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NFL training camp 2020 – Jimmy Garoppolo shows love for Kittle; DeAndre Hopkins dons new uniform

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Jimmy Garoppolo‘s T-shirt game is strong. The San Francisco quarterback arrived for training camp on Saturday wearing a shirt with tight end George Kittle on it — who was wearing a shirt with Garoppolo on it.

Other players had fun T-shirts, too. (See: Zach Pascal‘s T-shirt featuring teammate Quenton Nelson).

And then there were some veteran players such as Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Bills receiver Stefon Diggs — showing off the uniforms of their new teams.

Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:

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Top news of the day

Sources: Jets LB C.J. Mosley opts out of 2020 season
Mosley hasn’t commented publicly, but a source said it was due to family health reasons. Mosley, the highest-paid player on the Jets, was due to make a total of $16 million this year. He already received $10 million in the form of a roster bonus, paid in mid-March. He was scheduled to make $6 million in base pay.

Lions place QB Matthew Stafford on reserve/COVID-19 list
The Detroit quarterback became the eighth member of the team to be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Players are put on the list either if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus. It’s unclear how long Stafford will be out, per NFL protocol, but the team is scheduled to start strength and conditioning workouts Monday.

Marqise Lee becomes 7th Patriots player to opt out
The New England Patriots wide receiver became a first-time father in February, and said protecting his newborn daughter, Alia, and family was at the core of his decision. No NFL team has had more players opt out of the 2020 season than the Patriots.

Drew Brees: Reaction to flag comment was ‘crushing’
The New Orleans Saints quarterback on Saturday reiterated his vow to stand with the Black community for social justice, saying it “broke my heart” and was “crushing” that his June comments about disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the national anthem made people feel differently.

Browns TE David Njoku walks back trade request

Njoku tweeted Saturday that he’s “all in” with Cleveland after requesting a trade earlier this summer through his agent. Njoku has had “some good meetings with the new Browns’ organization including GM Andrew Berry and he has decided to give the team his full commitment right now and go from there,” his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ryan Fitzpatrick says ‘I know I’m the placeholder’ for Tua Tagovailoa

Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins incumbent starting quarterback, knows his position as a bridge to Tagovailoa. It turns out that he’s very comfortable with his dual role of leading the 2020 Dolphins on and off the field while also helping to prepare the man who will eventually take his job.

“I don’t know how much time it will be before Tua will be in the lineup. I know that I am the placeholder. We’ve already had that conversation,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve told him, ‘I’m going to do the best I can to lead this team and win football games when I’m out there. Whenever it is that Tua gets his chance whether it’s early or late or whenever, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader.'”

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Quotes of the day

“You’ve got to hold your brothers accountable, as far as stepping out and going to dinner with a lot of people. … The most disciplined team will end up playing the most games and being the healthiest at the end of the day.”

Dolphins safety Bobby McCain

“That’s why I came back.”

41-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees on whether the team had a “Super Bowl or bust” mentality.


What our NFL Nation reporters heard today

Deshaun Watson said he’s “locked in on being a Texan,” but that right now football, not a contract extension, is his “main focus.” “My agent knows the time and the time limit, and things like that,” Watson said. “My biggest thing, like I’ve always been wanting to do since I was a little kid, is just play football, win a championship, win games and compete. Like I said before, my agent is taking care of that and that’s with him and the organization. Like I said, my main focus is being the quarterback and the leader of this team and making sure we’re ready for September 10th.” On Friday, head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien said the team is “working hard” on that extension because Houston wants the quarterback “here for a long time.” — Sarah Barshop

The Ravens surprisingly cut defensive tackle Daylon Mack, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, in reducing their roster to 80 players. Mack is the first player from Baltimore’s eight-player 2019 draft class to get released. He was considered on the bubble after the Ravens drafted two defensive tackles this season. Baltimore selected Justin Madubuike in the third round and Broderick Washington in the fifth. But it was expected that Mack would be given an opportunity to prove himself, which he didn’t receive last season. Mack played only one game before being placed on injured reserve in November. — Jamison Hensley

