As Jamal Adams’ time with the New York Jets was nearing its end, one NFL talent evaluator made a bold prediction, saying the Seattle Seahawks would have the league’s best secondary if they were to land the All-Pro safety.
Even if it isn’t the second coming of the Legion of Boom, this group has the potential to be a force in a way it hasn’t been since Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas III last played together early in 2017. What was a question mark at the beginning of the offseason now looks like a strength with the acquisition of Adams following that of Quinton Dunbar, who won’t face charges in his armed-robbery case.
With two Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro selection in three NFL seasons, Adams’ pedigree is on a different level.
“There’s so many things that he does well that we’re excited about fitting that together as we move forward,” coach Pete Carroll said last week. “It doesn’t seem like uncharted territory for me at all because I’ve been very fortunate and have coached some really, really good safeties over the years, and I see traits of Jamal in all of those guys. He can do everything that we want a guy to do.”
Carroll cited Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu, whom he coached at USC, as a good comparison for Adams, their dissimilar physical profile aside.
“There’s some real similarities,” Carroll said. “Forget the stature part of it, the way they look. It’s the nature that they play with is similar. They play with such amazing confidence that when they see things, they go get things.”
The feeling inside the Virginia Mason Athletic Center is that Adams is a better player than Chancellor and Thomas, which is saying something given Thomas’ Hall of Fame trajectory. With two career interceptions, he’s not a ballhawk like Thomas, nor is he as big of a thumper as Chancellor (few are), but the Seahawks see Adams as more athletic and better in coverage than Chancellor while being the most versatile of the three given his ability to match up on speedy tight ends and get after the quarterback as a blitzer.
Taking advantage of Adams’ pass-rushing skills will be part of their plan to be more aggressive in creating pressure. His 6.5 sacks with the Jets last season were 2.5 more than any Seahawk recorded on the way to only 28 as a team.
“Perfect fit for their D,” a talent evaluator from another team said of Adams, adding that he gives the Seahawks the Chancellor-type presence they’ve been missing.
The same evaluator described him as tough, a great leader and a tone-setter, which illustrates another reason the Seahawks thought highly enough of Adams to justify the two first-round picks (and then some) they parted with to acquire him: the impact they feel his personality can have in their locker room.
There was a ruthlessness that defined the Legion of Boom as much as talent. Brandon Browner, once the NFL’s most physical cornerback, welcomed Terrell Owens to training camp by driving the future Hall of Famer into the turf, then stepping over him with an Allen Iverson-like punctuation. Sherman shied away from no one and would tangle with anyone in practice, even his best friend, Doug Baldwin. Thomas was so intense that he hardly cracked a smile during a 2013 press conference celebrating his record contract extension. Chancellor was one of the league’s most feared players, a team captain and a tone-setter on the field and in the locker room.
The Seahawks have gotten away from those types of strong personalities, perhaps out of overcorrection. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that, after messy divorces from Thomas and Sherman, Carroll and general manager John Schneider have recently shown more of an inclination to players who are easier to manage. While that might have meant fewer headaches, the Seahawks feel their locker room has lost some of its edge.
Adams gives them what they’ve been missing in that regard — a dominant personality whose presence will elevate their younger defensive backs.
Carroll, who’s experienced both edges of the alpha-male sword, said a deep dive into Adams’ background gave the Seahawks confidence that he would fit into their locker room and coexist with their coaching staff. Adams publicly criticized coach Adam Gase during his contract dispute with the Jets.
“Just watch him play,” Carroll said. “Watch the juice that he brings. Watch the energy that he feels in playing this game that he loves and how that affects the people around him.
“You could see him be all fiery and interpret that like he’s being selfish or like he’s being overly outgoing or whatever — c’mon. This guy loves what he does and he cares so much that the passion just exploded out of him at times, which is exactly what you’ve seen in players that we’ve had in our program for years. So to have a chance to add that to our team, forget all the playmaking stuff. It’s that element of mentality that I’d love to add so that Bobby [Wagner] gets to play with a guy like and that [Jarran] Reed gets to play with a guy like that and Bruce [Irvin], and they’ll all feed off of each other.”
Which players are opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic? Now that the deadline has passed for players to notify their teams whether or not they are playing, we know that there are some significant players who won’t be taking the field this season.
There won’t be any preseason games this year, but the regular season is set to begin Sept. 10, with the Houston Texans traveling to Kansas City.
Players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out of the season. Players without risk can earn $150,000 for opting out.
