Monday, August 31, 2020

SEE IT: Pictures from Washington Football Team's social justice meeting


Ryan Homler

NBC Sports Washington

Aug 27, 2020, 6:53 PM

 Rather than holding a practice on Thursday, the Washington Football Team opted to hold a team-wide conversation about the social injustice and police brutality in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake.

The move echoed that of other players and teams across the sports landscape, as games in the NBA, NHL, MLB, WNBA and MLS have been postponed in order to put a greater focus on the issues in the country. Head coach Ron Rivera -- who headed the decision with team president Jason Wright -- detailed how the conversation went during a press conference on Thursday.

An intense yet progressive time, the team shared photos from the open dialogue.

During his retelling of the meeting, Rivera noted that it was an opportunity for numerous members of the team to speak up about their feelings and personal experiences. Though numerous different emotions, including anger and frustration, were expressed, Rivera saw the conversation as a success.

"We had a conversation with our players," Rivera said. "We created an opportunity for them to have a forum and a discussion as to what's been going on in our world today. What it's like and how they're feeling. We wanted to listen to them and hear them and give them an opportunity to have a voice."

"I thought the meeting went very well. I thought the players were very candid, very open about their feelings and expressed them," Rivera said.

Looking at the photos, one can see Rivera's descriptions come to life. The expression on the head coach's face is one of seriousness. The same can be said for veterans Adrian Peterson and Thomas Davis. The focus in their eyes, as well as those listening around them, demonstrated just how involved every member of the team was in the dialogue.

No picture may be more powerful than the one of offensive lineman Brandon Scherff. A leader of the team, Scherff can be seen taking notes as he listens to others share their thoughts and feelings. The point of the conversation was for everyone to get a better understanding of what others have gone through, and Scherff is doing just that.

Rivera stated in his press conference that the team and staff were "challenged to come up with a cause, come up with something that we can do," to help invoke change in the community. He believed his team was up to the task, and the pictures here support that.

Titans' Mike Vrabel talks Isaiah Wilson's development, Will Compton's return, Vic Beasley


Mike Moraitis 


The Tennessee Titans hit the practice field for their 10th full-squad session of training camp on Friday after taking a day off to address social justice issues in wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Afterwards, head coach Mike Vrabel did his normal presser with the media and touched on a number of topics, including rookie offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson’s development, inside linebacker Will Compton’s return, and he gave his latest non-answer to a question about outside linebacker Vic Beasley.

Here’s a look at everything Vrabel had to say about those topics when speaking to the media on Friday afternoon.

On Will Compton's return

George Walker IV /


Compton was one of two familiar faces the Titans brought back in recent days, with the other being running back Jeremy McNichols. Both players made their 2020 camp debuts on Friday.

As far as the former is concerned, Vrabel likes the intelligence and energy Compton brings to the team.

The role Vrabel is talking about will likely be on special teams, but Compton will also be vying for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart behind Jayon Brown, Rashaan Evans and David Long with Nick Dzubnar.

Compton’s return is bad news for UDFA Cale Garrett, who was once thought to be a possibility to make the roster. Barring the Titans carrying a sixth inside linebacker, which is unlikely, Garrett is looking like a cut. However, he’d likely end up on the practice squad if another team doesn’t grab him.

Chiefs stock report: Who’s rising and who’s falling as camp nears its end?


By Nate Taylor Aug 27, 2020


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Saturday, the Chiefs will have their last semi-unusual dress rehearsal. The team will welcome a maximum of 5,000 fans into Arrowhead Stadium for the team’s second open practice for season-ticket holders.

The Chiefs will use Saturday’s practice kind of how they operate during a normal exhibition game. With no preseason games amid the coronavirus pandemic, coach Andy Reid has felt that every repetition for his players in this year’s training camp has been precious. The Chiefs are a veteran team, and the coaches are likely to keep as many such players on their opening-night roster since the usual long shots on the 80-man roster, the undrafted free agents, haven’t been able to prove themselves in a game setting.