All the Giants — minus Nate Solder who opted out of the season — are now at training camp after outside linebacker Markus Golden reported by the weekend. He has begun COVID-19 testing and can undergo a physical after three negative results in four days. Then his contract can be finalized and any doubt about whether he will play for the Giants this season will be gone. The Giants used a rare May 5 tender on Golden, and retained his rights when training camp opened. Golden led the Giants with 10.0 sacks last season and was sixth in the NFL with 27 QB hits. — Jordan Raanan

The Jaguars placed nickelback D.J. Hayden (knee) and TE James O’Shaughnessy (knee) on the active/PUP list on Saturday. Hayden has been one of the Jaguars’ most consistent defensive back since he joined the team in 2018 and has one interception and one forced fumble. O’Shaughnessy had emerged as the Jaguars’ top tight end early last season but suffered a torn ACL in a Week 5 loss at Carolina. — Michael DiRocco

The Jason Peters experiment at right guard is underway. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland called Brandon Brooks the best right guard in the game and didn’t sugar-coat his absence due to a season-ending Achilles injury, calling it a “tremendous loss,” but he thinks the veteran Peters is up for the task. “… This is going to be great for Jason Peters,” Stoutland said. “It’s just another challenge for him. I think that he’s had to play the toughest position in the O-line, maybe in the whole offense for a lot of years, playing left tackle, blindside, being out there on his own, man on an island and one-on-one blocking all day. So that’s a hard job, OK, and I think that this can really help us.” — Tim McManus

Among the things Drew Brees did this offseason:

  • Worked with longtime throwing coach Tom House to improve his deep ball, including unconventional methods like lacrosse and stand-up paddle boarding and doing most of his training in his backyard. The 41-year-old Brees said his arm feels “live.”

  • Flew to Denver to spend a “valuable” couple days working with new receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

  • Exchanged several texts talking shop with new backup QB Jameis Winston, whom he described as a “joy to be around” because of how much he loves football.” — Mike Triplett

C.J. Mosley’s decision to opt out for 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns is another big blow to the Jets’ defense. A week ago, they traded star safety Jamal Adams to the Seahawks. This is a massive challenge for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The silver lining is their depth at inside linebacker, as they have four players with starting experience – Avery Williamson, Patrick Onwuasor, Neville Hewitt and James Burgess, Jr. Williamson, once thought to be potential trade bait, now becomes a key player, assuming he has recovered from ACL surgery. Currently, he’s on the PUP list, but he should be cleared soon. — Rich Cimini

After five days of COVID testing, Saturday marked the first full day that players could be granted access to Gillette Stadium, as long as they had three negative tests. Players took part in the traditional photo shoot, in which their pictures are taken for the media guide and television broadcasts. Physical examinations were also on the schedule. — Mike Reiss

The Panthers opted to reduce their roster to 80 on Saturday in part so they won’t have to conduct split-squad practices. In getting there, left tackle Greg Little passed his physical to come off the NFL PUP list. That adds much-needed depth at a position veteran Russell Okung, acquired in an off-season trade, will begin as the starter. Okung is in the last year of his contract, so Carolina could be grooming Little for the future. The 2019 second-round pick was the starter last year before concussions and later a knee sidetracked his rookie season. — David Newton

Washington secondary coach Chris Harris said they’ll use a variety of looks — from some press to off-man coverages — as they’re expected to use a heavy amount of one-deep looks. That would keep Landon Collins mostly — but not exclusively — in the box. He was solid for Washington last season, but they’ll want more than that in 2020. “He really shows up when he’s in the box,” Harris said. “He’s an excellent blitzer. He can come off the edge, he creates havoc when he’s up close to the line of scrimmage. He creates tackle for losses, and he’s kind of like a spark plug.” — John Keim



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Maryland’s Mike Locksley launches minority coaches development group

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Maryland Terrapins coach Mike Locksley can remember sitting at the NFL’s Quarterback Coaching Summit last June at Moorehouse College, where leaders from the NFL’s football operations department and the Black College Football Hall of Fame brought together dozens of people of color with higher coaching aspirations.