Here are the players opting out of the 2020 season and what it means for their teams:
What it means: It might actually benefit Allison in the long run because as of now, Detroit’s top four returning receivers are all in contract years. While it’s expected Golladay will get extended, there might be more of an opportunity for a larger role in 2021, which his contract will carry over to, than this season. He was expected to be heavily in play for a backup role this season, competing with Geremy Davis, Victor Bolden, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham and fifth-round pick Quintez Cephus for roster spots. — Michael Rothstein
Beal, 23, was expected to be in the starting mix along with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine for a starting spot opposite offseason acquisition James Bradberry. Picked in the third round of the supplemental draft before the 2018 season, he sat out his rookie year because of a shoulder injury.
What it means: The Giants are now thin at cornerback, with Bradberry and Grant Haley the only real experienced players at the position. The likely solution is to add a veteran to the mix at some point. Former Patriot and Titan Logan Ryan is a realistic possibility. — Jordan Raanan
The Browns signed Billings this offseason on a one-year deal to combat their lack of depth up front last year. He would have been Cleveland’s top reserve defensive tackle, behind starters Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
What it means: After signing him to a one-year deal this offseason, the Browns were counting on Billings to solve the depth issues at defensive tackle that plagued them last year. With Billings out, third-round pick Jordan Elliott could step into a more important role up front. — Jake Trotter
Bolden, 30, was set to enter his ninth NFL season, and eighth in New England. He was going to earn $1.3 million in base salary in 2020, which was the final year of his contract. That will toll to 2021.
What it means: A valuable backup on offense because of his ability to run, catch and block, Bolden’s primary value to the Patriots came on special teams. Undrafted J.J. Taylor (Arizona) could be a primary beneficiary at running back — where the Patriots had been deep personnel-wise — while the special-teams contributions could come from a number of different spots. — Mike Reiss
Why he’s out: Cannon, 32, is set to receive the $350,000 higher-risk amount as a cancer survivor, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Cannon overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma after he was drafted in 2011.
What it means: A powerful right tackle who effectively moves bodies in the running game, Cannon’s play didn’t match 2018 levels last season, but he was still viewed as a capable starter. Yodny Cajuste, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve (quad) after the Patriots selected him in the third round out of West Virginia, now has a golden opportunity to emerge. — Mike Reiss
Chung, 32, had agreed to a two-year extension with the Patriots in May that included a $2 million signing bonus and base salary of $1.1 million. While the move was made to help the team create salary-cap space, it also provided Chung with upfront cash and reflected his status as a lock to be on the roster.
What it means: A projected starter next to Devin McCourty at safety, Chung’s versatility to cover tight ends and also play closer to the line of scrimmage while supporting against the run has great value to Bill Belichick. Top draft pick Kyle Dugger (second round, No. 37) of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne could now be thrust into a starting role, with veteran free-agent signing Adrian Phillips also in the mix. — Mike Reiss
Stephen A. Smith explains why he expects there to be an NFL season in 2020 despite concerns over the coronavirus.
What it means: He was the only receiver the Packers added this offseason in either free agency or the draft — in a year most on the outside believed receiver was their biggest need. Funchess would have competed with Allen Lazard for the No. 2 job. Now, the Packers essentially have the same collection of receivers with which they ended last season — subbing Equanimeous St. Brown (who was on IR) for Geronimo Allison (who left in free agency after a disappointing year). Once again, it looks as if it will be up to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to make the Packers’ receivers special — not the other way around. — Rob Demovsky
Why he’s out: Gilbert opted out because he’s considered high-risk, he said in a post on Twitter announcing his decision to not play in 2020. The 32-year-old missed all of last season with an ACL injury and returned to the Cardinals on a one-year deal worth a little more than $1 million. He’ll earn $350,000 because he’s considered high risk.
What it means: If there’s one position the Cardinals have depth, it’s right tackle. They have Gilbert’s replacement last season, Justin Murray, still on the roster, and drafted their tackle of the future, Josh Jones, in the third round this year. They also signed veteran offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum, who can play both tackle positions. The Cardinals won’t have Gilbert, the presumptive starter, but they have plenty of options to replace him. — Josh Weinfuss
Why he’s out: Goldman opted out because of health concerns related to COVID-19. The 26-year-old defensive tackle has experienced issues with asthma in the past. Because Goldman falls into the high-risk category, he will receive a $350,000 stipend by opting out. Goldman signed a four-year extension with Chicago in 2018 that contained $25 million in guarantees.
