The Daily Briefing Monday, August 28, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

Peter King:

 

I think, regardless of the flippancy of the comment, this is another one that could, and should, haunt NFLPA president Eric Winston, the Cincinnati tackle. WCPO TV in Cincinnati, in an interview with Winston, quoted him saying about the future of football: “Honestly, I don’t care, and I don’t think the guys in this locker room care whether [the NFL] is going to be around in 20 years because none of us are going to be playing. … If this thing dies out in 20 years, it dies out in 20 years. That’s not really my concern.” On FOX Sports 1, former player Seth Joyner said he was “appalled and really blown away” by the comments. I have a lot of respect for Winston—he once guest-authored this very column—and have known him for most of his career as a guy who cares a lot for his fellow players. I did not like these comments at all. Those words are totally not in keeping with the history of the union, which has always said it makes decisions today for the players of tomorrow.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Mike Tanier at Bleacher Report on the injury to WR CAMERON MEREDITH:

 

The Bears fear that Meredith tore his ACL against the Titans on Sunday. This one is like a reverse-case Edelman in some ways: Losing him transforms the Bears from one of the 10 worst teams in the NFL into one of the eight or nine worst. But Meredith was also likely to be Mitchell Trubisky’s go-to guy once the Bears stop fooling around with Mike Glennon. It’s tough for a rebuilding team to lose a player who can help youngsters develop.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Harold Henderson, the arbitrator for tomorrow’s appeal by RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT is a crony of The Commish.  But Jerry Jones wants you to know, he’s a crony of Jones as well.  Brandon George in the Dallas Morning News:

 

Jerry Jones appears to have no problem with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to designate Harold Henderson as the arbitrator in Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal hearing Tuesday in New York.

 

Henderson is a longtime former NFL employee who will make the final call on how many games Elliott is suspended for to begin the season. The NFL announced a six-game suspension for Elliott two weeks ago.

 

“Harold is a really great friend of mine,” Jones said. “He was at my [Hall of Fame] party, and so you weren’t at that party unless you were a good friend, I promise you that.”

 

So is that a yes?

 

“I don’t know,” Jones said, laughing. “But he’s a friend and of course that’s the way it would be. He managed the [NFL] Management Council for maybe 15 years. I served on it. He’s very competent, but the main thing is he’s a guy that I admire a lot. Former policeman, former attorney. He’s come through it the hard way, literally.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Martin Frank of USA TODAY says the same team that took a chance on Michael Vick should sign Colin Kaepernick:

 

At some point soon, the Eagles have to decide if they can rely on Nick Foles and his ailing elbow to be the backup quarterback, or if they have to go out and sign Colin Kaepernick.

 

Sure, Kaepernick is easily the most controversial NFL player because he kneeled during the national anthem last season, and many players believe he isn’t on a roster now because of that stance.

 

But Kaepernick has starting experience and that seems to be the prerequisite the Eagles used when signing Foles in the first place as a backup for Carson Wentz. Yet Foles has practiced only twice since July 28 — last Sunday and Monday — and hasn’t played in any of the three preseason games.

 

Foles didn’t practice Sunday, and Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he’s not sure if Foles will be able to play in the preseason finale Thursday against the Jets. Pederson did say he’s confident Foles will be ready for the season-opener Sept. 10 against Washington.

 

But is he able to trust Foles should Wentz suffer an injury this season?

 

“I am,” Pederson said. “These are, obviously, sensitive elbow issues. Being on [his] throwing arm like that, just want to make sure he’s getting the proper amount of throws. That’s why we’re going to ease him back in again this week and get him ready for the regular season.”

 

The Eagles, like every NFL team, don’t want to use the backup quarterback for anything other than holding a clipboard for 16 games. But the reality is much different for the health of starting quarterbacks. And the Eagles know this as well as anybody.

 

Last season, Wentz became the first Eagles quarterback to start all 16 games since Donovan McNabb in 2008. The Eagles haven’t had a quarterback play in every game for two straight seasons since McNabb in 2000-01.

 

So why risk Foles’ elbow for a team holding playoff aspirations when someone like Kaepernick is available? And it should be clear that the Eagles consider themselves a playoff-caliber team by signing Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and running back LeGarrette Blount, and trading for cornerback Ronald Darby.

 

That means, if something happens to Wentz, especially if he has to miss multiple games, the Eagles are left to trust their season to Foles and his bad elbow. And if Foles can’t play, then Matt McGloin is currently the third-string quarterback.

 

The Eagles could put Foles on injured reserve and sign Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season. Last season, on a 2-14 team, he threw just four interceptions.

 

But Kaepernick is considered a pariah for starting the movement of kneeling for the national anthem as a way to protest racial injustice. Other players have done that, including 12 players on the Cleveland Browns, without repercussions.

 

On the Eagles, safety Malcolm Jenkins has raised his fist through the final 15 games last season and has continued to do that so far this preseason. Cornerback Ron Brooks has kneeled the past two games.

 

Besides, if there’s a team that could handle the so-called “distraction” for signing Kaepernick, it’s the Eagles. They did this in 2009 when they signed Michael Vick soon after he served a 19-month federal prison sentence for running a dogfighting ring.

 

As for Kaepernick, he might benefit from spending a season with the Eagles as a backup, even though he most likely sees himself as a starter.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Peter King on what to expect from the new stadium in the ATL:

 

And a pretty cool “Halo Board” encircling the area just beneath the roof. That’s a circular scoreboard/video board/social-media board with vivid color and picture. You know what’s interesting about the board? It’s situated higher in the stadium than the 180-foot wide high-def screens high above either sideline in Dallas. I’ll tell you the difference: When you’re in the second or third level of the Cowboys’ stadium, your eyes almost lock onto the screens because you can see the game far better on the screen than you can in real life. In Atlanta, you have to think to look up to the screens. You’re rewarded when you do look up, because the circular board is a stunner.

 

Two other things: The Georgia Dome lasted just 25 seasons. It’s almost like the Falcons barely liked it, and Blank was determined to build a showplace downtown. But you can’t go building new downtown football stadia every 2.5 decades; the cost and waste are just too high. “We designed this one to last 40 to 50 years, maybe longer,” Blank told me. It needs to.

 

The field seemed to play softer than some artificial turf fields, and the players agreed. “It was soft,” said center Alex Mack. “But the softer the better. Slows down those defensive lineman, who get faster every year.”

 

 

CAROLINA

Peter King tries to figure out what to make of CAM NEWTON’s two passes in the third preseason game:

 

He played one series. Ten snaps. Two passes among those 10 plays—and both were thrown exactly three yards past the line of scrimmage. Both were complete. But there was no sign, positive or negative, about the arm. And though some around the Panthers feel coach Ron Rivera will give Newton a series or two in the preseason finale against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, the coach said he might not.

 

No one—Newton, Rivera, offensive coordinator Mike Shula—seemed too worried about Newton’s condition after the game. Rivera and Shula see him every day; who am I to doubt them? But if Carolina opens at San Francisco in 13 days, and that’s all anyone sees of game action for Newton, I’d be fairly concerned how he plays early in the season … and the high-scoring Saints and world champion Patriots loom in Weeks 3 and 4. Said Shula: “I’m sure there’s going to be some rust. We’re going to have to live with it.”

