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Everything posted by drpepper

  1. The Jets will open training camp on Wednesday and we now know when their run on Hard Knocks will get underway. HBO announced that this year's edition of the training camp chronicle will premiere on Tuesday, August 8. Four more episodes of the show, which is produced in conjunction with NFL Films, will follow that debut on a weekly basis and the season finale will air on September 5. “NFL Films has a long and storied relationship with the Jets, from the early days of the AFL and Joe Namath’s “#1” salute after Super Bowl III, to The Sack Exchange, and the team’s first appearance on Hard Knocks in the midst of back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances,” NFL Films executive producer Patrick Kelleher said in a statement. “The 2010 Jets changed the profile and the success of Hard Knocks forever. That Jets team made football fun for fans. And now we are excited for a new partnership with this iconic organization and HBO to create another chapter in both NFL and television history filled with great personalities and a roster striving to reach new heights of success.” The Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game after their first appearance on Hard Knocks and the team will be hoping for similar success in their first season with Aaron Rodgers running the offense. View the full article
  2. The Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct the nine members of the Class of 2023 on Saturday, August 5, with Zach Thomas opening the show and Joe Thomas closing it. After Zach Thomas's speech, Ken Riley will be posthumously inducted. His son, Ken Riley II, will deliver remarks on his behalf. DeMarcus Ware will be the third member of the class inducted, followed by Joe Klecko fourth. Next will be Chuck Howley, who will not give a speech as he is 87 years old and suffering from dementia. His son, Scott Howley, will represent his father on stage. Darrelle Revis will be the sixth member of the Class of 2023 enshrined. The seventh induction will be the late coach Don Coryell, with his daughter Mindy Coryell Lewis delivering remarks on his behalf. Coryell's induction will be followed by Ronde Barber, then Joe Thomas will make the final speech of the event. That Howley is being inducted at a time when he is no longer able to give a speech, and Riley and Coryell are being inducted posthumously, spotlights a common criticism of the Hall of Fame, that it has made many worthy candidates wait too long. Howley retired in 1973, Riley retired in 1983 and Coryell retired in 1986, so there was plenty of time to enshrine them when they could have participated in the induction ceremony. This year's induction ceremony will begin at noon. Chris Berman will continue his longtime role as host of the event, which will air on both ESPN and NFL Network. View the full article
  3. Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki set a career high with 71 tackles during the 2022 season, but the year did not have a happy ending. The Browns finished with a 7-10 record and Takitaki missed the final five games of the season after tearing his ACL. During an appearance on the Browns' in-house Best Podcast Available, Takitaki updated where things stand with his rehab and said that he thinks he is going to be able to bounce all the way back during the 2023 season. "I am excited," Takitaki said. "The rehab process has been going well. I like where I am at. Just been rehabbing a ton and just trying to get back to physical form. I like where I am and feel we can make a big comeback. I am ready to help anywhere I can." The Browns will report to training camp this week and the start of their practices will provide some idea about how close Takitaki is to making his full return to action. View the full article
  4. Entering his fourth season, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is in line for a contract extension that will make him among the highest-paid players in the sport. But even as a new deal has not been finalized, teammate Austin Ekeler feels like Herbert is primed for a big 2023. "As an individual, he’s already super motivated, wants to do the best, but now there’s more on [his plate]," Ekeler said in an interview with the Rich Eisen Show last week. "So, it continues to solidify how you want to continue to impress and move forward and progress. I know he’s going to be locked in even more than he ever has — just like he is every single year. "He continues to get better, continues to learn the game, continues to understand and become more of that offensive [guy who says], ‘Hey I run this,’ that we need. And I’m really looking forward to coming in. I think it’s Year Four for him. So the kid’s growing up. It’s crazy." Herbert threw for 4,739 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year, leading the Chargers to the postseason for the first time since 2018. With a new coordinator in Kellen Moore and a new weapon in first-round receiver Quentin Johnston, Herbert and the Los Angeles offense should be more consistently explosive in 2023. View the full article