Locksley, who had just left his job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator to come to College Park, was struck by the comments made there by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome — a minority in the NFL — who conceded he didn’t realize “there were this many African Americans coaching quarterbacks.”

It was one of many moments throughout Locksley’s career that helped spur his creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, an organization he said he hopes will help prepare and promote qualified minority coaching candidates to the next step in their careers. The non-profit organization will create a list of candidates that will be vetted by a powerful board of directors that includes the likes of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Alabama coach Nick Saban, and of course Newsome.

“I can only speak from my experiences, that it’s just about opportunities, it’s about awareness,” Locksley told ESPN. “You look at the three pillars of our organization: prepare, promote and produce. When you think of preparation, you think of having the tools, and this organization needs to create programming to provide tools for a youth league coach who wants to be a high school coach … This organization has to provide the tools to help people make these jumps in their career.

“The promote piece is the part that I think has been missing,” he said. “If you want to create change, there’s got to be some promotion of what’s out there.”

According to a release from Maryland, a study from the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University showed that at least 77-percent of offensive coordinators hired throughout college football over the last 10 years were white and out of 130 FBS eligible schools, only 14 head coaches are minorities.

Locksley said that in the summer of 2018, when he was on Saban’s staff at Alabama, he had a conversation with Pep Hamilton about becoming a head coach, and they noticed the direction for hiring “was the quarterback room.”

“At that time there weren’t a lot of Black quarterback coaches,” he said. “… He and I came up with the idea of let’s create kind of an underground railroad system of uniting quarterback coaches and getting together and sharing ideas and helping each other grow as quarterback coaches.”

They created the QuarterBlack Symposium, and reached out to the NFL for support, which they received, and it began that summer at Moorehouse College before the NFL officially took it over and rebranded it. When he got to Maryland and took a look around, Locksley said the number of minority coaches was shrinking.

According to NFL.com, when Locksley was hired by New Mexico in 2009, he was one of four Black head coaches at the FBS level. A decade later, he was one of only 13 — in a pool of 130 FBS schools.

Locksley said the organization allows him to pay forward “the privileges I’ve been granted as the head coach at my dream school, Maryland, while also hopefully leaving a legacy and a pathway of opportunity for the next generation of head coaches to come at all levels.”

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Packers ‘back to square one’ with their WRs unless … Antonio Brown, anyone? – Green Bay Packers Blog

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Even Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 wide receiver, thought his team would make a significant addition at his position this offseason.

Even after signing veteran Devin Funchess.

“It’s no secret, we were all expecting to have a receiver drafted,” Adams said this week. “But that wasn’t the case.”

And now that Funchess has opted out of this season, exercising his right under the NFL’s COVID-19 procedures, where are the Packers with the position?

“They’re back to square one,” said a longtime scout for an NFC team. “Same guys [as last season]. If I was them, I’d go sign Antonio Brown. You just use him for one year. Let’s say Aaron Rodgers has got two great years left? I’ve got to go for it. If I was [general manager Brian Gutekunst], I would’ve signed Robby Anderson, and I might have made a trade for another linebacker.”

There’s nothing the Packers can do now about Anderson, who signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Carolina Panthers in free agency, and the scout’s take on Brown came just a day before the NFL handed him an eight-game suspension to start the season even though he is not with a team.

In Adams, the Packers have one of the NFL’s most productive receivers. In fact, he’s the only player in the league with at least 40 touchdowns over the past four seasons combined. A case could be made that he’s outperformed the four-year, $58 million contract extension that runs through the 2021 season. He’s currently the ninth-highest paid receiver based on average per year, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Over the past two seasons, Adams has 194 catches for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. The rest of the Packers’ receivers can’t match that for their careers combined.

The Packers rank 16th in the NFL for salary-cap charges for wide receivers at $24.403 million, but $16.475 million of that is Adams.

