The Daily Briefing Wednesday, May 31, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

With MIKE GLENNON and MITCHELL TRUBISKY, who knew that MARK SANCHEZ was also a QB on the Bears roster?  Now, he is an ailing QB.  Dan Wiederer in the Chicago Tribune:

 

Sanchez suffered an injury to his left knee during Tuesday’s practice and will miss the remainder of organized team activities as well as the team’s minicamp in June. Sanchez, according to the Bears, is expected to return for training camp in Bourbonnais in July.

 

With Sanchez’s setback, the Bears changed course on their original plans to waive quarterback Connor Shaw. After announcing that roster move on Tuesday morning, the team rescinded the transaction before the league’s 3 p.m. deadline and instead waived receiver Jhajuan Seales.

 

So Shaw will remain with the Bears — for at least a little while longer.

 

When it comes to driving quality outcomes under value reimbursements, the results of payment-based incentives for physicians have been mixed. If financial rewards don’t induce doctors to practice medicine differently, what does?

 

The fourth-year quarterback tweeted thanks to the Bears organization on Tuesday morning when it appeared he was headed out of town. Later in the day, he posted a meme of ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso with the caption: “Not so fast my friend.”

 

Shaw still seems to be the odd man out at quarterback after general manager Ryan Pace made a series of moves this offseason to overhaul the position. Pace signed Mike Glennon and Sanchez during free agency and later drafted Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick.

 

The Bears seem intent on heading into the season with Glennon as their starter while Trubisky develops. Sanchez is valued within the organization as a steadying presence. The Bears believe his experience, leadership and knowledge will aid Trubisky’s development. That assumes, of course, Sanchez returns to full health.

– – –

The Bears made WR KEVIN WHITE an early pick despite limited success in college.  Now injuries have cost him much of two seasons.  Rich Campbell in the Chicago Tribune:

 

Ignore, for a moment, all the doubt surrounding Kevin White.

 

Strip away all the questions about whether he can stay healthy and meet the massive expectations the Bears attached to him two years ago. Tune out all the frustrated fans and skeptical columnists and unconvinced talk-show hosts who are about ready to give up on the former first-round pick.

 

All of that is just noise to pass the time during these long offseason days. There will be no answers about the upcoming referendum on White, one way or another, until later in the fall. Check back then.

 

More importantly, though: White understands the pain behind him and the stakes ahead because he has lived through the disappointment of the last two years. No matter how much others say about him, the voice inside him drowns it out with an urgent message.

 

When it comes to driving quality outcomes under value reimbursements, the results of payment-based incentives for physicians have been mixed. If financial rewards don’t induce doctors to practice medicine differently, what does?

 

See More

“It’s got to happen now,” White said Tuesday after practice. “I’ve got to turn it up.

 

“You know, even in Year 1, Year 2, I always want to turn it up and show what I can do. So to me, Year 3, it’s time.”

 

Because if not now, when?

 

The time for flowery features about his potential has come and gone. By now, after missing 28 games because of broken bones in his left leg — the result of two injuries that each required surgery — everything is just talk until he proves himself on the field.

 

Catches, yards, touchdowns — those are the only pieces of evidence that would validate the Bears’ decision to draft White seventh overall in 2015, Ryan Pace’s first draft pick as general manager.

 

Pace and others in the organization remain optimistic about White, but there’s an added element of caution behind that, which is only natural given the unfulfilled hopes so far. There’s more than just physical scar tissue from the stress fracture that squashed White’s rookie year and the severe left ankle injury he suffered in the fourth game last season.

 

Part of White’s challenge is compartmentalizing the previous letdowns and working through the intensified pressure to produce. Knowing how White is wired, the strongest forces pushing him come from within.

 

That surfaced Tuesday as White bristled when a reporter asked him a question using the word “bust.”

 

“If you say I won’t be able to score a touchdown or get 100 yards in a game, that’s not going to affect how I play,” White said. “I just know I’ve got to turn it up and do what I’ve got to do.”

 

Maintaining hope in White isn’t difficult for those around him because in adverse times he reverts to his default mode. He works and works and works some more.

