The Daily Briefing Tuesday, July 24, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

A Peter King stat:

 

Check out the last 15 seasons in two NFL divisions. The NFC South defines parity in the last decade and a half; the AFC East laughs at it.

 

 

Observations:

 

Mathematically, one team in the next five years could catch the Patriots in the AFC East composite standings: the Jets. For the Jets to do that over the next five years, New York would have to go 80-0 and the New England 0-80.

 

Imagine, when the NFL was re-aligning its divisions from six to eight in 2002, that the league did the smart and geographically sane thing and put Miami in the AFC South and Indianapolis in the AFC East with Buffalo, New England and the Jets. First, there would have been eight more years of twice-a-year Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdowns (not including 2008 and 2011 when Brady and Manning were hurt). Second, the Patriots would have had a legitimate foil with the Colts. They are 152-88 in regular-season games since 2003, and though obviously that record wouldn’t be the same playing New England twice a year, it’d be darn close because the Jets and Bills would have been on the schedule twice a year.

 

NFL history would have been much better off—for competition’s sake, not for dynasty’s sake—with the Colts in the East.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

DE RANDY GREGORY is once again a Cowboy in good standing.  Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

 

Randy Gregory is all the way back.

 

One week after the Cowboys defensive end was conditionally reinstated, Gregory on Monday was fully cleared and reinstated by the league, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

Gregory missed all of last season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

 

The “fully cleared” status means Gregory can participate in practices and games, which wasn’t the case under his conditional reinstatement. Rapoport was told the NFL liked the pass-rusher’s plan and clinical resources in Dallas.

 

“I’ve never been more proud of any individual in my life,” Gregory’s attorney, Daniel Moskowitz, said in a statement last week. “I’m very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of his family.”

 

Gregory has logged just one sack over 14 games during a career largely sideswiped by off-the-field troubles.

 

A healthy and productive campaign from the 25-year-old would mean plenty for a Cowboys front set to go without David Irving, who will log a four-game ban of his own to open the season.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants are bringing on board veteran LB CONNOR BARWIN.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

After a successful stint with the surprising Rams, Connor Barwin is headed back east to attempt a similar turnaround.

 

The veteran linebacker said Monday he has agreed to terms with the New York Giants. Barwin announced the news via Twitter.

 

@ConnorBarwin98

 I’m excited to announce I’ve agreed to terms with the New York Football Giants. Let’s go G-Men! #GiantsPride

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed, that it’s a two-year deal worth up to $5 million.

 

Barwin is very familiar with the NFC East, having spent the middle portion of his career (2013-2016) with the Philadelphia Eagles. He voyaged west last offseason, joining a Rams team that was coming off a 4-12 finish but owned some underlying promise. The result was a rapid reversal of fortunes, with Barwin contirbuting to the Rams’ surprising resurgence with 34 tackles and 5.0 sacks in 14 games.

 

For his career, Barwin has logged 354 tackles and 55.5 sacks in nine seasons (though he only recorded statistics in eight of those nine campaigns).

 

To see how Barwin might fit into new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s defense, one mustn’t look far beyond last season, in which Barwin occupied essentially the same role in Wade Phillips’ defense in Los Angeles. Opposite Olivier Vernon, who will transition from 4-3 rush end to 3-4 Sam backer (a slight difference in term and responsibility, but visually similar), Barwin slots as an outside backer with experience and capability to play on all downs, including as a third-down sub package pass rusher with his hand on the ground. He won’t play every down (Barwin played on 61 percent of Rams defensive snaps last season, per Next Gen Stats), but he’s a proven commodity with an added ability to tutor his younger counterparts.

 

Eliot Shorr-Parks pens this tribute to Barwin at NJ.com:

 

The Giants have a new linebacker. Eagles fans are not happy about it.

 

Fans across Philadelphia did not seem pleased when it was announced Monday that linebacker Connor Barwin would be signing with one of their divisional rivals.

 

It is easy to understand why.

 

Barwin was a fan favorite during his time in Philadelphia for the way he became a part of the city’s culture and interacted with the fanbase. The idea of him doing that with Giants fans clearly had Eagles’ fans shedding tears down their new Super Bowl LII championship shirts.

 

Here are 10 reasons Giants fans could soon fall in love with Barwin like Eagles’ fans did — and one reason they might still end up booing him.

 

Barwin will be a strong veteran leader

Accountability was an issue for the Giants last season. Players threw each other under the bus. They ripped their head coach off the record. They put up very little fight as their season blew up in front of them.

 

That shouldn’t happen with Barwin.

 

Barwin was considered a leader in the Eagles’ locker room from almost the minute he stepped into it. Players looked up to him and hung out with him off-the-field. Rookies did extra drills with him after practice. Coaches counted on him to keep the team together during rough stretches.

 

The Giants are going to need more than just Barwin to fix their fractured locker room, but signing the veteran defensive end is a good start.

 

Barwin will be involved in the community

Barwin never hid his love from Philadelphia (but he might want to now that he plays for a divisional rival).