 

The good news in Newton’s one series? The running game was what Rivera has been harping on all off-season. Eight carries, 54 yards, a mixture of Christian McCaffery and Jonathan Stewart. And credit Newton for not pressing the issue, for not trying to change plays to make the kind of low-percentage throws that plagued him last year. Ten plays, 75 yards against a rising defense is good. Newton said he wasn’t worried about the lack of playing time. “If I don’t play next week, I have to pick it up in practice,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”

 

It will be big, though, for Newton to be more accurate, and to take more of what the defense gives him. Maybe shoulder strength will be less important this year because theoretically he’ll be throwing shorter, higher-percentage passes in 2017, trying to recover from his seven-percentage-point drop in accuracy from 2015 to ’16. The idea for Newton is to still run some, but also to make more economical throws closer to the line of scrimmage—the way he did on his only two passes Thursday night.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

A shoutout to friend of the DB Nelson Luis from Peter King:

 

“You f——- sh—— me? Why you gotta do that? Jameis, you’re playing a great game and then your greed takes over. You’re so much better than that. … You can’t do that, ever, ever, ever.”

 

—Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter, as captured by NFL Films for the HBO “Hard Knocks” show last week, ripping into quarterback Jameis Winston for throwing a careless, inexcusable interception at Jacksonville.

 

That’s the benefit of “Hard Knocks”: seeing real stuff when it happens, and when teams don’t over-edit the show. I credit the Bucs as an organization, and Nelson Luis as the keeper of the communications flame there. If “Hard Knocks” is going to exist, and it is going to be real, you need to see what really happens.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Peter King loves some of the names on the Cardinals roster:

 

NAMES OF THE PRESEASON

 

Arizona has them all.

 

• Cap Capi, LB. Longshot linebacker after stints in Baltimore and Miami. His name is actually Nordly Capi, and he sacked Matt Simms in Atlanta on Saturday night.

 

• Ironhead Gallon, S. The rookie free agent from Georgia Southern got the name from his father, who grew up a big Ironhead Heyward fan. Real first name: Deshawntee.

 

• Gump Hayes, CB. Formerly known as De’Chavon Hayes, he got the Gump nickname as a kid because of his Forrest Gump-like speed. Run, De’Chavon, Run didn’t quite work for a fast kid.

 

Haven’t even mentioned Budda Baker, Frostee Rucker or Scooby Wright III.

– – –

Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report says the Cardinals have looked good so far:

 

Arizona Cardinals (Halftime score total: 56-33, plus-23): The Cardinals starters looked great on Saturday against the Falcons and picked the Raiders apart two weeks ago. Those who participated in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys even looked sharp, giving the Cardinals three strong showings against playoff contenders. Their defense is swarming and forcing turnovers. The offense is at its bombs-away best, and Carson Palmer’s pass protection looks sturdy. Don’t sleep on the Cardinals.

 

 

SEATTLE

Based on preseason first half results, Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report is bullish on the Seahawks:

 

Seattle Seahawks (Halftime score total: 64-33, plus-31): There is some fluff in the Seahawks’ point total, thanks to Kellen Clemens operating a turnover dispensary in the preseason opener against the Chargers. And all of the usual Seahawks offensive line caveats apply. But the Legion of Boom is booming, Russell Wilson is as sharp as ever, and the preseason has been a showcase for both old and new offensive weapons.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

RB JAMAAL CHARLES had “it” in limited action.  Peter King:

 

“I was hoping he’d look like that tonight,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said of Jamaal Charles (four carries, 27 yards) in his first NFL appearance in a color other than red.

– – –

Even if QB PAXTON LYNCH had been deemed the starter, he wouldn’t have been able to start the opener anyway.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The good news is Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch won’t need surgery.

 

The bad news is, he’s still going to miss some time, which means they may have to make a short-term roster move.

 

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, Lynch suffered a shoulder sprain during Saturday’s preseason game against the Packers, and “will miss at least a few weeks.”

 

Lynch had already lost the starting job to Trevor Siemian, but the Broncos might need someone before Thursday’s preseason finale.

 

The only other quarterback on the active roster is Kyle Sloter, an undrafted rookie. So unless he’s going to play every snap this week against the Cardinals or they want to expose Siemian, they’re going to need another arm. Then there’s the matter of having a backup to Siemian to start the regular season, which is a much bigger deal.

 

They’re apparently exploring their options, but it seems they’re planning to bring one in.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

The Fickle Finger of Preseason Fate swooped in on the Chiefs in Week 3 as they lost their starting running back.  Jeremy Woo at SI.com tells you that what is bad for SPENCER WARE is good for KAREEM HUNT:

 

Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware tore his PCL “in addition to other damage” during Friday’s preseason loss to the Seahawks and is expected to miss the season, but he will seek a second opinion, according to the team.

 

NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport reported that Ware damaged his LCL and PCL.

 

Ware, 25, rushed for 914 yards and three touchdowns last season and was expected to begin the season as Kansas City’s lead tailback. Rookie Kareem Hunt had been pushing him for carries and will likely assume the starting role in his absence.

 

The other running backs on the Chiefs’ depth chart are Charcandrick West, CJ Spiller and Devine Redding.

 

ProFootballFocus.com is bullish on Hunt:

 

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has announced to reporters that rookie Kareem Hunt will be the teams’ starting running back of the moving forward. This comes after projected starter Spencer Ware is said to have suffered damage to his LCL and PCL in the third preseason game.

 

Hunt has played 43 snaps this preseason and has 79 yards on 18 carries. 64 of those yards have come after contact which averages out to 3.6 yards after contact per attempt. That figure ranks fifth among all rookie running backs this preseason.

 

In his senior year at Toledo, Hunt’s PFF grade of 95.1 was the highest among all running backs in 2016, and the second highest grade for a running back in the first three years PFF tracked college football. Hunt also fared very well catching passes from the backfield, as his receiving grade of 89.0 was third among running backs in the 2017 draft.

 

One major attribute of Hunt’s game is his ability to make defenders miss. On 302 total touches, Hunt forced a total of 98 missed tackles giving him an elusive rating of 112.1. That figure was third among draft eligible running backs.  Through his first two preseason games, Hunt had an elusive rating of 141.0 as he forced five missed tackles on 13 total touches.

 

Hunt rushed for 4,945 yards and 44 TDs in his career at Toledo.  He was an All-MAC choice in 2014 and ’16.  In ’15, he was limited to 10 games, partly by a 2-game suspension. He was drafted by the Chiefs in the 3rd round.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Adam Schefter hears that LB VONTAZE BURFICT is on the cusp of a 5-game suspension for a hit last week in a preseason tilt with Kansas City:

 

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a five-game suspension for an illegal hit against Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman this month, league sources tell ESPN.

 

Burfict, a repeat offender, hit the running back in a defenseless posture, sources said. It is a new rule the NFL is implementing this season to protect the player who can’t protect himself, and it will hurt Burfict and the Bengals.

 

Burfict is appealing. He has a hearing next week with the NFL, sources said.

 

The team, in a statement, said it is “aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game. The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”

 

His suspension, if it stands, will cost Burfict $882,353 in lost base-salary game checks. Burfict is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season.