  5. ESPN's recent purge creates spots that need to be filled, presumably with internal candidates. For one of the bigger spots during football season, a pair of internal options have emerged as the leading candidates. Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that Scott Van Pelt and Laura Rutledge are the favorites to replace Suzy Kolber as the host of Monday Night Countdown. Kolber was included in the recent round of layoffs. Van Pelt already hosts the SportsCenter that follows the game. If he becomes the host of Monday Night Countdown and performs double duty, the post-game SportsCenter would presumably originate from the site of the game (assuming that it continues to be a road show, as it is most weeks of the year). ESPN also will need to find a Monday night replacement for Steve Young, who also was part of the departures finalized last month. View the full article
  6. Former NFL running back Le'Veon Bell now regrets ever leaving the place where his career started. Bell posted a video on social media over the weekend apologizing to Steelers fans and saying that in hindsight, he never should have left Pittsburgh. "I never apologized to the fans for sitting out, or leaving the Steelers," Bell said. "I never apologized. So I want to say I apologize for leaving the best damn fans there is in this damn world. I shouldn’t have left. I apologize, I should never have left. I apologize. That's my fault. That's on me.” Bell spent his first five NFL seasons with the Steelers and was a two-time first-team All-Pro. But in 2018 he decided to sit out the entire season rather than sign the franchise tag. In 2019 he signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Jets, but he did not play well and was released during his second season. He then spent time with the Chiefs, Ravens and Buccaneers. Out of the NFL last year, Bell defeated fellow former NFL running back Adrian Peterson in a boxing match. Bell then took two more boxing matches, winning one and losing one. View the full article
  7. Expectations for the Packers in their first year without Aaron Rodgers aren't terribly high and that's quite alright with defensive tackle Kenny Clark. Clark has been with the team since 2016, so he's very familiar with the feeling of heading into the season with people predicting deep playoff runs in Green Bay. During an appearance on The Zach Gelb Show, Clark was asked if he feels the absence of such predictions this year is a sign of disrespect for his club. “One hundred percent, but that’s cool," Clark said. "I like it that way. This has been one of the first offseasons where we ain’t really been getting the credit, getting the love. Everybody says Aaron determines whether we win or lose, so we love it. We’re going to embrace it. When it comes to Week One, when the season gets here, we’ll see how everything stacks up. We’re excited about it.” A good portion of the Packers' chances of defying low expectations will rest on Jordan Love's shoulders and Clark complimented the first-year starter's confidence during the interview. He said "everybody feeds off" of that and there will be plenty of eyes on how things play out for Love and the Packers this season. View the full article
  8. The slow time is over. In two days, the New York Jets become the first team to open training camp. They're getting the early start because they play in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, on Thursday, August 3. (Their opponents, the Browns, open camp on Friday.) For the Jets, the launch of camp includes the arrival of Hard Knocks cameras and microphones. It's well established that the Jets don't want the assignment. If the show hopes to maximize interest, NFL Films should fully embrace the tension, featuring (for example) scenes between producers and Jets officials regarding the limits of filming or any other points of contention between the two sides. At some point, the Jets just need to deal with it. it's a distraction. Football is rife with them. On every play from scrimmage, each player is facing a distraction in the form of the man across from him. No, the Jets didn't want to do it. There are plenty of things the rest of us don't want to do. Those things always go a little (or a lot) easier when we simply accept that we just need to do them. The show will still be a lot better if the Jets' resistance becomes a running theme, especially if new quarterback Aaron Rodgers actively avoids all cameras — or maybe even gives them a one-finger salute, as Bengals linebacker James Harrison routinely did a decade ago. View the full article
  9. Cowboys running back Tony Pollard signed his franchise tag earlier this offseason and it looks like that will be the only thing he signs ahead of the 2023 season. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports that Pollard is not expected to sign a multi-year deal with the Cowboys before Monday afternoon's deadline for tagged players to sign anything other than a one-year deal with their teams. Barring a late change of heart on both sides, Pollard will be in line to make $10.091 million this year. He won't be able to sign a new deal with the Cowboys until after the 2023 season and will then be on track for another tag or free agency if he's unable to agree to a deal. Two other running backs were tagged this year, but Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs have not signed their tags and there is not much optimism about long-term agreements in either case as deadline day gets underway. View the full article
