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NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith says workouts go against player safety



NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith isn’t happy to see NFL players continue to work out together despite a union advisory sent out last weekend saying they should stop doing so.

During an interview with USA Today, Smith was specifically asked about social media posts from workouts by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and said they aren’t acting “in the best interest of player safety.”

“They’re not in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp, and I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season,” Smith told USA Today.

On June 20, Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director, issued a statement advising players to avoid working out with teammates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The statement was made after around 10 teams reported positive coronavirus tests for at least one player, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Despite the advisory, Brady and several of his new Buccaneers teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, continued to hold workouts at a Tampa, Florida, high school, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Smith also addressed ongoing talks between the league and union over how positive coronavirus cases among players will be handled from a roster and benefits perspective.

“I certainly understand how competitive our players are and I get that,” Smith told USA Today. “But at the same time, we are in the process of trying to negotiate, we have to negotiate with the league about what happens to a player if they test positive during the season. Does that player go on injured reserve? Do they go on short-term IR? If you test positive for the virus after training camp, is that a work-related injury? Are you covered under workers comp? What benefits are available to you if you have downstream injuries from contacting COVID-19?

“All of the things that players may want to do during the offseason have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts. We sent out the guidance because we think that was in their best health and safety interests. Let’s just say for some of the players who have practiced, we’ve made sure that they’ve heard the message.”

The NFL maintains that training camps will start on time late next month, with league executive vice president/general counsel Jeff Pash saying Thursday that “active discussions” are ongoing about what will happen after that point.

The Hall of Fame Game, the league’s annual preseason opener that was originally scheduled for Aug. 8, has already been canceled by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The NFL regular season is slated to begin Sept. 10.

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Franchise-tagged Chris Jones tweets perhaps he ‘won’t play’ for Chiefs in 2020



Chris Jones is hinting at the possibility of holding out as the wait for a deal continues between the Kansas City Chiefs and their franchise-tagged defensive lineman.

Jones, replying to an NFL Network video regarding his contract situation, tweeted Tuesday night that not playing in 2020 was an option, bringing up running back Le’Veon Bell‘s 2018 holdout with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Chiefs used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jones in March. They still have until July 15 to reach a long-term contract, but Jones has yet to sign the tag, which would pay him $16.1 million next season.

Barring a long-term deal with the Chiefs, Jones is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Bell missed the 2018 season after declining to play for the Steelers when they used the franchise tag on him for the second straight year. He signed with the New York Jets in the next offseason.

The running back showed support for Jones in a tweet Tuesday, writing “@StoneColdJones knows what he doin, trust.”

This isn’t the first time Jones has hinted about issues with his future in Kansas City. After the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, he said he wanted to be a “Chief for life” and planned “to stay here forever.” But days before the Chiefs used the franchise tag, Jones tweeted, “hope that they know that I love em but, all good things must come to an end….”

Jones didn’t participate in the Chiefs’ offseason practices and workouts in 2019, hoping to get a contract extension.

He reported to training camp on time and ranked third in the NFL last season with 15.5 sacks. Jones had a key play in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win, pressuring San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and forcing an interception.

Information from ESPN’s Adam Teicher was used in this report.

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Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher tested positive for the coronavirus



Former Steelers head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Cowher says he can be added to the list of sports figures who have battled the coronavirus.

Cowher told The Athletic that he and his wife, singer Veronica Stigeler — known by the stage name Queen V — weren’t tested for the virus when they were affected with symptoms in March but that they did test positive for antibodies a month later.

Cowher and Stigeler first realized something was wrong when they lost their sense of smell and taste after returning from a trip to Honolulu, a last-minute change from their originally planned trip to visit Cowher’s daughter, Lindsay, and son-in-law, Ryan Kelly, in Tokyo. Kelly a former NBA player, was playing in Japan’s B League when the league suspended play in early March.

On the way back, they flew through Newark Liberty International Airport and went to dinner in New York City before restaurants began closing. After that, Cowher told The Athletic, he and his wife began experiencing what would eventually be tell-tale coronavirus symptoms. In addition to the loss of smell and taste, both had shaky joints. Cowher had a slight fever, and his wife had a dry cough.

“I think I got it in New York and all the traveling, people coming into Newark airport at the same time,” Cowher told The Athletic. “That’s when the virus came from Europe and there was no shutdown. We were out in New York that weekend as well in a few restaurants. Who knows? There were people in Honolulu coming from China and in Newark they were coming from Europe.”

Cowher and his wife have recovered from the virus.

A member of the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cowher was set to be inducted in Canton next month along with Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell, a Centennial Class inductee, but those ceremonies and celebrations have been pushed back a year.