“I don’t know if this is where you’re going with this but with how good Aaron is, I don’t know why they wouldn’t be more aggressive at wideout all those years,” said a younger scout for an AFC team.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what the Packers have behind Adams based on interviews with the two scouts:

Allen Lazard (career stats: 36 catches, 484 yards, three touchdowns)

The Packers signed him off the Jaguars’ practice squad in December 2018, and he caught one pass for 7 yards in the finale. He didn’t even make the final cut in 2019 but was added to the roster in time for the season opener. Still, he didn’t see any significant reps until the sixth game of the season — and after Adams went down with turf toe. By the time Adams returned, the 6-foot-5 Lazard had a firm grasp on the No. 2 spot.

“Obviously he’s not Davante,” said the AFC scout, who specializes in evaluating college players for his team. “As a starting outside receiver in the NFL, I’d say he’s below that line of what you would want as a starter. Ideally, he’s a third, and on a really deep team he might be a fourth receiver… Aaron makes him better. He’s shown he’s a guy you want in your lineup, but he’s not like the guy that you want as the 1 or the 2. Those guys have to have more tools.”

Said the NFC scout, who evaluates both pro and college players for his team: “He’s a big, possession receiver. But there’s no dynamic there. I thought they made a huge mistake when they didn’t sign Anderson. That would’ve freed up Davante Adams. Davante would’ve had a bigger year, and it would’ve given Aaron that vertical threat guy. Then you could’ve worked all those other receivers in. Now you’re saying those same guys have to be your No. 2, and they’re not No. 2s. But Aaron’s going to make them quality No. 3s.”

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (64 catches, 1,033 yards, four touchdowns)

The fifth-round pick in 2018 was supposed to be the deep-threat receiver. He ran a 4.37-second 40 at the NFL scouting combine. He looked the part early on, posting a pair of 100-yard games (both on just three catches) as a rookie and started fast in 2019. But after a two-catch, 133-yard game against the Raiders on Oct. 20, the 6-4 Valdes-Scantling caught just five more passes the rest of the season for 36 yards.

“He is their vertical guy, but I guess he had issues last year,” the NFC scout said. “Did he fall out of favor with Aaron or something? I was a big fan of his coming out of college.”

Said the AFC scout: “I actually liked Valdes-Scantling. I had probably a fifth-round grade on Valdes-Scantling, and I think in the right place I thought he could be a scheme-fit starter. I thought he had obviously vertical speed and some tools. At some point last year, I thought he went past that, but then he leveled off.”

Jake Kumerow (20 catches, 322 yards, two touchdowns)

A fan favorite because of his local ties; he played at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. He’s also one of Rodgers’ favorites. He played in just five games in 2018, but it his was first NFL regular-season action after entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals in 2015. Last season, the 6-4 Kumerow showed some big-play ability, averaging 18.3 yards per catch, but had just 12 receptions.

“I actually liked him; I did his report the year he came out of Whitewater,” the AFC scout said. “I’m glad he finally made it because I liked him, but he’s another one of those guys who, when you don’t have a dominant trait, it’s hard to get over the hump at that position.”

Equanimeous St. Brown (21 catches, 328 yards, no touchdowns)

Spent all of last season on injured reserve after he suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game. Another big receiver (6-5), he would seemingly be too big to fill the much-needed slot role, but he did have five of his 21 catches from the inside positions as a rookie in 2018. He was the last of the three receivers the Packers drafted in 2018 — J’Mon Moore in the fourth round, Valdes-Scantling in the fifth and St. Brown in the sixth.

“He could play inside every now and then, but he’s not going to be in there every time,” the AFC scout said.

Said the NFC scout: “He’s soft. Inconsistent. Just a guy. But Aaron can make him have a 66-reception, 1,000-yard season. But it would be because of Aaron, and that’s Aaron having to work hard to make him good. Every now and then you want a receiver to make you look good.”

