The Daily Briefing Monday, June 12, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on a recent NFL Front Office hire:

 

Longtime NFL executive Dawn Aponte, who last year was transferred out of the Dolphins’ operations to work for another Stephen Ross-owned business, is now back in the NFL.

 

Aponte has been hired as chief administrator of football operations in the league office, according to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.

 

Last year the Dolphins made the surprising announcement that Aponte was leaving the team to work for the Drone Racing League, which Dolphins owner Stephen Ross co-owns. That appeared to end a 25-year football career that also saw her work for the Browns and Jets.

 

Now she’s in the league office, in a newly created position that reports to Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent.

 

Peter King praises Aponte:

 

I think the league made a really good hire in Dawn Aponte for its chief football administrative officer (per Dan Kaplan of Sports Business Daily). I think that because of the respect Aponte has earned around the league with the Browns and Dolphins in football administration since 2009. “She should be a GM,” said one front-office veteran Sunday via text Sunday night. “Hope this gets her closer to that.” Amy Trask served as CEO of the Raiders under Al Davis. But a woman has not been a general manager in the NFL. Aponte has been a strong negotiator, and the argument I’ve heard for her as a GM is that not all GMs climb the ladder the traditional way, beating the bushes as a scout for years before having a chance to run a front office. She’s strong-willed and very smart. It’ll be interesting to see her fate working under Troy Vincent in the league office in the near future—and whether a team would at least interview her for a GM opening.

 

With all respect for Aponte’s abilities – GMs usually emerge from winning teams and the Browns and Dolphins of recent years do not qualify.

 

And while there has never been a woman with the title of general manager, we would point out that in Cincinnati, Katie Blackburn is the second in command under the owner and does many, many of the duties of a traditional GM.  Her title is executive vice president.

 

This from 2014:

 

For years, Bengals owner Mike Brown has served as the team’s de facto general manager, but speaking to reporters – including Joe Danneman of Fox19 – Brown said yesterday that his daughter Katie Blackburn and head coach Marvin Lewis are now running the franchise (Twitter link). As Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer details, Brown still has the final say on personnel decisions, but typically follows the lead of Blackburn and Lewis.

 

And this, last year, from Jenny Vrentas at TheMMQB.com:

 

You could call her the most powerful woman in the NFL whom nobody talks about, and she prefers it that way. Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, the first woman to be a chief contract negotiator in the NFL, has been part of the front office in Cincinnati since 1991. It’s not unusual for children of NFL owners to be involved in the family business—she’s Mike Brown’s daughter—but in following her father’s path into football, Blackburn paved a new path for women.

 

More than ever, the NFL has been forced in recent years to answer questions about the role of women in the country’s most popular sports league. The scrutiny began with the league’s handling of domestic violence cases, during which the league admitted to not having enough female decision-makers at the table. Over the past few months, the NFL has extended the Rooney Rule to women for executive positions in the league office; it has seen Bills special teams quality control coach Kathryn Smith become the first full-time female coach; and it held a women’s career development symposium on the front end of this week’s owners’ meetings.

 

Blackburn was a panelist at the symposium, drawing on a quarter-century’s worth of experience in professional football. She prefers to operate behind the scenes, but as her father has taken steps back from the day-to-day responsibilities in Cincinnati, Blackburn is on her way to running the team.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Dave Birkett in the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions can soldier on without T TAYLOR DECKER:

 

Watching a cornerstone player suffer a devastating injury in the middle of the off-season is nothing new for Haloti Ngata.

 

In 2012, Ngata was with the Baltimore Ravens when top pass rusher Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon while playing a spring game of pickup basketball.

 

Suggs, coming off a 14-sack season, appeared in just eight games for the Ravens that fall, but Baltimore — with Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell as its offensive coordinator — still went on to win the Super Bowl.

 

With Taylor Decker out a reported four to six months after undergoing shoulder surgery last week — he could miss the first half of the regular season or more under that timetable — Ngata said the Detroit Lions have a convenient blueprint to follow as they try to overcome their starting left tackle’s injury.