What it means: Goldman is one of Chicago’s best-run stoppers. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound nose tackle will be missed. A former second-round draft choice, Goldman never posted gaudy statistics, but the team considered him a valuable member of Chicago’s top-rated defense. The Bears must now find a new anchor in the middle of their defensive line. Veteran John Jenkins — recently removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list — is a strong contender to replace Goldman at nose tackle. — Jeff Dickerson
What it means: There’s greater pressure on DeSean Jackson to stay healthy and the rookie receivers to produce. The Eagles weren’t relying heavily on Goodwin but hoped he’d help improve their speed and depth problem when they acquired him from the 49ers in April. His absence eliminates an insurance policy option behind the 33-year-old Jackson, who is coming off an abdominal tear, and heightens the importance of first-round pick Jalen Reagor contributing early in his career. — Tim McManus
A three-time Super Bowl champion and team captain, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Hightower traditionally calls the defensive signals and was going to be relied upon as much as ever this season after the free-agency departures of linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr.
What it means: This is the defense’s equivalent of the offense losing Tom Brady, as Hightower was the primary signal-caller and leader of the huddle. It won’t be easy replacing a three-down linebacker with his varied skill set, so the Patriots will probably do it with a committee-type approach — with Ja’Whaun Bentley (2018 fifth round) a leading candidate to pair with rookies Josh Uche (second round, No. 60) and Anfernee Jennings (third round, No. 87), among others. — Mike Reiss
Why he’s out: Hurns is opting out because of concerns about keeping his family safe, particularly a baby boy that he has due soon. Hurns came home to Miami in 2019 to play for the Dolphins after being born in the city and attending the University of Miami. His play earned him an extension in late November and he was looking forward to building off that, but he made the difficult decision that safety was a priority over football.
What it means: The Dolphins lose some important receiver depth with Hurns, who was likely to be their No. 4 or No. 5 receiver. But Hurns’ biggest value comes in that his game is predicated on strong route running, toughness and being able to play multiple receiver spots. This opt-out gives a bigger opportunity for Isaiah Ford, Gary Jennings Jr., Mack Hollins and undrafted free agents Kirk Merritt and Matt Cole to not only make the roster as a backup receiver job but also potentially contribute. — Cameron Wolfe
Why he’s out: When James formally announced he was opting out he mentioned his newborn son — born May 22 — and added “there’s just too much unknown about this virus and about plans handling it going forward.” James also said he had a family member who had been hospitalized because of the virus in recent months as well and “[I] hope to not have that happen again.”
What it means: For a team that neither selected a tackle in the draft nor signed one in free agency, it impacts how the Broncos feel about their depth. Elijah Wilkinson, who is coming off foot surgery, will start in James’ right tackle spot with Garett Bolles, now in the final year of his rookie deal after the team did not pick up the fifth-year option, at left tackle. The only other tackle on the roster to start a game for the Broncos is Jake Rodgers. Rodgers is a grind-it-out player who has stayed at it despite having been released or waived 12 times in his career since he was an Atlanta Falcons‘ draft pick. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak has consistently said he likes Rodgers’ potential, but the Broncos probably will have to scan who is available when cuts are made around the league before the start of the regular season. — Jeff Legwold
Why he’s out: Lee, 28, became a first-time father in February, and said protecting his newborn daughter, Alia, and family was at the core of his decision. “This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that’s going out there, it just wasn’t worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns,” Lee told ESPN.com.
What it means: The Patriots have had some success with free agents who fall into the low-risk/high-reward category, and they were excited to see if Lee could recapture the pre-injury form that led the Jaguars to reward him with a lucrative extension two years ago. But they weren’t counting on it, as he was vying for a roster spot behind locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. Now Jakobi Meyers, who made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, could see his odds to stick again increase. — Mike Reiss
Lotulelei signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Bills in 2018 and has started at defensive tackle ever since, operating as one of the team’s primary run-stopping defensive linemen. He signed a restructured contract this offseason, guaranteeing him $4.5 million in 2020; his new contract will now activate in 2021.
What it means: Third-year tackle Harrison Phillips probably will take over as the Bills’ primary 1-technique defensive lineman, with Vincent Taylor behind him. It also opens the door for rookie defensive end AJ Epenesa to slide inside more often than originally planned. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Why he’s out: McCray cited health concerns for his family as the reason for opting out, saying that while he “will miss being there with my teammates, coaches and Jaguar personnel competing on Sundays, but I feel that God has directed my steps to make this decision.”
What it means: McCray is a core special-teams player so that’s where his loss will he felt the most. However, he also was able to be productive in spot duty on defense and was a valuable depth player there. Rookie LB Shaquille Quarterman was going to play a big role on special teams and he becomes even more important now. — Michael DiRocco
Why he’s out: Melvin did not give the Jaguars a reason for opting out in 2020.
