The Daily Briefing Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A fancy simulation from FootballOutsiders yields the top 15 candidates to make the postseason:

 

The following table shows the 15 teams with the strongest odds of making the postseason based on the simulation of the season run for Football Outsiders Almanac 2017. These odds will be updated again on the day before the season (September 6) with a new simulation that incorporates preseason injuries and other roster changes.

Odds to Make 2017 Playoffs

 

1          NE       87.5%             

2          PIT      77.9%             

3          SEA     63.7%             

4          GB       59.8%             

5          DAL     54.7%             

6          OAK    50.4%

7          CAR    46.4% 

8          TEN     43.0%

9          KC       42.5%

10        ATL     41.9%

11        NYG    39.9%

12        ARI      39.4%

13        BAL     38.0%

14        LACH  35.2%

15        IND      35.1%

 

Some thoughts from the DB –

 

* Is there really a 12% chance the Patriots won’t make the playoffs?

 

* Carolina ahead of Atlanta, and no Tampa Bay?

 

* Is Indy’s 35% with ANDREW LUCK for 16 games?

 

* No Denver?  Other teams we thought might be on the list – Philadelphia, Houston, Minnesota, Detroit.

 

* Based strictly on these percentages – byes to New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay.  Other division champs are Dallas, Oakland, Carolina and Tennessee.  NFC Wild Cards are Atlanta and the Giants.  AFC Wild Cars are Kansas City and Baltimore.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

The Packers have cut DT LATROY GUTON.  Chris Wesseling at NFL.com:

 

Letroy Guion’s nearly four-year run in Green Bay is over.

 

The Packers released the veteran defensive tackle, general manager Ted Thompson announced Tuesday.

 

Guion, 30, had started 35 of 44 games over the past three years after defecting from the NFC North rival Vikings.

 

The 10th-year veteran was arrested on a DUI charge in June, just a few months after news surfaced of an impending four-game suspension to start the 2017 season.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

When DE TYRONE CRAWFORD was carted off from Cowboys practice on Tuesday, the immediate fear was a season-ending knee injury.  But instead it is just a preseason-ending ankle sprain.  Drew Davison of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Tyrone Crawford had to be carted off the practice field with a lower right ankle injury, and executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged it looked like “a scary one.”

 

But the Cowboys received good news after Crawford underwent X-rays at a nearby hospital. Crawford was diagnosed with a lateral ankle sprain, a source said, and is expected to be ready by the Dallas Cowboys’ regular-season opener on Sept. 10 against the New York Giants.

 

So the Cowboys appear to have avoided what could have been the first significant training camp injury. Crawford had his ankle fully twisted while tackling running back Ezekiel Elliott during team drills.

 

Crawford punched the cart and held his head in frustration as he rode off the field. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick shouted an expletive.

 

Crawford chased down Elliott, who had reversed fields on a run play. Crawford lowered his left shoulder and knocked Elliott to the ground. In the process, Crawford’s right ankle rolled to a 90-degree angle with the ground and he fell down in pain.

 

The Cowboys dodged a bullet that it wasn’t more serious than a sprain.

 

Crawford has battled injuries throughout his career. He missed the 2013 season after tearing his left Achilles in training camp. After the 2015 season, Crawford underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Earlier this offseason, he had left shoulder surgery. Crawford missed two games last season with back and hamstring injuries.

 

Crawford, 27, has started 44 of the last 45 games he has played for the Cowboys the past three seasons. He had 4.5 sacks last season and was credited with 17 quarterback pressures. The 2012 third-round pick out of Boise State had been working mostly at left defensive end this camp, and has the versatility to move inside if needed.

 

The Cowboys signed Crawford to a five-year, $45 million extension with $17.4 million guaranteed in 2015.

 

“He’s one of the leaders on this team, leader of the defensive line group,” Jones said. “Certainly a huge part of this team.”

 

Added linebacker Sean Lee: “He’s a leader for us and an incredible football player. We’re praying it’s something he can come back from and be all right. You know, if it’s an injury, he’ll find a way to come back and battle back. He’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever met.”

 

The silver lining in the midst of Crawford’s injury, Jones said, is the organization does feel good about its pass rush depth.

 

“The good news is we’ve got some good depth. Obviously we drafted that position,” Jones said, referring to first-round pick Taco Charlton. “The one thing about Ty is he was very versatile. He could go in and play the under [tackle], play either end, so he’s a big part of what we’re about. Certainly, like I said, a key part of this football team.”