 

“Guys just have to step up, make sure that we can have a faith in them and trust in them and we’ll just see how minicamp goes next week and training camp goes,” Ngata said.

 

In Baltimore, Paul Kruger replaced Suggs in the starting lineup that fall and delivered a then-career-high nine sacks, 2.5 more than he had in his first three NFL seasons combined. Ngata also matched a career-high that year with five sacks.

 

The Lions have yet to settle on a replacement for Decker, but Joe Dahl and Cornelius Lucas split first-team reps at practice last week, the team added Tony Hills as a free agent, and Corey Robinson could vie for the job once he returns from foot surgery.

 

“It’s unfortunate what happened, but that’s just kind of part of the business that we’re in,” center Travis Swanson said. “Taylor’s still going to be around and whatnot, we just have to have that next-man-up mentality till he’s ready.”

 

Ngata, who hosted a charity softball tournament with Lions punter Sam Martin on Saturday, said Suggs remained with the team while he rehabbed his injury and was a big part of his understudy’s success.

 

“He was there to make sure those guys (behind him) were able to do the job,” Ngata said.

 

As for Decker’s injury, Ngata said his sense is that it hasn’t been deflating for the Lions.

 

“It’s somebody you know that can help us win games, but at the same time a lot of guys can step up and see that and understand that,” Ngata said. “If they can see and understand it then it will help our team better. We’ll just have to see how it goes with the guys that step up.”

 

Peter King is not so sure:

 

I think not much happens in June that you can say truly impacts the regular season. But that’s exactly what happened when the Lions lost their best offensive lineman at the most integral position, left tackle Taylor Decker, with a shoulder injury and surgery last week. Decker’s value is not just his fine play; Pro Football Focus recorded that, in his 1,037 snaps played in 2016, only nine times did he allow his quarterback to be sacked or hit significantly. The Lions will miss Decker’s leadership on a changing line, where at least two starters will be new.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Will political correctness keep Jerry Jones from hosting the Draft?  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com anticipates efforts to deprive Texas of any significant event if it enacts bathroom regulations displeasing to the Elite:

 

Dallas is considered a favorite to host the 2018 NFL draft, but actions in the state Capitol could change that.

 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week called for a special legislative session to consider a bill regulating bathroom use by transgender people in public buildings. When North Carolina passed a similar “bathroom bill,” it cost the state several sporting events, and the NFL says that bill could result in the league keeping the draft out of Dallas.

 

“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Dallas Morning News.

 

Abbott has previously criticized the NFL for saying such a law could cost Houston and Dallas the opportunity to host future Super Bowls.

 

North Carolina partially repealed its bathroom law after events including the NBA All-Star Game and NCAA Tournament were pulled from the state.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Peter King catches up with QB CARSON WENTZ where we learn the Eagles QB has formed a fast friendship with Angels OF Mike Trout (from the Philly area) over hunting and that King says Wentz reminds him of ELI MANNING (and says that is a good thing):

 

I don’t know if Carson Wentz is going to be a good player or not. It’s more likely than not he’ll have a successful career, but as Bill Parcells has said about 1,600 players in his life, they don’t sell insurance for that stuff.

 

But I talked to Wentz for awhile the other day, as he drove home from an offseason practice, and I came away thinking he’s got a good chance. He reminds me of Eli Manning in terms of mentality and confidence—I’ll explain that in a few moments—and I don’t think the game’s too big for him, which I’ll explain too.

 

I don’t believe Eli Manning’s ever been hunting for Himalayan Tahr (a wild goat) and Chamois (a goat-antelope species) and red deer in New Zealand, though. And that’s one of the things that’s got Wentz particularly excited these days. “I went with my brother to New Zealand for a week [in late March], on what I know would be a bucket-list hunt for so many hunters,” Wentz told me. “It’s probably the most exhilarating hunt I’ve been on. I got my Tahr with a bow from about 40 yards, and boy, that was rewarding. It’s addicting.”

 

“What would be more rewarding from 40 yards—getting a Tahr with a bow and arrow, or throwing a touchdown pass from that distance in the Super Bowl?” I asked.