“We have to make decisions off of practice,” said Dave Toub, the Chiefs’ special-teams coordinator. “We meet every night as a (coaching) staff and we evaluate each guy and put grades on them. Everybody hears what each guy says, so we know where everybody stands.”

Since the Chiefs play in the NFL’s first game this season — as the league’s reigning champions — the team is expected to have its cutdown day to a 53-man roster a few days sooner than the league-mandated time of 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 5.

As we detailed in our updated roster projection on Aug. 13 (before the Chiefs’ padded practices), some players have had impressive performances in camp to elevate their odds of being on the active roster next month. On the flip side, some players have struggled in camp or haven’t made as big of an impact as they would’ve hoped.

Below are 14 players whose stock is either ascending or dipping for the Chiefs entering this weekend.

Ben Niemann, LB

“Sexy” is not the best word to describe Niemann’s play or abilities. But Niemann, a third-year veteran, does just about everything right. He’s a good tackler and a better blitzer than people realize, plays zone coverage pretty well, can be trusted on special teams and has shown to have the best hands among the linebackers in catching interceptions. Earlier in camp, Reid said the biggest improvement in Niemann was his increased strength.

“I’ve got to agree with Coach,” linebackers assistant Matt House said Thursday. “Strength and then also just the confidence. Last year, as he developed a bigger and bigger role, he grew more confident. This year, being in the second year doing similar things, his confidence has improved.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tennessee Titans: What Will Compton can bring to the team on the field


By Chris Clark


Just days after the sad news of the Tennessee Titans waiving Cole McDonald, news broke that they are bringing in fan favorite linebacker Will Compton for a tryout. Yes, you read that correctly: “The BOY” Will Compton.

If you aren’t a Tennessee Titans fan, you may be wondering who Compton is. Well, let me tell you. Compton became a Titans sensation in 2018 after he joined the team via Free Agency. He was brought in by Washington, as an undrafted free agent, in 2013. He has played seven seasons, five in Washington.

Compton is mostly known for his role as a co-host on the popular podcast based in Nashville, Bussin’ With The Boys, with Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan. If you’ve ever heard the saying, “FOR THE BOYS,” he and Lewan started that famous mantra that’s used occasionally by the Titans social media accounts, and a lot by Tennessee Titans fans.

Even though Compton is a fan favorite off the field because of his relatable personality, he is productive on the field as well. When he played in Tennessee in 2018, he had 16 tackles playing as more of a role player. With the Raiders, where he played a more prominent role, he racked up 41 tackles after joining the team midseason. That productivity is a must for the Titans defense.

The Tennessee Titans inside linebackers are young, and are led by Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. After those guys, there aren’t many notable names that can make a consistent impact. Compton would provide much-needed depth and experience, especially in a season with no preseason.

It is also notable that Compton played under head coach Mike Vrabel before, and during his short stint with the Raiders he was given the green dot, which allows him to communicate directly with the defensive coordinator during games to make adjustments. That is a representation of his knowledge on defense as a player, and already having experience with the Titans makes him that much more valuable.

Compton doesn’t just add value to the defense, though, but also from a special teams standpoint. Around half of Compton’s 16 tackles in 2018 with the Titans came on special teams. Titans General Manager Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel have consistently raved about how important special teams is during their tenures in Tennessee. Robinson loves picking up players that can play dual roles in both offense/defense and special teams.

But, aside from all the on the field experience he brings, the Tennessee Titans should bring Compton in simply because he is a Titan at heart. When the Titans faced the Raiders in 2019, Compton ended up with a loss on the field, but a win for his wardrobe as he was gifted seven jerseys during jersey swaps with his former teammates.


We will see if he is signed after his tryout, but adding Will Compton wouldn’t hurt the Tennessee Titans at all. He is a respected player within the locker room, and a beloved player among the fan base. This move seems like a no-brainer.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Flowers benefitting from a healthy start to camp


Aug 23, 2020 at 07:47 AM

Tim Twentyman

Senior Writer


This time last year during Lions training camp, veteran defensive end Trey Flowers had only been off the physically unable to perform list for a little over a week. He was trying to get himself back into football shape after rehabbing a shoulder injury all of last offseason.