– – –

TE RICO GATHERS is a rising, but raw, performer for Dallas.  Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com:

 

The Dallas Cowboys intend to give second-year TE Rico Gathers plenty of playing time over the next few weeks of the preseason to gauge his ability heading into 2017.

 

Gathers played basketball in college and didn’t play football at all before the 15 preseason snaps he saw last season as a rookie.

 

In the Hall of Fame game, he had 22 snaps in pass patterns, catching all three of the balls thrown his way for 59 yards – a 2.68 yards per route run figure, which is an excellent mark if he could sustain it long-term.

 

As could be expected, Gathers struggled run blocking over his 26 snaps on rushing plays against the Cardinals, earning a PFF run blocking grade of 34.8.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The deal is done in Atlanta for RB DEVONTA FREEMAN.  Michael Silver of NFL.com is reporting a five-year contract extension.  He will make $43 million over the next six years, five of which represent an extension of his current deal.

 

 

CAROLINA

Conor Orr of NFL.com on the contract situation of DT STAR LOTULELEI:

 

Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney already has an uphill climb as he works his way back into Carolina’s front office. Thankfully, he won’t have to worry about one of his stars holding out for a new contract.

 

Former first-round pick Star Lotulelei told reporters this weekend that he wasn’t worried about his current situation, meaning that he seems to be alright with playing out his fifth-year option.

 

“I try to not think about it too much,” Lotulelei said, via the team’s official site. “At the end of the day, that is a part of what we do — the business side of things — but I’m not really thinking about it too much. It’s so early in the season. Right now I’m just trying to focus on getting better, improving and helping this defense get to where we need to be, get us to our goals this season.”

 

No matter what the Panthers do at the general manager position after this season, their permanent selection is going to have his or her hands full. Lotulelei could be riding the wave of recent interior defensive linemen making big salaries in free agency. Tight end Greg Olsen is still seriously underpaid. Former general manager Dave Gettleman used to always joke about the team’s maxed-out salary cap situation, saying that they were not equipped to shop at Tiffany’s just yet.

 

With only four $10 million-plus contracts on the books for next year (Cam Newton, Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly and Ryan Kalil), it might be time to revisit the luxury department in order to keep their core together.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints may be using S KENNY VACCARO in a slightly different manner this year.  Ryan Smith at ProFootballFocus.com:

 

New Orleans Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn wants safety Kenny Vaccaro to play more than just in the box this season, adding deep safety to his repertoire.

 

In 2016, Vaccaro played 720 snaps before serving his four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy. He ranked 28th among 90 safeties with an 80.6 overall grade.

 

Vaccaro played nearly half of his snaps near the line of scrimmage (47.2 percent of snaps within eight yards in the box) leaving him involved in many run plays. His 5.2 run-stop percentage ranked 34th of 87 qualifying safeties.

 

Only 10.2 percent of Vaccaro’s snaps came at free safety last season. Tackling will be even more crucial in his new role. It’s an area he’s seemed to have improved on since 2014 when he missed 19 tackles and ranked 92nd of 96 safeties in tackling efficiency.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Dan Hanzus at NFL.com tells us what we missed in the first episode of “Hard Knocks”:

 

Will Smith had Bad Boys. Mark Wahlberg had Boogie Nights. Chris Pratt had Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

For Jameis Winston, Hard Knocks can become his coveted star-making vehicle. It certainly seems like producers of the acclaimed HBO series — which kicked off its 12th season on Tuesday night — believe they have something special in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ third-year quarterback.

 

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter would undoubtedly agree.

 

“Now we need you to be a great quarterback,” Koetter tells Winston during a frank conversation in his office. “You play a different style of quarterback than Tom Brady. You play a closer style to Aaron Rodgers. Both great quarterbacks, both guys who will be in the Hall of Fame. Now’s the time, even though they’ve got years on you, you gotta play like that.”

 

Telling your 23-year-old passer he must raise his game to the level of two of the greatest players in NFL history is quite the challenge. But everything we see in Tuesday’s premiere tells us that Winston has the goods to answer the call.

 

We see that during the trip to his hometown of Bessemer, Ala., where Winston gives Hard Knocks cameras a tour of a ramshackle residence that Winston likened more to “a community center, a daycare” than a typical childhood home. Winston said 20 people lived in the house during his youth, pointing out a narrow twin bed that slept three children at a time — himself included.