 

Pause. “God willing, playing in the Super Bowl one day, and making that pass like you say, would be a blessing—that’s what I’m working for right now,” Wentz said.

– – –

Wentz was an early sensation, ripping off three wins to start his career and sending the normally skeptical Philly fans into a Wentz-for-Canton tizzy. But it was too good to be true, as these number illustrate:

 

            W-L      Comp. %           TD-INT  Rating

The Good Start  4-2        .638      8-3        92.7

The Rough End  3-7        .616      8-11      73.4

 

Odd: Wentz’s only three wins in the last two months of the season came against NFC playoff teams—the Falcons, Giants and Cowboys. So the most famous athletic North Dakotan since Roger Maris entered a long off-season with more question marks than exclamation points. Mostly this: As the season went on, Wentz never got a crisis of confidence or questioned that he should be playing as a rookie from North Dakota State. Basically, his confidence occasionally signed checks his arm couldn’t cash. To start a five-game Eagles’ losing streak, Wentz threw a laser into a forest of four Seahawks just before halftime, down nine points, that was picked by Kam Chancellor and killed an important drive. There were more where that came from.

 

Wentz didn’t have a crisis of confidence. If anything, he had a crisis of decision-making.

 

“The thing is, I never pressed last year,” Wentz said. “I learned a lot. Windows are smaller, I have to make decisions faster … athletes, obviously, are better. But my motto was, ‘It’s just football.’ I didn’t make anything bigger than it was. I made some mistakes, but I didn’t get shaken by them.”

“Did anything last year, making that jump from North Dakota to the NFL, bug you?” I wondered.

“Never,” he said. “Definitely never.”

 

That’s where the Eli comparison is appropriate. I’ll always remember after the February 2012 Super Bowl win over New England, an emotional-less Manning was being shuttled through the Giants’ locker room to a media obligation by a phalanx of yellow-coated security people. Looking at the scene, Justin Tuck of the Giants said, “That’s Eli—he’d look the same whether we just won or lost this game.” Manning felt if he left everything in preparation and performance on the field, no sense crying about a bad loss. And he never got very high after his biggest wins.

 

It’s early, but that’s Wentz’s way. He went to work with Tom House’s quarterback-mechanics protégé, Adam Dedeaux, in southern California for two weeks after the season to polish footwork, the timing between arm and legs, and learn the kind of shoulder exercises and “prehab” work that will prevent his shoulder from aching during heavy throwing periods. (Dedeaux recently took over House’s business tutoring quarterbacks.) “What made me go there?” Wentz said. “Knowing so many good players went there and it helped them. I never want to stop learning. There are so many little things about playing this position that to the naked eye you won’t see when you watch me. But I do feel I am improved mechanically.”

 

Wentz has confidence he can play faster, he said, because he’s not thinking as much. In the Eagles’ OTA workouts—important not just for Wentz, but also for his chemistry with new receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith—he said he feels faster and more comfortable in his second year under offensive coordinator Frank Reich. “Way more comfortable,” he said. “It’s OTAs, I know. But things have slowed down. I’m not thinking about everything anymore—last year I was. Now I can feel the important things early in the play—where’s my answer, what are my options, what will work? It’s a different game when you can dial it down and feel you know what’s important to look for, and you’re not looking at every little thing out there. I mean, cover-2 is cover-2.”

 

On the topic of hunting, Wentz, who turns 25 this year, did a lot of it with American League MVP and Eagles season-ticket holder Mike Trout, 26. “Ducks, geese, sometimes just shooting boxes of shells and getting nothing. But there’s nothing like laying in a field, waiting for a shot. He’s a ridiculous fan of ours, but we don’t talk sports, really. Just life. We’ve got a lot of common ground.”

– – –

Meanwhile, RB LeGARRETTE BLOUNT is making a favorable impression with running backs coach Duce Staley.

 

The Eagles have changed head coaches twice since the end of the 2012 season, but Duce Staley has remained part of the organization’s fabric while others shuffled in and out of the picture.