 

Barwin was extremely active in the community during his time with the Eagles. He helped build a new basketball court and a community garden in South Philadelphia. He completely renovated a Rec center in an underprivileged area of the city. His charity, Make The World A Better Place, was extremely active during his stay in Philadelphia.

 

Now that Barwin is less than two hours away from his home and the place his charity is based it wouldn’t be surprising if he found time to make sure his charity becomes active in the New Jersey area.

 

Barwin might sit next to you on the subway (or at your favorite bar)

Another way Barwin made sure he integrated himself into the Philadelphia community? He rode the subway.

 

Barwin was known for riding the subway throughout the week. He rode it to practice. He rode it to games. He probably even rode it after games (depending on the score).

 

Considering the New York subway system is considerably nicer than the one Barwin dealt with in Philadelphia, Giants fans should be on the lookout for their team’s new defensive end next time they catch the sub.

 

The bad news: Barwin on the field is far from a sure thing

The Giants will not make Barwin a full-time starter. It’s a good thing they don’t need him to be.

 

Barwin has not done a good job rushing the passer the last two seasons. Barwin averaged a pressure on the quarterback on 5% of his snaps in 2016 as a 4-3 defensive end. That number increased slightly in 2017 to 7.5% on 60 more snaps. Both years Barwin was outside of the top 60 at his position when it came to pass rush productivity.

 

Barwin does provide the ability to move between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense if the Giants do end up moving back-and-forth between the two alignments. The team should not count on him for consistent pressure quarterback on the quarterback when he is on the field, however.

 

Barwin loves music

New Jersey might not be known for their underground music scene. That might change with Barwin now calling MetLife Stadium home.

 

Barwin put on multiple concerts during his time with the Eagles. The concerts were part of his charity and normally featured the best up-and-coming artists in the Philadelphia area:

 

Barwin will always answer the tough questions

Barwin was not perfect in Philadelphia, but he never shied away from answering questions at his locker in a professional manner. There were plenty of times Barwin stood and talked when other players on the Eagles — who were dealing with their own locker room issues at the time — would not.

 

How a player handles himself through the media might not matter much during the games, but for the Giants, Barwin will be a positive influence in how the players get along with the fans.

 

Barwin could have his best games vs. the Dallas Cowboys

The best part of the Giants signing Barwin might be that they don’t have to play him anymore.

 

Barwin had some of his best games in an Eagles’ uniform against the Giants. Barwin had four sacks and 17 tackles in nine games against the Giants with the Eagles. Barwin even haunted the Giants in a Rams’ uniform, totaling one sack and three tackles when he played them last season.

 

The good news for the Giants? The only team Barwin has more career sacks against is the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Barwin very well could end up being worth every penny if he comes up big against the Cowboys next season.

 

Barwin will speak out on the national anthem

The Giants, from the top down, have not shied away from the national anthem controversy.

 

Barwin will only add fuel to that fire.

 

Barwin has never been afraid to speak his mind about off-the-field issues. That includes his belief that player should be able to peacefully protest during the national anthem. He also doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of President Donald Trump:

 

Barwin might build a snowman with you

You might want to find a way to make it to Barwin’s house the next time you unexpectedly have a foot of snow in your backyard:

 

@ConnorBarwin98

 Snowed in! #blizzard2016

 

Barwin once suffered a pretty nasty ankle injury

Giants fans are used to gruesome injuries. This year they have swapped out Jason Pierre-Paul’s finger for Barwin’s ankle.

 

No, Barwin didn’t suffer his ankle injury with the same kind of off-the-field bang that Pierre Paul did.

 

But as you can see in this below photo, he certainly knows what it is like to bounce back from an injury that requires a WARNING label to be shown:

 

Barwin should help Shurmur with his culture

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur has a history with Barwin and knows the impact he can have on a locker room. Shurmur saw it first hand during his time in Philadelphia as the offensive coordinator.

 

It is going to be important for Shumur to have players he can trust in his new locker room. That will be one way to hopefully avoid ending up as the target of an anonymous text to a reporter. It is also a way to make sure he has a player that will back him up as he installs and builds the kind of culture he wants in the practice facility.

 

Just ask Ben McAdoo how important having a player like that would have been.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

A big holdout is coming in Atlanta.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Julio Jones wants a new contract. The Falcons don’t want to give him one. And so Jones is holding out.

 

Jones has decided to skip training camp because of his frustration with his contract, according to multiple reports.

 

It appears Jones is willing to hold out of camp entirely, risking $40,000 in fines per day. The Falcons have made clear they don’t plan to give Jones a new contract, although they haven’t specifically said they’ll also fine Jones for his holdout.

 

If Jones is really serious about this holdout, he could keep it going into the regular season. Jones has a base salary this season of $10.5 million, and he’d lose $617,000 a week if he held out into the regular season.

 

Jones still has three years left on his contract, and it remains to be seen whether he and the Falcons are going to come to terms on a deal that will satisfy him. For now, they’re far apart.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com asks the question that is oft debated on the sports radio talk shows of Tampa Bay:

 

It wasn’t Manning vs. Leaf, but it was something like it, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Jameis Winston.

