphins’ scheme.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets appear to have QB SAM DARNOLD on a faster track to starting than the Browns have for QB BAKER MAYFIELD.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com on Sunday’s practice:

 

Coming off an impressive performance in the first preseason game, New York Jets rookie Sam Darnold is poised to make his move up the quarterback depth chart.

 

Coach Todd Bowles adjusted his rotation in a joint practice Sunday with the Washington Redskins, giving Darnold the majority of the reps for the first time — an indication he might start Thursday night against the Redskins at FedEx Field.

 

Bowles said he hasn’t finalized his quarterback plans for the game, but the game plan going into training camp was to give their first-round draft pick a chance to start at least one preseason game, sources said.

 

“It’s important to get him working and caught up with certain things defenses are doing,” Bowles said. “That’s more important than getting him reps with the first, second or third team.”

 

Darnold called his opening-night performance “a good little preseason debut.” He completed 13 of 18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, leading a touchdown drive in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He played with second- and third-stringers.

 

On Sunday, Darnold remained third in the rotation, behind Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, but he received 12 first-team reps, compared to seven for McCown and one for Bridgewater. All told, Darnold took 20 of the 35 total reps, also working with the backups.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

We’re not sure what team order ESPN.com put this injury report in, but it tells you who has been damaged around the NFL after one week of preseason play.  Full story is here, edited below:

 

Washington Redskins

Running back Derrius Guice (torn ACL)

Prognosis: The Redskins anticipated Guice providing big plays, but they will now turn to a running back by committee, with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine on first and second down and Chris Thompson on third. It’s the same group as last season. Kelley and Perine both have looked quicker in camp, but neither has yet shown he can be a full-time lead back.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Wide receiver Antonio Brown (right hip/quad strain)

Prognosis: Brown, who missed four days of practice last week after the team sent him back to Pittsburgh for evaluation, practiced in full Saturday and looked like his explosive self, beating several corners in one-on-ones.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin (knee)

Prognosis: Coach Pete Carroll has said he has zero concern about Baldwin’s availability for the regular-season opener, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates have reported that Baldwin could miss most or all of the preseason.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Tight end George Kittle (separated shoulder)

Running back Matt Breida (separated shoulder)

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (concussion)

Linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring)

Running back Jerick McKinnon (knee)

Prognosis: Kittle and Breida won’t play the rest of the preseason, but coach Kyle Shanahan expects both to be ready for the regular-season opener.

 

Other injuries: Defensive lineman Arik Armstead (hamstring) hasn’t practiced this month, and there’s no timetable on his return, other than the Niners referring to him as “week-to-week.”

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback Nick Foles (spasms in neck/trap area)

Tight end Dallas Goedert (undisclosed upper-body injury)

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor (undisclosed)

Running back Donnel Pumphrey (undisclosed lower-body injury)

Prognosis: Foles returned to practice Saturday after missing three training sessions and the exhibition opener against the Steelers. Nate Sudfeld is the No. 3 QB, behind Carson Wentz (knee) and Foles.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle)

Prognosis: Williams is day-to-day, but his injury isn’t considered

 

Minnesota Vikings

Guard Nick Easton (neck)

Center Pat Elflein (shoulder, ankle)

Guard Mike Remmers (ankle)

Prognosis: Remmers tweaked his ankle during the team’s fourth practice of training camp, and he is being held out on a precautionary basis. A source told ESPN the seventh-year offensive lineman is not in jeopardy of missing Week 1, no matter how many training camp practices he misses.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring)

Running back Marlon Mack (hamstring)

Prognosis: There’s no timetable on Castonzo’s return Mack left the game against Seattle and is day-to-day. Rookie receiver Deon Cain is out for the season after tearing his ACL in Thursday’s preseason opener.

 

Oakland Raiders

Cornerback Gareon Conley (hip strain)

Defensive end Arden Key (ankle)

 

Prognosis: Conley, who missed all but two games of his rookie season with a shin ailment that required surgery, hurt his hip in Oakland’s first training camp practice on July 27 and has not practiced since. Other injuries: Offensive tackle Donald Penn (Lisfranc surgery on right foot) opened training camp on the PUP list as he continued his recovery from the injury suffered in Week 15 last season.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

Cornerback Jason Verrett (torn Achilles)

Defensive end Joey Bosa (foot)

 

Prognosis: Healthy after missing last season due to a second surgery required to repair his left knee, Verrett suffered a torn Achilles tendon on his right leg during a conditioning test the day before training camp. His injury will require surgery, bringing his 2018 campaign to a close; Verrett will spend the season on injured reserve for a third straight year. Bosa, who led the Chargers in sacks last season with 12.5, sustained an injured left foot in practice Tuesday and limped off the field.

 

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker Jake Ryan (torn ACL)

Left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle)

Prognosis: Fourth-year linebacker Ryan, projected to be a starter on the inside, is out for the season. The injury will accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Bakhtiari, the starting left tackle, might miss the entire preseason but is expected to be ready for the opener.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive tackle Vita Vea (strained calf)

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (pulled groin)

Prognosis: A source told ESPN that Vea, the Bucs’ first-round pick, will be out for a few weeks but “is not expected to miss any regular-season games.”