 

New receivers coach Zach Azzanni noticed that in April when the team returned for the voluntary offseason program. Azzanni, White’s third position coach in as many years, is getting to know the obsessive habits Mike Groh and Curtis Johnson saw before him.

 

White at least is back to full speed after spending part of the winter in Phoenix at the Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy and Performance, where he retaught his body to run with the proper alignment and technique. That has allowed him to resume his developmental process as a receiver this spring.

 

Azzanni attested that White still has to answer questions about his route-running, given that he didn’t run the full route tree at West Virginia.

 

“We’ve been working on that hard, some of his breaking-point stuff,” Azzanni said. “A lot of times when you’re a big guy like that, stopping and change of direction is hard.”

 

 

GREEN BAY

He will still wear #88, but TY MONTGOMERY is settling in at running back.  Marc Sessler at NFL.com:

 

For Ty Montgomery, embracing a full-time switch to running back wasn’t about carving out a longer career — just a more productive one.

 

Drafted by the Packers in 2015 as a receiver, the 6-foot, 216-pound backfield convert recently explained his thinking:

 

“Do I want to play in the NFL for a longer period of time and not be as happy because I’m not having the amount of success that I’d like to have?” Montgomery said Tuesday on ESPN, per Rob Demovsky. “And if running back gives me that, then I’d rather play [6 to 8] years in the league … having a successful career and having a lot of fun doing it and not always battling to be somebody’s fourth, fifth or sixth receiver, even if it meant a [10 to 12-] year career.”

 

Montgomery served as a fascinating case study last season, entering camp struggling for snaps as a pass-catcher only to emerge by midseason as a reliable helper in Green Bay’s ultra-banged-up backfield.

 

Averaging a generous 5.94 yards per carry and 6.65 yards per touch, Montgomery peaked in a late-season win over the Bears that saw him plow for 162 yards off 16 carries.

 

“I was running a lot on instincts. I knew where I was supposed to be going, but it was instinct,” Montgomery told the team’s official website. “Now, I know techniques. I know rotations and linebacker positions, and fronts and understanding gap rules and what the defense is supposed to be doing. Now when I get out there, I know my reads and my aiming points and I can just add that to my instincts. I’m excited to do that.”

 

While the Packers invested three picks on running backs — including a fourth-rounder on the buzzy Jamaal Williams — the departure of Eddie Lacy leaves Montgomery in excellent position to see meaningful action all season long.

 

From that angle, the position switch paid off generously, with Montgomery saying: “It all came down to quality over quantity, and I want the quality of years to be what I want.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT is back at OTAs.  Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott took part in Tuesday’s OTA after he was forced to sit last week after being involved in a minor car accident.

 

Coach Jason Garrett said Elliott was complaining of body and neck stiffness after the car, in which he was a passenger, was struck on May 21. The Cowboys opted to keep Elliott out of action, but he was able to do some conditioning work on the side.

 

The Cowboys resumed their second week of OTAs on Tuesday. The media has access to Wednesday’s workout.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

Two more names will be added to the Buccaneers Ring of Honor this year, both starting in “G” and neither a player.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will induct late owner Malcolm Glazer and Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor this season, the Bucs announced Tuesday.

 

Glazer will be honored when the Bucs play the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football on Oct. 5. Gruden, an ESPN analyst, will be inducted at halftime of the Bucs’ Dec. 18 contest against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

WR DOUG BALDWIN is evasive when asked if coaches fail to hold QB RUSSELL WILSON “accountable.”  But in general, he stands up for Coach Pete Carroll.  Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com:

 

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin was asked Tuesday whether there’s any truth to the idea that players feel coach Pete Carroll doesn’t hold quarterback Russell Wilson accountable enough.

 

A recent ESPN The Magazine article reported that some Seahawks believe that Wilson is largely exempt from criticism by the coaching staff.

 

“I don’t know,” Baldwin said on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” show. “Honestly, I didn’t even read the entire [ESPN The Magazine] article. I read parts of it. Didn’t really have time to read the whole thing. I think Pete does a fantastic job of handling different individuals differently. We all have our different personalities. We all act different ways. And Pete does a fantastic job of accommodating those personalities. He’s done it with me. He’s done it with Russ, with [Richard Sherman], with [Marshawn Lynch], with all of us. And he does a great job at it.”