What it means: Melvin, who signed a one-year contract with the Jaguars worth $1.75 million in March, was expected to compete with third-year player Tre Herndon to start opposite rookie first-round pick CJ Henderson. The 30-year-old Melvin has four interceptions and 41 pass breakups in seven seasons with Baltimore, Indianapolis, Detroit, New England and Oakland. His decision to opt out could open up a spot on the roster for rookie Luq Barcoo, one of the most sought-after rookie undrafted free agents. — Michael DiRocco
Why he’s out: Mosley is opting out because of family health concerns — specifically, his young son. As part of the five-year, $85 million contract he signed in 2019, he already received a $10 million roster bonus in March. His $6 million base salary, fully guaranteed, moves to next season. The contract now runs through 2024. It’s unclear if he will receive the $150,000 stipend or the high-risk stipend of $350,000.
What it means: It’s a big blow to the defense, which also won’t have safety Jamal Adams (traded to Seattle). Mosley, who missed 14 games last season, was projected as the middle linebacker and signal-caller. He could be replaced by Avery Williamson, who returns after missing 2019 because of an ACL injury. They also have Neville Hewitt, James Burgess Jr. and Patrick Onwuasor, all of whom have starting experience. — Rich Cimini
Why he’s out: Olawale, the starting fullback the past two seasons, chose to not play for family reasons, according to sources. The Cowboys picked up his 2020 option to start the offseason but it did not come with any guaranteed money. He will receive the $150,000 stipend that will come out of his 2021 salary should he make the team.
What it means: On its face, it doesn’t look as if it means much since Olawale did not have a carry and caught only two passes in the past two seasons, but he was a valuable special-teams contributor. Also, new coach Mike McCarthy has a history of using the fullback from his Green Bay days. Without a veteran fullback on the roster, it could allow the Cowboys to go heavier at tight end or another position to make up for Olawale’s absence. — Todd Archer
Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin details how the team has handled the positive COVID-19 diagnosis of head trainer Eric Sugarman and adds that DT Michael Pierce has opted out of the season.
Why he’s out: Pierce is opting out because of respiratory concerns, according to a source. The 27-year-old signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Vikings in March. The $3 million base salary Pierce was set to make during his first year in Minnesota will now be his salary for 2021. Because he falls into the high-risk category, he will receive a $350,000 stipend by opting out of the season.
What it means: Pierce was set to replace Linval Joseph at nose tackle, so the Vikings have another major hole to fill on the defensive line. Minnesota’s trade for P.J. Hall fell through when the former Raiders defensive tackle failed a physical, so it appears second-year tackle Armon Watts is in line to battle for Pierce’s spot unless the Vikings pick up another available free agent. — Courtney Cronin
Why he’s out: In a statement posted to Twitter, the 32-year-old Solder cited family concerns, including his son facing cancer and his own bout with cancer. Solder also has a newborn son. He said he “will deeply miss my teammates, coaches and everyone in the Giants organization.” Solder, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants, with $35 million guaranteed, in March 2018. At the time, it made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.
What it means: First-round pick Andrew Thomas now gets to slide in immediately at left tackle. Right tackle will be an open competition between Cameron Fleming, Nick Gates and rookie Matt Peart, among others. Solder’s future with the team, meanwhile, is in limbo. The Giants save $13.55 million against the salary cap this season when all is said and done. Some of it could be reinvested in a cornerback to help fill the void left by Sam Beal‘s opt-out and DeAndre Baker’s legal troubles. The rest can be rolled over into next season. — Jordan Raanan
Why he’s out: Duvernay-Tardif, 29, was the first NFL player to publicly say he won’t suit up this season. Duvernay-Tardif has been the Chiefs’ starting right guard for the past five seasons and played every offensive snap in their Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. He is a medical school graduate from McGill University in Canada and had been assisting as an orderly in a long-term care facility in the Montreal area during the coronavirus pandemic. “I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love,” he wrote on social media. “If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”
What it means: The Chiefs have plenty of candidates from whom to choose to replace Duvernay-Tardif, including free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, returning veterans Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin and third-round draft pick Lucas Niang. But in Duvernay-Tardif, the Chiefs are losing a player willing to go until every whistle, and sometimes beyond. They’re also having to replace their other starting guard from Super Bowl LIV, free-agent departure Stefan Wisniewski. — Adam Teicher
Tupou signed a one-year deal with the Bengals after the team made him a restricted free agent in the offseason. Tupou appeared in all 16 games last season and made seven starts.
