Monthly Archives: August 2016

Why this Tony Romo injury is more serious than past issues

Not all spine fractures are created equal. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo knows this firsthand.

Once the pain has resolved and satisfactory healing has occurred, the athlete can be cleared to return. This could range from a few weeks to a few months. As Garrett noted, the Cowboys have gotten “a lot of different timetables for when [Romo] can return.”

At Haughton (La.) High School, Prescott became the quarterback after the starter got hurt. At Mississippi State, he became the quarterback when the starter got hurt.

He is set to become the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback, at least for a little while, because Tony Romo got hurt.

Jason Garrett won’t say it yet, but Prescott is looking like the Cowboys’ starting quarterback for at least the season opener if not several weeks after that with Romo in a brace because of a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra.

For the first time since 2006, the Cowboys will have a season opener with somebody other than Romo as their starting quarterback.

Romo and Prescott exchanged text messages on Saturday. Prescott told Romo he was sorry he got hurt and hopes he gets better soon. Romo told Prescott he has his back.

“But this is still his team,” Prescott said. “I’m just going to try to do my best to hold the fort down, I guess you could say, give this team a great chance to succeed and win games each and every week.”

Roger Staubach won the 1969 season opener as a Cowboys rookie, beating the St. Louis Cardinals by completing 7 of 15 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Troy Aikman lost his first season opener as a Cowboys rookie, completing 17 of 35 passes for 180 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 28-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Quincy Carter was the last rookie to start a Cowboys season opener. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 34 yards and two interceptions in a 10-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And that’s the history Prescott walks into.

But the supporting cast of Prescott is much greater than what Aikman and Carter had. The Cowboys went 11-2-1 in 1969, but Craig Morton started the rest of the games that season.

Prescott has the best offensive line in football with three Pro Bowlers in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. He has a healthy Dez Bryant, something Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore didn’t have last year after Romo went down twice with a broken left collarbone. He will have Jason Witten, a 10-time Pro Bowler. And he can hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the draft.

“I’m just going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to play my role as the starting quarterback and to get these playmakers the ball around me,” Prescott said. “We’ve got a number of playmakers, a great offensive line. The pressure is not really on me. I’ve just got to go out there and play my game and be myself.”

The gold mine that is Arena Bowl X: Gruden vs. Warner, 20 years later

Long gone but never forgotten, Friday is the 20th anniversary of perhaps the best non-NFL game in American football history. Arena Bowl X pitted a pair of quarterbacks who would move on to bigger things, trading scores throughout the night in a tiny auditorium filled with 11,411 fans dressed as farm animals in Des Moines, Iowa.

Just three plays in, the Dallas Cowboys lost their starting quarterback, Romo, to a back injury. Though Romo could have potentially returned to the lineup in a regular-season game, the Cowboys chose to stick with Prescott.

Prescott said the last time he came in off the bench was his sophomore year at Mississippi State.

“It’s no different,” Prescott said. “I prepare just like I’m going to start the game, and I’m ready at all times, like I’m going to start the game. I gotta go in at any second, so it wasn’t any different.”

Facing third-and-8 from the Dallas 38, Prescott found Cole Beasley for 12 yards on his first play, but the drive stalled. On his second drive, he relied on Ezekiel Elliott’s legs to move the ball until he found Jason Witten down the seam.

The ball was underthrown, but Witten was able to reach around the linebacker and pull the ball down for a 17-yard score.

“I told him ‘I love you, thank you for catching that,'” Prescott said. “I needed that.”

It was Prescott’s fifth touchdown pass in three preseason games.

On his fifth drive of the game, Prescott was able to lead the Cowboys to a Dan Bailey field goal, executing a two-minute drive by completing 8 of 9 passes for 64 yards. He completed passes to five pass-catchers — Beasley, Brice Butler, Devin Street, Geoff Swaim and Alfred Morris.

Black doesn’t want players to exclude anything from their diet. She wants them to eat healthy 90 percent of the time and eat what they want the other 10 percent. That’s what sold Ramsey — whom Black said has been her toughest case in her three seasons with the Jaguars — on eating better.