 

Burfict was suspended the first three games of the 2016 season for numerous violations of player safety rules, including an illegal hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during the 2015 playoffs.

 

During his five-year NFL career, Burfict has been fined almost $800,000 and flagged 16 times for unnecessary roughness, personal fouls or roughing the passer. The lost wages of his latest suspension would more than double that total.

 

After Burfict’s latest questionable preseason hit, the league office is taking action against him again.

 

If the suspension holds, Burfict would miss games against the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills.

 

Thoughts from Peter King:

 

With virtually all other players in football, the Aug. 19 crushing hit on defenseless receiver Anthony Sherman of the Chiefs would not have resulted in a suspension by the NFL. But Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict is not like many other players. He is one of the most fined and suspended players for egregious hits in recent NFL history. And as Adam Schefter reported Sunday night, Burfict will be suspended for the first five games for the hit on Sherman. The history: You’ll remember how he cheap-shotted Steelers receiver Antonio Brown into wooziness in a playoff game two years ago, knocking him out of the following week’s game at Denver. Greg Olsen and Ben Roethlisberger have both accused Burfict of trying to intentionally injure them, and he was fined for both incidents. The Brown hit caused Burfict to be suspended for the first three games of 2016. So, barring a successful appeal, Burfict will miss the opening five games this year after missing the opening three games last year.

 

On the hit in question in the Bengals’ second preseason game, Sherman came out of the backfield and had his head turned, so he was not looking upfield. It appears from the replay as though Sherman could not see Burfict coming and thus was defenseless. Burfict blasted Sherman either on the upper arm or shoulder pad/neck area (the replay is not conclusive), and down went Sherman. It was a big hit, and the 242-pounder flew to the ground.

 

A new rule this year gives defenseless receiver protection to an offensive player running a pass route—if the receiver is contacted from the side or from behind. Burfict approached Sherman from the side and hit him. The defenseless part is certainly correct. With his history, it’s going to be a tough case for Burfict to win.

 

There will be those, perhaps with good reason, who will say it’s absurd to erase 31 percent of a player’s season for a play that happened in a preseason game. I would be one of those. But the league will be quick to point out that Burfict lost the benefit of the doubt long ago. Clearly the NFL is tired of his act.

 

The NFL obviously has it in for Burfict – and he may not deserve a fair shake with his history.  But Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says it is hard to see a five-game suspension for a hit that may have been devastating and legal:

 

Before a hearing officer can decide whether a five-game suspension represents the appropriate punishment for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a hearing officer must decide whether the hit merits any punishment at all.

 

That’s the real question here. Did Burfict deliver an illegal hit to Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman? He was running a pass route, which this year puts him within the scope of the protections afforded to defense players. Which means that Sherman can’t be struck in the head or neck area.

 

Was he? Look at the video. While there may have been some minor, incidental contact with Sherman’s facemask, Burfict dropped a shoulder into the chest of Anthony Sherman. The fact that the ball was away doesn’t matter; the punishment doesn’t arise from unnecessary roughness. It flows directly from the notion that Burfict hit Sherman in the head and neck area while he was defenseless.

 

“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict told the team’s official website. “I feel like I’ve let down my teammates, but I also feel like I’ve done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’”

 

Sherman’s opinion doesn’t matter. Ultimately, the league office’s opinion doesn’t, either. The question here becomes whether the hearing officer believes the hit was illegal. If it wasn’t, there’s no basis for disciplining Burfict at all.

 

 

CLEVELAND

We watched QB DeSHONE KIZER with our own two eyes on Saturday night and he looked a lot better than his paltry stats (6-18, 93 yards) might indicate.  Hue Jackson seems to have seen the same thing.  Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

– If all goes as planned, the t-shirts depicting all of the Browns’ starting quarterbacks since 1999 won’t be dated for a long, long time now that DeShone Kizer has been added.

 

“This is not just for the moment,” Jackson said on a conference call Sunday to officially announce Kizer as his starter. “We’re going to get with DeShone, (and) ride with him through it all.”

 

Jackson made it clear that Kizer’s installation as starter No. 27 is for the long haul, not just for the short term. After witnessing his dynamic skillset since the day he arrived, Jackson believes the Browns may have landed their franchise quarterback.

 

“It’s very exciting,” said Jackson. “When we drafted this young man, there was a purpose in drafting him. We thought that he had exactly what we were looking for. I give the executive team a lot of credit. We all dove into this the right way to go find a guy who hopefully can solve our quarterback issue.”

 

The coach stressed that you never really know until a rookie passes the test of time. But Jackson has seen enough in his career to think that Kizer could be the real deal.

 

“It’s not overwith yet,” he said. “This guy has been named the starter, but he still has to earn the right to be the starting quarterback for this team week in and week out. But he has the talent, he has the makeup and he has the things we’re looking for. Now, we just have to go get him and push him onto that next level.”

 

Jackson knows that Kizer, the No. 52 overall pick out of Notre Dame, will suffer from the inevitable rookie growing pains in the form of interceptions, unnecessary sacks and errants throws, and that the team might feel the pinch at times too. But he believes the potential payoff will be huge.

 

“Those things are going to happen,” said Jackson. “We’re not going to blink about it. We’re just going to correct it and keep moving forward. He’s still young quarterback (21) but with a lot of talent. The only way he’s going to gain that experience is by playing.”

 

When Kizer takes the field against the Steelers and their nemesis Ben Roethlisberger on Sept. 10, he’ll not only be the 27th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999, he’ll also be the 15th opening-day starter since then — but only the second rookie. The first was Brandon Weeden in 2012, who lost 17-16 to the Eagles en route to a 5-11 Browns season.

 

“Obviously, he’s a young quarterback and he still has a lot to learn,” said Jackson. “He’s going to learn a lot and gain a lot of experience, and the only way you get that is by playing. We’re all excited about that.”

– – –

As for the backup job, Jackson acknowledged that it’s fluid. The Browns might still try to trade Osweiler, who’s making $16 million guaranteed this year, and Hogan has outplayed Kessler in preseason and could leapfrog him. But Hogan could also still land on the practice squad again.

 

“We’ll just see how we want that to play out as we move along during the week,” said Jackson.

 

Jackson will also decide by Tuesday or Wednesday if Kizer will play Thursday night in Chicago in the preseason finale, when most starters rest. If he does, he’ll likely only play a series or two.

 

He also acknowledged that Kizer’s varied skillset, including the ability to run, helped him win the job. With the Browns’ currently lacking proven playmakers, his feet will come in handy.

 

“Anytime that you have a player who can win in different ways, it’s important because obviously, he can win with his arm – he has tremendous arm talent – and then he can win with his legs because he’s athletic enough and he’s a big guy. He has the characteristics, as I mentioned earlier, that we covet. We have to continue to get him to use those to the best of his ability.”

 

 

PITTSBURGH

The DB likes QB JOSHUA DOBBS, so this from Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report was not encouraging to our hopes and aspirations:

 

Rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs started the first two preseason games, and Dobbs is like a young Ryan Fitzpatrick: A-plus intangibles and mobility, accuracy of a lawn sprinkler.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The DB is thinking that the Texans won’t be playing any home games for a while now.  We find it hard to believe that Thursday’s preseason game with the Cowboys, scheduled for NRG Stadium in Houston is still on.  And beyond that…

 

Here is an update from USA TODAY on the team’s current location – which is Frisco, Texas.