  10. The excellent Quarterback series on Netflix provides unique access and insights regarding the work and the lives of Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota throughout the 2022 season. One surprising revelation from Cousins relates to the one day per week that he refuses to work. "If we're on a Sunday-to-Sunday schedule, unlike most quarterbacks I choose to take Tuesday entirely off," Cousins explains. "About eight years ago, I made the decision that I'm going to truly rest for 24 hours a week during the season. I think a first it threw the coaches off a little bit that, 'Wait a minute, our starting quarterback's not gonna be in the building all day on Tuesday? We're not even gonna see him?' But it's just something that I felt was important. On Tuesday, I'll do anything that isn't football." On the specific Tuesday featured during the show, Cousins loads his kids into the car for preschool, takes a walk with his wife, answers fan mail, goes to the bookstore (Kirk should have bought Playmakers) — and apparently never studies film of the upcoming opponent or self-scouts his own film or does anything whatsoever aimed at preparing for the next game. On one hand, if it works for Kirk and his family, that's fine. Football season is a five-month grind — six for the teams that get the farthest. And he hasn't suffered for the habit financially; he has signed multiple significant contracts, and he'll get another one (with the Vikings or someone else) in 2024. On the other hand, and as Kirk admits, his refusal to work on Tuesdays is "unlike most quarterbacks." Most of them are working toward the goal of winning on Sunday. The quarterback of the team the Vikings will be facing is working toward the goal of specifically beating Cousins. Remember what Tom Brady said in the trailer to his Tom vs. Time documentary? "What are you willing to do and what are you willing to give up to be the best you can be? You only have so much energy and the clock ticks on all of us. If you're going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life because I’m giving up mine." For Brady, that statement contains multiple truths. He has seven Super Bowl wins, and he's regarded as the greatest player of all time. However, his life eventually was indeed turned upside down, apparently in part by his inability to stop. Cousins has balance. That will serve him well in the long term. But, frankly, it might keep that space reserved in his Michigan memory room for a Lombardi Trophy permanently empty. View the full article
  11. As the annual deadline for franchise-tagged players signing multi-year deal contracts arrives, it's a good time to address a couple of interesting wrinkles regarding what comes next. One is potentially relevant to this year's franchise-tagged players. One is not, but could have been. And there's a third one to file away for future reference, possibly. First, a reader asked last week whether a team could rescind the franchise tag after the mid-July deadline and then sign the player to a long-term deal. That cannot happen; the Collective Bargaining Agreement addresses it with this sentence in Article 10, Section 2(k): "After [July 15], the player may sign only a one-year Player Contract with his Prior Club for that season, and such Player Contract may not be extended until after the Club’s last regular season game of that League Year." Although there's no specific prohibition on: (1) removing the franchise tag; (2) allowing the player to become a free agent; and (3) signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent, we're told that it would be interpreted and applied that way. This prevents, for example, a wink-nod arrangement between player and team after July 15 (July 17 this year, since July 15 was a Saturday) that the franchise tender will be rescinded and the player and team will then sign a long-term contract. If the tender is removed, the player can sign a long-term contract only with another team. This seals off any path for a potentially creative outcome for Saquon Barkley and the Giants or Josh Jacobs and the Raiders. If the franchise tag is removed after 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday, they can sign only a one-year deal with the team that tagged them. Second, what happens if another team signs the franchise-tagged player to a multi-year offer sheet after the mid-July deadline? That's not expressly addressed in the CBA. Per a league source, the NFL's Management Council would interpret it to prevent another team signing the player to a multi-year offer sheet after July 15. Because the player's current team must have a right to match the offer sheet and because the current team cannot match a multi-year offer sheet, it can't happen after the mid-July deadline. That would have been relevant this year if Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had not signed in April a long-term contract to stay in Baltimore. And it could be relevant if/when a future franchise-tagged player for whom a team would give up two first-round picks (usually, a quarterback) remains unsigned to a long-term deal with his current team as July 15 approaches. These two dynamics underscore the strength of the franchise tag from the team's perspective. They're stuck with a one-year deal, with no ability to negotiate a multi-year contract until the regular season ends. That least to the third point. The window for doing a long-term deal doesn't re-open after the postseason ends, but after the regular season ends. A franchise-tagged player on a team that makes the playoffs