That late start a year ago resulted in a bit of a slow start to his regular season. But after a month or so of getting his legs under him and fine tuning some technique work, Flowers started to turn it on.


From Weeks 8-17 last year, Flowers' 18 quarterback hits were the third most by any defensive end over that span. He ended the season recording at least 50 tackles, 7.0 sacks and two forced fumbles for a second consecutive season. He and Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt are the only players to have that stat line the last two years. What would those numbers have looked like without the slow start?


What a difference a year has made for Flowers. He's had an entire offseason to train, and has been full go from the start of this year's training camp.

 "It's definitely beneficial for me," Flowers said about being a full participant to start camp this season. "I'm a fundamental guy, technique guy, and the thing about defensive linemen is our contact is right off the ball, so our fundamentals and our footwork and hand placement and all of that has to be precise.

 "I think me being able to work on that this year and work on that precision and work on that accuracy will definitely allow me to be further along and be ready once the season comes."


That's a big plus for a Lions defense needing its best player to hit the ground running starting Week 1 vs. Chicago if they're going to get off to a good start and be a much improved unit than they were a year ago.

 The Lions' defense has a lot of new pieces. Flowers touched on the importance of adding players this offseason like safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, veteran players with a good track record of success and production in a similar style defense coming over from the New England Patriots this offseason.

 "Obviously they add a lot of successful experience, just success in this defense and understanding that this defense works and understanding what it takes to make this defense to work," Flowers said.

Observations: Lions TE T.J. Hockenson shines with pair of impressive touchdowns


Updated Aug 22, 7:08 PM; Posted Aug 22, 7:08 PM

Carlos Osorio
Detroit Lions training camp, August 22, 2020
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson catches during a drill at the Lions NFL football camp practice, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
By Benjamin Raven |
ALLEN PARK -- Stop me if you've heard this one before, but T.J. Hockenson is having one heck of a good week at training camp.
Hockenson shined for the Detroit Lions, who ditched the pads for the first time of the week on Saturday. The second-year tight end raised concerns with his ankle earlier in the week but has produced at a rate that it’s getting easier to believe him when he says he’s 100%. Last year’s eighth-overall pick caught two touchdown passes during red-area drills, with one from Matthew Stafford and the other from Chase Daniel.

On the first, Hockenson made a tightly-contested catch with cornerback Amani Oruwariye in coverage. The two collided at the point of the catch, sending Hockenson’s towel shooting into the air like it fired out of a t-shirt cannon. He then turned to the sideline and powered home a Gronk Spike in celebration. Lucky for you, the Lions were rolling for this play:

His second score came on a roll from Daniel, which set up some more time for fun in the end zone.

Hockenson didn't just shine during this drill, as his one-on-one reps against safeties Tracy Walker and Jayron Kearse have been highly entertaining. The tight end got the best of both on Saturday, absolutely burning Walker with a fake inside before quickly flattening his route. Walker had nothing but praise for Hockenson's move: "I seen that (expletive) coming, too!"

Hockenson’s release and ability to seal a defender stand out through the first couple of days. He looks more physical, and the connection with Stafford is jumping off the page.

"He loves the game of football. He's a simple guy, just wants to go out and play ball and block and catch and you know, be a tight end," Lions coach Matt Patricia said of Hockenson earlier this week. "Those guys are a little bit different anyways. I think you can hopefully feel that from him, his excitement from that today. I think knowing T.J., last year and kind of where he was in the draft and all that, there's a lot of pressure.

 "It's a lot of pressure for a first-year guy, and certainly -- you know, come out the gates with a great game and then just a little bit, up and down, the injuries and all the rest of it. I think for him he just feels like, 'OK, you know what, I'm settled in. It's the second year. Let me see if I can just try to get better. Let me see if I can improve and let's just go have some fun. So, it's good to see that. You can really tell on his face. Certainly, you know, his hair looks good. So, he's ready to roll."