 

The Bucs were picking first in the 2015 draft and, as is the case when you pick first, could have taken anyone they wanted. At any position. Todd Gurley II or David Johnson at running back. Leonard Williams on the defensive line. Marcus Peters or Landon Collins for the secondary. Some pretty good players in that draft, at least based on the three seasons since then.

 

But all right, let’s say it had to be a quarterback. The Bucs were coming off a Josh McCown/Mike Glennon year and needed to bring some long-term stability to the situation. And there were two pretty good-looking options at the position. Florida State’s Winston, who had gone undefeated and won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship in 2013-14, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who had won his own Heisman and knocked off Winston’s still-undefeated Seminoles in a playoff game at the end of the 2014-15 season.

 

The Bucs went with Winston, and given the news that he’s suspended for the first three games of this season for a personal conduct violation, it’s fair to wonder if they’d do it differently if they could go back in time. Trade out of the pick and move down for someone like Gurley? Stay put and take Mariota instead? Or take Winston all over again, given what they know?

 

If you like Mariota and don’t like Winston, this is an easy answer, right? Of course they should have taken Mariota. Clean prospect, no off-field concerns, and the metrics say his first three NFL seasons have been basically as good as Winston’s. Heck, he won a playoff game last year; Winston hasn’t played in one yet.

 

But if you like Mariota and don’t like Winston, there’s at least some chance you felt that way in April 2015 and would have taken Mariota first anyway, even without the benefit of hindsight.

 

So why’d the Bucs feel otherwise? Well, I happened to ask Bucs GM Jason Licht that question when I visited Tampa Bay’s training camp last year. I’m going to print here what he told me, but it’s important that you remember (A) that these comments are from July 2017 and (B) that the NFL and the Bucs didn’t find out about the March 2016 incident that led to his current suspension until four months later.

 

“I like Marcus, and the question comes up all the time, and I always say it’s fine if both of them become good,” Licht said last summer. “That’s a great thing. That’s what I want. I’d be excited if I were the GM and Marcus Mariota were the quarterback. [Titans GM] Jon Robinson should be jacked up.

 

“But it was … this town, this team needed that leader. We needed to change the culture, and he’s that guy. And you know, he’s pretty special. When we were doing the research, every day there was something. Every day, information coming to me was better and better and better.”

 

Remember that this suspension — the result of a league investigation into allegations that Winston inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016 — is not the first time Winston has been in off-field trouble. Before the Bucs even knew they’d be picking first in the 2015 draft, Winston had avoided charges on a 2013 sexual assault allegation, been cited for shoplifting crab legs from a supermarket and been suspended for shouting a vulgar comment while standing on a tabletop in the Florida State student union. The Buccaneers knew about all of these things when it came time to decide on the top pick in the 2015 draft.

 

They took him anyway, and they did so because they learned enough things they liked about him during the pre-draft process to overcome the things they didn’t. Did they make a mistake? Should they have weighed the off-field issues more seriously? You can certainly make that argument, but the fact is that they didn’t. The Bucs felt Winston’s positive characteristics as a football player outweighed the concerns about his bad behavior. They convinced themselves he would mature and that the off-field stuff would not continue to be a problem.

 

They turned out to be wrong, of course, which is why we’re here asking the question of whether they’d do it differently if they could do it again. I’m inclined to think not. Because if you liked Winston better than Mariota at the time of the 2015 draft (as the Buccaneers did), there has been basically one thing that has happened since that might change your mind. Their careers have been fairly similar on the field. The Bucs have won 20 games in the past three years, the Titans 22 (including that one playoff win). Both QBs have missed time because of injury. Neither took the Year 3 leap that the Bucs and Titans were hoping for in 2017.

 

The one glaring thing that would make the Bucs change their mind on Winston is that, shortly after his first season in the league, he allegedly did a stupid and despicable thing that got him suspended for the first three games of his fourth season. You and I can sit here and say that should be enough to prompt a do-over if the Bucs were to get the chance at one, but we can’t sit here and assume they’d take it. The latest incident happened 2½ years ago and doesn’t really tell us anything about Winston that we didn’t already know — or at least believe — in April 2015. In his statement after the suspension came down, Winston called the incident in question, “uncharacteristic of me,” but his history argues otherwise.

 

The Bucs knew when they took Winston that he came with red flags and could land in more trouble, given the kind of trouble that followed him through college. They took him anyway. Looking back, it’s easy to say they should have taken Mariota instead, but if you think that, you probably thought the same at the time. The Bucs didn’t, which is why, if you asked them honestly, whether they’d do things differently if they had the 2015 draft to do again, I’d be surprised if they answered yes.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Joon Lee of Bleacher Report has a long look at QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO who does not lack for confidence.  It’s a long piece with lots of photos here.  Excerpts below:

     

In hours after Bill Belichick called to tell him he’d been traded to the Niners, Jimmy Garoppolo almost died. The Patriots had received a better offer from the Browns—multiple high-round draft picks—but Belichick believed San Francisco offered more possibilities for the young quarterback; he settled for a second-rounder. When a report surfaced that Tom Brady played a role in the exit of his own protégé, Garoppolo felt grateful that he didn’t have to answer questions in public, high-tailing straight outta Boston. “Parts of it were true, parts of it I knew weren’t true, parts I didn’t know if they were true or not,” Garoppolo says now. “I appreciated that Coach Belichick put me in the best situation—you hear those horror stories about guys finding out from … Twitter.”