 

Fortunately, it’s not all hard knocks on Hard Knocks. During an outside tour of the residence, Winston points to a new barbecue smoker that sits next to the old smoker on the porch. “We comin’ up now,” he says with a smile. Winston didn’t come from much, but his past is a source of pride rather than a burden.

 

Winston is the unquestioned star of the premiere. As the episode moves along, it is exceedingly clear that he is the center of the Bucs’ universe. Star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy tells reporters his eyes teared up when he accidentally hit Winston during a pass rush in practice. “Three is the franchise,” McCoy said, referring to Winston’s uniform number. “Forget 93, forget 13, 11 and 1 … 91, 98, 54, 58. 3, 3 is the one. If 3 ain’t out there, eh.”

 

But the best Winston snapshot comes in the episode’s final minutes, a scene preceded by a practice in which the quarterback struggles mightily. Series narrator Liev Schreiber tells us that Winston wakes each morning before dawn to the soundtrack of a motivational speaker named Eric Thomas. (Sample dialogue: Stop just waking up like an accident! What do you want? And then once you find out what you want spend the rest of your natural life waking up and going after it!) Winston’s the first player in the hotel lobby … the only man in the locker room … a solo presence in the weight room.

 

It’s the type of drive and commitment to craft that made players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers legends. Winston is following the path — and it has the potential to take the Buccaneers to greatness.

 

» Another sign the Bucs have something special in Winston? The man surrenders daily room service at the team hotel in exchange for bonus hotel reward points. This had me lady all sorts of fired up:

 

» It wasn’t quite Jeff Fisher swearing off “7-9 bull—-“, but we kind of dug Koetter’s NASA analogy to begin the premiere. “Teams are like rockets,” he explains to his players. “Most of the work has to happen beforehand. Once the rocket launches, it’s incredibly difficult to change its course mid-flight. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re launching the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” [ANNNNNND CUE OPENING THEME SONG AND CREDITS. BAM.]

 

Part of another review from Tom Jones in the Tampa Bay Times:

 

We know them as football players. But at the end of the day (and at the beginning and in-between, too), they are just people. First and foremost, they are people.

 

And if the HBO documentary series Hard Knocks, which goes behind the scenes of an NFL training camp, achieves anything, it shows football players as people.

 

Yes, we see them at work, where their moments are filled with competition, sweat and, sometimes, blood. But we’re used to that. We see it on our televisions every Sunday.

 

What we’re not used to seeing is how they spend the rest of their time away from work. It’s there — away from the spotlight of the football field — where we get to see them as people. And we get to know them maybe just a little bit better.

 

We see them as doting fathers and loving husbands. We see them do regular things, like hanging at home or going bowling or fishing or even ballroom dancing.

 

These are the best moments of Hard Knocks. It’s what makes the show so compelling. And, this year, it’s even more interesting for those of us in Tampa Bay because HBO/NFL Film’s show is following the Bucs.

 

The five-part series made its debut Tuesday night and, while we got to see cool practice footage, it was the stuff away from the field that was the best.

 

The show’s star, unsurprisingly, was quarterback Jameis Winston and it only took moments into the first episode to realize that Winston was going to be a focal point. The show featuring the Tampa Bay Bucs didn’t start in Tampa Bay, but in Bessemer, Ala., the home of Winston.

 

For those who don’t know about Winston’s upbringing, the program showed Winston’s humble beginnings. In what was, by far, the most compelling part of the hour episode, Winston took cameras into his childhood home. He went into his old bedroom, which he shared with six others. The same bed, which once held Winston and two others, is still there.

 

Outside the house, Winston showed nothing but pride as he pointed to where men used to urinate when the bathroom was occupied. He also took time to point out a cockroach giving birth on the porch.

 

Real life. Real Jameis.

 

Quickly, and purposefully so, Hard Knocks jumped to the Tampa mansion of Gerald McCoy. This provided the most touching moments of the show. Say what you want about McCoy — and yes, he has his detractors — you only needed a few moments to realize what a good man he is. They say kids never lie and, it’s obvious in how McCoy’s children interact with their father, that McCoy is not only a proud father, but a good one. As he gave his twins a bath and then dressed them, you could see the kids’ adoration for McCoy.