 

Staley played for the Eagles from 1997-2003 and then joined Andy Reid’s staff in 2011. He moved up to running backs coach after Chip Kelly was hired in 2013 and retained the position on former teammate Doug Pederson’s staff, so the former Eagles running back has a good sense of how the Eagles have staffed their backfield over the years.

 

Staley played at 242 pounds, which made him an outlier for a team that tended toward smaller options out of the backfield before signing LeGarrette Blount this offseason. Staley said the difference is notable.

 

“He brings that power,” Staley said, via PennLive.com. “He’s a big human being … and he’s coming downhill. That’s something we haven’t had here in a long time.”

 

Staley said that Blount has adapted well to a new offense and has given the locker room a valuable veteran voice, which gives the coach more reason to believe the addition of the veteran will prove to be a beneficial one to the Eagles offense in 2017.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Peter King:

 

I think it’s great, and just, that Mike Vick retires as a Falcon today in Georgia.  

– – –

A momentous weigh-in in Atlanta today.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Eddie Lacy isn’t the only NFL player with a lucrative weigh-in looming.

 

Falcons nose tackle Dontari Poe has a weigh-in tomorrow. If he weighs 340 pounds or less, he gets a $125,000 bonus, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

 

A total of $500,000 is riding on Poe’s weight this year. He gets three more $125,000 bonus payments if he weighs in at 330 or less at the start of training camp, at the start of the regular season and in November. Poe, who was listed at 346 pounds last season, has said he’s confident he’s going to make weight.

 

Weight is really not the best way to measure a person’s fitness, and when Lacy was on the Packers the team made a point of assessing him not with a scale, but with a body composition analysis that measured his fat and muscle mass. A player could hit a weight goal by losing muscle mass, or by spending a few hours in the sauna and shedding water weight, but that wouldn’t be a healthy way to go about it.

 

However, body weight is simpler and easier to verify than body composition, which is why teams and agents generally put weight clauses in contracts. For Poe, the weight clause is worth half a million dollars.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune with something of an update on DT NICK FAIRLEY.

 

The New Orleans Saints are still waiting for a determination on defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s playing career, and at this point, it’s unclear when the team will have its answer.

 

Fairley was undergoing further heart testing Friday afternoon as part of his third medical opinion, according to a source aware of the examination.

 

The 29-year-old Fairley has already received two opinions on the heart condition that is putting his career in jeopardy. After the first exam in Boston, Fairley was recommended not to play football again. He had a second opinion in Houston, which said he could continue playing with no problems, according to the source.

 

Coach Sean Payton said Thursday that Fairley had undergone tests Tuesday or Wednesday as part of the third opinion, but there were still more checks happening as of Friday afternoon.

 

“It’s obviously something significant and serious that we’ve got to pay attention to, obviously both for Nick and for the club,” Payton said Thursday. “So, we’re hopeful and yet we’re guarded because of the type of condition that we’re talking about.”

 

Fairley, who is said to be in good spirits despite the trying situation, has been away from the Saints during organized team activities the past three weeks as he and the team await a final conclusion about how playing football could impact his heart condition.

 

Payton said doctors at the NFL combine in 2011 determined that Fairley had an enlarged, but the Detroit Lions still felt comfortable drafting him in the first round. It’s unclear if Fairley’s condition has worsened or if there’s a new issue.

 

The Saints are being cautious not to provide much information about the situation because of HIPAA laws (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). 

 

Payton and Fairley’s teammates are hoping for some good news, but they also want him to take care of his long-term health before turning his attention back to football.

 

The Saints gave Fairley a four-year, $28 million deal in March with $9 million guaranteed at signing, including an $8 million signing bonus. According to an NFL Network report, the Saints have paid just $4 million of that bonus so far with the other $4 million due June 15.

– – –

Peter King laughs at the Saints:

 

I think I had this reaction when I saw a headline on Pro Football Talk Saturday about the Saints exploring a trade for running back Travaris Cadet: For what? An eighth-rounder? Any team looking at the Saints sees Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara certainly ahead of Cadet, and sees the mildly used Cadet with 128 touches in five years, and has to wonder why it would give a draft choice for him.