 

Tropical Storm Harvey is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, so any inconvenience this natural disaster is causing the Houston Texans seems trivial. But the club has been forced to alter its plans after playing its third preseason game Saturday night against the Saints in New Orleans.

 

The Texans released a statement late Saturday night which read:

 

“Due to flooding in Houston and to ensure the safety of our players, coaches and staff, the Houston Texans will fly from New Orleans to Dallas tonight. The team will return to Houston as soon as it is safe to travel back. There have been no decisions made on the duration of our stay in Dallas or on details regarding our preseason game against the Cowboys on Thursday. Regular updates will be provided as we have more information. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey.”

 

The Texans are scheduled to host the Cowboys at NRG Stadium on Thursday before opening the regular season in Houston on Sept. 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

One good thing about the Texans’ regular season schedule is that the first two home games are against division foes so they could be flipped.  Let’s take a look at how that would set up with Houston on the road for the first four weeks.

 

DATE  OPPONENT              TIME   

Sep 10  @Jacksonville          1:00 PM         

Sep 14  @Cincinnati               8:25 PM         

Sep 24  @New England         1:00 PM         

Oct 1     @ Tennessee            1:00 PM         

Oct 8     Kansas City               8:30 PM         

Oct 15   Cleveland                  1:00 PM         

Week 7            BYE                

Oct 29    @Seattle                  4:05 PM         

Nov 5      Indianapolis             1:00 PM         

Nov 12     @L.A. Rams           4:05 PM        

Nov 19     Arizona                    1:00 PM         

Nov 27     @Baltimore             8:30 PM         

Dec 3      Tennessee              1:00 PM         

Dec 10      San Francisco        1:00 PM         

Dec 17     Jacksonville            1:00 PM         

Dec 25     Pittsburgh                4:30 PM         

Dec 31    @Indianapolis          1:00 PM

 

Let’s take a look at the Jaguars and Titans with their games with Houston flipped.  The Jaguars would have a 3-game homestand to start the season (actually the week 3 home game is in London) and a 3-game road trip at the end.

 

DATE  OPPONENT              TIME

Sep 10   Houston                    1:00 PM          

Sep 17   Tennessee               1:00 PM          

Sep 24   Baltimore                  9:30 AM          

Oct 1   @N.Y. Jets              1:00 PM

Oct 8   @Pittsburgh             1:00 PM

Oct 15 L.A. Rams                4:05 PM

Oct 22 @Indianapolis 1:00 PM         

Week 8            BYE                

Nov 5   Cincinnati                 1:00 PM          

Nov 12   L.A. Chargers           1:00 PM         

Nov 19    @Cleveland             1:00 PM         

Nov 26    @Arizona                 4:25 PM         

Dec 3     Indianapolis              1:00 PM         

Dec 10   Seattle                      1:00 PM         

Dec 17   @Houston                1:00 PM         

Dec 24    @San Francisco      4:05 PM         

Dec 31    @Tennessee            1:00 PM         

 

The Titans get a 5-game road trip if the games with the Texans are flipped.

 

 

 

DATE       OPPONENT          TIME

Sep 10      Oakland                 1:00 PM         

Sep 17      @Jacksonville       1:00 PM         

Sep 24       Seattle                   4:05 PM         

Oct 1         Houston                 1:00 PM         

Oct 8         @Miami                1:00 PM         

Oct 16       Indianapolis           8:30 PM         

Oct 22       @Cleveland          1:00 PM         

Week 8            BYE                

Nov 5        Baltimore               1:00 PM         

Nov 12      Cincinnati              1:00 PM         

Nov 16       @Pittsburgh          8:25 PM         

Nov 26       @Indianapolis       1:00 PM         

Dec 3        @Houston             1:00 PM         

Dec 10      @Arizona              4:05 PM         

Dec 17      @San Francisco    4:25 PM         

Dec 24       L.A. Rams             1:00 PM         

Dec 31       Jacksonville         1:00 PM         

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

It’s only preseason.  Peter King on Week 3 and the Bills offense:

 

The Bills’ offensive yardage on their first five possessions: minus-1, minus-3, 36, minus-4, minus-1.

 

And this on DT MARCELL DAREUS:

 

I think this hole the Bills have dug for themselves just seems to get deeper every day. The team last played a playoff game eight days into this century. Seventeen years into this century, the drought is far from over. The Bills, who sent Marcell Dareus home before the preseason game at Baltimore over a disciplinary issue, now need to have a serious discussion about his future in Buffalo. “Obviously, a guy with his contract status, you would hope that he would be a better leader than that,” GM Brandon Beane said. Since being drafted in 2011, Dareus has been arrested twice, suspended by the league for substance issues, and now gets sent home for team disciplinary reasons. Since signing a six-year, $96 million extension in 2015, Dareus has had a four-game suspension and now this, and the Bills have to choose between paying Dareus $9.75 million in salary this year … or face the onerous task, if they choose to cut him, of splitting a $38.35 million hit for dead money over 2017 and ’18.

 

It’s all onerous, frankly. The contract was an idiotic one to agree to in the first place, based on Dareus’s off-field history. And now the franchise has another anchor on it. Say you were 10 years old and just getting into pro football when the Bills last made the playoffs. Now you’ve gone through middle school, high school and maybe four years of college, and gotten married, and maybe just started a family. And your team’s been miserable every season. How much more are you ready to take? Not sure of that … but it ain’t over.

 

Meanwhile Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report opines on how the concussion suffered by QB TYROD TAYLOR will play out:

 

When an embattled starter suffers an injury in the midst of an organizational veteran purge, you know how this story inevitably ends. Taylor’s concussion ends his preseason on a sour note, though the Nathan Peterman bandwagon blew a tire when the rookie laid an egg against the Ravens starting defense (two near-turnovers, several three-and-outs, a pre-halftime “drive” that was mostly Ravens penalties). No quarterback will be able to move the ball for the Bills this year, but Taylor is still poised to bear the brunt of the hits—and the blame—when he returns.

 

 

MIAMI

The Dolphins proclaim talk that WR JARVIS LANDRY might be traded to be poppycock.  Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald does not sound convinced:

 

Dolphins management assured the Jarvis Landry camp on Sunday that the team is not considering offers for the veteran wide receiver in the wake of a report to the contrary, according to a source with direct knowledge.

 

The team also conveyed that it has no plans to trade him.

 

The Dolphins told Landry’s representation that there is no truth whatsoever to NFL insider Mike Lombardi’s Sunday tweet “that Miami will listen to offers on Jarvis Landry and seriously listen.”

 

Lombardi went to on to tweet that there are two “factors on Miami wanting to listen–1-not going to resign him and 2- [DeVante] Parker is going to get more involved.”

 

 

Lombardi also tweeted: “When I say “listen”, the Dolphins have made it be known they will move him for the right price–they are as active as other teams talking.”

 

Lombardi, now working for The Ringer, insisted that his information comes from “a great source.”