 

It was a bye week, and he had planned on going home to Illinois for his 26th birthday. He was planning a post-Super Bowl trip with the guys. He was planning to soak in more as Brady’s backup—sure, he’d only started those two games for the Pats during the Deflategate suspension, but deep down, he felt he was better than the greatest of all time, that he could one day beat out Brady for the starting job in New England. Hell, he’d even planned on moving to a new place at the Seaport District in Boston for the 2018-19 season, because Jimmy’s a planner. “Everything went a little sideways on that plan, but it worked out,” he tells Bleacher Report. “I planned every scenario that I could think of in my head.” Jimmy plans and plans, then plans some more.

 

All of a sudden, it was 5:30 on Halloween morning, and Jimmy—the linebacker turned quarterback who used to wear K-Swiss sneakers into the ground and spit Weezy verses from Tha Carter III in his ’91 Buick Century—was rushing to the airport to catch the Niners’ private plane to the Bay. He was running on not enough sleep, a suitcase full of unfolded clothes and his iPhone blowing up in the backseat of a limousine merging onto I-95.

 

That’s when the unexpected nightmare began. Another car exited the highway, skidded off the side of the ramp, turned straight toward Jimmy’s door—straight toward the man who is now the third-highest-paid player in the National Football League.

 

Jimmy stared at the headlights outside his window. For a young man whose superpower is self-confidence, whose only insecurity is the temporary absence of perfection, Jimmy Garoppolo, once more, didn’t know what could possibly happen next.

 

He is hard to miss, Jimmy is, with that Superman chisel and all, a comparison he’s heard multiple times. “I thank my parents for the good looks,” he says with a laugh, a denim jacket over his pink T-shirt, with fresh-out-the-box Tinker Hatfield Jordan 3s hovering across the parking lot this June evening. “It’s the Italian tan, I guess.”

 

Garoppolo is one of those people who immediately make you conscious of what you’re wearing, whether you have bags under your eyes or whether there’s a stain on your shirt.At the front door of Fleming’s steakhouse here in Santa Clara, hopeful eyes dart toward him instantly. The mood of Niners fans has shifted dramatically in the eight months since the trade for their present and future QB. And as our waiter says after whisking Jimmy into a private back room, delivering a New York strip, medium-plus: “You know how they say a good quarterback makes everybody better? You literally proved that.”

 

“I tried,” Jimmy says with a laugh.

– –

Spend the weekend with Jimmy Garoppolo, though, talk to Mom, Dad, the three brothers, the coaches, the GM, and then help him find a new house with that record-setting contract—five years at $137.5 million with a signing bonus of $7 million, a guaranteed roster bonus of $28 million and a base salary of $6.2 million just for this season alone—and you’ll find that the monotonous march up Mount Perfection is more tumultuous than it looks, that things don’t ever really go according to plan…especially when you’re not just Tom Brady’s mysterious backup on the Patriots anymore.

 

—The first time Jimmy Garoppolo had the chance to play quarterback, he turned it down. Jimmy didn’t start playing football until sixth grade, but he was already 6’2” by then, so he started off at tight end and linebacker. On offense, he soon became a running back. Jimmy liked the ball in his hands. Jimmy likes control.

 

His Pop Warner head coach, Bob Viti, frequently called a play usually saved for desperation time in Madden: the half-back pass, wherein the quarterback—who was Jimmy’s best friend growing up, Dan Lowry—would hand off the ball to Jimmy, who would chuck it down the field. Coach Viti liked to call this play because it was always—always—a touchdown. It led Coach Viti to approach his star running back about a position change, to QB. But every time the coach asked, the answer from 11-year-old Jimmy was no.“He never told me why,” Viti says.This is why: Jimmy had lived a few streets away from Dan Lowry his entire life—Jimmy’s family has lived in the same house, on the same cul de sac, in the same suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois, since before he was born—and simply did not want to take away his best friend’s job. Yes, Jimmy was that humble. “I didn’t know about quarterbacking,” Jimmy says. “Nobody in my family had ever done it.”

 

Jimmy grew up the third of four sons to Denise and Tony Sr., who left for work as an electrician before 6:30 in the morning to put enough food on the table to feed his boys but clocked out at 4:30 to make sure he could coach their sports teams. “[Jimmy] really just flowed with the way everything went,” Denise says. “So on vacations, he really never caused any kind of a problem. My other sons were more boisterous. Jimmy wasn’t.”

