NFL General Talk: Training Camp Looms
I like to view the date the league chooses every year to announce the team to be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” as the official start to my excitement for the new season. I’m not a big draft guy, and OTAs and rookie minicamps are “meh” to me, at best. However, when the “Hard Knocks” news arrives, that’s when things feel real.
And sure, there has been some stinkers over the years. The Rams were boring, the Bengals were so uninteresting, I was shocked they were picked twice. I didn’t even watch last year’s version with the Browns. I saw a couple clips and I was fine.
Those dull memories have faded into the ether. Because the NFL has dropped the most welcome package on my doorstep with the Oakland Raiders. Those Raiders. The Silver and Black. With names like GRUDEN and BROWN and soon to be LAS VEGAS. I couldn’t be happier. The only way it could be more delicious is if Colin Kaepernick was added to the mix.
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The show has its cliche elements, as there’s always the scrappy young guy fighting for a roster spot. Of course, don’t forget the guy who looks promising, but suffering a devastating injury during some minor drill that derails his pro hopes before they get off the ground.
The only difference this year is Jon Gruden will be involved.
“Awww, man, I love that kid, man. He’s a thumper! He just loves football, man, and that’s the guy I love.”
“Awww, man, I loved that kid, man. I hope he gets back soon, man, because he’s a guy who was born to be a Raider.”
Stephen A. Smith was shouting a couple days ago that if Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict don’t get into a fight at some point during training camp, then the show is fake. Sometimes, the man shouts the truth. These two guys are destined to scrap at some point, and I can guarantee you there will be a tight shot of Gruden standing nearby with a maniacal grin on his face.
Let’s not forget Antonio Brown. The showman. The man whose years in Pittsburgh ended with hurt feelings, to say the least. Actually, Brown has been seemingly filled with rancor at his former team and hasn’t been shy about calling out JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, and more.
The HBO cameras will love him. I’ve already got my popcorn in the microwave.
Alrighty, with minicamps going on before teams go on break before the start of training camps, here are some things I have on my mind.
Dak’s money truck
This is amazing. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has a year left on his rookie contract, which wasn’t much of a financial windfall (in NFL terms) since he was a fourth-round draft pick. However, his agent has, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “broached” a deal in the range of $34 million per year.
When you add in the final year of his current deal, the four-year contract extension would end up averaging $27.6 million per year at signing. That would mean he would make slightly more than Jimmy Garoppolo, and while the 49ers quarterback has a ton of hype, he’s done little more than win a couple regular season games and suffer injuries during his NFL career.
People would consider Prescott’s contract “team friendly.” First of all, that’s disgusting. Only in the NFL can someone be doing a team a favor by accepting $34 million per year. But hey, that’s the market for the position these days.
And it’s not like he hasn’t had success. It’s fashionable to take shots at Prescott, but the man has reached the playoffs twice in three seasons and even won a game. That’s more that can be said for Kirk Cousins ($28M per year at signing). So, I’m on board. Pay him. Pay that man his money.
You carried a microphone, now carry a team
Todd McShay is an affable young man who works for ESPN and handles — along with Mel Kiper — the network’s draft coverage. He’s quite the storehouse of information. If you have an obscure prospect, the man has at least a few minutes worth of information on him.
Eyebrows were raised around the football world when he recently affirmed that he was being considered for a job in the Jets’ front office. Whoa. Now, this shouldn’t be a complete surprise because the Raiders — more “Hard Knocks” fun! — rocked the world by making NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock their new general manager. Yet, it still feels wrong in some way.
The good news is McShay later said he would be staying put at ESPN. Good, those two worlds don’t need to start mixing heavily with each other.
There’s something about Todd
There’s nothing Americans love more than a good conspiracy theory. And the truth about Todd Gurley’s knee is out there. We just haven’t cracked the code yet.
The Rams spent a pretty penny for their star running back and it seemed like a smart investment until the latter half of last season. He disappeared from view with a vague sounding injury and when he returned, things just seemed off. There were rumors, innuendo and several confusing press conferences from head coach Sean McVay. They had supreme confidence in him during the week, but on Sundays, he was clearly a second option behind C.J. Anderson.
And after a disastrous Super Bowl performance, things haven’t been cleared up in the offseason. Is he healthy? Maybe? I hope to find out the truth one day before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
The Tyreek Hill situation has been ugly, to say the least. Anyone who listened to those audio tapes couldn’t help but shudder. However, the Kansas City district attorney says the case involving the wide receiver, his fiancee and his son is no longer active and head coach Andy Reid hasn’t said a word about Hill’s roster status.
I guess we’ll have to wait a few weeks. If Hill shows up at training camp, we’ll know. And that’s when some very uncomfortable questions must be asked.
Sleepy time in Seattle
Once upon a time, anyone who wanted a strong opinion just crashed the Seahawks locker room. There were a plethora of men just waiting for the first available microphone so they could expound on a variety of NFL and social injustices. Those days are over.
Michael Bennett: gone. Richard Sherman and the entire Legion of Boom are history. And the only sound you can hear coming from the Pacific Northwest is yet another cliched-filled Russell WIlson interview. It’s yet to be seen if this is a good thing, but the good news is head coach Pete Carroll is excited about the way his offensive line is coming together. And with an already strong running game, it might be the dawning of a new age for the 12’s.
Eli or Danny Boy?
Daniel Jones became the butt of every joke in snarkdom when the Giants took him with the No. 6 overall pick. That makes me want to root for him, even though I might be the last remaining Eli Manning apologist.
Apparently, Jones has been getting “rave reviews” in practice. That’s great. I’m happy for him. I’ve also seen reports that Manning is still the clear cut No. 1 on the depth chart and has been taking all the first-team reps during OTA’s and minicamps. So, Eli can rest easy going into the break before training camp, right?
Pshaw, please. This is 2019, people! The media isn’t going to stop asking the “Eli or Daniel?” question, no matter how many times head coach Pat Shurmur gives the same answer before pulling his hair out and taking a bite out of the podium. This is going to carry into the preseason and will be brought up every time Manning throws an incomplete. We’ve all seen his movie before.
My early prediction: Jones will be the starter by Week 10.
It’s the middle of June and the Bears still don’t have an answer at kicker. Got it, let’s move on.
The circus won’t close
The Browns have an improved roster and are magnets for microphones this offseason. The latest drama has some players being upset about Baker Mayfield’s critical comments about running back Duke Johnson, who has been asking for a trade.
Much like the Seahawks of old, when you have that many outspoken people in one locker room, it’s just chum in the water for the media. And since people have content to fill before the start of training camp, expect many mysterious “sources” to surface with tales of locker room intrigue.
One more for the road …
One offseason ago, the Patriots seemingly signed and released about a dozen wide receivers. This year, it seems it will be the same story, only for tight ends.
The team has a void to fill with Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. They signed Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in free agency. He’s already gone. Rinse and repeat. It’s the Patriot Way.
We all know they’ll still end up in the Super Bowl.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.