 

And Lombardi has credibility; he has worked as an executive for the Raiders, Browns, Eagles and Patriots and has many friends who still work in the league.

 

Landry is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $893,850 this season – less than more than 100 other receivers.

 

Landry’s agent, Damarius Bilbo, declined to comment.

 

But a team source said the Dolphins haven’t made a single offer to Landry on a multi-year extension. Bilbo said in June that Landry would not consider any offers once the regular season begins Sept. 10.

 

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, asked about Landry last month, said the Dolphins will consider waiting until next spring and placing the franchise tag on him, which would pay him in the range of $15 million in 2018.

 

“I think he’s a great player–there’s no question about it,” Ross said on the first day of training camp. “I think he’s handled himself well. He didn’t hold out. It’s not a question of if we don’t sign him now, we lose him. We can franchise him and go from there. There’s a lot of opportunity for him to stay here. I hope he stays here, because he’s a great player.”

 

When asked if a deal would be struck before the season, Ross said, “I don’t know if it’s before the season, but like I said, it’s not really mandatory that we do it before the season.”

– – –

Peter King spends a few minutes with QB JAY CUTLER who would have had no trouble finishing his thoughts as a TV analyst before the next snap:

 

Me to Jay Cutler: “Did you practice doing TV much this offseason before coming back?”

 

Cutler: “I mean, I’d be lying if I said I did.”

 

Cutler never worried about being politically correct. Or correct. He’s the Paul Zimmerman of quarterbacks. So when he walked away from football after last season for the FOX booth, at age 33, and to be a husband and dad to his three kids in Nashville, it just felt odd. In an era when the best quarterbacks talk about (and not flippantly) playing into their 40s, Cutler walked away totally healthy, five or seven years before his time. Was he a great quarterback? No. Could he be a top-15 quarterback, a good player on a playoff contender, in the right place? Absolutely. “Without Jay, and I told him this, I’d never have gotten this job,” said his Chicago coordinator in 2015, Adam Gase, now Miami’s coach.

 

Then came the Ryan Tannehill knee surgery, and here came Cutler out of retirement. Strangely, I found myself rooting for him watching him practice against the Eagles. Two reasons: Just because a guy’s got a prickly personality doesn’t mean he’s an idiot. And there was this nagging thought when he retired that there was this unfulfilled part of his career, that we never saw the optimum Cutler. Will we now? Who knows. But it’ll be a fascinating story. No one knows if this is a five-month detour on the way to a quiet life in Tennessee, or the rekindling of a fascinating career, a la Jim Plunkett. That’s why watching Cutler now, in his second act, will be fun.

 

Here, on one play, flushed from the pocket by the Eagles’ rush, Cutler moved right, bought time, and with his feet not set, slung a 33-yard pass to the end zone—a strike to backup back Storm Johnson. “As I’ve always told him: ‘You’re like Houdini. I call a bad play and you get me out of it,’” Gase said.

 

Cutler had his best year of an uneven career under Gase in 2015. He’s got a chance to reprise it now; that was my takeaway watching Miami practice. He’s picked up the offense quickly, is bonding well with his three big receiving weapons—Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills—and says they “definitely” comprise the best receiving tandem he’s had. Cutler looks trim; he’s lost the pudgy early-career look he had and appears to have lost weight in the few months of retirement.

 

“It’s fun,” he said, stopping before getting on the team bus post-practice. “I am enjoying it a lot more than the past two years, just because I know how short-lived your NFL career is. It’s kind of a bonus. It’s a really good group of guys, and Adam does a great job of taking care of quarterbacks and the rest of the team, so it’s been fun.

 

“How do you think you’ll play?” I asked.

 

“No idea. With the talent we have on offense, we should be pretty good. We’ve got some guys who can play football, which makes it easier for me. A lot of things happen in a football season so we’ll have to see how it goes.”

 

Final question: “Ever get pissed at how you’re perceived?”

 

Pause. “Ummm,” he said. (His only pause to think during a short interview.) “Not really. Some of it is my fault. Some of it is how things went down. It is what it is. Right now I am just trying to make an impact with these guys and get to know them as quickly as possible so that we can have a good season.”

 

I feel for Tannehill, a worker bee and great teammate. But the Dolphins could be better with Cutler. They’ll sure be a lot more interesting.

– – –

This from Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report:

 

From Cutler and Maxwell to Ndamukong Suh and an offensive line that mixed great performances with debacles last year, the Dolphins have cornered the market on consistently inconsistent talent. They should blow some opponents out and get into 38-35 shootouts with others, but one or two bad losses could propel the Dolphins into finger-pointing or golf-bag-grabbing mode.

 

Miami will be a fun watch all year, but it will max out as a pastel version of the 2012-15 Bengals: loaded at the skill positions and exciting for stretches, but likely to wilt in the spotlight.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

WR JULIAN EDELMAN tore an ACL and is done for 2017.  Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com evaluates what the injury means to the Patriots along the scale of devastating to any Super Bowl chance to a blip that will be shrugged off.

 

I was soliciting opinions from rival coaches and execs on Saturday morning on exactly what Julian Edelman’s injury means for a loaded Patriots team, and there was one text that pretty much summarized how all the respondents felt.

 

“How’s Tom? “

 

Tom, of course, is Tom Brady, and Brady—by the looks of last night—is just fine. Now on the doorstep of his 18th NFL season, the quadragenarian quarterback went 12-of-14 for 174 yards and two touchdowns, before throwing a pick just before halftime of last night’s preseason game in Detroit and retreating to the sideline for good.

 

We’ve been here before. The Patriots have been here before.

 

Now, that’s not to say Edelman’s injury—initial tests indicated Saturday’s MRI will confirm a season-ending torn ACL—is not a big deal. It is. Edelman’s now twice been a Super Bowl hero, and his catches in both big games (one while absorbing a kill shot from Kam Chancellor and the other last year’s circus act) show his value. Brady trusts him to come away with the ball in the tightest spots and on the biggest stages.

 

It is to emphasize that the Patriots a) deal with injuries as well as any team in football and b) are positioned well from a roster standpoint to handle this one.

 

It’s also to say those responses I got Saturday all pretty much sounded the same.

 

One AFC defensive coach texted, “They’ll find another way to do it. So initially, [it’ll hurt them] some, but in the end not much at all.” And another: “[Danny] Amendola will have to stay healthy and pick up the slack. It won’t be easy, but they’ll make it work.” And here’s an AFC exec who’s studied the Patriots exetensive this summer: “Health of others is key. Amendola and [Rob Gronkowski] need to stay healthy, but their offense is diverse enough to pick it up.”

 

So if we’re going to break this one down, it has to be through the layers of how the Patriots will handle it, rather than how it will sink them. First off are the immediate issues it creates for the team.

 

Primarily, New England gets hit on third down, and on punt returns.

 

The former point can be illustrated with recent statistical evidence. In the first nine games of  games of 2015, the Patriots converted 88 of their 215 third-down attempts (40.9 percent) and went 9-0. Then they lost Edelman for the final seven games of the season with a broken foot. New England went 32 of 100 (32 percent) on third down in those games, going 3-4 over that stretch.