 

Wilson, Baldwin and the rest of the Seahawks begin their first round of OTAs on Tuesday. Baldwin was asked if Carroll’s messages still resonate with him the way they do with rookies and younger players.

 

“If I’m being honest, no,” Baldwin said. “I’ve heard it for going on seven years now, so I know what he’s going to say when he says it. But it doesn’t get lost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it doesn’t have the same impact. It doesn’t have the same impact because I’ve heard it. It doesn’t get lost.

 

“The first meeting that we have, he raises out the ball and says, ‘It’s all about the ball. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to steal it from the offense and take care of it when we have it on offense.’ And those things don’t change. And that’s probably one of the things that I love most about Pete is his consistency when it comes to his philosophy. He’s not going to waver on that. He has a solid foundation on the way he wants to run his program, his philosophy on offense, on defense and special teams. And he sticks to that. He can be adaptable when it comes to the different personalities, but when it comes to his philosophy, he doesn’t change.”

– – –

Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com believes the championship window is still open for the Seahawks:

 

The Seattle Seahawks are collapsing.

 

Again.

 

In case you hadn’t heard.

 

It usually takes until about October for this narrative to emerge, but, because NFL Nation needs something to obsess about during a half-year offseason, I suppose, the Seahawks are prime fodder once again. Listen to some national radio or check out some of the year-round studio shows, and you’ll find no shortage of analysts more or less ready to write off the Seahawks as true contenders, again. What’s driving this narrative? The fact that there’s finally nothing going on in the NFL — I’m sorry, OTAs don’t count — and the confluence of the recent ESPN article delving into some of the personality clashes in Seattle coming at a time when Colin Kaepernick, that community-service driven scoundrel of all scoundrels, visited the Seahawks. That pretty much explains the semi-annual proclamations about the imminent demise of this team and its locker room full of big egos and outsized personalities.

 

Eventually, I suppose, some of these Seattle skeptics will be right. For once. I mean, the Seahawks won’t continually make the playoffs every season — even though they are one of just three franchises to qualify in each of the last five years — and maybe they will one day collapse amid the weight of all of those Alpha Males. And, so the story goes, Pete Carroll is so laissez-fare that soon enough the team leaders will cannibalize one another until there is nothing remaining except some leftover play sheets from Super Bowl XLIX and some scattered Skittles in the corner of the locker room from when Marshawn Lynch was still there and maybe, like, one of Russell Wilson’s shoelaces will survive as well.

 

But, make no mistake, these guys will devour one another. Just listen to the echo chamber out there. Carroll won’t instill enough discipline and the locker room mutiny will be complete. It’s coming. All of the lingering angst from losing the title game to New England on a goal-line interception like two years ago is still boiling over and threatening to tear the very fiber of this team apart.

 

Except, well, I’m not buying it. I’m not disputing that there isn’t a unique and somewhat bizarre culture in Seattle, and that the protocols certainly wouldn’t work everywhere. But it has worked well enough, long enough, for this group that I’m not betting against them yet.

 

I’m not buying that Richard Sherman is so toxic, and such a threat to Wilson and others, that things will finally go over the edge now. I’m not buying that now, after reaching the playoffs twice since that legacy-rattling defeat to the Patriots, and after advancing in the postseason each of those Januaries as well, that this is the time the Seahawks are at critical mass. Seems to me the back-biting and in-fighting would be and was most acute in the months directly following Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception.

 

Seems to me that if Carroll and esteemed general manager John Schneider, who have had this team’s pulse throughout their regime, felt like Sherman was that much of a cancer, he’d be gone, for whatever they could get for him. Instead, they held out for extreme value for him, they did it with class and grace in a manner that did not provoke or enrage Sherman, and this is actually one of the rare times when a player of this stature has made the rounds on trade talks and has returned to his team without turmoil. That’s a lot different than, say, the way Jay Cutler reacted to finding out the Broncos may have had some interest in Matt Cassel back in the day.