Monday, August 17, 2020

Former Colts and Ohio State WR Anthony Gonzalez Is Finding Success Back in the Buckeye State


on August 16, 2020

Anthony Gonzalez was a stellar wide receiver at Ohio State and ultimately led the Buckeyes to a lot of success. He then entered the NFL and caught passes from the great Peyton Manning on the Indianapolis Colts. Gonzalez's NFL career, however, was ultimately short-lived, but he is now having a ton of success in a job that is very, very different than his previous one on the football field. It happens to be back in the Buckeye state too.

Anthony Gonzalez was a star for the Ohio State Buckeyes

Before entering the NFL, Gonzalez played under Jim Tressel on the Ohio State Buckeyes. After going 8-4 and winning the Alamo Bowl in 2004, the Buckeyes became an excellent team, and Gonzalez became an excellent receiver, in the next two seasons.

In 2005, Gonzalez caught 28 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Buckeyes — led by a defense that featured A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Malcolm Jenkins — went 10-2 and won the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame.

The 2006 season was then an incredible one for the Buckeyes and Gonzalez. He caught 51 passes that season for 734 yards and eight touchdowns, and Ohio State was dominant on offense and defense. 

Along with Gonzalez, the Buckeyes had Troy Smith at quarterback, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy that season, and Ted Ginn Jr., who is still catching passes in the NFL. They also had Antonio Pittman at running back, who ran for 1,233 yards and 14 touchdowns that year. On defense, the Buckeyes had Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, and future sixth overall pick Vernon Gholston.

That stacked Buckeyes roster got off to a 12-0 start and went to the BCS National Championship Game before losing to the Florida Gators.

He played for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL

Anthony Gonzalez of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball against the Houston Texans on Nov. 1, 2010. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Gonzalez’s play at Ohio State led to the Indianapolis Colts selecting him in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. The Colts had just come off a Super Bowl win in 2006 and then also had some excellent teams in the years that Gonzalez played for them.

In his first season, Gonzalez had a nice year as he caught 37 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns. The Colts ultimately went 13-3, but lost in the Divisional Round to the San Diego Chargers. 

Gonzalez was then even better in his second season, catching 57 passes for 664 yards and four touchdowns. The Colts went 12-4 that season too but lost to the Chargers in the playoffs again.

That was unfortunately the end of Gonzalez’s success in the NFL, though. He only played in 11 games combined over the next three seasons, and only caught five more passes for 67 yards. According to Bleacher Report, Gonzalez ultimately dealt with multiple knee injuries, which limited him to only 40 career games in the NFL. He signed with the New England Patriots before the 2012 season but did not play in one game with them.

Anthony Gonzalez has become a politician in the Buckeye state

After his NFL career, Gonzalez went to Stanford Business School and then had a career in the technology industry, according to his website. However, he later returned to Ohio, where he had also lived prior to playing at Ohio State.

Gonzalez then ultimately launched a career in politics. In 2018, he ran for a House of Representatives seat in Ohio. After winning the Republican primary, Gonzalez faced Democrat Susan Moran Palmer for the House seat that represents Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

In November 2018, Gonzalez defeated Palmer with 56.7% of the vote, according to The Washington Post. During his campaign, Gonzalez received donations from Peyton Manning, former Colts receiver Austin Collie, and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, reported.

Since being elected, Gonzalez has been working toward introducing a bill regarding the use of college athletes’ name, image, and likeness, according to USA Today. President Donald Trump also chose him to serve on the Opening Up America Again Congressional Group. Gonzalez has additionally supported the college football season being played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I learned more in that college football environment than I did in any classroom or in any other environment that I’ve ever been in,” Gonzalez said, per USA Today, “and I know that I’m not alone in that. So, to take that opportunity away from these kids, many of whom come from some of the most difficult backgrounds that this country has to offer, I think is catastrophic for them.”

