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INDIANAPOLIS — A surge in NFL concussion numbers has sparked “a call to action” among league officials responsible for brain health, the NFL’s chief medical officer said Tuesday.

Speaking at the start of a Head, Neck and Spine committee meeting, Dr. Allen Sills made clear that the league will react aggressively to data that showed a 16 percent rise in concussions in 2017. There were a total of 291 diagnosed concussions in 2017 — including preseason, regular season and postseason games — compared to 250 in 2016.

Some of that total can be attributed to higher levels of self-reporting by players. In 2017, 47 percent of concussions involved a player addressing symptoms with a medical official, the highest percentage on record. But Sills told committee members that self-reporting data shouldn’t be used as a shield. One of his first PowerPoint slides asked how concussion numbers can be reduced “IMMEDIATELY.”

“It’s not OK,” Sills said, “to simply stand behind that and say, ‘Well, the numbers are going up because we’re doing a better job.’ I think to me this is really a call to action to see what we can do to drive it down.”

Tuesday’s meeting, which the NFL allowed a handful of reporters to view for about 30 minutes, was the start of a process that will follow three specific paths to reduce concussions:

• Increasing the use of what the NFL considers safer helmets;

• Decreasing preseason concussions by pointing out warning signs to individual teams;

• Work with football operations on style of play.

Overall, 9 percent of NFL players suffered diagnosed concussions in 2017. That averaged out to about 0.7 concussions per game and about nine per team. The numbers were exceptionally high during training camp practices, both before and after the start of preseason games, and overall rose 73 percent during that time period compared to 2016. Most occurred during what the NFL identified as “scrimmages” during practice.

Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFL Players Association’s medical director, proposed each team’s coaching staffs receive concussion education and training, in part to help them understand the impact of specific drills and practice schedules.

“With 291 concussions,” Mayer said, “if we’re going to take a progressive strategy toward reducing or eliminating the maximum number of concussions we have, I think it’s imperative, and I think we’re long past having coaches educated as to how these concussions occur. Not only the head coaches but also the position coaches. I think we have to get down to that level for them to understand precisely how these concussions occur.

“I get that there are 80 guys flying around trying to make the 53[-man roster], but I think we also owe to ourselves and to our players to take an aggressive education program to those coaches and assistant coaches.”

Also Tuesday, the NFLPA distributed a 107-page medical playbook to players. The document provides details on concussion prevention, detection and recovery, among other health topics. It also includes information about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), suggesting players be vigilant but rational about it.

“The most important advice is not to assume you have a chronic, irreversible disease simply because you have symptoms,” the playbook tells players. “Consult an expert in this field who can do the comprehensive neurologic evaluation and studies necessary to determine your status and the best treatment for it.”

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If Jaguars want an impact tight end, they’d better act quickly in the draft – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Coach Urban Meyer was pretty clear the Jacksonville Jaguars needed a pass-catching tight end, and since they didn’t sign one in free agency it’s equally clear it will be a priority in the draft.

The Jaguars had better pick one in the first three rounds, though, because recent history shows that it’s hard to find an impact tight end after that. It’s not impossible — Antonio Gates was undrafted, Delanie Walker was a sixth-round pick, and George Kittle was a fifth-round pick, for example — but drafting one early is a much better option.

In looking at the highest-producing tight ends over the past 20 years, 13 of the top 20 in terms of receptions were first- or second-round picks. Tony Gonzalez, the NFL’s all-time receptions leader among tight ends (and third overall), was a first-round pick. Rob Gronkowski, who has the third-most TD catches among tight ends since 2001 with 86, was a second-round pick. Zach Ertz, who holds the single-season record for most receptions by a tight end (116 in 2018), was a second-round pick.

Four more of the top 20 were third-round picks, including Jason Witten, whose 1,228 receptions are second only to Gonzalez among tight ends and rank fourth overall in NFL history, and Travis Kelce, who surpassed 100 catches twice in the past three seasons. Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook also were third-round picks.

Only three of the top 20 players were taken after the third round: Gates, Walker and Owen Daniels (fourth round).

So the Jaguars’ best chance of landing a tight end that can be a major part of the passing game — something that hasn’t happened much around here, and certainly never to the extent of what the players mentioned above have done — is to find one by the end of Day 2 of the draft. The Jaguars have five picks in the first three rounds (two each in the first and second rounds) and are likely taking quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall.

Florida’s Kyle Pitts will almost assuredly be long gone by the time the Jaguars pick 25th, but there are some other intriguing prospects — such as Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, Boston College’s Hunter Long and Miami’s Brevin Jordan — that the Jaguars could target in the second or third round. Freiermuth could be the pick to start the second round.