 

It seems to me that this team has always played with an edge and often withstood overly emotional incidents — like the sideline near-battle royale among defensive players in the Falcons game last year — and tended to thrive from them. Seems to me that tension drives them, is part of their DNA and explains why a defense that has accomplished so much already still plays with a massive collective chip on its shoulder. Seems to me that every time they are around .500 a few months into the season there are no shortage of reports about strife and chaos and a team on the brink … and then they are one of the last teams standing at the end of the season.

 

So, here’s what I know about the Seahawks.

 

They are one of only three teams to reach the playoffs the last five years, along with the Patriots and Packers. They have a record of 56-23-1 in that span, behind only New England (62-18) and Denver (59-21). They get better as the season goes on, like in 2016, for instance, when they closed 6-3 to take the NFC West Division crown. Since 2012, the Seahawks are 34-9 from the start of November until the end of the regular season. That doesn’t exactly seem like a club on the precipice of falling apart or one that succumbs to bickering when the pressure ramps up.

 

In the last 20 years, the Seahawks are one of only six clubs that lost the Super Bowl then came back to win a playoff game the following year. Carroll has actually led two teams that have accomplished it, doing it himself in 1997 after replacing Bill Parcells in New England. And the way the Seahawks lost was so wrenching, that, frankly, not enough was made of how they rebounded in 2015 as far as I’m concerned.

 

As for Wilson, he is just entering his prime and playing the best football of his career. The offensive line was atrocious in 2016, but I don’t think Schneider would let that happen two years in a row and few executives in the league deserve more benefit of the doubt when it comes to assembling talent and filling holes. If anything, the loss of Earl Thomas had more to do with some of the franchise’s slide in 2016, and if he can return close to peak form at any point in 2017, look out.

 

I also know that the NFC West ain’t close to what it was three or four years ago when the Cardinals were on the rise as a contender, the 49ers were an  elite franchise with Jim Harbaugh at the helm and the Rams could at least point to their youth and defense as reasons for them possibly turning the corner. Now the 49ers are in complete rebuild mode, the Rams are still the Rams, and it’s the Cardinals, not the Seahawks, who are the team at an absolute cross in the road in 2017, with their quarterback and Hall of Fame receiver likely in their final campaign and their defense suffering major hits in free agency.

 

Oh, and the Seahawks only have to travel to the East Coast twice all season — Giants and Jaguars — and they get the AFC South and NFC East on the schedule, which I believe bodes in their favor. Yes, they will need to retool and tweak the roster moving forward, needing to add young pass rushers and gradually overhaul The Legion of Boom, but Schneider and Carroll are exactly the men I’d want on that job.

 

If anything, this franchise hasn’t received the accolades it deserves — which I believe continues to fuel the players and coaches — and it hasn’t been embraced by the average football fan, as I see it. If anything, it’s baffling to me that the Seahawks’ ugly Super Bowl defeat still seems to be more newsworthy than, say, the Falcons’ collapse that just happened and could doom them this upcoming season if coach Dan Quinn — Seattle’s defensive coordinator in its last Super Bowl defeat — cannot find a way to deftly navigate the aftermath of that collective choke job.

 

Maybe it’s the swagger the Seahawks show and the intimidating nature of their game and the fact the defense has led them in an era of unprecedented offensive flair. But they aren’t done winning playoff games and Wilson has another Lombardi Trophy or two in him. Sherman being on the trading block isn’t going to damn their season, and I wouldn’t bet against the outspoken cornerback still being around for at least one more parade in Seattle.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Marc Sessler of NFL.com with a report that QB ANDY DALTON has added a few MPH to his fastball:

 

The world of pro football is light on tales of quarterbacks drastically improving their arm strength.

 

Signal-callers saddled with pop-gun arms are typically stuck that way, but today’s quarterbacks also live in a world of cutting-edge coaching academies and sports-science discoveries that yesteryear’s players could only dream of.

 

Andy Dalton has never been known for his arm strength, but the Bengals passer reportedly has seen tangible improvements in his velocity after working with gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux at their 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles.

 

“His arm is as strong as ever right now,” Dedeaux said of Dalton after a recent throwing session in Dallas, per Bengals.com. “The jump from two years ago to last year, we’ve seen a pretty big jump in his arm strength. We test for velocity, and test for distance and I think he’s even probably surprised himself sometimes. For every one mile an hour he can be pretty close to a yard.”