 

AFC WEST

 

OAKLAND

 

The “24” Raiders jersey of RB MARSHAWN LYNCH has zoomed to the top of the charts – as pointed out by @HailPitt and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.  Here is the rest of the top 25:

 

  1 – Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

  2 – Tom Brady, Patriots

  3 – Dak Prescott, Cowboys

  4 – Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

  5 – DeShaun Watson, Texans

  6 –  Derek Carr, Raiders

  7 – Odell Beckham, Jr, Giants

  8 – Carson Wentz, Eagles

  9 – Julio Jones, Falcons

10 – Ron Gronkowski, Patriots

11 – James Conner, Steelers

12 – Aaron Rodgers, Packers

13 – Matthew Stafford, Lions

14 – Antonio Brown, Steelers

15 – Khalil Mack, Raiders

16 – Julian Edelman, Patriots

17 – Colin Kaepernick, unsigned (49ers jersey)

18 – Von Miller, Broncos

19 – Matt Ryan, Falcons

20 – Dez Bryant, Cowboys

21 – Russell Wilson, Seahawks

22 – Jason Witten, Cowboys

23 – Cam Newton, Panthers

24 – Drew Brees, Saints

25 – Adrian Peterson, Saints

 

Thoughts on the list from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When word first surfaced of retired running back Marshawn Lynch possibility un-retiring and joining the Raiders, it became obvious that his Silver and Black No. 24 would instantly become the hottest-selling jersey in the NFL. And it has.

 

As noted by the Twitter account @Hail_Pitt, Lynch had the No. 1 jersey for the month of May. The list got the attention of Pitt aficionados because Steelers rookie (and former Pitt) running back James Conner debuted at No. 11 on the list, higher than any other Steelers player.

 

Others of note include Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at No. 2, which is significant because wouldn’t anyone who wanted a Brady jersey have one by now? Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott finished at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively on the list of May sales.

 

Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson debuted at No. 5, the highest of all rookies — and a possible indication of the degree of patience Houstonians will have with starter Tom Savage, if he sputters in September.

 

The DB notes that KHALIL MACK at 7 and VON MILLER at 15 are the only defenders.

 

JAMEIS WINSTON is the only NFC South QB not on the list.  Others missing include KIRK COUSINS, LeVEON BELL and anyone from the Chiefs or Vikings.

– – –

Jeremy Bergman at NFL.com thinks QB DEREK CARR is going to get $25 million per.

 

The Derek Carr contract drama has been anything but dramatic. Neither Carr nor the Oakland Raiders are in a concerted hurry to get the deal done, and the quarterback has resolved that if the contract isn’t worked out by the start of training camp in late July, then they “won’t be talking about it” going into the season.

 

Despite a dearth of reported discussion between the sides, the expectation is that Carr and the Raiders will have to come to terms, and when they do it will be for record-setting money.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday on NFL Network’s Up to the Minute Live that, if and when the Raiders lock up their franchise QB, Carr could become the first quarterback to earn $25 million per year. Colts signal-caller Andrew Luck currently paces all QBs with a $24.6 million average salary.

 

Carr certainly ranks alongside Luck as one of the top young quarterbacks in the league and, unlike Luck, is the leader of one of the only AFC teams with enough firepower to contend with the Super Bowl champion Patriots. But there is still one thing standing in Carr’s way of eclipsing Luck’s contract number, and he plays in the NFC East.

 

A potential contract for the Redskins’ franchise-tagged quarterback Kirk Cousins could completely rewrite the market for Carr, Rapoport reports. A long-term deal between Cousins and Washington would have to be worked out by the July 15 deadline for signing tendered players. If a Cousins contract was concocted by then, that would give Carr and the Raiders, Rapoport explains in this scenario, less than two weeks to negotiate a new deal and meet Carr’s self-imposed deadline. (The likelihood of this playing out is unknown at this time, but we’re saying there’s a chance.)