“I’m really kind of relieved,” Cowher told The Athletic of the delayed induction. “As much as you want to be reflective and talk about the people who were so instrumental in your life, now is not the time, not just with COVID but with the social justice issues. These are very transparent times and it’s so fluid. The Hall of Fame needs to be reflective. I’m glad it’s still going to be Dallas and Pittsburgh playing (next year), which is great. I think right now it’s just hard to really think about anything celebratory when the country is in the state it is.”

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Will limited offseason reduce fireworks of Lamar Jackson and Ravens? – Baltimore Ravens Blog



Baltimore Ravens coordinator Greg Roman said he thinks about tweaking the NFL’s highest-scoring offense once a minute every day.

Unfortunately for Roman, he’s hasn’t been able to see any of his ideas play out with reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson running and throwing passes around the field.

The coronavirus pandemic caused the NFL to shut down team facilities for months and cancel all organized training activities this spring. The Ravens lost out on 13 practices that could have been used to add, or at least try out, wrinkles to an attack that will have a bull’s-eye on its back after averaging 33.2 points per game last season.

“We haven’t had the luxury of the OTAs and whatnot, to really kind of test-run certain things, so we have to be really judicious with how we use that time in training camp to experiment,” Roman said. “I think experimenting this year is going to be very selective.”

In Jackson’s first full season as starting quarterback, the Ravens backed up their claim they would “revolutionize” the league with their creative brand of offense. Baltimore kept defenders confused with the amount of pre-snap motions and fake handoffs, all of which led to Jackson leading the NFL in touchdown passes and the Ravens setting the league’s single-season rushing record.

This year, the Ravens have five games against defenses that finished in the top 10, but they understand everyone will be watching film to find out ways to slow down Jackson and this offense. This is the time of year when Baltimore would use those 26 hours of practice to stay ahead of defenses by tinkering with different formations, route combinations and blocking schemes.

Now, the Ravens will arrive at training camp in late July just trying to get their own players up to speed with their system when they take the field for the first time in six months.

“Especially in a season like this, you don’t want to get too far off the rails,” Roman said. “You have to kind of stay on the rails and be selective with what you want to do differently.”

Repeating scoring success is tough under normal circumstances. Over the past two decades, just four teams (the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos) averaged more than 30 points in consecutive seasons. The last team to do so was Denver (2012-14), with Peyton Manning at quarterback.

The Ravens raised the bar last season with their record-setting offense. Jackson became the first player in NFL history to produce more than 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. Baltimore broke a 41-year-old league record by rushing for 3,296 yards. The Ravens set franchise marks for touchdowns (64), points (531), net yards (6,521), first downs (286) and fewest turnovers (15).

It would appear that Baltimore is set to repeat those types of fireworks, considering the offense returns all but one starter (Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda retired).

But, with the offseason being unlike any other, Roman believes expectations might have to be tempered.

“This year might be an interesting year as far as stats and records,” Roman said. “Maybe it’s not a stats-and-records year around the league, just because of the nature of how things are right now. We’ll see; we just don’t know. The important thing is that we keep moving towards playing winning football.”

One of the biggest reasons the Ravens finished with a league-best 14-2 record last season was Jackson’s development as a passer. He made major strides with his consistency, going from a 58.2% completion rate in 2018 to 66.1% last season.

This offseason, the Ravens are emphasizing Jackson’s throwing to different areas of the field. Coach John Harbaugh mentioned a variety of routes — the outs, comebacks, deep curls and deep stop routes along the sideline — are open because defenses over commit to stop the run.

On passes outside the numbers last season, Jackson ranked third in completion rate (68.2%) but 27th in yards per attempt (6.41).

“These are all types of routes that we have time to throw, a lot of times,” Harbaugh said. “Lamar has good numbers throwing the ball like this, but that’s an area we want to really see if we can make people defend those parts of the field, even more than they have in the past, and just try to create more problems and put them in more conflicts, even than we did last year.”

The Ravens expect Jackson to grow as a passer each year but are cognizant of not limiting the other areas of his game. Even though Baltimore won’t be able to change as many parts of its offense as it would like to do, the team knows it holds the advantage on defenses because it’s difficult to prepare for Jackson’s speed, athleticism and elusiveness. There were so many instances last seasons when defenders were in the right spot against Jackson only to watch him escape to deliver a touchdown pass or break free for a long run.

“There’s a magic to his style and how he plays,” Roman said. “We always want to focus that creativity and that energy into winning football, and winning football decisions on the field — accuracy, timing, vision, all those things. As part of his development, chase to being great and chase to improve, you’re working on all these things all the time.”

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