 

If the Eagles weren’t thrilled to see second-year quarterback Carson Wentz work at 3DQB this offseason — a puzzling reaction toward a young quarterback with mechanical issues to iron out — the Bengals have embraced Dalton’s offseason explorations.

 

Hue Jackson, the current Browns coach and ex-Bengals play-caller, and current coordinator Ken Zampese openly encouraged Dalton to seek offseason help after the 2014 campaign. Remember, these workouts happen during a time when players and coaches are forbidden from gathering.

 

Fans witnessed a transformation in Dalton’s play beginning in 2015 — when he operated at an MVP level for half a season — and Dedeaux says the Bengals signal-caller isn’t finished improving.

 

“He was throwing the ball as well, if not better, than he ever has,” Dedeaux said of their time together. “Right now he’s in the prime of his career. I just wanted to see him with more variables and more randomness going on, making sure he’s staying true to form and he is, he looks great. We’re just looking for that one percent of what we’re always working on, but one percent better every time. Arm strength. Getting rid of the ball faster. Good feet. Sound mechanics. Similar themes, just taking it to the next level.”

 

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns have extended LB CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY, their leading tackler from a year ago.  Pat McManamon at ESPN.com:

 

The Cleveland Browns continued a positive offseason Tuesday with the signing of linebacker Christian Kirksey to a four-year contract extension.

 

The NFL Network reported the deal is worth $38 million, with $20 million guaranteed.

 

Kirksey, 24, led the team in tackles a year ago and could have become a free agent after the upcoming season.

 

He joins fellow linebacker Jamie Collins and guard Joel Bitonio as young players the team retained. Collins signed before he would have become a free agent in March. Bitonio could have joined Kirksey in free agency in 2018.

 

“[Kirksey is] another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long-term,” Sashi Brown, the executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement released by the Browns. “Chris reflects the hard work and commitment we want in our locker room. He has done everything asked of him since he was drafted and has developed into an impact starter.”

 

Kirksey emerged last season, his third in the NFL. His 148 tackles ranked first on the team and third in the league. He had 10 games with at least nine tackles, and he notched 2.5 sacks and three passes defense. He only missed two snaps in 2016.

 

This season Kirksey will have a new contract and new position, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ arrival prompts a switch to more 4-3, which means Kirksey will move from inside to outside. He said last week he played outside in college at Iowa, and was willing to do what was asked.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Texans WR KEVIN MUMPHREY is persona non grata at Michigan State.  Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Texans wide receiver Keith Mumphery can keep himself busy trying to keep his professional football job, but he’s no longer welcome on his old college campus.

 

According to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press, Mumphery was expelled from a graduate program and has been banned from Michigan State’s campus and facilities “for violating the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.”

 

The charges were found after the Free Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The incident in question happened in March 2015, and was one of three cases of alleged sexual misconduct among current and former Michigan State football players in the past three years.

 

Mumphery was accused of sexually assaulting a female student he had met on an online dating site. The woman filed a report the night of the incident. The report details conflicting accounts of the evening in question, and whether the sexual contact was consensual.

 

Mumphery had finished his college playing career, and was weeks away from being chosen in the fifth round by the Texans in the 2015 NFL Draft. The incident happened the night before his pro day.

 

Campus police officials forwarded the case to local prosecutors, but they declined to press charges after the accuser did not respond to them. But the school went through its own judicial process, and Mumphery was informed in 2016 that he was banned from campus and could not be enrolled at the school in any capacity. He was banned until Dec. 31, 2018, and if he violates that order he could face arrest.

 

The Texans said they were “gathering information,” and his agent declined comment. In two seasons, the wideout has caught 24 passes for 198 yards, and also served as a return man.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

For all the talk of playing until he is 45, Will Brinson of CBSSports.com senses this could be TOM BRADY’s swan song.

 

Anyone with two eyes and a heart knows that, despite his age, Tom Brady put together an epic season last year. At the age of 39, Brady returned from his four-game Deflategate suspension and broke the record for best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history (28-2). He threw for almost 300 yards per game, went 11-1 as a starter and engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy.