There’s no guarantee about any of those players and the Jaguars shouldn’t force the pick, but if they do have good evaluations on any of them and believe they can be impact players, then it’s better to take them in the second or third rather than waiting at the position or hoping they slide.

The Jaguars’ draft history with tight ends is … not good. They’ve drafted nine since the team’s inception (including Derek Brown in the 1995 expansion draft), but just two earlier than the fourth round: Marcedes Lewis (28th overall in 2006) and Josh Oliver (third round in 2019). Lewis is the franchise’s all-time leader among tight ends in receptions (375), receiving yards (4,502) and TD catches (33), and he’s third overall in the first two categories and second only to wide receiver Jimmy Smith in touchdown catches.

Oliver played in four games and had just three catches in his first two seasons because of injuries, and the Jaguars traded him to Baltimore last month for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2022.

Of the remaining nine players in the franchise’s top 10 in terms of tight end receptions, six were either free-agent signees, signed off the street, or acquired via trade: Kyle Brady, Pete Mitchell, James O’Shaughnessy, Julius Thomas, Clay Harbor and Tyler Eifert.

After Lewis, the best tight end the Jaguars have drafted is George Wrighster, a fourth-round pick in 1990 who went on to catch 94 passes for 850 yards and nine touchdowns in his six-year career.

Jaguars tight ends have rarely been prominent parts of the passing game. Only three in franchise history have caught 48 or more passes — an average of just three per game over 16 games — in a single season: Mitchell (52 in 1996), Brady (64 in 2000) and Lewis (58 in 2010 and 52 in 2012).

Three catches per game, even for a run-oriented team, isn’t asking too much. Especially since the Jaguars haven’t exactly had dynamic receivers since Jimmy Smith retired after the 2005 season. They’ve had only three receivers record 1,000-yard seasons since then (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in 2015 and DJ Chark Jr. in 2019) and have had only two players with 70 or more catches in a season (Robinson in 2015-16 and Chark in 2019).

Tight end is a priority in the NFL today more than ever and the Jaguars should treat it as such.

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From $248 to $622K – NFL players to bring in a wide range of bonuses



Sometimes the best feeling can be finding an extra $20 in a pair of jeans you have not worn in a while.

Now imagine what it must be like when you learn you have found an extra $622,056.

The NFL’s performance-based pay system has been around since 2002, when it was included in the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement, and it rewards players who have had high playing time but are making low base salaries.

This year, the league divvied up $8.55 million per team for veterans and rookies, and while the checks won’t hit the players’ accounts until 2024 at the earliest, it’s still good to know there will be some money coming in.

Here’s a look at some of the notable performance-based bonuses that were distributed:

Big money

Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick, played all 1,070 snaps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 at guard, winning a Super Bowl ring along the way. Because of the NFL’s performance-based pay system, Cappa earned a league-high extra $622,056 on top of his $750,000 base salary.

He was one of 26 players to have earned at least $500,000. He wasn’t the only Buccaneer, either. Safety Jordan Whitehead earned $555,455. A fourth-round pick in 2018, Whitehead started every game for the Super Bowl champs and had two interceptions.

Small money, but …

At the other end of the spectrum is Cincinnati Bengals center B.J. Finney. He collected the smallest bonus, just $248 for two snaps on special teams.

But Finney was able to double dip. He also earned $3,668 from the Seattle Seahawks, who dealt him to Cincinnati in the Carlos Dunlap trade in October 2020. Finney signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

Offensive lineman Marcus Martin, who split the 2020 season between two teams, was also a double-dipper. He earned $2,839 from the Detroit Lions and $591 from the New England Patriots.

The rest of the top 10

Arizona Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum collected the second-highest check at $604,185 after starting every game. Not bad for a player who signed a few weeks before training camp began. This offseason, he signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Cardinals.

The remainder of the top 10 includes: Buffalo Bills corner Taron Johnson ($578,749), Los Angeles Rams guard Austin Corbett ($572,736), Detroit cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572,067), Chicago tackle Germain Ifedi ($570,571), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($567,469), Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561,469), Baltimore Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557,477) and Whitehead ($555,335).

The bottom 10

Finney was one of 13 players to earn bonuses of less than $1,000, with Houston Texans quarterback AJ McCarron receiving the second-smallest check at $316.

In spots 3 through 10: Seattle linebacker D’Andre Walker ($453), Carolina offensive tackle Matt Kaskey ($542), Green Bay defensive tackle Anthony Rush ($547), Martin ($591), New York Giants wide receiver Alex Bachman ($600), Jacksonville Jaguars place-kicker Stephen Hauschka ($740), Philadelphia Eagles tackle Prince Tega Wanogho ($781), Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson ($924) and Washington Football Team tackle Saahdiq Charles ($924).