 

The punt-return issue is more complex. Edelman has proved to be both the team’s most reliable and most explosive punt returner over the years, available for a spark or if another returner is struggling in handling the ball. With Edelman out, New England has to decide if it’ll use Amendola and put more miles on his body with a bigger offensive role expected, or roll with Cyrus Jones, whose punt returns were an adventure in ’16.

 

And that brings us to the second layer, which is not so how the Patriots will manage September, but how they’ll look different in November and December. The void Edelman leaves is best brought to life by two plays from Friday night’s game, points that were raised to me by someone who knows well how Brady and Edelman operate together and the advantage they have built.

 

The first came on the third play from scrimmage. The Lions were late to line up, and Edelman was uncovered. Brady and Edelman both recognized it. Brady quickly snapped the ball and got it out to Edelman, who rumbled ahead for 23 yards.

 

Two plays later, on second-and-3, Edelman was in the left slot and ran straight at Detroit rookie Jarrad Davis, forcing him to make a choice of playing him inside or outside. Davis turned his hips to the sideline, Edelman broke inside, and Brady dumped the ball him two yards clear of the line of scrimmage. Edelman broke into the secondary for 18 yards.

 

That was a vintage New England option route, once mastered by Troy Brown and passed down to Wes Welker and now Edelman, the kind of play that made the slot a Cadillac position in the Patriots’ offense. That, also, was the play that ended with Edelman’s right knee buckling.

 

The edge Brady and Edelman have as a quarterback-receiver pair is tough to replace. Brady has a similar rapport with Gronkowski and Amendola, but both of them have injury history and have been managed accordingly in recent years. So putting more on those two is simultaneously the easy answer and one that could compound the problem.

 

More likely, New England will do what it normally does, and that is to play to the larger group’s strengths rather than becoming overly reliant on one or two guys. Among the running backs, Rex Burkhead is versatile enough to have had the Bengals coaches, at one point, toying with the idea of switching him to slot receiver. Mike Gillislee similarly can stay on the field and play multiple spots on third down. Super Bowl hero James White is seen internally almost as much receiver as he is tailback.

 

And then there are receivers Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan on the outside, and rising sophomore Malcolm Mitchell with the ability to play in the slot (though he was primarily outside as a rookie). Newly arrived veteran Dwayne Allen is a strong blocking option at tight end should the staff want to move Gronkowski around even more.

 

We’ll see how it all plays out, and how the identity of the offense and the receiver room—one that the undeniably tough, competitive and football smart Edelman personified—evolves. There’s plenty of work to be done, to be sure. But there was last year, too, after Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending back injury. And New England won the Super Bowl.

 

Harsh as it sounds, the safe bet here is that the Patriots will figure this out, just as they did in 2016, and just as they have in so many other cases.

 

So … How’s Tom? He’s good, and his team probably will be too.

 

This from Peter King:

 

Great line by Kevin Duffy of Mass Live, following the Julian Edelman ACL tear Friday night in Detroit, and what it could mean to the Tom Brady-led offense this year: “Devastating as [Rob] Gronkowski can be, Edelman is the straw that stirs Brady’s electrolyte solution.” So now the question is: How will the Patriots replace Edelman?

 

 

It’s not an easy question to answer, and mine would be tempered with the knowledge that, between now and next weekend, when the Patriots cut their roster from 90 to 53 and then set their practice squad, I would expect them to comb the wire for a receiver—and perhaps send a low-round draft pick or conditional pick for a quick inside receiver who might remotely approximate what Edelman does. What he has done, obviously, is provide the security blanket at the biggest moments that Brady obviously needs. Edelman’s average numbers in the past nine New England playoff games:

 

Games  Targets      Receptions   Yards

9          13.0              8.2            96.1

 

Brady targeted Edelman 195 times in 19 games, including playoffs, last year. To take up that slack, I would suggest—in addition to whoever could arrive next weekend via trade or waivers—that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could:

 

• Expand the role of Chris Hogan, who was gold (17 receptions, 332 yards, 19.5-yard average) in the playoffs last season and built great chemistry with Brady.

 

• Take comfort in the fact that new Patriot Brandin Cooks (past two years in New Orleans: 246 targets) is durable and trustworthy about running precise routes.

 

• Expand the role of another precise route-runner, Malcolm Mitchell, who played 637 snaps last year and was coming on strong at the end. (This is assuming a nagging knee strain heals enough for Mitchell to be the kind of consistent factor he was in the Super Bowl.) I would not expect a lot more Danny Amendola, because he hasn’t proven he can be a 1,000-snap player with his injuries.

 

• Turn new running back Rex Burkhead into the receiver scouts think he can be. He caught only 35 balls out of the Cincinnati backfield in the past two years.

 

• Make physical back Mike Gillislee a latter-day Corey Dillon in terms of a go-to runner—though Gillislee carried the ball just 101 times last year. New England was a 47 percent run team last year, and if Gillislee is as good as the Pats think, he could be the kind of 280-carry back they’ve used in the past to take pressure off of Brady. Gillislee has a career per-rush average of 5.6 yards, so it’s certainly tempting to hand the ball to him a lot more than he’s gotten it to this point.

 

McDaniels always is good at using the puzzle pieces he has, with, of course, Tom Brady there to make everything fit. But I’d still watch for a Patriots transaction in the receivers group in the next six days.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Interesting way of phrasing from Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report on the disaster that is the Jets:

 

I have never seen a team enter the regular season with less dignity than the 2017 New York Jets.

 

Veteran scribe Steve Serby of the New York Post studies the QB situation:

 

The name of the game is Waiting For Christian Hackenberg.

 

The Jets had better keep waiting.

 

The fix is in and has been in from the minute the 2016 season ended, and no one will object. Not even Josh McCown, the $6 Million Journeyman Good Soldier.

 

The Jets, 32-31 losers to the Giants, want Hackenberg to be their quarterback.

 

They had better not want him too soon or too badly.

 

Hackenberg is not ready.

 

Hackenberg may never be ready.

 

Hackenberg will be playing at some point during the season, whether he is ready or not, and nothing to date tells you he will be ready.

 

Bryce Petty, playing against reserves after intermission, looked more ready (three touchdown passes) — until he tripped over one of his offensive linemen and made way for Hackenberg at the two-minute warning thanks to a wounded knee.

 

And against the Big Blue reserves, Hackenberg (12-for-21, 126 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond Jr. with 1:26 left, before a handoff to Elijah McGuire on the go-ahead two-point conversion was denied.

 

Todd Bowles has bent over backward, especially lately, to give Hackenberg a chance to close the gap on McCown.

 

The eye test tells you he hasn’t even closed the gap on Petty.

 

McCown has been reduced to a veritable rusty spectator during Hackenberg’s desperate trial-by-error audition. McCown vows he will be ready anyway.

 

“If he’s the Week 1 starter, I’m not concerned at all,” Bowles said.

 

There is no need to hold your tongue until next week.

 

“It’s not always gonna be peaches and cream, you gotta be able to bounce back from mistakes and things that didn’t go your way,” Hackenberg said. “And I think that’s what really defines you as a player and as a person to, how you react to adversity.”

 

He’s getting enough practice at it.

– – –

 “It was the offense. It wasn’t Hackenberg. It was the entire offense,” Bowles said. “It wasn’t just him.”