 

He elevated himself from an all-time great to G.O.A.T. status in the process and created an aura around himself that made statements like “I want to play until I’m 45” actually believable.

But there is a weird undercurrent happening in and around Boston over the last month, with lots of folks wondering whether or not Brady might actually consider a surprise retirement following the 2017 season.

 

It all really begins with how the Patriots are handling the Jimmy Garoppolo situation. Instead of trading his backup, who enters 2017 on the final year of his rookie contract, Bill Belichick opted to keep Jimmy G on the roster as a cheap insurance policy for a quarterback who will turn 40 on August 3.

 

A discussion with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Bleacher/Report’s “Stick to Football” podcast provides some insight into what might happen in the future with Garoppolo. The Patriots own his rights for 2017 and can franchise or transition tag the quarterback for the 2018 season and the 2019 season, should they be so inclined. They could also sign him to an extension; Garoppolo, it is worth noting, has the same agent as Brady.

 

“Will the Patriots risk losing Jimmy Garoppolo? My own sense is no. They are going to figure out a way one way or another to keep him there — whether that means signing him to an extension, or franchising him, or making it work,” Schefter told hosts Matt Miller and Connor Rodgers. “We’ll see how that plays out. I don’t think they are going to lose him. I don’t think they want to lose him. I think they recognize how good they think he is — many of us don’t know that right now because we haven’t seen him play on a consistent basis. They have. They’ve watched him practice. They’ve seen him in practice. They know what he is and isn’t capable of. They are big believers in him.”

 

Schefter also added a salient point on Brady — if the Patriots lose the Super Bowl to the Falcons (and they were down 28-3 late in the third quarter), the offseason narrative isn’t months of fawning over Brady, it’s wondering if Brady will continue to play at a high level into his 40s.

“Again, I’d like to say this, Tom Brady, that Super Bowl was 28-3 at one point, and if that game had continued on that course, the offseason would have been dedicated to people talking about is it time to replace Tom Brady with Jimmy Garoppolo?” Schefter continued. “When Tom Brady turned that game around, not only did he win a Super Bowl for the Patriots, he stayed off all the [naysayers] that would have come, I believe if they would have lost that game as decisively and as one-sided as it was at one point in time. He’s 40 years old. He’s going to be 40 years old this year and he is the greatest quarterback of all-time. None of that is in dispute, and he may play for five or six more years, he may do that, but the chances are he’s not going to because nobody has ever done that before.

 

“I’m not going to challenge the great Tom Brady in any way. I would never challenge that guy ever, but Father Time usually wins that battle. If he can beat Father Time, he’s even more incredible than we think he is. We’ll see.”

 

So in the context of that, it’s not crazy to think the Pats want to hang onto Garoppolo. The price of paying a backup quarterback a large(r) salary for multiple years is a penance compared to the price you pay if your franchise doesn’t have a quarterback. If Garoppolo will mean a seamless transition from Brady, he’s worth a massive investment.

 

And what if Brady is going to “Reverse Jeter” the 2017 season? It is not difficult to argue the Yankees put the franchise’s wellbeing behind the pomp and circumstance of celebrating “The Captain” during his final season, when he was paraded from city to city and lavished with gifts. Jeter batted .256 as the Yankees won 84 games.

 

NFL players are not afforded such a luxury and there is no chance the Patriots would engage in such shenanigans; nor would Brady let them. If Brady were going to retire at the age of 40, it would come the same subtle and surprising way his entrance to the NFL did back in 2001.

 

Which is what makes the undercurrent in the Boston media landscape so interesting. It started in early May when Tom Curran of CSN New England wrote a story entitled “The Patriots, Tom Brady and the Gathering Storm.” Curran essentially set the table for what might happen if Brady struggled this year and the Patriots were forced to make a decision between the long-term investment of Garoppolo and the short-term investment of Brady as the face of the franchise.

 

From Curran:

If Brady hadn’t won five Super Bowls, galvanized a fanbase in defiance of the NFL that persecuted him, helped make a few billion for the Family Kraft and given the region something to do with itself in the fall and winter for the past 18 years, he’d probably already be gone.