After an excellent college career at Ohio State, Anthony Gonzalez is still having success in the Buckeye state. It will be interesting to see how his political career pans out.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference

Friday, August 14, 2020

Bill Beekman says Mel Tucker has done ‘extraordinary job’ amid unprecedented challenges


8/14/20 6:00 AM

First-year Michigan State coach Mel Tucker oversees practice on Aug. 7, 2020.Photo courtesy of Michigan State athletics

By Matt Wenzel |

Mel Tucker was hired for a job that came with plenty of existing challenges.

In the six months that have passed, they have increased in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

The first-year Michigan State football coach’s progress has been continually thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in the Big Ten on Tuesday canceling all fall sports with the possibility of playing in the spring.


“With all of that said, I think that Mel has done an absolutely extraordinary job,” Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman said during a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “I couldn’t be more proud of the work that he’s been able to accomplish under what, by any definition, are just the most challenging of circumstances.


“From how he’s worked with the players to help them learn the playbook, again using remote technology, and with all of them at the time in their homes, to really everything allowable under NCAA rules. … He’s done a great job with our donor base, having conversations like this with major donors and with alumni around the country.”


Mark Dantonio abruptly retired on Feb. 4 after 13 seasons coaching Michigan State and Tucker was hired eight days later after his first season as a head coach at Colorado. He finalized his assistant coaching staff before the end of the month and was ready to tackle the next challenges for a team that was coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons.


Michigan State needed to replace half its starters on offense and defense and install new schemes under a new head coach and new coordinators on offense, defense and special teams. Just as they were about to start doing so, the rug was pulled out from under them. Spring practice was canceled on March 13 – four days before it was scheduled to begin – and players and coaches were sent home.


There wasn’t a way to actually replace losing 15 spring practices but Tucker and his staff used videoconferences to install schemes and an app to quiz players on their ability to understand them. Players returned to campus in June for COVID-19 testing ahead of voluntary workouts and transitioned into an NCAA-approved extended summer schedule on July 13. Positive COVID-19 results led to the entire team being put in quarantine for two weeks before resuming workouts on Aug. 5. Fall camp practice started two days later and just four days after that the season was scrapped.


“Is it challenging? Absolutely,” Beekman said. “Do other coaches have an advantage having a known playbook that they’ve worked on with their students for years? Probably. Some of our schools in the Big Ten had as many as 10 days of spring practice and we didn’t have any. That’s another hurdle. But at every step of the way Mel’s plan is to overcome and make no excuses and succeed on the field of play.”


The pandemic also resulted in four Michigan State players publicly opting out of the season in senior starting defensive end Jacub Panasiuk, senior starting right tackle Jordan Reid, redshirt freshman linebacker Marcel Lewis and true freshman offensive lineman Justin Stevens. Those decisions were announced before the fall season was scrapped.


Beekman is optimistic about the potential of playing a spring season, although there are plenty of complications associated with doing so. Meanwhile, the team continues to have organized workouts in small groups with strength and conditioning staff members.


Off the field, Tucker’s ability to recruit has been hampered. He was able to bring some recruits to campus in mid-March before the NCAA implemented a recruiting dead period that has been continually extended and now lasts through at least Sept. 30. With a ban on in-person recruiting, Tucker and his staff have been limited to communicating electronically with prospects.


“I can’t say enough about how, under the most daunting of circumstances, he just sort of picks up his lunch pail and goes to work and conquers the next task,” Beekman said of Tucker. “And from my perspective that’s, not to get too schmaltzy on you, that’s exactly the Spartan, can-do, blue collar, roll up your sleeves attitude that we’re looking for and that I think so many of our coaches and our student-athletes exhibit.”


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Riley Reiff on Vikings Preparations: 'Every Minute's Crucial'


Aug 10, 2020 at 03:19 PM

Eric Smith

Team Reporter

EAGAN, Minn. — Riley Reiff is a grizzled veteran in the NFL, and not just because of the wooly beard he sports along the offensive line.