 

And it wasn’t just Tom Brady winning those five Super Bowls and earning GOAT reverence.

 

Bowles’ handling of the Jets’ three quarterback amigos this summer has looked like madness.

 

I believe there is a method to his madness.

 

He is trying to build the bridge from the bridge quarterback to Hackenberg as seamlessly as he can, ever conscious of his own mandate to give his team its best chance to win and the organization’s desire to find out what it has in Hackenberg before the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

Assuming it doesn’t know already.

 

Talk about standing between a rock and a hard place.

 

Bowles is doing it his way, but can’t possibly come out of this smelling like Frank Sinatra.

 

Bowles knows he has been forced to preside over a three-ring circus.

 

It would be a good idea to get McCown, who has had one series this preseason, some playing time Thursday night in Philadelphia at this point.

 

“I came here to play,” McCown said.

 

Play him already, Coach.

 

End what little suspense there is already.

 

The in-season switch will be made when Bowles determines Hackenberg can read defenses awake better than McCown can read them in his sleep.

 

But right now, The Kid can’t hack it.

 

Paging Sam Darnold.

 

Paging Sam Darnold.

 

Paging Sam Darnold.

 

– – –

The Patriots made the surprising straight cut of LB KONY EALY – and the Jets were the worst of the seven teams that put in claims.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

No one wanted to trade with the Patriots for defensive end Kony Ealy. But nearly 25 percent of the league was happy to claim his contract on waivers.

 

Seven total teams made waivers claims, according to Jane Slater of NFL Media. Beyond the Jets, who secured priority (sucking has its privileges), the Cowboys, Giants, Buccaneers, Washington, Lions, and Cardinals.

 

Ealy is signed through 2017, at a base salary of $800,000. He became an instant star with three sacks in Super Bowl 50. He had five in 16 games last season, which shows that he’s capable of playing well in the right system.

 

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com with this on why Ealy is an ex-Patriot:

 

In March, the Patriots had acquired Ealy and a third-round draft choice (No. 72) from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 64). For an eight-spot slide down the draft board, the Patriots hoped that Ealy — who had fallen out of favor in Carolina — could recapture the form that made him a Super Bowl 50 standout with three sacks.

 

But it didn’t work out, as the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Ealy couldn’t find a fit in the Patriots’ scheme. The tipping point might have come early in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 30-28 preseason win over the Detroit Lions when Ealy lost containment on back-to-back plays.

 

“I just think it’s one of those things that didn’t work out or wasn’t going to work out,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Nobody’s fault. He [Ealy] worked hard. We worked hard. A lot of effort put in, but in the end, we didn’t feel like this was going to work out. It gives him an opportunity about a week ahead of next week to hopefully create a better opportunity for himself. I think he deserved that. He did everything we asked him to do. It just didn’t work out for either one of us like we hoped it would.”

 

Ealy didn’t enter the game until 12:57 was remaining in the third quarter, which was another ominous sign in his fight for a roster spot. His best success in the Patriots’ scheme in the preseason came as an interior pass-rusher.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP

Hard to tell if Peter King approves of this quote or is just passing it on:

 

“What’s been done to Mr. Kaepernick is evil. We will, in terms of my local chapter, and others across the country, invite people to not support this evil institution. The sports world has always been evil when it comes to how it’s treated black people. … This is another instance where blacks became the tool to support the economic interests of white men, same as they did during slavery.”

 

—Amos Brown, member of the national board of the NAACP, to Jonathan Jones of The MMQB, on Colin Kaepernick’s continued unemployment, and the NAACP’s plans to protest against the NFL as a whole.

 

King has this from WR TORREY SMITH:

 

Smith, a 49er for the past two years, on what he saw of Colin Kaepernick last year in San Francisco: “I don’t know anyone who worked harder than Kaepernick, physically. He was the first one in, last one to leave type of guy. He always pushed everyone … I know people like to say he didn’t study or whatever. I can’t speak on that because I don’t know, but I know that he knows his assignments … I think ultimately in San Francisco, it was just a lot of different things. Sometimes it was him, sometimes it was protection, and sometimes as receivers we let him down. It was a lot of things, but I feel like for him. Right now, there are a lot of guys in this league that he is better than.”

 

Matt Barrows in the Sacramento Bee on the myths that surround Kaepernick:

 

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of when someone outside the 49ers organization first noticed Colin Kaepernick wasn’t standing for the national anthem.

 

Since then he’s been disparaged by the president of the United States and hailed as a hero for championing under-represented groups. His red, No. 7 jersey has been both burned and bought – it remains the top-selling 49ers jersey this year. On Wednesday a crowd gathered outside of NFL headquarters in New York to protest that Kaepernick remains jobless.

 

For a full year, Kaepernick has been a highly emotional topic in a sharply divided nation, and the story has been warped as a result. Here’s an attempt to bring five talking points about Kaepernick and his ongoing unemployment back to reality.

 

1. The 49ers dealt with a media circus last season and any team that signs him will, too. Well, yes. But mostly no. There’s no denying that a small army of reporters descended on San Diego for the 49ers’ final preseason game last year, the first game for which it was well-known he wasn’t going to stand for the national anthem. There were also a lot of media on hand for the 49ers’ season opener at Levi’s Stadium against the Rams two weeks later.

 

But on most weeks, it was a normal-size crowd. And as the season went on – and the 49ers got worse and worse – the number of reporters who showed up day to day was actually smaller than usual. That’s not to say that team staffers didn’t have to deal with an avalanche of interview requests. They did, with every outlet from ESPN to CNN to The O’Reilly Factor clamoring to get a piece of Kaepernick. The game in Miami also was thick with reporters because of what Kaepernick had said about Fidel Castro in the run-up to the contest.

 

But for most players, the media interruption to their routine was minimal if not non-existent.

 

2. Kaepernick’s stance was divisive. Again, this is a yes-and-no response. His stance is absolutely divisive when it comes to the country at large. (See: comments section for any Kaepernick story in last year). There would be a thunderclap of boos – and worse – whenever he took the field for the first time during a road game.

 

But an NFL locker room is not a cross-section of America. His teammates either understood exactly why he was protesting or acknowledged his right to protest. At the end of the season, they awarded him their highest team honor.

 

It’s a simple majority-rules vote and it doesn’t mean he had unanimous support. Nor that there weren’t spirited discussions and disagreements in the locker room during the year.

 

But the knee-jerk predictions when his anthem protest began – that it would rip the 49ers apart – turned out to be flat wrong. Last year’s 49ers were awful. The anthem protest is well down the list of the reasons why they struggled.

 

3. Kaepernick opted out of his contract/wants a lot of money. The “he opted out” refrain has been used by detractors to suggest that Kaepernick could be employed if he really wanted to be.

 

While Kaepernick did opt out of a $14.5 million deal roughly a week before the start of free agency, the 49ers had no plan to keep him at that salary and told him so during a 15-minute meeting in February. The 49ers have said as much on several occasions, including in May when general manager John Lynch spoke with Pro Football Talk.

 

“And we had that conversation with him,” Lynch said. “So I don’t want to characterize it as he made a decision to leave here.”