The players interviewed for this story all said Black has helped them and that they’re grateful she’s not overbearing when it comes to nutrition and checking out what they eat.

But some did admit to being afraid of the 5-foot-7 Black.

Such as 6-foot-3, 317-pound guard A.J. Cann. He loves pasta, and when the Jaguars serve it, the second-year player wants to load up a huge plateful … but he doesn’t.

“I’m like, ‘How much can I get?’ and she’s like, ‘Not a lot,’” Cann said. “It was the tiniest scoop ever. So I’m looking at her. She like walks away, but I’m like, I want to take an extra scoop so bad, but she’s looking, so I said, ‘Nah, I’m not going to take the extra scoop.’

Giants sign Randy Bullock, waive Tom Obarski

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said that the funny twist that kept him out of practice for a week with back spasms “brought me to my knees for a while.”

But Olsen insisted that the injury wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t have played had it been the regular season.

The two-time Pro Bowler didn’t indicate whether he would miss his second straight preseason game when Carolina takes on New England on Friday.

But judging by the way Olsen was kept out of contact drills despite being in full pads for Tuesday’s practice, it seems unlikely he will play more than a few snaps — if at all.

“It’s one of those things, he’s going to gradually work his way back into it,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re not in any hurry as far as he’s concerned. We know what Greg is and what he brings to us.”

“No,” he said. “Why should we cut him? Every guy needs a chance.”

When told what Brown was accused of, Pierre-Paul cut off the question and responded: “Who knows, you weren’t there.”

Giants general manager Jerry Reese and co-owner John Mara declined to speak with reporters over the weekend in Buffalo.

The Giants worked out Bullock and Garrett Hartley on Monday after backup kicker Tom Obarski missed a 28-yard field goal on Saturday in Buffalo. Bullock, 26, must’ve impressed, because Hartley made 7 of 8 field goals — including 53 and 56-yard attempts — during the tryout, according to a source.

Obarski was waived by the Giants on Monday when Bullock was signed.

Bullock, 26, finished last season with the New York Jets. He was released earlier in the season by the Houston Texans after he missed two extra point attempts and a field goal attempt in Houston’s first three games.

Cam Newton on criticism: ‘It’s not racism’

“I don’t even want to touch the topic of black quarterback, because I think this game is bigger than black, white or green,” Newton said in February before the game. “I think we limit ourselves when we just label ourselves just black, this, that and the third. I wanted to bring awareness because of that, but yet I don’t think I should be labeled just a black quarterback, because it’s bigger things in this sport that need to be accomplished.”

Asked by GQ about other hot-button national issues, Newton said he doesn’t have an opinion on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and wouldn’t say whether he voted for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

“I love people too much to care about those type of things,” Newton told GQ.

McCrory’s controversial House Bill 2, which eliminated antidiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, has brought scrutiny to North Carolina and led to the NBA removing the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, the city where Newton leads the defending NFC champion Panthers.

Newton said he would rather let people develop their own opinions rather than advocate for his positions.

“I’ll let you be the judge. I don’t look at it like that,” he told GQ. “I look at it like some people have certain beliefs, and I have my own belief, and we can agree to disagree on certain things. But this is what makes sports so amazing, that we can start a discussion around a table, in the newspaper, in the magazines, that will get people’s attention. And that’s what sports does.”

Newton also said he would let his son, Chosen, who was born in December, play football when he grows up.

GQ released its September cover story featuring Newton on Monday.

Like many NFL players competing to keep a roster spot at this time, Seattle Seahawks’ Tyvis Powell really wants to keep his job on the roster.

So much so, he’d be willing to be the “water boy,” if that’s what it took.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Stephen Cohen tweeted quotes from Powell on the lengths he would go to get that roster spot.

“Whatever it’s going to take me to make this 53-man roster — I don’t care if they tell me, ‘Tyvis, we need you to get the water for everybody.’ I’m going to be the best water boy in America,” said Powell. “They say, ‘Tyvis go take a rep at corner.’ I go to corner. ‘Tyvis, go to safety.’ I go to safety. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”

Powell showed real potential in the Seahawks’ first preseason game with some solid plays, including a big block and an interception. Because of his performance Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, he received major praise from head coach Pete Carroll, ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia reports.