What it means: The Bengals will be wise to sign a veteran defensive tackle before the season. In addition to Tupou’s absence, the Bengals also cut defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow earlier this offseason after a failed physical. Cincinnati needs at least one more interior defensive lineman to not only provide depth but to limit the snap count for veterans Geno Atkins and D.J. Reader. With $25.4 million in cap space available, Cincinnati should have plenty of money to add a veteran and still have enough for other expenses that will arise throughout the year. — Ben Baby
Why he’s out: Warmack’s decision to opt out was influenced by having family members who have already dealt with COVID-19. According to a source, one of Warmack’s relatives died and others have been hospitalized because of the virus. The source said the 323-pound Warmack went back and forth on whether to play this season before deciding to sit out, which was his mother’s preference. The voluntary opt-out means Warmack will receive a $150,000 advance on the $910,000 he was scheduled to make in base salary this season, with the terms of his one-year, veteran-minimum deal rolling over to 2021. Warmack, who sat out the 2019 season to get healthy, intends to play in 2021.
What it means: Third-round pick Damien Lewis is now the clear-cut favorite to start at right guard. The Seahawks considered Warmack a starting-caliber player and believed he had a legitimate chance to win that competition even as he came back from a year away from football. No on-field work over the offseason and no preseason games means the Seahawks will have less to evaluate as they determine a starter at right guard, whether it’s Lewis or a returning player such as Ethan Pocic or Jordan Simmons. — Brady Henderson
Williams, 28, led the Chiefs in rushing last season with 498 yards and five touchdowns. He scored two touchdowns in Kansas City’s Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
What it means: The Chiefs have big plans for rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire but Williams’ decision leaves them without a proven featured back. Backups Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson have all had their moments but not with any consistency. Williams is a proven performer and did it in big moments, such as in Super Bowl LIV. The pressure is on Edwards-Helaire to deliver both immediately and consistently. — Adam Teicher
Why he’s out: Wilson is opting out because of concerns about keeping his family safe in the midst of what he calls a “crazy time” during the coronavirus pandemic. He said his focus has always been “faith, family, football” and this pandemic has led him to do what he believes puts his family in the best situation. It was difficult for Wilson, who had been training hard preparing for a healthy bounce-back season.
What it means: The Dolphins take a huge hit in the receiver room losing Wilson, who was going to be their No. 3 receiver and likely top weapon of out of the slot. This opt-out puts more pressure on DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant to stay healthy and carry the bulk of the receiving reps. Parker is now the only Dolphins receiver with more than 1,000 career receiving yards, meaning Miami might have to search for veteran upgrades in free agency. — Cameron Wolfe
Why he’s out: Woods cited the health of his family as his reason for opting out, saying that has “always been the most important thing in my life.”
What it means: The Jaguars signed the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Woods to a one-year deal to shore up a run defense that gave up 139 yards per game last season. Without him there’s a big hole (literally) in the middle of the front and the Jaguars are going to have to rely much more on rookie Davon Hamilton than anticipated. Veteran Abry Jones will start so there is at least some experience available, but Hamilton has to be productive. — Michael DiRocco
Stephen A. Smith expresses his disgust with Odell Beckham Jr. saying the NFL season shouldn’t happen when OBJ could opt out of the season.
What it means: The Patriots utilize the fullback position almost as much as any team in the NFL, and Vitale was a candidate to fill the void created by James Develin’s retirement. Jakob Johnson, who played four games for the team in 2019 before landing on injured reserve, is now a leading candidate to fill the void. — Mike Reiss
Others opting out
The 6-foot-3, 322-pound Atkins, 27, has played in 14 career games for the Lions. The Georgia product started six games for Detroit last season and was a candidate for a backup spot on the roster this season.
Benjamin, 30, was expected to compete for a roster spot at wide receiver and, probably, as a returner in what would have been his first season with the 49ers.
The 28-year-old signed with the Lions in the offseason after being out of the league last year after being cut by New England on Sept. 6. Before last season, Bodine had been a starter every year in the league at center, playing four seasons with the Bengals and one with the Bills.
Brantley, a 25-year-old former sixth-round pick, was signed by Washington in 2018. He was on injured reserve for 15 games last season.
Brewer opted out because of his history with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “… I am at high risk and will opt out of playing in the NFL this season,” Brewer said, per the Rams website. “I would like to thank the Rams for their support and I look forward to getting back on the field in 2021 and beyond.”
The 26-year-old Canady signed a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason. He played in 13 games last season between the Jets and Ravens.
Harvey-Clemons was going to have to fight to earn a roster spot this season. He was a backup linebacker in his first three seasons, playing mostly in sub packages in a coverage role. But with Washington switching to a 4-3 and having drafted one linebacker and signed two others — plus possibly getting back Reuben Foster — Harvey-Clemons faced a tough battle.
Coleman is considered high risk because he is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 18. That should qualify Coleman to receive the $350,000 stipend. He signed a one-year deal worth a little less than $1 million in March, which would now roll over to 2021.