 

Those around him say he’s always been that level-headed. But he was still a linebacker until 2008, his junior year at Rolling Meadows High, when he gave up track and baseball to play quarterback and point guard. Jeff Christensen, a former NFL QB and private coach, saw Jimmy’s long release—the remnants of pitching in Little League—and began playing him tapes of other gunslingers. Naturally, 16-year-old Jimmy gravitated toward the quarterback who had just set all the passing records, who had just lost his first Super Bowl in four attempts before turning 31, the QB who was the star on most of the game tape: Tom Freaking Brady.

 

“It wasn’t even like I was a Patriots fan,” Jimmy says, “but seeing him do that, it was flawless. I was like, ‘OK, that’s how I should throw.’”

 

By his senior year, Jimmy felt comfortable under center, finishing high school with 3,136 passing yards and 25 touchdowns in 19 games at quarterback. Christensen, recognizing his student’s potential, called up the offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois. And even though there was barely enough data or game tape to put together a firm scouting report, EIU trusted Christensen and gave Jimmy a scholarship.

– – –

Jimmy didn’t own a car in college, so he would walk 30 minutes from his place to the football facility and still be the first one there, hours before the rest of his teammates. The day after a game, Jimmy was at the facility by 7 a.m., breaking down tape. If there was a 6 a.m. workout, Jimmy would be there by 5:30, lifting weights. And he was still in routine by sundown, cooking up chicken on a George Foreman Grill—yes, with a side of spinach and rice. His teammates called him “Leaves.”J

 

Jimmy had started keeping a small journal in his dorm room, jotting down the school’s passing records—single-season and career, held entirely by Eastern Illinois legends Tony Romo and Sean Payton—during freshman year. Two seasons later, as a junior, he’d already broken some.

 

—The first time Jimmy Garoppolo met Tom Brady was during a predraft visit. They shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, then disappeared into other meetings. Over the next three-and-a-half seasons in Foxborough, he mostly tried to stay out of the GOAT’s way. “I was going to watch and literally absorb everything I could from him without being an annoyance,” he says. “I didn’t want to ask a ton of questions. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. You have to play the politics a little bit.

 

”As Jimmy’s oldest brother, Tony Jr., says: “You gotta look up the ladder and see who’s done it well, and I think he just tried to duplicate as much as he could at what Tom did, and that’s not going out too late on the weekend and getting in trouble.”

 

Brady and his backup did, however, develop a competitive relationship. After practice, the two quarterbacks would often play the bucket game, which requires landing a football into a trash can in the back corner of the end zone. “There would be days where one of us would win and you wouldn’t talk to the other for a little while,” Jimmy says. “We’d be fine the next day, but it was one of the best things for me. We would push each other and we got two Super Bowls out of it.”

 

Jimmy spent most days at Gillette Stadium and did not keep any food in his home. During the offseason, Brady would call once a week to check in on his progress, ask him how he’d been working to get better. In the three full seasons with Jimmy backing him up, Brady produced arguably the best stretch of his career, completing 65.1 percent of passes, throwing for 97 touchdowns against 18 interceptions and posting a QB rating of 103.1…all at ages 37 to 39. (Through the Patriots and the agent he shares with Garoppolo, Brady declined to comment for this story.)

 

“The competitiveness between the two of us was very similar. If I’m playing my best friend in one-on-one basketball, if we are both into it, by the end, we are going to hate each other,” Jimmy says. “That’s how it is. All the good competitors have that. We got along, but there were always times where we wanted to kill each other. It was a healthy, competitive relationship.”

 

While Jimmy certainly learned a lot on the field, he received the most advice from Brady off it. He has not adopted Brady’s notoriously stringent diet (“Let me tell you, avocado ice cream is not bad,” Jimmy admits), but he picked up tricks of a modern celebrity life, from the finances to the locker room and, of course, the women.

 

“I can’t tell you that,” Jimmy says with a wide smile, when pressed about veteran dating tips from the husband of one of the world’s most famous supermodels. “That’s top-secret stuff.”

 

And in New England, you try to not piss off the other GOAT, either. Belichick was a supporter, to be sure, but he and Garoppolo kept it strictly professional.

 

“There was no BS’ing around,” Jimmy says. “I related to him in that way, as crazy as it sounds. He’s different than he is with the media. He has dry humor—he would say some stuff that was borderline mean. He would put up a lowlight clip every once in a while, and it was always your worst throws from practice. He would put it up there, and you already knew what was about to happen. Any position, there are so many people on the outside hyping you up and saying good things, that everyone needs to be brought back down.” (Belichick also declined to comment for this story.)

– – –

“Even when I was a little kid, my brothers, whenever we would play, I would literally always think I was going to win. I wouldn’t, but I would always think that. It’s like when I go to New England, when I first got there, I thought in my head, ‘I’m better than this dude.’”

 

“But in your head, you believe you’re better than Tom Brady?” I ask.

 

“It was always a quiet confidence,” Jimmy says. “I would never speak that.”I ask again: “But you believed that you were the best dude there?”“

 

Yeah, you believe in yourself,” Jimmy says. “That’s the best way to put it.