– – –

• The interaction between coach Dirk Koetter and Winston was fascinating. They talk frankly with one another. And while Winston is the star of the team, there were moments when it’s clear that Winston needs to get better. In one scene, Koetter stressed that, because the team around him is better, Winston must become less risky with the football. It also came as no surprise to see Koetter using two meaty expletives to chew out Winston for a bad play in practice. What followed was masterful direction, keeping the camera on Winston, who stood in eerie silence after being scolded.

– – –

• The most unexpected appearance was Snoop Dogg. Yes, Snoop Dogg. He was on Face Time with the Bucs’ Jeremy McNichols, who was coached by Snoop as a kid.

 

• And, finally, nothing like a little cross-promotion. During the final credits, Bucs players, coaches and staff were seen talking about HBO’s Game of Thrones. Looks as if McCoy is a big fan. Normally, HBO should be called out for such self-promotion, but who doesn’t want to see McCoy talking about Jon Snow? Besides, everybody watches Games of Thrones.

 

So, what’s next? The preview for next week hinted that we could see a little more off-field stuff, including the personal lives of Brent and Miko Grimes. I think I speak for the entire world when I say: Can’t wait for that.

 

Hard Knocks is off a great start, but the next four weeks should get even better.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times says that CB RICHARD SHERMAN seems to have cleaned up his act:

 

Direct but accommodating. Entertaining but affable. Competitive but congratulatory.

 

This is how one might describe Richard Sherman of late. This is how the man once perceived as a malcontent has publicly conducted himself over the past couple of months.

 

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this Sherman — who is coming off the most tumultuous season of his career. And if I had to guess, it’s going to be the Sherman we see for most of the season.

 

Monday, the Seahawks’ cornerback addressed the media for the first time since training camp began. He thoughtfully answered questions about rookie DB Shaquill Griffin, the punch defensive lineman Frank Clark threw last week and the extension safety Kam Chancellor signed, among other topics.

 

By the looks of things, Sherman has hit the reset button on the adversarial relationship he had with reporters last year. And if there was a contentious relationship he had with teammates, he appears to have hit the reset button on that, too.

 

Throughout camp, Sherman has been quick to laud fellow Seahawks for making standout plays. Sometimes he’ll sprint out to the field in a show of enthusiasm; sometimes he’ll praise them more mildly on the sideline.

 

Perhaps this shouldn’t be noteworthy considering Richard is a four-time Pro Bowler expected to be a leader on this football team. But given how things ended last year — when Sherman was openly questioning the coaching staff and ostensibly seeking a trade — the change of attitude is worth pointing out.

 

Will it last? It’s way too early to tell. But the smart money is on yes. Because while Sherman is a lot of things — he isn’t dumb.

 

When Chancellor signed his three-year, $36 million extension last week, it did more than just cement his status in Seattle through 2020. It also set a precedent for other Seahawk stars to earn big paydays the year before their contracts are up.

 

Well, Sherman’s four-year, $56 million deal expires after the 2018 season, meaning if he wants to sign one more lucrative contract, this is the year to make an impression on and off the field. And through two relatively insignificant months, he appears to be doing that.

 

Monday, Griffin gushed over the way Sherman has been helping him throughout camp so far. Whether it’s learning technique or better understanding down-and-distance situations, Shaquill has extolled the manner in which No. 25 has tutored him.

 

“I can’t say thank you enough for taking me under his wing,” Griffin said. “It’s a blessing.”

 

Sure, anyone following this football team knows Sherman has been consistent in mentoring younger cornerbacks. But one of the big questions coming into this season was how engaged Sherman would be compared to that of seasons past.

 

Would he simply go through the motions for a team he may be tired of playing for? Or would he remain the relentless competitor that takes every snap personally?

 

Again, it’s only August, when even the testiest of players are teeming with optimism. For now, though, Sherman seems intent on starting fresh this season.

 

Not that he won’t speak his mind when he sees fit.

 

Last week, Richard gave an interview with USA Today in which he discussed Colin Kaepernick remaining unsigned. He cited several quarterbacks — from Ryan Mallett to Jared Goff to Blake Bortles — that he felt were inferior to Kaepernick, saying owners were blackballing him.

 

“It’s not about football or color,” Sherman said. “It’s about, ‘Boy, stay in your place.’ ”

 

That’s the Sherman people grew accustomed to before the end of last season. A man that was outspoken as he was hospitable — a man that would call out his opponents but talk up his teammates.