could threaten to not play another game without a long-term deal. It would be unprecedented and controversial, but it's something that a player like Barkley should keep in his back pocket, if he ultimately signs the $10.1 million franchise tender, completes his 17-game obligation, and if he wants financial security before taking any additional physical risks in one or more postseason games. Giants fans would be livid. But consider it from the player's perspective. He's fulfilled his commitment under the tag. If he gets injured in the playoffs, he becomes potentially undesirable to the Giants or to anyone else. Why shouldn't he take a stand at that point? The CBA contains plenty of rules the teams don't hesitate to use to their advantage. The ability to sign a long-term deal after conclusion of the regular season works to the franchise-tagged players advantage. The franchise-tagged player shouldn't think twice about taking full advantage of the restoration of the right to execute a multi-year contract. View the full article
  12. Titans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins is motivated this season to prove he's still an elite playmaker. After agreeing to a contract with the Titans on Sunday, Hopkins wrote on Twitter that those who doubt him fuel him. "I always loved having haters and doubters but I appreciate it even more now. Titan up!!" Hopkins wrote. It's not unreasonable to doubt that the 31-year-old Hopkins will ever again play at the level he played at in his 20s. He's been injured the last two years and had his two lowest receiving yardage totals in his career. There's a reason he was a free agent for two months after the Cardinals cut him in May. But it's also not unreasonable for Hopkins to believe that he still has plenty of good football left in him, and that he's going to make the people who didn't believe he still had it, regret it. View the full article
  13. Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins can earn up to $3 million a year on his two-year contract if he meets certain incentives. To get the full $3 million, Hopkins needs 95 catches, 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those are all totals Hopkins has reached in his career, although he hasn't reached the catches and yardage totals since 2020, and hasn't reached the touchdown total since 2018. Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Hopkins' contract calls for him to receive $250,000 for 65 catches, $500,000 for 75 catches, $750,000 for 85 catches and $1 million for 95 catches. The contract calls for $250,000 for 750 yards, $500,000 for 850 yards, $750,000 for 950 yards and $1 million for 1,050 yards. And the contract pays Hopkins $250,000 for four touchdowns, $500,000 for six touchdowns, $750,000 for eight touchdowns and $1 million for 10 touchdowns. Hopkins has said he'll retire if he reaches the point where he's no longer able to be a 1,000-yard receiver. If he plays the way he played at his best, he'll make $26 million over the next two years. View the full article
  14. Friendship, smiendship. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Titans coach Mike Vrabel have had a great relationship over the years. They surely still do. But, on Sunday, Vrabel won the face-off with Belichick for receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Both teams wanted him. Hopkins wanted more than either team was offering. Eventually, he accepted what likely was the better financial offer — reportedly, two years, $26 million with $12 million this year and potential incentives of $3 million. (t's not known whether it's a real two-year deal; our guess is that the Titans hold an option for 2024.) It's unclear what the Patriots offered. At one point, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com floated the idea of $10 million with incentives of another $2 million to $3 million. Although he never officially reported those numbers, they had a feel of wink-nod accuracy. Hopkins surely wanted at least $15 million for 2023, since that's what Odell Beckham Jr. got from the Ravens. And Belichick presumably could have gotten Hopkins if he had simply been willing to out-bid Vrabel. Ultimately, Belichick wasn't willing to do it. Which is a bit of a head-scratcher. With mounting pressure on Belichick to win in an ultra-competitive division, the fact that he wanted Hopkins presumably should have been enough to overcome a million here or a million there. Now, Vrabel — whose position seems to be secure no matter what happens in 2023 — has gotten Hopkins, and Belichick will have to make do without him. That said, there's always been a sense that Belichick had a bit of ambivalence about Hopkins. His reputation for not wanting to practice much, if at all, was a potential issue. Besides, when Belichick truly wants someone he tends to approach silently and close the deal before anyone realizes he was in the hunt. Maybe he simply wasn't all that interested in Hopkins in the first place. Obviously, it's a more compelling story if he was. View the full article