Because the other side of why Brady’s been able to pilot the Patriots to greatness is that Belichick set the flight plan. And that plan includes an unflinching, unapologetic, simplistic mantra that he is in his role to do what’s best for the team.

 

Brady has previously acknowledged that even the greatest players in this game can be moved. Just last year he said he “absolutely” understands that the franchise comes first.

 

“You can’t be around this long and not realize that the world will keep spinning and the sun will come up tomorrow without you. That’s just the way it goes,” Brady said in November. “I think you enjoy just what you — the experiences that you have and then also understand it just keeps going on. It could happen to anybody. You just have to show up for work, do the best you can do everyday and let your performance just speak for yourself.”

 

Brett Favre played for the Vikings (and Jets), Joe Montana played for the Chiefs and Peyton Manning played for the Broncos. No one is untouchable in the business of football.

Then there was an article from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe just last week, entitled “Are there signs of a Tom Brady retirement in the next year or two?”

 

From Volin:

But there’s a nagging thought that Brady, who turns 40 in August, doesn’t really expect to make it to 45 — that all this talk about playing several more years is just his way of setting us up for a surprise retirement next spring, or the spring after that. There is plenty of evidence, and you don’t have to look too hard for it.

 

Volin points to Garoppolo’s status — again, remember Schefter pointing out the Patriots want to keep him — as well as the fact that Brady “ramped up his off-field branding this year, even by his standards.” And, of course, there’s his family. His wife Gisele Bundchen, most recently in the news for vaguely claiming on CBS This Morning that Brady has dealt with concussions, would love him to walk away from football right now. She requested as much after the Super Bowl. What your wife wants matters a lot when it comes to employment and life choices, especially when the family consists of multiple millionaires and you play a violent sport for a living.

 

Tony Massorati of CBS Boston and 98.7 the Sports Hub adds more fuel to the fire in what is admittedly “100 percent speculation,” asking “Are the Patriots Throwing Tom Brady a Going Away Party?”

 

In all seriousness, take a good, long look at the avalanche of moves and acquisitions the Patriots have made this offseason. The Pats retained linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch. They signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a blockbuster contract. They traded a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks and sacrificed additional selections for tight end Dwayne Allen, defensive end Kony Ealy and running back Mike Gillislee. They even brought in running back Rex Burkhead.

 

Massorati adds that the Pats brought back a disgruntled Malcolm Butler and extended tight end Rob Gronkowski “to give him the chance to earn more money in 2017, without any real business benefit to the team.”

 

Ensuring that Gronk is ready to roll for the coming season would be a critical component of any party for Brady.

 

All of this is just folks wondering what might happen in a future that is inherently uncertain. If Brady stays healthy, plays at an MVP level in 2017 — which he did in 2016 — and the Patriots make a run to the Super Bowl or even just deep in the playoffs, he could very easily decide he wants to play beyond 2017, which is currently in the cards.

 

And if that happens, the Patriots will be hard-pressed to move on from a guy who has established himself as the greatest quarterback of all time. It might be considered bad business to let Brady leave if he’s playing well.

 

The Pats are a unique team when it comes to how they handle their business and the Brady/Garoppolo situation is as unique and fluid as it comes when you factor in the history and the players involved and the legacies at stake, not to mention the contracts that come into play.

Everything is on the table, but there are pretty clearly rumblings about a shorter future for Tom Brady than many people envisioned as recently as just two months ago.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

It is the time of the year that former knuckleheads claim they have cleaned up their act.  Some have, some haven’t.  Here’s Rich Cimini of ESPN.com on TE AUSTIN SEFARIAN-JENKINS.

 

An ordinary day for the New York Jets — Day 4 of OTA practices — was another winning day for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

 

His 129th day without alcohol.

 

In an interview with ESPN, the veteran tight end admitted Tuesday he sought help after the season for a drinking problem that led to a DUI arrest last September. Seferian-Jenkins said he stopped drinking Jan. 21 and attended rehab four times a week on an outpatient basis.