Doctson, a first-round pick in 2016, signed with the Jets in January. He has 81 catches and eight touchdowns in his career.
Dorbeck is an undrafted free agent from Southern Miss. He started 34 games in college.
Eligwe joined the Raiders as a free agent on Dec. 19, and though he was on the 53-man roster last season’s final two games, he was never active. Eligwe, who played in a combined 24 games for the Chiefs and Giants in 2017 and 2018, was an unlikely candidate to make Las Vegas’ roster this season.
Forbes, a 2019 sixth-round pick, was expected to compete for the backup spot at right guard this season behind Wyatt Teller, who started the back half of the 2019 season.
Gossett, 25, spent much of last season on the practice squad for the Browns, as he was promoted to the active roster right before Cleveland’s season finale. He played five games as a rookie for the Cardinals in 2018 after being drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round out of Appalachian State.
Guidry, who signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent earlier this year, will not receive the $150,000 payout. He will get to keep his $10,000 signing bonus and the Cowboys will continue to hold his rights.
Killings spent the 2019 season on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral early in training camp.
Koloamatangi, 26, joined the practice squad last season and dressed for two games but did not play.
LaCosse was entering his second year with the Patriots and sixth in the NFL. LaCosse played in 11 games last season in New England, totaling 13 receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown. He was projected to be on the roster again this year, complementing rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Lucas, whom the Bears signed to a one-year deal, was expected to compete for one of the club’s backup safety spots. Chicago guaranteed Lucas $340,000 for the 2020 season at the time of his signing, a clear indication the Bears considered the veteran a strong contender to make the final 53-man roster.
No details on why the undrafted rookie made the decision were revealed, but he was a long shot to make the 53-man roster.
The 6-foot-7, 316-pound lineman signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent after two seasons at TCU.
Miller says he believes he is at a high risk for COVID-19. The 24-year-old was drafted to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but with the Panthers moving back to a 4-3 this season he was considered a backup edge rusher.
Milligan, 25, was projected as a backup safety behind starters Khari Willis and Malik Hooker. He started the 2019 season on the practice squad and contributed 15 tackles in his first full NFL season.
An undrafted free agent in 2018, he spent the majority of his two seasons on the team’s practice squad and was going to have a difficult time making the roster this season due to a loaded linebacker position.
The Chiefs lost a member of their 2020 draft class after Niang told the team he would opt out of the 2020 season. He figured in the playing picture at guard as a rookie but eventually could be moved to tackle.
Peko’s wife, Giuliana, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma last year and Peko was briefly excused from Bills training camp last summer to be with her. He announced last season that her treatments had been successful and she was cancer-free, but her having lived with the disease would put her in the at-risk demographic for COVID-19.
Pridgeon is the third guard in Cleveland to opt out, after Colby Gossett and Drew Forbes. He spent the final 15 weeks of last season on the Browns’ practice squad.
Prince appeared in four games with the Dolphins in 2019 before he was eventually released. The Bengals picked him up toward the end of the season with hopes of having him as a depth option moving forward.
Seaton was a seventh-round pick by the Titans in 2017. He joined the Bucs’ practice squad later that year. Seaton started one game in 2019.
Tell, a fifth-round draft pick in 2019, was projected in a depth role in the defensive backfield for the Colts. He had 23 tackles and five passes defensed as a rookie last season.
After being Baltimore’s primary returner last season, Thomas, 27, re-signed with the Ravens on March 14 on a one-year, $935,000 (only $25,000 guaranteed) contract but was considered on the bubble entering training camp.
Toran, 24, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA in 2018 with the 49ers and was vying for a backup role after spending the 2019 season on the Patriots’ practice squad.
While both D.J. Killings and Valoaga opted out, neither was expected to make the Raiders’ roster this season. Valoaga did not sign with the Raiders until the season’s last week and was inactive for the season finale.
Wick has opted out because of an asthma condition. Wick, 26, was going to compete for a backup job this summer after joining the Saints’ practice squad late last season.
Vander Laan, 27, was set to battle for a backup/special-teams job on the Saints’ roster after appearing in two games with them last season and also spending time on their practice squad.
The 25-year-old defensive lineman played in three games for Houston in 2019 after he was activated from the practice squad.
With training camps open, NFL fans across the country are wondering whether they will be able to attend games once the 2020 season starts.
The answer is it depends on where and when. Guidelines vary from state to state regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Some teams have announced they will proceed with limited capacities, while others have said they will progress with no fans.