There could not have been a more disappointing season for anybody other than Wilson, the Titans’ first-round pick.

The players selected immediately before Wilson at No. 29 overall — Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen and Miami Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene — earned $181,141 and $139,826 respectively.

The Titans traded Wilson to the Dolphins earlier in the offseason and he has already been released.

Big names, small money

Playing on his rookie contract from 2016 to 2019, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott regularly cashed in quite well in the performance-based pay system, earning more than $1 million total in his first four seasons.

Last year, Prescott had the highest base salary in the NFL at $31.4 million, playing on the quarterback franchise tag. He was also limited to five games because of a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. His take from the 2020 performance-based pay system: $5,653.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. He collected $4,786. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (knee) played just two games as well, and he earned $4,279. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. lasted seven games before a knee injury. He received $14,669.

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Evaluating GM George Paton’s first free agency with the Denver Broncos – Denver Broncos Blog



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When George Paton was hired in January to be the Denver Broncos‘ top football decision-maker, he became the first person in four decades to hold the job without previously working for the team.

He brings a fresh set of eyes to a franchise that has long preferred its own way of looking at things. His approach to free agency over the long haul remains to be seen, but his first foray as the guy in charge of the checkbook did give a glimpse of what he thought about of the roster he inherited.

As in:

  • The defense needed some immediate attention, and not just a little.

  • When he said re-signing Justin Simmons was a priority he meant it.

  • Drew Lock is a better option at quarterback than spending big in free agency.

The draft, which opens April 29, is still a significant portion of the Broncos’ offseason work and how Paton chooses to use the picks will also show what his vision is in his first year on the job.

But with one of the league’s youngest group of skill position players already in place on offense, the team’s defense clearly troubled him. Start with the fact he signed Simmons to the richest deal for a safety in league history with a $15.25 million per year average.

Paton also chose to exercise the option in linebacker Von Miller‘s contract, keeping him with the team for the final year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal signed in 2016. And of the six players the Broncos have signed from the open market to this point, including defensive end Shelby Harris and safety Kareem Jackson who were both with the Broncos last season, five were on defense. Running back Mike Boone, signed to a relatively low impact two-year, $3.85 million deal, is the only player on offense the Broncos have signed in the first month of free agency.

With Simmons’ signing, the Broncos also added cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in a secondary eroded by injuries last season. In all it was $132.5 million worth of contracts to defensive players even before defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was signed this week.

“It’s a work in progress,” Paton said about the upgrades on defense after Darby’s and Fuller’s arrival. “We’re not there yet. We have the rest of free agency. We have the draft to add good, young players that fit our culture and fit the scheme. We have a ways to go.”

Simmons’ deal — as well as Harris’ three-year, $27 million deal to a certain extent — also provided a message from Paton to the Broncos’ locker room: The Broncos will retain their own free agents if they produce at a high level. That’s not something they have always been able, or willing, to do in recent years — not unless a player, like tackle Garett Bolles or cornerback Chris Harris Jr. or defensive end Derek Wolfe, was willing to sign a new deal before he actually hit the market.

Paton said right from his arrival he wanted to retain Simmons and had even called the franchise player designation for Simmons a “procedural move” on the way to a new deal. As coach Vic Fangio put it: “I was confident that we would have him back.”

As for the quarterback position, Paton has expressed confidence in Lock’s development — he said “fortunately we have a quarterback” when asked about potential moves earlier this offseason — but what happens in the draft is still the 1,000-pound Bronco in the room.

With the No. 9 pick in the first round the Broncos could still make a move up to take a quarterback. It would have to be up to the No. 4 pick because the teams selecting 1-2-3 — the Jaguars, Jets and 49ers — are locked in place with plans to take their own QB. But the Broncos would have to really like one one of the QBs available at No. 4 and be willing to to surrender the substantial number of future picks it would cost to make the move.

The Broncos, other than a short dalliance to see what the price would be in a trade for Matthew Stafford, have remained on the sideline in free agency at quarterback. Veterans such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett and Mitchell Trubisky signed elsewhere and the list of those who could challenge Lock as a starter has almost evaporated.

Players such as Gardner Minshew or Teddy Bridegwater would require the Broncos make a trade, and in Bridgewater’s case, he currently carries a $17 million base salary for the 2021 season.

Paton’s actions to this point have backed up his words, that Lock “is very talented … and has a lot to work on,” but that Lock “really wants to be great.”

The last benchmark will be how Paton approaches the draft weekend and how the depth chart looks at quarterback when the calendar flips to May, a depth chart at the position that, at the moment, looks exactly the same now as it did in January.

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