  15. DeAndre Hopkins has found his new home. Betting odds shifted this week to make the Titans the favorites to land the veteran wide receiver and anyone who wagered that way appears to be on their way to a payday. According to multiple reports on Sunday, Hopkins has agreed to a deal with the AFC South club. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that he has agreed to a two-year deal worth $26 million with another $6 million available in incentives. He is set to have a base salary of $12 million for the 2023 season. Hopkins visited with the Titans and Patriots after being released by the Cardinals this spring and New England was seen as the likelier landing spot at one point, but Hopkins will be catching passes from Ryan Tannehill rather than Mac Jones this season. That should be a plus for a Titans offense looking for more out of the passing game to provide balance to what Derrick Henry provides on the ground. View the full article
  16. Longtime NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson appears ready to call it a career. Jackson posted on Instagram today, "Did it my way 15 years strong!! Neva anotha like it!" in a message that has been widely perceived as a retirement announcement, although Jackson didn't specifically say that. Realistically, the 36-year-old Jackson may be done whether he wants to be or not. Last year he managed just nine catches while playing for the Ravens, his sixth NFL team. Jackson will be remembered as one of the best big-play receivers in recent NFL history. He led the league in yards per catch in four different seasons, and finishes his career with 641 catches for 11,263 yards and 58 touchdowns, with an average of 17.6 yards per catch. An excellent return man, Jackson also led the NFL in yards per punt return in 2009 and ran back four punts for touchdowns in his career. Jackson's most famous play was a punt return touchdown on the final play of the game as the Eagles pulled off a spectacular comeback win over the Giants in 2010. View the full article
  17. As previously reported, the Giants had an offer on the table for running back Saquon Barkley before the franchise tag was applied. As we've recently heard, the Giants had another offer on the table during the offseason program. Barkley, represented exclusively at the time by Roc Nation Sports, accepted neither offer. So what impact will his recent involvement of CAA have on the ongoing discussions? From the Giants' perspective, none whatsover. Per a league source, the Giants aren't inclined to re-shuffle the deck or start over simply because Barkley has added another agency to his negotiating team. Talks have occurred, and those talks provide the framework for wherever it goes from here. If it doesn't go somewhere quickly, the Giants and Barkley won't be able to do a multi-year deal, by rule. As of 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday, the window closes until after the regular-season concludes. The question then becomes whether the Giants would offer more than $10.1 million on a one-year deal, and/or whether they would agree to not tag him in 2024. From Barkley's perspective, the question becomes when and if he'll show up to collect his franchise tender, one $561,000 game check at a time. View the full article
  18. One of the franchise-tagged players has agreed to a long-term deal just before Monday's deadline. According to multiple reports, tight end Evan Engram and the Jaguars have agreed to a three-year contract worth $41.25 million with $24 million guaranteed. Engram would have made $11.345 million if he'd played on the franchise tender in 2023. A Giants first-round pick in 2017, Engram signed a one-year, $9 million contract with the Jaguars last March. He went on to have arguably his best season as a pro, catching 73 passes for 766 yards with four touchdowns in 17 games. He also caught 12 passes for 124 yards with a touchdown in Jacksonville’s two postseason contests. In 82 games with 65 starts, Engram has 335 career catches for 3,594 yards with 20 touchdowns. While Engram got a long-term deal done, it seems unlikely that franchise-tagged running backs Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, and Tony Pollard will have the same outcome. Specifically on Jacobs, a report from Vinny Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicated that he and the Raiders are believed to be too far apart to reach a new deal before Monday's deadline. View the full article
  19. Word last week was that Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will not be reporting to training camp if he does not strike a deal with the Raiders on a long-term extension and it looks like that report will be put to the test. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the feeling around the team is that the gap between their offer and Jacobs' desired contract is too large to bridge by Monday afternoon's deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign multi-year deals. That's no surprise given the overall trends for running backs around the league. Jacobs and other backs have bemoaned the lack of value teams place on running backs, but there's been little sign that other tagged backs — Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard — will sign contracts and a number of veteran backs remain unsigned with camps opening around the league in the next week or so. Jacobs is not under contract if he does not sign the tag, so skipping camp would not come with any penalties from the team. It would call into question what path the Raiders want to take at running back if Jacobs isn't assured of being back in time for the regular season, however, and we're close to finding out what the next steps will be for all involved. View the full article