 

I think that’s the Sherman we’ll see this year. I think the hit his reputation took last season bothered him. I think he’s going to do whatever is necessary to prove that everyone who labeled him a self-centered disruption was wrong about him. Which will be good for the Seahawks.

 

Who knows how Sherman really feels inside? He might still be angry. He might still feel resentment. The front he’s been putting on lately may very well be Academy Award worthy.

 

But he’s wise enough to know that a season similar to last year could damage his image beyond repair. Just like he knows that a stellar season will heal that image, give his team a chance to get back to the Super Bowl, and, yes, make him a very wealthy man.

 

All that said, Sherman is still one of the most unpredictable players in the game. Guessing that he’ll be one way almost guarantees that he’ll be another. But I’m going to give it a shot either way.

 

This season, Sherman is going to be a problem for wide receivers. He won’t be a problem for the Seahawks.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

TE C.J. UZOMAH suffered a severely sprained ankle in Tuesday’s practice.

 

Also on the Bengals injury list – coach Marvin Lewis.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis missed practice Tuesday to deal with a cyst in his knee, a team source told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales.

 

The team released a statement noting the issue is “minor” and that Lewis’ absence is expected to be brief. The Bengals did not state the specific nature of Lewis’ injury in the statement.

 

Lewis is taking medicine to break up what has been diagnosed as a Baker’s Cyst. He was taken to the hospital Tuesday by team medical staff after his ankle swelled to twice its normal size due to blood thinners he was taking, Dales reported.

 

“Coach Marvin Lewis will be taking time away from the team to focus on a minor health issue,” the statement read. “He will be back as soon as possible, which could be today or later this week. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons will lead the team during Coach Lewis’ absence.”

 

A Baker’s Cyst is a fluid-filled cyst in the knee that can cause joint swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Up in the mountains of West Virginia, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com says the Texans are actually getting competent quarterbacking from both TOM SAVAGE and rookie DeSHAUN WATSON.

 

Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien preaches competition at each position. So while Tom Savage is the Texans’ starting quarterback, the Texans placed him on the hot seat by trading two first-round picks to draft QB Deshaun Watson. Despite being a rookie, Watson presents a legitimate threat to Savage’s starting job.

 

According to O’Brien, both quarterbacks have had good training camps, and the coach said there’s no question Savage and Watson are pushing each other to be better.

 

“Those guys are competitive. They’re both good,” O’Brien said. “I think that that whole room is very talented. … They’re making each other better. There’s no doubt about it.”

 

Savage said that while one of the keys to the quarterback room is competing and pushing one another to get better, it also involves helping each other out. Since Watson was drafted, the rookie said he has been picking the brains of Savage and fellow quarterback Brandon Weeden.

 

While the Texans drafted Watson because they hope he can be their long-term solution at quarterback, O’Brien said he has been happy with the quarterback room that the team has brought the rookie into.

 

“Tom [Savage] and Brandon [Weeden] have done a really good job with Deshaun [Watson], of kind of giving him their own insight into the offense, which is good to see.

 

“From what I see, I think it’s really good chemistry. There’s a lot of encouragement, a lot of give-and-take in the room, definitely some senses of humor in the room. All three of them. I wouldn’t say they’re the funniest guys in the world, but they have their moments. All three definitely get along and they root for each other when they’re in there. It’s competitive, obviously, but they want the offense to do well. They want their buddy to go in there and do well.”

 

While Savage and Watson have done well in training camp facing the NFL’s reigning No. 1 defense, it’s difficult to judge whether they will succeed based on practices alone. All three quarterbacks will get some playing time in Wednesday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, and O’Brien and the rest of the Texans’ coaching staff will have a better idea of where the group stands.

 

 

TENNESSEE

One-third of the Titans is up for sale.  Jason Wolf of The Tennessean:

 

A one-third stake in the Titans can be yours for approximately $660 million.

 

Susie Adams Smith is selling her share of the Titans’ parent company, KSA Industries, which was founded by her late father, Kenneth Stanley “Bud” Adams. The company includes several businesses in addition to the NFL franchise, including oil, gas and real estate ventures. Forbes valued the Titans at $2 billion in 2016, making it the 24th most-valuable franchise in the league.

 

Amy Adams Strunk, Smith’s sister, also owns one-third of the company and will remain the team’s controlling owner, a role she has held since replacing Smith in March 2015. It is unclear whether Strunk is willing or able to purchase any portion of Smith’s interest in the business.