 

”I check his confidence one more time: “So you’re going up to Tom Brady and saying, ‘I’m better than you’?”

 

“I’m not stupid. You have to pick your battles, but I had belief in myself that I could do certain things, and it’s always worked out pretty well. It will always be in me, that drive that comes from my dad telling me that someone is always working harder, that I’m always in last place and I need to catch up to someone else.”

 

Last offseason, San Francisco’s flashy new GM and head coach, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, had looked at every scenario to acquire a franchise quarterback. Colin Kaepernick was not going to come back, that much was decided. For Shanahan, none of the attention on the Niners’ protesting quarterback would affect his next decision.

 

“I did not think about any of the [Kaepernick] stuff,” Shanahan tells B/R. “You’re going to go through a lot of tough times regardless of how good you are. I want someone who can execute the system, has the skill set to manage a win, and I don’t really put anything else into that.

 

”Shanahan brought with him a dynamic offense, and in clip after clip of QBs who could shine in his complex playbook, Jimmy’s quick release and quicker decisions kept popping up. So Lynch asked about Brady and Jimmy before last season, but Belichick rebuffed on both. Shanahan had expected to wait a year and go hard after Kirk Cousins this offseason and contemplated spending a first- or second-round pick in the quarterback-heavy 2018 draft if all else fell through. But when Belichick came to him at the trade deadline in October, asking if he wanted Garoppolo for a second-round pick, the team jumped at the opportunity

 

.Even after the trade, however, Lynch and Shanahan emphasized a very specific—and surprising—point to the Niners brass: Just because the franchise had given up a second-rounder for Jimmy…didn’t mean he was immediately the franchise QB.“A lot of people would say if you’re going to trade a second-round pick, you’ve gotta be committed to this being your guy,” Lynch says. “This was not the way we wanted to talk about it. We had an opportunity to possibly have our guy, but we wanted him to come in. That was worth the risk.”

– – –

In college, Jimmy and Wurm watched Entourage together—every season, three or four times—and Jimmy never really related to Vincent Chase, the show’s movie-star protagonist. But now he’s got talk-show hosts screaming about him in the morning, cornerbacks talking shit about him in the afternoon and the paparazzi following him around at night. Brady and Gisele Bündchen once organized a double date with Garoppolo and a model friend of theirs, but the relationship did not work out.

 

 “It’s crazy to think about it, not expecting to be in Vinny’s situation, but it’s slowly turning into that,” Jimmy says.

 

Five weeks later, the paparazzi will catch Jimmy on a date with an adult film star, not unlike his Entourage counterpart.

 

In May, TMZ had posted a video of Jimmy outside a San Jose bar with a young woman. It’s the type of attention he’s still getting used to, even if he makes his friends read the thirsty Instagram comments. “You’re not even sure if it’s a real person,” Jimmy says. “You just pretend they aren’t. … The comments are the weirdest part. The DMs are even crazier.”

 

When TMZ claimed he had a girlfriend two months before, friends congratulated Jimmy on the relationship. “It was news to me,” he says.

 

—Oh, Jimmy Garoppolo did not die, by the way. As the swerving car crossed the median of the Massachusetts interstate and kept barreling toward him on the morning after the trade, Jimmy’s limo driver bailed into a ditch. “Could you imagine that story,” the driver said to Jimmy, “if we got hit leaving here

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the contract negotiations of DT AARON DONALD:

 

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald reportedly has said privately that he expects to have his long-awaited second NFL contract before training camp opens. If that’s going to happen, it needs to happen soon.

 

Rams veterans report for training camp on Wednesday, and there’s been no indication that a deal is imminent. It’s possible that both sides have committed to saying nothing while negotiations reach a critical point. It’s also possible that there’s nothing to say.

 

Last year, Donald stayed away from training camp and the preseason, showing up a day before the start of the regular season — and nevertheless being named defensive player of the year. This year, it’s not known what Donald will do.

 

He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, at a fifth-year option salary of $6.892 million. As explained last week, the Rams may be tempted to let Donald play on a year-to-year basis, tagging him for two, and maybe three, total seasons before allowing him to hit the open market, at the age of 31.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

Field Yates of ESPN.com is reporting a restructuring of the contract of RB SPENCER WARE:

 

Source: Chiefs RB Spencer Ware has restructured his deal, with $725K of his $1.45M base salary being converted into incentives. Ware has a very real shot at hitting those incentives and making the full $1.45M.

 

Yates explains that it is all about helping the Chiefs with their cap:

 

@FieldYates

He didn’t play last year, so incentives are not likely to be earned at this point and thus do not count against the salary cap.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com with a positive report on rookie T KOLTON MILLER:

 

Kolton Miller looked the part on film, which is why the Raiders used a first-round pick on the UCLA offensive tackle. But he really looks the part now.

 

Miller no longer looks (as much) like a young rookie he is, having gained 12 pounds since Oakland drafted him, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

 

Miller has spent multiple offseasons working with Dan Jameson of Syndicate Sports Performance in Roseville, California. This offseason was no different.