  20. Of the men making the 2023 PFT list of top 10 head coaches, only one didn't coach at all in 2022. He nevertheless did enough during his years before 2022 to land at No. 6. Sean Payton — offensive expert, Bill Parcells disciple, quarterback whisperer, and Super Bowl XLIV champion — will try to add another label to his football story: Russell Wilson fixer. That's the challenge for Payton in 2023, the thing that will cement his status or jeopardize it. Then again, if Wilson doesn't improve this year, chances are Payton won't be blamed. Chances are, if he doesn't improve this year, Wilson will be gone for 2024, given the guarantee structure in his contract. And Payton will have a new quarterback. Can Payton salvage Wilson? The coach's history suggests that he can. That he'll figure out how to play to Wilson's strengths, how to do the things Wilson does well. How to avoid asking Wilson to do the things he doesn't do well. How to put quality help around him, including an improved offensive line. Payton needed a year off to reset in part because he spends as much if not more time than any other coach searching for anything and everything that can make a difference for each and every game, from an idea for a play that can deliver a touchdown to a nuance that extends a second-quarter drive in a mid-October game that has no apparent impact on the outcome of game but that means plenty. He searches and searches and searches. When he finds something, he incorporates it, expecting his players to adjust and to execute. If they do, great. If not, Payton will find someone else to do it. That brings us back to Wilson. Can he do the things Payton expects him to do? If so, the Broncos could make things interesting in a very competitive division and conference. If not, Payton likely will embark on the same kind of search that led him to Drew Brees back in 2006. View the full article
  21. It's been nearly three weeks since we flipped the switch on a redesigned PFT experience. As you might have noticed, we've been making plenty of tweaks on the fly. One of the first adjustments related to the headlines. There are more of them on the home page, in both the desktop and mobile versions of the site. Most recently, you possibly have noticed that the full headline of the lead story now shows up on all devices and in all browser sizes. The masthead has more conspicuous PFT signage. Also, at the suggestion of the eventual heir to the PFT throne (a/k/a my kid, unless he decides he's not interested), we switched the color along the top from red to black. After getting acclimated to the slight change to the visual appearance of the site, one thing is clear — the pages load fast and scroll smoothly. The mobile experience is better than ever, by far. There have been other changes aimed at enhancing the overall functionality and efficiency of our work flow. And more changes and improvements are coming as we get closer to the season. Regardless of the any and all changes have been made, some of you will keep asking whether the comments will be coming back. For now, no comment. View the full article
  22. Quarterback Kenny Pickett's growth heading into his second season has been a topic of conversation throughout the Steelers offseason. Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi recently said that he's seen "true growth" in Pickett's confidence and demeanor since the end of his rookie year and those traits have also stood out to those who were not members of the team last year. Wide receiver Allen Robinson joined the Steelers in a trade earlier this year and he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week that he's been impressed by the way that Pickett is leading the team so early in his NFL career. "Coming in seeing Kenny now going into his second season, the command that he has for a second-year player is awesome," Robinson said. "I personally feel like you don’t get a chance to see guys that young with a command that strong as far as leading us, getting guys together, throwing after watching film. Across the board, he’s very experienced. It’s been fun to see and it’s been fun to be a part of." Glowing offseason reports can fade away quickly if the results during games don't measure up to advance billing, so the Steelers will be hoping that Pickett shows the same growth in that area come the regular season. View the full article
  23. As the Jets prepare to be the first team in the history of the Hard Knocks series to submit against their will, it's worth noting that most franchises have managed to avoid the assignment altogether. As noted by Mike Reiss of ESPN.com in his excellent Sunday rundown of Patriots-related news and notes, the Pats are one of 18 teams that have yet to have Hard Knocks in the house. That sent me down the rabbit hole of Hard Knocks history. It all started in 2001, with the Ravens. That was a pretty big deal from the get-go, given that the Ravens were the defending Super Bowl champions. (Obviously, the show has not featured any Super Bowl teams since then.) The Cowboys did it in 2002. In 2003, the show didn't happen, because producers couldn't find the "right team" to serve as the subject of it. HBO and NFL Films didn't find that right team again until the Chiefs in 2007. The Cowboys did it again in 2008, the Bengals in 2009, and the Jets in 2010. The show didn't happen in 2011, due to the lockout. The show returned in 2012 with the Dolphins. In 2013, the Bengals did it again. Then, in October 2013, the NFL adopted the formula aimed at avoiding a situation in which the show had to be shut down again for lack of a willing participant. Three factors exempt a team: (1) having a new head coach; (2) making the playoffs in either of the two most recent seasons; (3) submitting to the show in the past ten years. In 2014, the Falcons did it. In 2015, it was the Texans. For 2016, the Rams welcomed NFL Films for their first season back in L.A. In 2017, the Bucs did it. In 2018, the Browns. 