 

New England Patriots

Running back Sony Michel (knee)

Prognosis: Michel was expected to be out at least 10 days. While he could miss more time, those close to him don’t think he’ll miss much, if any, of the regular season.

 

Tennessee Titans

Safety Johnathan Cyprien (torn ACL)

Linebacker Rashaan Evans (undisclosed)

Prognosis: Cyprien went down during a team period in practice last week when he was rushing the quarterback, and he will miss the season.

 

Carolina Panthers

Right tackle Daryl Williams (torn right MCL, dislocated patella)

Right guard Amini Silatolu (torn meniscus in left knee)

Prognosis: Look for the Panthers to place Williams on injured reserve when the season begins with the hope he can return the second half of the season.

 

Buffalo Bills

Defensive end Trent Murphy (groin)

Prognosis: Murphy has not practiced since Aug. 2 because of a groin injury. However, the starting DE was in uniform and participated in pregame warm-ups for the Bills’ preseason opener Thursday, suggesting he is close to a return.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Guard Andrew Norwell (calf)

Offensive tackle Jermey Parnell (knee)

Prognosis: Norwell, who felt some tightness during pregame warm-ups on Thursday, is expected to be limited for the next several days.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Safety Daniel Sorensen (torn meniscus, MCL damage, broken left tibia)

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (hamstring)

Prognosis: Sorensen was injured in a special-teams drill in practice and won’t return for several weeks, at a minimum. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Eric Murray, a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 who played in 14 games last season.

 

New York Jets

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (foot)

Running back Isaiah Crowell (likely concussion)

Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (thumb)

Prognosis: Beachum, spotted in a walking boot, was hurt during the first week of camp, and this could be the most significant injury of Jets camp. The Jets said he is week-to-week, which means he could miss a big chunk of the preseason.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Center A.Q. Shipley (torn ACL)

Linebacker Deone Bucannon (hyperextended knee)

Prognosis: Shipley tore his ACL in practice last week, and he is done for the season. The six-year NFL veteran started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons, and he has been a stalwart for the Cardinals. Bucannon could return to practice as soon as this coming week; until that happens it isn’t clear who will fill in for Bucannon and Cash as the money linebacker.

 

HELMET HICCUPS

The officials who called the Cardinals-Chargers game took the new helmet rule literally and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says it can’t be allowed to continue.

 

The new helmet rules continue to be applied as written. Which will continue to make football something other than football.

 

In Saturday night’s game between the Chargers and Cardinals, a pair of fouls were called on Arizona players. One, a penalty called on safety A.J. Howard, wiped out a fumble that the Cardinals had recovered.

 

It was called an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver, but Chargers tight end Sean Culkin surely had the ball long enough to no longer be defenseless (indeed, he had the ball long enough to complete the process of making the catch). The far more likely reality is that Howard was flagged for lowering his helmet to initiate contact, which is precisely what he did.

 

But here’s the problem: What else could he have done? Watch the video; Howard tries to execute a form tackle in real time and at full speed. But he misses the mark and his helmet hits Culkin. As the rule is written, it should be a penalty every time.

 

It happened again, in the same game. Cardinals safety Travell Dixon, while apparently attempting to execute a form tackle, lowered his helmet and made contact with Chargers receiver Geremy Davis. The flag was thrown. Again, as the rule is written, it’s a foul.

 

Yes, referee Brad Allen has said that more of these fouls will be called during the preseason. But the rule says what it says, and the rule is being applied properly. The problem is that the non-football players who crafted the 21-word rule made it so broad that it will attempt to correct behavior that is, as a practical matter, uncorrectable within the confines of the way the game has been played, for decades.

 

Coaches should be concerned. Owners should be concerned. Executives should be concerned. The Commissioner should be concerned.

 

Someone hijacked the game in March by downplaying to the membership what this rule would do to the game, comparing it to the rule that prohibits the ramming of the top of the helmet into an opponent outside the tackle box. Players quickly stopped using that technique, because it was a specific, defined maneuver that was easily spotted, easily called, and easily abandoned.

 

This new rule is far broader, encompassing not only the intentional use of the helmet as a weapon but all inadvertent contact that occurs when one player who is moving collides with another player who is moving. And the smart thing to do would be to re-write the rule in a more narrow and precise way, to convene an emergency meeting of the owners (by phone if need be), and to ram through the revised rule the same way the first version of the rule was rammed through the league meetings in March.

 

Recent history suggests that the NFL would never be willing to admit its blunder and to take proper action, opting instead to keep its head down, to deny the existence of a serious problem, and to suggest that anyone who sees this rule as something that could make the game unwatchable and arbitrary is overreacting. (That “anyone” could soon be “everyone.”)