 

“Kolton’s put good weight on,” Jameson told Gehlken. “It’s not ‘dad bod.’ It’s not all around his waist. It’s in his shoulders. It’s in his arms. It’s in his back. . . . Kolton’s ready. Kolton’s ready to learn. He’s ready to handle his business. He’s ready to just be a sponge and take it all in and be the best he can be.”

 

Miller impressed the Raiders with his athleticism at the Scouting Combine. This offseason, he has shown them his work ethic, spending his off time getting bigger and stronger as the team requested.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

A warm welcome to L.A. for S DERWIN JAMES per Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Los Angeles Chargers rookie safety Derwin James was allegedly robbed at gunpoint last month in Los Angeles, according to a report from TMZ.

 

Per a warrant obtained by TMZ, James and his uncle were approached by men wielding handguns as they left an Italian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

 

The men stole a Rolex watch and chains from James before fleeing the scene. James found three of his tires on his Rolls Royce slashed as well when he tried to pursue the thieves. Police are still searching for the culprits.

 

James was the Chargers’ top pick in this year’s NFL Draft, selected with the No. 17 overall pick.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

WR JOSH GORDON may or may not have relapsed in terms of dependency, but it appears his general overall mental health has suffered a setback.  Pat McManamon of ESPN.com:

 

Josh Gordon announced he will not be with the Cleveland Browns when they open training camp Thursday, citing his “health and treatment plan” as part of his return from multiple substance-related suspensions.

 

League sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Gordon is seeking additional counseling before camp opens to deal with his mental health and anxiety. The wide receiver has said that he typically used alcohol or marijuana when he was anxious, something he cannot do without another violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

 

Gordon has regularly been in touch with his counselors and was told to take the extra time in a proactive move, sources said.

 

More from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

If Gordon is having anxiety on the verge of training camp, it makes plenty of sense. The hype and the expectations have been growing throughout the offseason, both for him and for the team. From camp to the preseason to the regular season, there will surely be plenty of sources of stress for Gordon. Without alcohol or marijuana not options for dealing with the stress of doing his job under a microscope, as millions watch every move he makes and talking heads prepare to pounce at his every misstep or mistake, Gordon will need to know how to handle the various situations that soon will be unfolding all around him.

 

That still doesn’t explain the NFL’s loaded comment about addressing the matter at the appropriate time. If Gordon has had no slip up or failed test, there’s nothing to address, at the appropriate time or at any time. And that underscores the possibility that the NFL has opted to stop being so aggressive when it comes to suspending players under the substance-abuse policy. Which would be one of the best moves the NFL has made in recent years.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

WR MALCOLM MITCHELL needs knee surgery.  Mark Daniels in the Providence Journal:

 

Malcolm Mitchell’s career has hit another speed bump.

 

The once promising wide receiver will not be with his teammates at the start of training camp this week after undergoing a procedure on his knee, according to a source. Mitchell has dealt with knee injuries since college and missed all of last season due to a knee ailment.

 

Although it’s not known as to whether or not this latest setback will cost Mitchell his season, it could very well conclude his career with the Patriots. According to a source, it’s possible that Mitchell is waived or released with an injury settlement before the start of the season. The Patriots are still working things out on that end.

 

The procedure on Monday, according to a source, was an attempt to determine cause and a solution for Mitchell’s ongoing knee pain.

 

In college, Mitchell dealt with multiple knee injuries. He suffered a torn right ACL in 2013 in a game. In 2014, he suffered another injury to that right knee and had arthroscopic surgery.

 

Drafted in the fourth round in 2016, Mitchell looked like one of the Patriots most promising receivers since Deion Branch. As a rookie, he caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns. In the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, Mitchell caught six passes for 70 yards. Unfortunately, that might be Mitchell’s last impact for the Patriots.

 

Last summer, Mitchell suffered a knee injury in the preseason against Houston. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list and although he practiced later in the season, he was never placed on the active roster.

 

This offseason, Mitchell practiced with the Patriots on the first day of OTAs. Unfortunately, that was the last the receiver was seen as he was absent during all OTA and minicamp practices open to the media.

 

On Monday, the Patriots added another wide receiver – Devin Lucien – to go with their already crowded depth chart. Although losing Mitchell is tough since he once showed so much promise, the Patriots do have several options including Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Cody Hollister and Julian Edelman, who’s starting the season on a four-game suspension.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BUBBLE WRAP UP

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has a list of veteran players who enter training camp on the bubble.

 

Training camp is a time of hope for NFL fans — and anxiety for some NFL veterans. Below is an incomplete list of some notable names at risk of being released before the start of the season.