2019, Raiders. In 2020, the Chargers and Rams shared the assignment. In 2021, the Cowboys did it a third time. In 2022, the Lions were the subject of the show. That's 14 teams in 18 seasons. Throw in the Colts and Cardinals during the recent in-season installments of Hard Knocks, and half of the league has cooperated with HBO and NFL Films. Which means (math is hard) that half have not. For 2023 and the Jets, the league for the first time handed the assignment to a team that didn't want to do it, invoking the formula developed nearly a decade ago. How common will this specific wrinkle become in the future? Reiss mentioned the show in part because, if the Patriots don't make the playoffs and if they keep Bill Belichick as head coach, the Patriots can be compelled to do it in 2024. Here's a different question, if the league hopes to retain the viability of the show. Why do teams that made the playoffs in either of the last two seasons get a pass? Now that 14 teams make it to the postseason each year, (and given that there's roughly 50-percent annual turnover in the playoff field), this factor essentially guarantees that it will be a team that has slipped toward the zone of chronic dysfunction. Maybe the playoffs angle should be dropped as a factor, with the only exemptions extended to teams that have a first-year head coach, and to teams that have done the show within the past 10 years. At a minimum, perhaps only playoff teams from the most recent year should be given a get out of Hard Knocks free card. Then there's the question of in-season Hard Knocks. For now, the NFL and HBO are finding volunteers. Will there be a formula for that, too? Whatever the league does, the upcoming edition of preseason Hard Knocks shows that the league will need to be less willing to wait for volunteers and more willing to take hostages if it wants to keep doing two different Hard Knocks series every year. View the full article
  24. Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. recently described the competition between quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask as a 50-50 proposition. Another defensive player has explained that Mayfield has one big factor in his favor. “Obviously, Baker already he’s been ‘the guy’ and, you know, he’s expected to live up to what everybody expected him to be,” David said in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com. “Baker is great for our locker room. I like the way Baker carries himself coming in with a ready-to-work mentality. Everybody loves him already and the way he approaches practice is great to see. So there’s definitely some great things to see out of Baker. "He’s a guy who’s done it before — took his team to the playoffs and done some great things so far. So the competition with those guys is going to be very, very competitive and I’m glad to be a part of it. . . . During minicamp it was really fun to see, man, those guys are really having fun with it and they’re helping each other throughout the way. So that’s definitely something I love to see, as well.” It's unclear why the competition is so wide open. Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and a starter for most of his four years in Cleveland. He has had two very good seasons, one bad season, one season marred by injury, and then in 2022 a strange, nomadic existence. Trask was a second-round pick in 2021, and his is fully unproven, untested, and inexperienced. Earlier in the offseason, new coordinator Dave Canales suggested that there’s a political element to the competition, with Trask's draft status earning him more of a chance than perhaps the circumstances would require. Regardless, at some point the Bucs need to pick a horse and get him ready to run for Week One. Unless, of course, Tom Brady decides to try to join the race after it starts. View the full article
  25. Brian Burns has been in the market for a contract extension and he's reportedly heard from the Panthers about his desire for a new deal. Burns said in June that he wants to be among the highest-paid edge rushers in the league when he signs his next NFL contract. Darin Gantt of the team's website reports that the Panthers have made an offer to Burns, who is headed into the final year of his rookie pact, but that a deal may be on hold until another deal is done for another edge rusher. 49ers star Nick Bosa was taken 14 picks ahead of Burns in the first round of the 2019 draft and his next contract is expected to be at the very top of the range for edge rushers. Waiting until that deal is done could help Burns' efforts for a bigger deal for himself. Burns is currently set to make a base salary of $16.012 million and the Panthers could use a franchise tag on him in the offseason if the two sides are unable to agree on a longer deal. View the full article
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