 

The Titans released a statement from Strunk on Tuesday afternoon:

 

“Recently Susie (Smith) began the process of selling her portion of KSA Industries, which includes a fractional indirect interest in the Tennessee Titans. We respect her right to make this decision and will cooperate fully with the process, which will not impact team operations in any way.

 

“Regardless of the outcome of this process, I will continue to serve as the controlling owner of the Titans. The remaining two-thirds of the team controlled by myself, Kenneth Adams IV, Barclay Adams and Susan Lewis is not and has never been for sale.

 

More from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

With one of the three branches of the Bud Adams family tree selling its interest in the Tennessee Titans, some will assume that the move will solve the league’s lingering concerns regarding the ownership of the team.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it won’t. As the source said, a sale could actually make things worse.

 

The problem continues to be the decision of the team’s founder to bequeath the franchise in three equal shares, one going to each of his children’s families, but the failure of the late Bud Adams to give control of the team to any one slice of the three-piece pie. That has resulted in a lingering impasse among the three Adams families, with no two branches willing to sacrifice control of the team to the other.

 

The decision to sell by Susie Adams Smith (and her husband, Tommy, who at one point after the death of Bud Adams was running the team) is being interpreted as a move of exasperation with the inability of the three branches to determine which branch will have clear control. So now the other two branches, with Amy Adams Strunk controlling one and Susan Lewis and her two sons, Kenneth Adams IV and Barclay Adams, controlling the other, may end up in the exact same posture with a stranger to the family ultimately joining the organization and arguing that he/she should run the show.

 

Although the Titans consistently have downplayed the situation, that’s the lingering problem. The team has been divided into three chunks that are held separately and equally, with no one chunk having more or less authority than the other.

 

The league wants one of those chunks to have clear, irreversible control. It’s believed the Titans would like Amy Adam Strunk to control the team until such time as control would pass to Kenneth Adams IV. But league rules don’t allow control to slide from chunk to chunk of franchise ownership.

 

To solve the problem, Amy Adams Strunk (pictured) could sell all or part of her slice to the other branch of the family, or that branch could sell to her. Or either of them could buy out Susie Adams Smith. Possibly, no one branch of the family tree has the capital to pull that off.

 

So with no owner of 1/3 of the team buying out any other of 1/3 of the team, and with Susie Adams Strunk now willing to introduce into the mix someone who may not display the same patience and cooperation that the family members have displayed among themselves over the past few years, the NFL may finally begin to push the Titans aggressively to get this matter solved, once and for all.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

It won’t be hard to tell when the Patriots are in town, although like the President they will have Patriots Force 1 and Patriots Force 2.  Darren Rovell at ESPN.com:

 

The New England Patriots have become the first NFL team to buy their own plane to fly to games. Make that two planes.

 

Sources tell ESPN that the reigning Super Bowl champions bought two 767 Boeing wide-body jets in the offseason and retrofitted them with all first-class seats, some of which recline completely. On the outside of at least one of the planes is the team logo and five Lombardi trophies on the tail.

 

 

These planes, depending on miles flown and condition, generally cost between $5 million and $65 million. A source said the planes the Patriots bought are extended range, which allows the planes to fly nonstop for about 12 hours.

 

A brand-new plane could cost $200 million.

 

One plane will be used as the main plane for the season, while the other will be the backup, with flight operations being run out of Providence, Rhode Island, sources said. Patriots spokesman Stacey James said team officials would not be publicly commenting on the acquisitions.

 

NFL teams haven’t thought much about buying their own planes in the past, with only 10 games on the road. But charter travel has gotten more expensive over the past couple of years, due to the major carriers starting to retire the bigger planes that fly the teams around.

 

The bigger planes — which can carry a full team, its support staff and the onerous amount of equipment the team needs on the road — are being retired because they are nearing a point in their life cycle where they have to be stripped, fully gutted and reworked in order to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration requirements. Airlines like Delta and American have chosen to begin retiring the planes instead of going through what would be a cost-prohibitive reboot.

 

American said last year that it would no longer fly the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. At least two of those teams, the Steelers and the Dolphins, took their business to charter-only airline Miami Air, sources said.

 

The rising cost of chartering flights for NFL teams makes the decision to buy a plane somewhat easier. Sources with knowledge of the deals teams have done with charter companies say the 10 round-trip flights per season can cost up to $4 million.