 

Either way, there is next to no doubt that Carr will eventually sign a long-term deal with the Raiders. It’s only a matter of when, and for how much.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers give DE MELVIN INGRAM a new four-year deal which means the last year will cover the teams’ arrival in Inglewood.  Eric Williams of ESPN.com:

 

– Ensuring that he remains with the team for the foreseeable future, the Los Angeles Chargers announced the team agreed to terms with edge rusher Melvin Ingram on a four-year deal.

 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Ingram’s deal is worth $66 million and includes $42 million guaranteed, per a team source. The Chargers put the franchise tag on Ingram in February and maintained that the goal was to sign the South Carolina product to a long-term deal. The Chargers had until July 15 to reach agreement on a multiyear deal.

 

With 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, Ingram is tied for 12th in the NFL over that time period. Paired with second-year pro Joey Bosa, the Chargers have one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL locked up long term.

 

Ingram turned 28 in April, and is likely to participate in the team’s upcoming mandatory minicamp at Chargers Park, which starts Tuesday.

 

Under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the Chargers changed from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 scheme. That means Ingram will move positions from outside linebacker to defensive end. However, Bradley says he expects Ingram to be a good fit in his system.

 

“With his production and his effort, he’s just been a highly productive player,” Bradley said about Ingram. “I just think for him it’s the opportunity to rush more and be on the line of scrimmage more.

 

“He’ll have his times when he has to drop, but the percentage is going to change to where it’s going to lean more towards giving him the ability to rush.”

 

Peter King approves:

 

I think the Chargers, in ensuring that one of the best bookend pass-rush tandems will play together for at least the next four years (assuming the fifth-year option of Joey Bosa is exercised at the end of the 2018 season), now have something to build around on defense in their new home. Bosa plays this season at 22. Melvin Ingram, who signed a four-year, $66-million deal over the weekend, according to Adam Schefter, plays the year at 28. Both are healthy. So now the Philip Rivers-led offense doesn’t have to worry about scoring 34 a game if the relocated Chargers hope to win.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans are encouraging two of their players in their efforts to visit Donald Trump.  It’s a name that does not appear in this NFL.com report from Chase Goodbread:

 

Deshaun Watson and Carlos Watkins aren’t Clemson Tigers any longer, but the Houston Texans are making sure both are getting one more day with the College Football Playoff national champions.

 

Texans owner Bob McNair arranged to fly rookie quarterback Watson, drafted No. 12 overall, and Watkins, a defensive tackle selected in the fourth round, to Washington, D.C., on Monday to join their former teammates for Clemson’s visit to the White House, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

Clemson defeated Alabama, 35-31, in January for the CFP national title, on a last-minute drive led by Watson for a comeback victory. Championship sports teams have a long history of visits to the White House, although the tradition of inviting them with regularity began with the Reagan administration.

 

Other Clemson players drafted this year include WR Mike Williams (Chargers), CB Cordrea Tankersley (Dolphins), RB Wayne Gallman (Giants) and TE Jordan Leggett (Jets).

 

Thanks to the Texans, the biggest star from last season’s team, Watson, will be in attendance as the team gets one more moment in the spotlight.

 

Longtime Clemson SID Tim Bourret will not be making the White House visit.  He is needed in Orlando to be enshrined in the CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors) Hall of Fame.  Congrats to Tim.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Owner Jim Irsay still expects two rings from QB ANDREW LUCK.  Zak Keefer in the Indianapolis Star:

 

In a first-ever event of this kind for the franchise, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay took to a town hall of season ticket holders Thursday night to double down on his mandate of multiple Super Bowl triumphs during the Andrew Luck era.

 

And, in true Jim Irsay fashion, he was in no way timid about it.

 

“I’ve said it before – we’re into plural Lombardis,” Irsay said, his voice rising, his conviction evident. “That’s what our goal is. And I’ll be damned if we don’t go out and get them.”

 

More than 1,000 season ticket holders who packed Clowes Hall at Butler University met Irsay’s bold proclamation with thunderous applause.