 

Donald Penn, OT, Oakland Raiders: Then-Bucs coach Jon Gruden signed Penn as an undrafted free agent more than a decade ago. It would be on brand for Gruden, who was quietly ruthless with personnel decisions in Tampa, to make letting go of Penn one of his first big moves in Oakland. The drafting of Kolton Miller in the first round was the first ominous sign. Gruden’s decision to keep Miller at left tackle during offseason practices, rather than moving him to the right side, was another one. While Gruden has insisted the arrival of Miller has nothing to do with Penn, the 35-year-old is coming off Lisfranc foot surgery. The guaranteed money in his contract ($3 million of his $6 million base salary) should help Penn make the team, but he has to prove he’s healthy first.

 

Brett Hundley, QB, Green Bay Packers: The Packers couldn’t score last season without Aaron Rodgers, so they made scapegoats out of former coordinator Edgar Bennett and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt by firing them. Don’t be surprised if Hundley is next. If trade acquisition DeShone Kizer outplays Hundley in August, the Packers might decide to only keep two quarterbacks.

 

Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Perriman could give Matt Elam some competition as the biggest first-round draft bust in team history, especially if Perriman can’t make the team in August. The Ravens are no longer relying on Perriman, who posted a grand total of 43 catches in his first three seasons, to play a big role. The team recently picked up a $649,485 roster bonus that helps his chances to make the team, but it doesn’t guarantee a spot. He still needs to stay healthy and possibly beat out John Brown just to earn snaps this season. A No. 4 receiver without special teams value is a No. 4 receiver at risk of not making the team.

 

Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots: Talked up a year ago by fantasy leaguers as the New England running back to draft, Gillislee wound up playing just 15 snaps after Week 8 because he lacks versatility on passing downs. At best, he’s battling Bengals import Jeremy Hill for one reserve spot this year. It’s possible neither of them make the team.

 

Doug Martin, RB, Oakland Raiders: Martin has reportedly looked good in offseason workouts, but the terms of his contract don’t provide much protection. He’s due $1.375 million if he makes the team, with none of it guaranteed. Marshawn Lynch already has promising backups in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, so no one should assume Martin is a lock for the backup job.

 

John Simon, DE, Indianapolis Colts: One of the best players on a forgettable Colts defense last season, Simon could fall victim to a scheme change in Indianapolis. After playing outside linebacker for his entire NFL career, Simon is being moved to defensive end in new coordinator Matt Eberflus’ system. He could make for a valuable early-September pickup for some other team.

 

Brandon Marshall, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Like Martin’s deal in Oakland, Marshall’s pact with the Seahawks contained very little risk for the Seahawks. He earned just $90,000 upon signing and is in line for the veteran’s minimum. Marshall has come back strong from many surgeries before, but he’s now 34 years old coming off his two worst seasons since his rookie campaign. Seattle would benefit greatly from one last Marshall resurrection, as snaps are available in the Seahawks’ receiver group.

 

Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: It’s not like Cincinnati is desperate for salary-cap room, but a $6.1 million cap figure is still a lot for a role-playing veteran like Johnson. The Bengals might not want him to take snaps away from youngsters Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson and third-round pick Sam Hubbard.

 

More likely to be traded than cut

 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New York Jets: A late-August trade would be a best-case scenario for Bridgewater and the Jets. It would signify that Teddy is healthy and playing well enough to inspire interest elsewhere. The Jets are not going to release Josh McCown, and Sam Darnold is the future (if not the present). Bridgewater’s $5 million makes him the 10th-highest-paid player on the team, yet his $500,000 signing bonus was the only guaranteed part of his contract.

 

Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos: This would be an embarrassing scenario for Lynch and Denver GM John Elway. The Broncos have publicly expressed faith in Lynch, but he will be fighting with last year’s seventh-round pick, Chad Kelly, just to be Case Keenum’s backup. If Lynch loses that battle, Elway might be forced to dump Lynch, his 2016 first-rounder, for a conditional late-round pick, all while hoping Keenum can save the franchise. Strange days.

 

Should find a way to stay

 

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baltimore Ravens: It was no accident that the Ravens paired Lamar Jackson with RGIII. If Jackson is the long-term answer as Baltimore’s starter, the Ravens are hoping Griffin can be a long-term solution as a backup. There’s no telling how he’ll perform after a year out of football, but all the signs point toward Baltimore rolling with three quarterbacks this season.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions: It’s crowded in the Lions backfield, with LeGarrette Blount, rookie Kerryon Johnson and passing-down specialist Theo Riddick in the mix. That puts Abdullah squarely on the bubble, but his talent should keep him around. It’s not like Blount or Johnson are sure things, so I wouldn’t even rule out Abdullah earning a significant role in this offense again.

 

Jermaine Kearse, WR, New York Jets: Speculation about Kearse’s role on the team seems misplaced. He played well last season, topping 800 yards, and is arguably the surest receiver in a talented group that includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor. The Jets should not be in the habit of giving away NFL-caliber receivers. Enjoy the surplus!

 

Dwayne Allen, TE, New England Patriots: Perhaps the Patriots pull off their usual mind control and convince Allen he needs to take a pay cut. While it makes no sense that he’s the seventh-highest-paid player on the team, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels aren’t going to enter a season without a capable blocking tight end behind Gronk. Allen is the only one on the roster.