 

“Even since I stopped drinking, it’s been a transformation,” Seferian-Jenkins, 24, said. “It really has changed my life. I just try to win one day at a time. I’ve won 129 days and I’m going to continue to win however many more days. It’s been a blessing.”

 

The Jets took a chance on Seferian-Jenkins after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the arrest. An embarrassing police video surfaced in the aftermath, showing him making crude remarks in the back of the police cruiser. In March, he received a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.

 

Seferian-Jenkins said he continued to drink during the season, allowing his weight to balloon to 285 pounds — about 25 pounds about his listed playing weight. Finally, he decided to get help.

 

“Knowing you need help and you don’t go get it, that’s the worst thing,” he said. “I was scared to get help. I was scared and embarrassed to tell people I have a problem.”

 

Seferian-Jenkins said he wasn’t a daily drinker, claiming he wasn’t dependent on alcohol. During therapy, he came to the realization that he drank to cope with “dormant issues.” He declined to elaborate on those issues.

 

“It’s not like I was dependent on it; I was dependent on self-medicating myself so I could deal with s—,” he said. “Once I figured out what was going on, I got help. I went to the doctor and figured everything out. “I’ve been straight. It’s not like I’m f—–g dying. It’s not like I craved it, wake up in the morning and I need a drink. It was just like, I’m having a tough time, I’m dealing with something, it’s 6:30 p.m. and let’s crack one back.”

 

Seferian-Jenkins said he “graduated” last week from his outpatient program, receiving a commemorative coin. For several weeks, he spent 14 hours a week at a facility near the Jets’ training complex. Now he plans to attend weekly sessions, knowing he also can speak with the Jets’ in-house counselor.

 

“I give a lot of credit to the Jets’ organization because they supported me when I told them I need to get help,” he said. “They were the first people to say, ‘We’re so proud of you.’ It wasn’t embarrassing. They were like, ‘This is great. This will be a great turning point in your life.'”

 

And QB BRYCE PETTY is confident.  Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

In most estimations of the Jets quarterback derby, Bryce Petty is generally considered the third of three, behind the known-commodity veteran (Josh McCown) and the high-pick-hidden-behind-door-number-two-which-could-be-a-year’s-supply-of-Rice-a-Roni (Christian Hackenberg).

 

But don’t tell Petty that, because he’s feeling confident like he has a shot at this thing.

 

“I have the confidence now that, hey, I can play this game. I think that’s a big thing,” Petty said, via Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “Some guys need experience to build that confidence, and I think that’s kind of what I needed to see that, hey, I can see a rush, I can see a defense, I can make throws, I can throw touchdowns.”

 

Technically, that’s correct, as he threw three during a six-game audition last year, when he was given a chance ahead of Hackenberg. But there were also the seven interceptions and the 60.0 rating and the injuries which kept him from capitalizing on the opportunity in front of him more.

 

The plan was for him to make the final four starts of the season, but he only got to three of them, and was knocked out of two of those. And it’s hard to wonder if that might have changed the perception of him in the competition this year.

 

“It’s tough just because I’m not normally a guy that gets hurt. So I put a lot of that on myself,” Petty said. “As a quarterback, you got to be out there, and I wanted to be out there.

 

“You get four starts, which was an opportunity for me to show them kind of what they have and what I can do. And it didn’t work out that way. . . . I learned from it, and (I) just got to get better at protections and get the ball out, that way I stay on the field. . . .

 

“Just got to stay healthy. I got to stay out there.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

We heard this might be a possibility last week – and sadly it’s true.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com on late news of another ESPN cut.

 

ESPN has let go of yet another longtime NFL reporter.

 

John Clayton, who has covered the NFL for ESPN for 23 years, has been laid off, according to Sporting News.

 

Clayton’s ESPN Radio show in Seattle will remain in place, as the local ESPN Radio affiliates are not actually owned by ESPN. But he is done covering the league for ESPN on television and on ESPN.com.

 

ESPN is laying off about 100 employees. Clayton joins a list of many laid-off ESPN workers who are recognizable to NFL fans, a list that also includes Adam Caplan, Andrew Brandt, Trent Dilfer, Ed Werder, Britt McHenry, Ashley Fox and Paul Kuharsky.