The starting left tackle also has 112 career starts between his time in Minnesota and Detroit, which makes him the most experienced lineman the Vikings have on either side of the line.


The other offensive linemen on Minnesota's roster have 129 combined career starts, and that's split up between seven players. A handful of linemen — five of them — have never played an NFL snap.


So yes, as Reiff enters his ninth season after being a first-round pick back in 2012, it's safe to say he's looked at as a leader along the line.


And with such a unique offseason in the books, it's a role that Reiff — a team captain in his first three seasons in Purple — is embracing even more.


"Obviously being the oldest guy, I think they kind of put that in there, but I'm an open book," Reiff said Monday in a rare chat with the Twin Cities media. "If anybody has a question to me, I welcome it, actually.


"I don't have everything figured out, either. There's a lot of stuff that still, even going into Year 9, where I'm asking questions," Reiff added. "These young guys, I hope they reach out to me and ask me about this or that."


And to be clear, Reiff will take on that responsibility from his usual left tackle spot. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said as much last week, and Reiff emphasized again Monday there wasn't much chatter about him potentially moving to guard.


"I didn't hear anything about that," Reiff said. "Heck, I'll play whatever as long as it helps the team."


So as Reiff enters his ninth season overall and fourth in Minnesota, he'll be tasked once again with protecting Kirk Cousins' blindside and opening up holes for a rushing attack that consistently wants to pound the ball.


He drew Kubiak's praise a week ago for his professionalism and work ethic.


"I think Riley played really well for us last year," Kubiak said. "I think we can do some things offensively and me as a play caller to help all our players and help Riley more, from that standpoint.


"I'm a big Riley Reiff fan. I love him as a person, a player and a leader on our team. Nobody comes here more ready to work than Riley. It showed," Kubiak added. "We haven't seen these guys [practice yet], but watching him walk in, you can see his detail. Expecting Riley to have a great year."


Reiff rattled off a few things he's focused on as camp ramps up, and also touched on getting the chance for some offensive continuity.


And although Kubiak will be Reiff's fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons, the South Dakota native said he's looking forward to being in a similar scheme again. Kubiak did not call plays in 2020, but he did have a strong influence on the offensive system.


"We went through a few offensive coordinators and they've all been great. Some things I'd like to work on are obviously pass pro," Reiff said. "I think I can get better in run blocking, too. It's just going out there and being consistent every week. That's what pros do. I'm looking forward to going out there and putting in the work and then producing on game days.


"We've got total trust in Gary. Gary's been around, and Gary's won football games," Reiff later added. "I'm excited to play in this offense, and it's a fun offense, and we're putting in the work right now and getting ready for that home opener."


It remains to be seen how the starting five along the offensive line shakes out, but three starters to pencil in as of now appear to be Reiff and Brian O'Neill at the tackle spots, along with second-year center Garrett Bradbury.


O'Neill has started 26 games, and Bradbury became the first Vikings rookie to start all 16 games of a season at center. Pat Elflein, who ranks second on the line with 42 total starts, played center in his first two seasons then shifted to left guard in 2019.


Elflein could be back in that role again, or the Vikings may take a look at other players during practices in leading up to a scheduled Week 1 home game against the Packers on Sept. 13.


As the Vikings embark on a season that could look different from all others — Minnesota will rely on its most-veteran lineman to help get his group ready to go both on and off the field.


"We haven't been here long," Reiff said. "There's some familiar faces back and then there's some new guys. With the offseason we've had, every minute's crucial. Excited to get to work with them more as camp progresses. We've just got to put in the time together, that's how the O-line jells.


"I've been in the room with them, but with split fields and stuff, I haven't been able to see them that much. They seem like a real smart group, and I'm excited to help them in any way that I can," Reiff added. "I've been around. I mean, I wasn't here in the lockout year, but it's going to happen fast, the season's going to come up on us. I know it sounds generic, but the minutes that we do get to work this camp are going to be crucial."

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