 

It is expected that team-owned planes will help give athletes a leg up on the recovery process, which is one of the areas that interested the Patriots.

 

In 2014, a concept plane designed by a firm named Teague, in partnership with Nike, sought to equalize the effects of air travel on mind and body as well as get a head start on recovery through an in-flight training room. Two years later, Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi built its concept plane, which had features including a “smart toilet” that measured an athlete’s state of hydration and sensors in seats that could detect an athlete’s physiological changes.

 

The Patriots will allow for the planes to be rented out during the season when they are not needed for team travel, sources said. It is not known how aggressively the team will seek to make up some of its costs by advertising the planes’ availability.

 

There was a time when the Seahawks flew a logoed and specially-fitted plane to every game, but it belonged to Alaska Airlines.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

More verbal sparring between DT SHELDON RICHARDSON and ex-Jet, now Giant, WR BRANDON MARSHALL.  Daniel Popper in the New York Daily News:

 

Todd Bowles was as clear as he could be Tuesday afternoon: He wants his players to stop talking about Brandon Marshall — particularly Sheldon Richardson.

 

A day after Richardson blasted Marshall in a radio interview, saying the former Jets receiver “quit” on the team and acted “drama-queenish” last season, Bowles revealed he held meetings both individually with Richardson and with his whole roster to demand an end to the barbs.

 

“They know how I feel. We’ve addressed it,” Bowles said angrily after the Jets’ ninth training camp practice in Florham Park. “I really don’t have time for a bunch of B.S. that happened a year ago. We had six months to talk about it. All that sh– is over. He’s been well informed of that, and we move on from there.”

 

Bowles was referring to Richardson, who has driven the story by repeatedly bashing Marshall throughout the spring and summer after the wideout parted ways with the Jets and signed with the Giants this offseason.

 

The two players butted heads multiple times amid a frustrating 5-11 campaign in 2016, and the animosity has persisted despite both being on different teams.

 

After the Jets’ embarrassing Week 3 loss at the Chiefs last year, Richardson and Marshall engaged in a heated and verbal confrontation. Then Richardson called out Marshall publicly after Gang Green lost at the Patriots, 41-3, in Week 16.

 

The verbal jabs have only continued from there.

 

First, in May, Richardson said the Jets locker room was already feeling more comfortable. When asked to give a reason, the defensive lineman quipped there are “15 reasons why” the locker room climate is better. Marshall wears No. 15.

 

Brandon Marshall’s new Giants teammates rush to his defense

Marshall was initially cordial when addressing Richardson’s comments. But in early July, the 33-year-old wide receiver re-ignited the feud by saying he requested his release from the Jets because, “I wouldn’t have made it through an entire season knowing that we didn’t have a chance.”

 

Naturally, Richardson was asked to respond.

 

“Who?” he said. “I hadn’t heard that name in a while. I don’t care what that guy says, man.”

 

Then came the latest turn in this months-long saga. Richardson appeared on ESPN Radio and held nothing back when the conversation turned to Marshall.

 

“That right there, that whole situation was sticky because we’re losing and he’d do little things that were drama-queenish and then he’s dogging out this guy, that guy. It’s everybody’s fault except his,” Richardson said. “Everybody’s pointing a finger when you’re losing, and nobody wants to say something to him.

 

“Then I say something to him, the criminal, the bad guy, and the media just ran with it. But that man knows what he did to the locker room a little bit. I was the one who addressed it, and still will address it to this day. If he can’t come out on media and tell them what he did and how he actually quit on this team way before the season was over with, then that’s all on itself.”

 

Now Bowles is fed up. He isn’t interested in answering any questions about a player no longer with his club.

 

When asked Tuesday if he has concerns over Richardson’s maturity as a result of the latest public outburst, Bowles lost his patience. Richardson has served suspensions to begin the past two seasons because of a failed marijuana drug test and a resisting arrest charge, respectively.

 

Jets’ Richardson reveals the 2 teams that wanted to trade for him

“I’m going to repeat this answer one more time: I don’t have time for B.S.,” Bowles said. “You’re going to get that answer probably the next 30 times you ask it, so we can move on or the interview can be over. Either one is fine with me.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP

Dan Wetzel of YahooSports.com on the origins of the rally in support of Colin Kapernick (sic) and why it isn’t likely to help his cause, if his cause is getting employed in the National Football League.