 

According to Kaepernick’s agent, the quarterback has not been offered a contract by any team this year. He is perfectly willing to be a back up, the agent said, and is not waiting for a big-money deal.

 

4. Kaepernick was great/awful last year. In the push and pull over Kaepernick, it seems he either was responsible for one of the worst records in 49ers history (2-14) or was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL as shown by his 16-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

 

The truth is that Kaepernick would look sharp at some point during the game and flat and out-of-sync at others. This was the never-explained hallmark of Chip Kelly’s offense last season: It would score 14 points in one quarter, flounder in the next three.

 

It must be noted that Kaepernick’s supporting cast was perhaps the worst in the league, especially at the end of the year when his top three weapons – Carlos Hyde, Torrey Smith and Vance McDonald – were on injured reserve and were replaced by Shaun Draughn, Chris Harper and Jim Dray.

 

The most concrete thing you can say about Kaepernick is that he was noticeably stronger and healthier by the end of 2016 than he was to start the season as he recovered from three different surgeries. His trajectory was going upward from his low in 2015.

 

5. Kaepernick is blameless. From pig socks to Castro comments to salacious tweets, Kaepernick has been the most extreme of all the players who have protested in the last year.

 

Teammate Eric Reid and former Green Beret Nate Boyer wanted to steer him toward a more moderate stance by kneeling amongst teammates, instead of sitting alone behind teammates, during the national anthem.

 

Said Reid nearly a year ago: “That way you’re not isolated from the team, you’re not sitting down during the national anthem, you’re just changing your physical position, being more respectful to those people while still maintaining your stance on these issues.”

 

Kaepernick’s default, however, seems to be isolation and defiance and stubbornness. Combine that with a league that likes everything in lockstep and that is always fretting about its bottom line and you get the current stalemate.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

 

 

 

 

JERRY KRAMER

 

Congratulations to Jerry Kramer – he is one short step away from the Hall of Fame.  As well as to Robert Brazile.  Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

 

Jerry Kramer is getting another shot at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

The former Green Bay Packers guard along with ex-Houston Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile were picked Thursday as senior finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.

 

Some consider Kramer as not only the former Packers player most deserving but also one of the biggest omissions from the Hall of Fame.

 

It was 20 years ago when he was last up for consideration as a senior committee finalist. Previously, he had been a finalist nine times as a modern-day nominee. He has been nominated more times (11) than anyone else without being inducted.

 

The Vince Lombardi-era guard is best known for his goal-line block on Bart Starr’s winning quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl. In his 11 seasons with the Packers (1958-68), he was part of five NFL championships and wins in the first two Super Bowls. He was named to the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1969.

– – –

 

Brazile, known as Dr. Doom in his playing days, was a four-time All-Pro linebacker for the Oilers from 1975 to 1984. He also was selected to seven Pro Bowls and the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1970s.

 

Brazile is the second-leading tackler in Oilers/Titans franchise history (1,281). He also is seventh in sacks (48).

 

“I don’t know what to say,” Brazile said after receiving the call from Hall of Fame president David Baker. “I’m speechless.”

– – –

Brazile and Kramer will await the selection committee’s vote on Feb. 3, the Saturday before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. A 48-member selection committee will determine whether they receive the 80 percent “yes” vote for Hall election.

 

Peter King:

 

Alicia E. Kramer @JerryKramer4HOF

Fainted

 

This is Alicia Kramer, daughter of former Packers guard Jerry Kramer, on hearing the news that the Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee nominated Jerry Kramer as a finalist for the Hall in 2018. Alicia Kramer has been the driving force behind keeping her father’s candidacy alive.

 

Mike Spofford at Packers.com talks to Kramer:

 

Since last missing out on induction as a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist two decades ago, Jerry Kramer had come to peace with the fact that it just wasn’t to be.

 

“I had come to an acceptance,” Kramer said in a phone interview with packers.com from his home in Idaho. “I’d had a wonderful career, a wonderful experience with football. The Packer fans were sensational, and still are.

 

“If I wasn’t slated for the Hall, then that’s OK. It’s been a helluva ride and I wouldn’t change it. If that’s the way it’s gonna be, I’m comfortable with that. I had argued myself into that position.”

 

Then Thursday happened.

 

The Hall of Fame’s senior committee named Kramer one of two finalists for induction in the Class of 2018, along with former Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile.

 

A Packers guard on Vince Lombardi’s five title-winning teams of the 1960s, Kramer had no idea any announcement was forthcoming from Canton, Ohio. The five-time, first-team All-Pro and author of “Instant Replay” had long ago stopped paying attention after being a finalist 10 times, nine during his regular modern-era candidacy and once as a senior nominee in 1997.

 

He got a congratulatory call from an acquaintance in Kenosha, Wis., and wasn’t sure what was up. Then he noticed he had missed a couple of calls from Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker.

 

When he talked to Baker to get the official word, all that peace and acceptance was, understandably, interrupted.

 

“Holy crap,” Kramer said of his initial reaction, as the 81-year-old’s always sharp sense of humor kicked in. “It was kind of a surreal moment to me. I had to check my hole card to see if I’d imbibed too much or was having hallucinations or what the hell was going on.

 

“My stomach got a little flippy-floppy and my heart started pounding a little bit and I thought, son of a gun, I’ve got another shot.”

 

Indeed he does as the player many consider the biggest omission from the Hall. No player not yet inducted has been a finalist as many times as Kramer, and he’s the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not enshrined.

 

Eleven of Kramer’s teammates from the Lombardi era are in the Hall, plus the coach himself. Two of them received induction via the senior route, defensive tackle Henry Jordan (1995) and linebacker Dave Robinson (2013).

 

Since Thursday’s news, Kramer has gotten notes from former teammates Willie Davis and Donny Anderson, and he has “a long way to go” to get through the roughly 60 other messages awaiting him. He also got a call from Phil Olsen, younger brother of Merlin Olsen, the late Hall of Famer.

 

Merlin Olsen was one of dozens of star defensive linemen from Kramer’s era – Alex Karras, Alan Page and Bob Lilly being others Kramer mentioned – who wrote letters of recommendation over the years on Kramer’s behalf, letters that Kramer’s daughter Alicia collected and has presented to keep Kramer’s candidacy alive.

 

The DB can attest that Kramer is vibrant at age 81 and should be expected to give an outstanding acceptance speech.  But Peter King implies his ratification by the full committee is not a slam dunk:

 

I think this about the Jerry Kramer nomination to the Hall of Fame: I am glad he will get another day in front of the full committee of 48 voters next February in Minneapolis. He will need 39 yes votes for enshrinement (as will fellow Seniors Committee nominee Robert Brazile). Once and for all, Kramer’s fate will be decided. That’s a very good thing. The way the system works, it’s rare to come out of the morass of the Seniors pool, which consists of all players retired for more than 25 years. Kramer came out of the pool in 1997 and did not get 80 percent of the vote, so he was not enshrined. Now he comes out of the pool again, and if he doesn’t get 80 percent, I doubt he’d ever again come out of the Seniors pool, which has at least 50 truly legitimate candidates waiting to have their cases heard. Kramer, in the years he was eligible as a Modern Era finalist, was a finalist nine times and never got the vote. So overall he’s 0-for-10. This is it.