Julio Jones on being first WR to hit 2,000 yards: ‘Definitely think it’s possible

And that’s what Jones will be working with again in 2016. So, Jones has the quarterback.

He also has the schedule, mainly in the form of facing the Saints’ defense — or whatever it is they trot out there every season — twice. Last year, the Saints defense allowed 284 passing yards per game, the second-worst average in the league. Then again, Jones does have to go up against the NFC and AFC West, which means he’ll see cornerbacks like Richard Sherman, Chris Harris, and Patrick Peterson. Factor in the possibility of double teams, which Jones alluded to, and it’s tough to imagine anyone topping Megatron on the leaderboard.

Good luck in Houston.

Broncos president of operations John Elway took a jab at Brock Osweiler, who bolted Denver for a four-year, $72 million deal with the Texans, over his reaction to being benched for Peyton Manning.

“I can understand that he didn’t want to sit down and have Peyton come back in that San Diego game, but it wasn’t the fact that Brock was playing bad,” Elway told the Denver Post.

“We needed a change of something. So I was a little surprised just how he seemed to be a little bent out of shape about that. But he had an opportunity to make a tremendous amount of money in Houston, and for us, it just didn’t fit.”

Osweiler had started seven straight games before the 2015 season finale against the Chargers, but with the Broncos trailing 13-7 at the half, the team turned to Manning, active for the first time in two months following a bout of plantar fasciitis. The Broncos won and stuck with Manning, despite his mediocre play, through their run to the Super Bowl.

Elway has taken some other digs at Osweiler this offseason, saying he was only interested in players “that want to be here.” Osweiler reportedly stopped answering calls from the Broncos coaching staff two weeks before making his free-agency decision.

Minnesota Vikings

Mike Zimmer wasn’t thrilled with how the VIkings practiced Monday; at one point, he stopped the session to make players do 10 pushups. In general, Zimmer said he has been happy with the way the Vikings have practiced. But in the team’s last practice before two days of work against the Bengals in Cincinnati, the Vikings will try to avoid a repeat of what happened last year, when Zimmer cut short their last practice in Mankato and made the team run a lap because of sloppy execution. — Ben Goessling

Donovan McNabb: Eagles’ quarterback moves ‘dumb’

McNabb is correct in that Pederson was brought in primarily to run the offense correctly to benefit the other 10 players on the field. If McNabb had played before he was ready and no other qualified quarterbacks were on the roster, no one would have been available to make sure plays were run properly.

Reid also expected Pederson to help McNabb in the meeting room, and to offer advice when McNabb came to the sideline once Reid did begin playing the rookie.

In 2016, Pederson is asking the same from Chase Daniel, the backup Pederson brought with him from Kansas City.

“Chase Daniel is not a bad player,” McNabb said. “Chase Daniel can hold the fort down for six, eight, 10 weeks and then, if things aren’t going well, you move a slow transition to Carson Wentz.”

Wentz should be playing by next season, McNabb said.

“Chicago will be a team we want to talk to on Aug. 15,” Vesey’s agent Peter Donatelli told Scott Powers of The Athletic over the phone Monday. “Chicago will be on the list, but it shouldn’t be read as they’re ahead of anyone else.

“He really has no idea where he’s going to be. It’s going to be up to the teams to sell him. … Yes, [we have criteria], but we’re interested in what the teams say rather than telling the teams what they have to say.”

Vesey is currently property of the Buffalo Sabres after the Nashville Predators, who originally drafted him with the No. 66 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, traded the 23-year-old left winger’s negotiating rights in June for a 2016 third-round selection when it became apparent the two sides wouldn’t be able to hammer out a deal.

What makes Vesey and Chicago a perfect match for each other is there’s a legitimate spot open in the top-six to potentially play alongside Jonathan Toews, and because Vesey would be signing an entry-level contract, the maximum allowable salary is $925,000 per year, which benefits the cap-strapped Blackhawks.