 

So get ready for a season that will quite possibly carry an asterisk for all the wrong reasons. It quite possibly will be the season in which ambiguity, happenstance, and random discretion ultimately have a significant role in who makes it to the playoffs and, ultimately, who wins the Super Bowl.

 

 

ANTHEM ANTICS

Peter King is appalled that after two years, Roger Goodell has let the Anthem issue fester.

 

I’m troubled by the anthem issue that threatens to be a black cloud over the NFL for the second straight year. It’s the kind of problem that needs to go away, but commissioner Roger Goodell cannot make it. For the highest-paid commissioner in American sports history, Goodell has done an awful job handling this headache. Strong commissioners build bridges in times like this. Strong commissioners solve problems. Maybe a solution will appear out of the current secret negotiations with the players. I do hear there has been good-faith progress between the players’ side and league/ownership officials in these talks. But will there be a solution that features all players standing for the anthem at every game this year? I doubt it.

 

I was told by one source this weekend that the two sides have had amicable discussions, and that progress has been made, but that no solution is very close, and the source doubts there will ever be a solution that includes all players standing at attention for the anthem, as the NBA has. Which means the NFL will continue to have an anthem problem.

 

As of this writing, it appears that two players kneeled, one sat, several raised fists and at least seven stayed in the locker room while the national anthem was played during the 16 weekend games. So maybe 13 out of 2,880 (about one-half of 1 percent) did not stand at attention for the anthem. I would say who cares, but we know anything but 100 percent participation is going to be trouble for the bottom line.

 

A commissioner must be a diplomat, and a strong leader. But this commissioner has allowed President Donald Trump to whip up fervor against the players Goodell claims to be solidly behind. He’s looked weak, choosing to ignore the constant and insipid presidential flaying of the league and the players. I don’t claim he should sink to Trump’s level and respond to every tweet, but a policy of constantly ignoring the president doesn’t work either. Last fall, Goodell and a cadre of influential owners tried to build a bridge over troubled waters with the players. They handed the Players Coalition, a group of players fighting judicial and racial injustice in America, almost $90 million over seven years for their causes, and asked for nothing in return. The protests slowed but did not stop. And that goodwill went away months later, last May, when the owners—with no union input—instituted a rule that said players would either have to stay in the locker room during the anthem or stand at attention on the sideline while it was played before the game. That actually would have been a reasonable alternative to consider if the league included the players in the process, but that never happened. Goodell and the owners acted unilaterally. The Players Coalition felt betrayed, and on the first full weekend of preseason games, the protests began anew: Two Dolphins and one Raider sat or kneeled during the anthem; several others raised fists during the anthem.

 

What should have happened: The commissioner should have gone to NFL Players Association executive director De Smith last September and said, We’ve got a problem that’s growing with the on-field demonstrations during the anthem. We need your help. This has the potential to hurt our bottom line significantly—which impacts you too. If advertisers walk away, and some fans stay away, that’s less money to split, which means a lower salary cap eventually. Can we find some compromise like the NBA did, and find a way for all players to stand at attention for the anthem? His predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, could have done that with union boss Gene Upshaw; they acted as stewards of the game. But Goodell and Smith do not trust each other. (That’s putting it mildly.) In a case like this, I don’t care who’s to blame. It’s up to Goodell, for the good of the game, to find some olive branch with the players. Tagliabue had a great mantra while in office that applies here: “All’s well that ends.” Who cares who wins here? Just end it.

 

Instead, here’s where we are, 11 months after this wound began festering. Players—just a few, but some—are still protesting during the anthem. Trump’s still sending demagogic anti-player tweets. The Players Coalition, feeling ignored, is ticked at the league. The more radical players, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, are unemployed, out of jobs because of their activism, angry and with strong player backing. The owners are out $90 million, with nothing in return because the issue festers. And festers.

 

Goodell had six off-season months to make this nightmare go away. It didn’t go away. In fact, it’s worse now. Even though the two sides are talking, with the opening game 24 days away, there’s no reason it should have come to this.

 

I don’t know what advice Goodell is getting, or if he’s listening to any, these days. There’s been such a major turnover of advisers and aides in the NFL hierarchy—out: Paul Hicks, Joe Lockhart, Todd Leiweke, Natalie Ravitz, Jeff Miller—in the last two or three years that I don’t know who really has his ear now. But this situation is exactly why the owners paid Goodell the very big bucks. Though the two sides are making some progress, Goodell needs to lead now, lead this league out of a controversy that’s lasted too long and threatens a second season.

 

One thing that might work is the NFL giving the aggrieved players a game week this season when, instead of another pink week for breast cancer or another camouflage week to support the troops, players could be on NFL Network, NFL.com and other league media partners to press their case for social equality. I doubt that will stop the more radical players from protesting during the anthem, but it does make the NFL less of a target.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

FOX has locked up another of its top announcers to a long term deal as Chris Myers has joined Joe Buck with a new pact.  Myers is a fixture on the NFL (booth and sideline), NASCAR and MLB studio shows.