For many, it’s still wait and see. We asked each of our reporters to check with team officials to see where things currently stand. Here is what they were told:
What we know: New York State issued a guideline last month prohibiting fans not only from attending live sporting events but also from tailgating around the stadium. The Bills have given season-ticket holders the option to suspend their commitment until the 2021 season but are ready to offer priority seating to season-ticket holders who maintain their commitment, in the event limited seating is allowed. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
What we know: The Dolphins haven’t officially decided whether they will have fans in the stadium and at what capacity. That information will come in the weeks ahead in consultation with health experts and government officials. In early May, Dolphins CEO and vice chairman Tom Garfinkel released a mock-up for Hard Rock Stadium to hold approximately 15,000 fans with social distancing, masks, touchless entry and cashless payment methods. The Dolphins say when a capacity is determined, season-ticket members will have first priority to purchase tickets based on their tenure. The team is also giving all season-ticket members the option to roll their 2020 payments into the 2021 season and retain all of their tenure, seats and associated benefits. They also strongly encouraged any season-ticket members who may be considered at risk based on CDC guidelines to exercise the 2021 option and stay at home in 2020. — Cameron Wolfe
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
What we know: The Patriots previously announced that Gillette Stadium will be limited to about 20% capacity this season, pending state and local approval. Those with tickets will be asked to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from other parties. Tickets will be arranged in blocks of 10 seats or fewer, and the first eight rows of stadium seats will not be used. — Mike Reiss
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
What we know: No fans are permitted to watch the Jets at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced recently in conjunction with the Jets and Giants. They said the order is in place “until further notice,” leaving some wiggle room. — Rich Cimini
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
What we know: If fans are permitted to attend under state and local government rules/regulations, the Ravens announced that a significantly reduced seating capacity at M&T Bank Stadium would be necessary. Based on the social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols developed by health experts, governmental officials and the NFL, it is expected that the stadium capacity — if fans are allowed — would be fewer than 14,000. “To offer a proper level of safety for fans who want to attend games, a reduction in capacity is necessary,” Ravens president Dick Cass said. “We are disappointed that this will be a disruption for many ticket buyers, but we have an obligation to our fans and our community to keep M&T Bank Stadium as safe as possible.” — Jamison Hensley
Stadium: Paul Brown Stadium
What we know: In July, the Bengals told season-ticket holders that Paul Brown Stadium will have “greatly reduced” seating if the team is allowed to have fans this season. In that scenario, those with season tickets will be reseated to comply with physical distancing. Face coverings will be required and tailgating prohibited. Fans can choose to opt out of attending 2020 games and keep their season tickets for 2021. — Ben Baby
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium
What we know: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently said it’s “too early” to determine what will be safe regarding fans in the Buckeye State. Ohio State announced it will cap fan capacity at 20,000 at Ohio Stadium. The Browns, however, continue to call the situation fluid. — Jake Trotter
Stadium: Heinz Field
What we know: The Steelers are planning to have a limited number of fans at Heinz Field, but that reduced capacity hasn’t been determined yet. Fans who purchased single-game tickets to games this season through Ticketmaster and other third-party websites were recently informed their transactions had been canceled and refunded, leaving season-ticket holders with the best chance of seeing a game in-person at Heinz Field this year. — Brooke Pryor
Stadium: NRG Stadium
What we know: The Texans have not announced a plan for fan attendance, but according to their team website, if there are fans at games, NRG Stadium’s capacity will be reduced to approximately 14,000 seats and the seats in the first eight rows of the lower level will not be sold. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest order allows for 50% capacity at stadiums in the state. — Sarah Barshop
Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium
What we know: The Colts have announced that they will have no more than about 25% capacity during games at Lucas Oil Stadium. They have two packages — Plan A and Plan B — for fans to choose from. Plan A features home games against Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston and Tennessee. Plan B will include home games against the New York Jets, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Jacksonville. — Mike Wells
Stadium: TIAA Bank Field
What we know: The Jaguars told season-ticket holders they will be able to seat approximately 25% of TIAA Bank Field’s capacity at each home game in 2020. The stadium holds 67,164, so the capacity will be 16,791. The team said any possible increase in capacity will depend on developments regarding the coronavirus as well as any local, state or federal instructions. — Mike DiRocco
Stadium: Nissan Stadium
What we know: The Titans plan to have fans at Nissan Stadium in a limited capacity. They are working with state and local government officials to determine the number. Reducing the capacity will allow seats to be more spread out to encourage social distancing, and the Titans are also looking into increased sanitization methods. Season-ticket holders were given the option to opt out of the 2020 season with a refund and not lose their seat license. The priority is to ensure that as many season-ticket holders as possible can attend games. Fans who purchased single-game tickets had their orders canceled and will be refunded. — Turron Davenport