 

Among the reasons for Irsay’s optimism: Luck’s recovery from January surgery on his throwing shoulder. Despite Luck still not throwing the football five months into his recovery, and not participating in any of the team’s offseason workouts to date — not at all surprising considering the severity of the operation — Irsay, to the relief of those in attendance, stressed that Luck is “healing tremendously.”

 

He then offered more details on the operation than he or any member of the organization had to date.

 

“This has been a positive thing, not a negative thing or anything like that,” Irsay said of Luck’s surgery. “He was really struggling, going through the process of getting ready to play (last season). This was, quite frankly, not that complicated of a surgery. It was a simple labrum repair. There are a lot of other things that could’ve gone into that type of surgery that weren’t involved at all.”

 

Irsay has stated he believes Luck will be under center when the Colts open the regular season Sept. 10 in Los Angeles against the Rams. A labrum repair in the throwing shoulder of an NFL quarterback can require anywhere from six to nine months to fully heal, according to surgeons familiar with the operation. Training camp, set to begin the final week of July, arrives six months after Luck went under the knife.

 

Follow up from Peter King:

 

The offensive line is fine, Irsay said, and line guru Howard Mudd, the former Colts assistant, told Irsay so. Now, one of the reasons the Colts fired GM Ryan Grigson was because the quarterbacks were getting hit too much, and the line was leaky and a constant issue in the past couple of years. Grigson gets whacked, Chris Ballard takes over, doesn’t address the line much in the off-season, and now all of a sudden the line’s no problem? I’ll believe it when I see it. But there was Irsay saying all’s well. “If Howard Mudd tells you it’s fixed, trust me, it’s fixed,” Irsay told the fans. We’ll see.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Coincidence?  A tweet from Darren Rovell.

 

✔ @darrenrovell

Patriots confirm that there are 283 diamonds in new champ ring. They were, of course, down 28-3.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

A shot at the Jets from New England as recounted by Peter King:

 

“It’s a lot better than the Jets Hall of Fame, which is nonexistent.”

—Josh Kraft, son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, to the Boston Herald, at a community event, commenting on the Patriots Hall of Fame.

 

There is no proverbial love lost between these two teams.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Peter King on the English broadcasting success of Osi Umenyiora:

 

Remember Osi Umenyiora? Of course you do—he won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants in an 11-year NFL career, retiring in 2015 after two quiet seasons with the Falcons. Born in London to Nigerian parents, he took a different road post-career, wanting a broadcasting job. He inquired about working in TV in England, using his very slight British accent to tell NFL folks he hoped to become the Michael Strahan of British sports TV. As the BBC’s host on two weekly NFL shows, Umenyiora’s made a quick and telling impact. This spring, he won the Royal Television Society’s Best Sports Presenter Award. This is significant, because he beat out all the TV hosts in the sports widely known and covered in England: soccer, rugby, cricket. “He understands the UK market’s need to appeal to passionate hardcore NFL fans and also to new fans of the sport,” the Royal Television Society said in bestowing the award.

 

 

FANTASY SLEEPERS

Adam Rank of NFL.com has a list of 10 names to have tucked away for the later rounds of your Fantasy Draft:

 

Don’t count on a rookie quarterback to be a sleeper. I even debated putting up some quarterback sleeper. But does Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston really count at this time? I didn’t think so.

 

So let’s do this thing.

 

Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots

Oh, I know. Patriots running backs, amirite? The situation got even murkier once the team went after Mike Gilislee. It would be a foolish endeavor to try to figure out the rotation here in May. So I’m not going to. I’m just going to take a shot at one of the Pats running backs in later rounds, especially since all of them will fall down the draft boards.

 

Jeremy McNichols, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Boise State running backs, amirite? Actually, the Broncos have nearly become Running Back U with some modest success of Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi. McNichols joins the former in what looks like a crowded Bucs backfield. But realize, Chuck Sims already has a dedicated role with the team. McNichols is good on all three downs and has the potential to be a lead back. His biggest knock coming into the draft was his lower-leg strength. But should he overcome that, he figures to benefit the most here. And realize the Bucs offense is loaded and could end up being in situations where they need to salt away games at the end, something McNichols could surely do.