A sleeping defensive giant just may wake up this season in Jacksonville

The secondary is the one level of defense on which the Jaguars don’t have any holdovers from the previous era. They’ve used seven draft picks and three free agent signings over the last few offseasons to completely remake the group. Ramsey is the headliner, but they also selected Jonathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz with Day 1 and 2 picks, while picking up Josh Evans, Demetrius McCray, Aaron Colvin and James Sample on Day 3. Add to that the combined $66 million they handed Davon House, Prince Amukamara, and Tashaun Gipson, and you’ve got a totally revamped back-end of the defense. There’s some high-level talent there in Ramsey and Gipson, especially, solid contributors in House and Cyprien, and decent depth behind them.

The talent on the second level of the defense got a significant upgrade with the selection of Jack, as well. He’s a full-field player at linebacker, one who should help offset the deficiencies of a group that includes Posluszny, recent draft pick Telvin Smith, and 2015 free-agent signing Dan Skuta. That, too, is now a group with a bunch of talent that fits together nicely.

Of course, none of this spending and drafting means anything if the Jaguars don’t put it all together on the field in 2016. They’ve been remaking and revamping the defense the last few years, too, and they have yet to get the desired results. This year’s signings and draft picks, though, feel like a group designed to finally push the Jaguars defense over the top. You don’t drop $125-plus million and top-two round draft picks on defensive players without designs on pushing through to a different level.

The versatility of the players added over the last few years, and especially this offseason, should help. Ramsey can play corner on the inside or outside, as well as safety. Jack can play pretty much anywhere on the second or third level of a defense. Both of them are terrific athletes. (Jack’s utility may be time-limited due to his knee injury, but while he’s still able to be on the field, he should help a ton.)

Jackson has experience pushing the pocket inside and out, and if he looks for the Jaguars anything like he did during Denver’s Super Bowl run, should add a whole new dimension to the defense. Gipson, if the Jaguars get the 2014 version rather than 2015, is a terrific centerfielder to patrol behind their corners. And Fowler, if he comes back and resembles in any way the player he was at Florida, gives them the kind of pure pass rusher they simply haven’t had yet.

It will now be up to Bradley, new defensive coordinator Todd Wash, and the players themselves to make it all come together.

The 2016 draft class will start getting its first taste of NFL action this weekend. Teams can hold their one three-day rookie minicamp during the first two weekends after the NFL Draft. Some draft picks will already be under contract when the minicamps start.

The Minnesota Vikings got the ball rolling by signing sixth-round pick Moritz Boehringer of Germany, the first player ever drafted directly from a European league, to a four-year, $2,490,240 contract with a $150,420 signing bonus. A primary reason for getting Boehringer’s contract done so quickly is he must have proof of employment to obtain a work visa.

Keanu Neal is the first player taken in the first round to sign a contract. The Atlanta Falcons gave the 17th-overall pick a fully guaranteed four-year, $10,737,646 contract. The draft picks who don’t sign deals prior to minicamp will participate under agreements which will still pay them like their draft slot if any type of injury is sustained. Dante Fowler, Jr. received the same contract he would have gotten if healthy from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year as the third overall pick when he tore the ACL in his left knee during the first practice of minicamp. Rarely does a draft pick refuse to participate in the rookie minicamp because his deal hasn’t been completed.

Here are seven financially related thoughts and observations relating to the draft.

So he thought.

In the four weeks after our sit down at The Fischer Institute, at the end of what was a long, arduous, sometimes lonely, rehab process, Jack’s football life took a hit bigger than he will ever make on the football field. He fell out of the first round and the Jaguars picked him with the fifth pick in the second round, trading up to do so.

“Still to this day, it’s hard to go back and retrace it because it stirs me up,” Jack said during a break from his the Jaguars rookie orientation. “It cost me. The bottom line is it cost me. It’s something I have to deal with the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I am living the dream. Bottom line is that I am in the NFL. I am going to be in Madden (the game). That’s wild. I don’t want anybody to take it out of context. But it cost me.”

Has he calculated how much?

“I try not to,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about it.”

As he sat in a room inside EverBank Field discussing the process, the emotional pain was still real. Several times he mentioned how hard it was to go back and re-visit his free fall out of the first round.

“All anybody wanted to talk about was my knee,” Jack said. “It was my knee, knee, knee, knee.”