Darrius Shepherd (one catch, 1 yard, no touchdowns)

The Packers kept the 5-11 undrafted free agent in the final cuts instead of Lazard because they thought he could be a combination slot receiver/kick returner. But he had problems handling the ball in both jobs. He fumbled away the kick return job and had a costly drop for an interception as a wide receiver. He was released and re-signed to the practice squad.

“I’m biased against smaller guys,” the AFC scout said. “I think there’s a role for them, but if they’re not special, it’s hard for them to stick and making a living because there’s so many. You have to have something dynamic to get you over the hump and make up for what you’re lacking in size. Surprised they kept him over Lazard, but knowing what [coach Matt] LaFleur likes, they have very strict rules and guidelines in what they look for in a slot receiver and it’s usually the smaller guys who fit that role.”

Reggie Begelton (no career NFL appearances)

There’s been some hype about the 26-year-old Begelton (6-0, 200) this offseason after what he did in Canada last year with the Calgary Stampeders: 102 catches for 1,444 yards and 10 touchdowns that made him a CFL all-star. The Packers signed him to a futures contract in January.

“I don’t know him, but I think the reason it’s a hard transition [from the CFL],” the AFC scout said. “They were already deemed not good enough to be in the NFL and now they’re older, so they’re not competing with rookies, they’re competing with the vets. But I think you can find guys, not exactly gadget guys but guys who can fit a certain role for you. I think it’s hard to find a complete receiver up there, but you can find a slot or you can find a speed guy. So I think in that regard, I think you could find someone to compete with Allen Lazard, who doesn’t have everything. But it would be extremely hard to find a player who took the Adam Thielen route. It just doesn’t happen a lot.”

Darrell Stewart (rookie)

The only rookie wide receiver the Packers added; Stewart (6-0, 212) signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, where he finished third in career receptions (150).

“I saw him at the NFLPA [Collegiate Bowl] game,” the AFC scout said. “He’s really good athlete. He’s a little more short and compact, but he’s got a good build. His issue has been drops. If you watch him, I’ll bet when they start practice he’s going to turn people’s heads. If he catches the ball fine, they’re going to love him. That week at the NFLPA game, the first 20 minutes of practice, I was like, ‘This dude’s definitely going to get drafted.’ Then you see he’ll drop two or three balls in a row and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what he struggles with.’ But he’s definitely a make-it athlete; he just struggles with the hands. Maybe it will be easier [in Green Bay] where the quarterback is better.”

Malik Taylor (no career NFL appearances)

Signed just before training camp last season, he spent all of the 2019 season on the practice squad. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Buccaneers out of Ferris State.

Neither scout knew enough about Taylor (6-1, 216) to evaluate him.

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin – Ben Roethlisberger has good velocity after surgery

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PITTSBURGH — After watching Ben Roethlisberger throw for two days at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with his quarterback’s progress following elbow surgery to repair three torn elbow tendons.

“I didn’t see anything that was alarming in any way,” Tomlin said on a Zoom call Thursday morning. “His velocity is excellent. Maybe his spiral could be a little tighter. I’ve seen it tighter, but nothing to alarm you in any way.

“We’re going to continue to proceed appropriately with him in an effort to have him ready to go when we step into a stadium.”

Roethlisberger was scheduled to practice Monday and Tuesday before taking Wednesday off. The camp schedule echoes Roethlisberger’s offseason routine as he recovered from the September surgery to reattach the flexor tendons.

“I’m extremely comfortable with where he is in the process. It’s been great communication, from and through him and the medical professionals through his rehab process,” Tomlin said.

Speaking with the media Tuesday, Roethlisberger said his arm felt good after the first day of practice.

“I threw a lot of balls yesterday,” he said. “I was kind of waking up today to see how it was going to feel, and it feels great. That’s kind of what I anticipated because we have been working more than usual in the offseason in terms of throwing.

“I’ve put together a regimen of two to three days a week of throwing for the last two months, if not longer than that too. I think the plan is still to kind of pitch count, if you will, through training camp.”

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