 

It stands to reason that the NFL isn’t all that excited about a rally in support of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking place later this month outside its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

 

If so, it shouldn’t blame Kaepernick. It should direct all complaints to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who all but begged for such events when he noted last week that one of the factors in the team’s consideration of signing Kaepernick was fan opinion.

 

“We’re very sensitive to it,” Bisciotti said at a Ravens fan event. “We’re monitoring it and we’re still, as [general manager Ozzie Newsome] says, ‘We’re scrimmaging it.’ We’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact.

 

“Pray for us.”

 

You asked for fan opinion, well, here’s some fan opinion. Maybe the rally should begin with a prayer for the Ravens.

 

No one knows how big the event will be. It’s clearly hastily arranged – the online advertisement promoting it was published Tuesday morning and actually misspells Kaepernick’s name (they forgot an “e” and spelled it “Kapernick”).

 

Still, Spike Lee has already tweeted his support. Five different civil rights organizations have their logos on the online ad. The media has jumped on the story. There will certainly be cameras, lots and lots of cameras. Footage of people jamming up a New York sidewalk, shouting up at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, always makes for good television. Opinions won’t be hard to monitor.

 

In terms of getting Kaepernick a quarterbacking job in the NFL, this rally is likely to be counterproductive. Ambiguous and so-called “distractions” are a common card played against Kaepernick (and other players in various situations) by NFL teams. And it is true. Control-freak NFL coaches tend to hate distractions, big or small. Park Avenue rallies certainly qualify as fairly big.

 

It’s also true they will overlook just about anything if the player is a star, which Kaepernick no longer is. Bisciotti, for example, never felt the need to monitor much of anything when it came to linebacker Ray Lewis, despite the fact he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice in a double homicide.

 

Lewis was the franchise’s greatest player and the key to two Super Bowl titles. The fans would have voted overwhelmingly for him anyway. They just want to win. That’s how the world works – in football and out.

 

Kaepernick understands that. He knows he is out of football now, at least in part (or perhaps exclusively), because he chose to first sit, and later take a knee, during the national anthem when he played for San Francisco last year. Kaepernick said he was highlighting the problem of police brutality against minorities. He has spoken out and used social media to further that message, drawing both significant praise and significant scorn in the process.

 

Now no team wants him in their locker room.

 

Every job search, in pretty much every situation, is based on how a candidate’s perceived positives compare to his or her perceived negatives. It’s a subjective, sliding scale that can be infuriating, but teams can always lean back on it.

 

Kaepernick isn’t the same quarterback who led the Niners to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. He is better than a lot of guys in camps right now though.

 

In an effort to lower his perceived negatives, Kaepernick has, according to ESPN, agreed to stand for the anthem this year. He has also remained almost silent in public during his search for a job. He has worked back channels aggressively, reportedly stayed prepared and made himself available to discuss any concerns with interested teams. That includes, according to Bisciotti, a talk with the Ravens.

 

Thus far, it hasn’t been enough. Kaepernick will likely have to wait for additional injuries of current quarterbacks to improve his perceived positives (he’s better than any other available quarterback) to a desperate team. Fair or not, that’s the deal. Kaepernick had to know the risk he took in speaking out about anything other than football last year.

 

 

JOHNNY MANZIEL WOULD LIKE TO COACH

This from ESPN.com:

 

If Johnny Manziel is unable to return to the NFL, he still wants to remain in sports, potentially as a coach at the college level.

 

Manziel, attending the International Football Betting Conference in Costa Rica, was asked what he would do if he isn’t able to resume his NFL playing career.

 

“I’d do something involved with sports. I can’t get away from it,” he said at the conference. “I’ve had to ask myself that a little bit as of late over the past year, but at the same time I’d want to be involved in sports in some way, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s doing something like that. So I think that’d be my route.”

 

Asked which level he’d like to coach at, Manziel said: “Probably college.”

 

Manziel, 24, was a coach at an Elite 11 quarterback camp in Miami in February.

 

The former Texas A&M star said he was “hard-headed” when asked what kind of player he was to coach in college.

 

“I look back right now and think about how big of just a kid I was. And a lot of regrets I have, especially with my second year in college, not treating it kind of the way [I did] my first year,” he said.

 

It should be noted that the Costa Rican interview so liberally lifted by ESPN was conducted by Clay Travis, he who should not be mentioned according to ESPN policy. 

 

It lasted for over an hour and you can see it in its entirety here.