 

Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

He’s a tough trucker who has drawn comparisons to former Chargers running back Michael Turner. Sorry, I know he played for the Falcons but he’ll always be a Charger to me. But Perine’s a bruising running back who could end up taking the gig from my guy, R. Kelley. You just have to read the tea leaves here. I would be willing to make a big gamble for Perine in my leagues. I know; Redskins running backs amirite? But this guy smells of a Freddy Morris-type of breakout this year.

 

And this bit is getting kind of old, amirite? Fine. That was the last one.

 

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

I like Spencer Ware. I invested heavily in Ware last year, and he kind of didn’t hold up down the stretch. Injuries are to blame. Andy Reid seems to really love him. But I’m not allowed to believe anything coaches say otherwise I’ll be mocked for believing a coaching trope. So when Andy Reid says Ware is “dirty tough.” And “He’s going to give you an honest down every snap” I guess that means he sucks. Or something. I can’t keep up with all of this. I just know the Chiefs are going to have an open competition at running back. I’m going to keep tabs on Kareem Hunt, mostly because the team traded up to get him.

 

Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns

The Browns aren’t expected to do well this season. Oh sorry, should have thrown in a spoiler alert there. But I do like Coleman headed into the season. Mostly because of the opportunity it presents. If the Browns aren’t winning, they are playing from behind and throwing the ball a ton. When looking for prospects, always look for the target monsters.

 

Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

He’s another potential target monster. Quincy Enunwa had a nice season in 2016, but I found myself being more impressed with Anderson. I’ve been critical of the Jets in the past, but there is some potential at the receiver position. The best thing that could happen for Anderson would be for the Jets to ship off Eric Decker and Matt Forte. Well, they should really move those two for humanitarian reasons. Decker could fulfill his destiny to play for the Patriots. Forte should be sent to a winner. Like Tampa Bay? I know it’s not a huge need, and it would nuke McNichols who I just touted earlier. But the fan in me would love to see it.

 

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks

A brutal injury ended his 2016 season, but he’s expected to make a full recovery. And really, I can’t explain how much this bummed me out. Matt Harmon was/is the president of his fan club, but I’m clearly the sergeant-at-arms. Lockett figures to start the season as the team’s No. 3 receiver, but he has the play-making ability to carve out a much bigger role. I don’t expect him to be a guy you can trust every week, but clearly, he could be a spot-starter. Or even a flex option in different types of leagues.

 

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

Fuller was on the cusp of a nice rookie season, but then Brock Osweiler happened. Oh man, Fuller got caught in the collateral damage here. Nuk Hopkins gets all the attention for having his season struck down by Osweiler. But Fuller suffered as well. I’m hoping DeShaun Watson becomes the starter, but if not, Tom Savage is still an upgrade.

 

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

For the record, I had the Chargers going Christian McCaffrey at No. 7 (which they should have) and some of you lost your (stuffing). But the Chargers still focused on offense, which was probably the wise decision. Williams is an elite-level player. And he would benefit greatly in a shakeup of the depth chart, which is a nice way of saying injuries, though he should find a role on this team regardless. I like this move. Guys like Dontrelle Inman and that Tyrell Williams are nice. But this a legit No. 1 receiver on any other team that will be playing opposite one of the best receiving talents in the game. So I would say he’s better off if Keenan Allen plays and could be the best rookie receiver of the bunch.

 

Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts

He outplayed Dwayne Allen who has now been shipped off to New England. Doyle should thrive in his role as the lead tight end in this offense. And let’s be honest, everybody loves to yell “The Doyle Rules” every time he catches a touchdown pass, so you also have that going for you.

 

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

He’s got great upside and is just a prospect at this point. In truth, he’s probably going to be better for dynasty drafts. Njoku is a great athlete and pass catcher who I believe can make an impact in fantasy because I love pairing young quarterbacks with young tight ends. I know this has been proven to be more myth than fact (even though it’s a yearly talking point), but I like this situation. I might have liked it more had the Browns held on to Gary Barnidge, but I’m willing to take a stab at Njoku in deep leagues. For instance, my 14-team League of Leagues team.