Stadium: Empower Field at Mile High
What we know: Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said this past week that no decision had been made if the Broncos would have a limited number of fans at their home games or no fans, but that the decision would be made in conjunction with both local and state officials. Ellis said: “They’re proceeding with caution and so are we. We want to do the right thing. I don’t have a set number of fans for you nor do I know when fans will be in the stands. We’re going to work through that. We’re going to do that in partnership with the governor and the mayor, the City of Denver.” Ellis added the team would continue to be in contact with city and state governments, and how neighboring states are contending with the virus could impact the decision. — Jeff Legwold
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
What we know: The Chiefs are planning for home games with reduced capacity, though details of their plan have not been released. The Chiefs said they would consult with the NFL, local government officials and public health experts to determine a suitable number of tickets to sell for each home game. Arrowhead is a spacious stadium with three levels, making social distancing with a reduced capacity possible, at least in the seating area. Whatever tickets the Chiefs issue will be on a single-game basis. — Adam Teicher
Stadium: Allegiant Stadium
What we know: Raiders owner Mark Davis followed through on an earlier feeling by emailing Raiders season-ticket holders on Monday to tell them that fans will not be allowed at home games this season. He also said earlier that if no fans could attend home games, neither would he. It is a unique situation for the Raiders, who have moved into a sparkling new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion palace off the Las Vegas Strip. But because the NFL wants the first eight rows of seats from the field blocked off to create more social distancing from players on the sideline (and to create advertising revenue via tarps covering said seats), Davis is nonplussed. “The optics are terrible; advertising on top of seats belonging to people you’re telling they can’t come to the game,” said Davis, who added that his idea of installing a Plexiglas barrier between the first row of seats and the field rather than blocking off seats was never discussed. “I’d rather have everybody pissed at me than just one person. I’ve got to make it up to them, and I will. This is all about safety and equity.” — Paul Gutierrez
Stadium: SoFi Stadium
What we know: The Chargers have not officially announced capacity restrictions, but they expect theirs to be similar if not the same as the Rams’, as the teams share SoFi Stadium. Capacity limitations have not been finalized, but expect a cap of 15,000 fans or the possibility that the stadium will be empty in its debut season. — Lindsey Thiry
Stadium: AT&T Stadium
What we know: The Cowboys plan to have fans in the stands in 2020, but the exact total has not been made public. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said stadiums can have up to 50% capacity, which would peg the attendance at 40,000; however, in following CDC guidelines, the figure would be much less than that. The Cowboys will not have their field suites in use and the NFL is putting tarps over the first eight rows of the stadium, which would eat up some significant seating. The Cowboys have canceled all season tickets and are giving their holders the option to buy single-game seats while also receiving a refund or the ability to push the money into next year’s season tickets. — Todd Archer
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
What we know: No fans are allowed at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey “until further notice.” This according to a recent executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy that caps outdoor gatherings at 500 people. It makes it unlikely that the Giants will have fans at games until (optimistically) later in the season. The same applies to the Jets. — Jordan Raanan
Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field
What we know: Currently, Philadelphia prohibits outdoor events involving more than 50 people, meaning no fans in the stands for now. The mayor’s office called it a “fluid situation,” though, leaving open the possibility that fans could be allowed to attend at some point this season should circumstances change for the better. — Tim McManus
Stadium: FedEx Field
What we know: Washington has a tentative plan for fans to attend, sending out a letter to season-ticket holders that they will use mobile ticketing only and that fans must wear masks if they attend. They’ve given fans the opportunity to get a refund for season tickets — or apply them to 2021. But there has not yet been any decision on how many fans would be able to attend. It likely would end up to be 25,000 at most, but all plans at this point are tentative. In the letter, the team told season-ticket holders that “we couldn’t be more excited to welcome fans back to FedEx Field as we head into this new era of Washington football.” The team said it would release further details in coming weeks. — John Keim
Stadium: Soldier Field
What we know: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not signed off yet on legislation that would permit fans to attend Bears home games at Soldier Field. In the event the Bears do receive permission to host a limited number of fans, the team informed season-ticket holders that the club will not offer season or multigame ticket packages this year. Season-ticket holders, starting with PSL holders, will have the first opportunity to purchase single-game tickets. — Jeff Dickerson
Rob Ninkovich and Damien Woody weigh in on the concept of a fanless NFL season.
Stadium: Ford Field
What we know: The Lions have said they are waiting on regulations and guidance from the state of Michigan before making any official announcements. As of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order on July 29, no live audiences are permitted for sporting events in Wayne County, where the Lions play. But things can change between now and September. — Michael Rothstein
Stadium: Lambeau Field
What we know: The Packers still haven’t decided whether they will allow fans, but if they do it will be no more than 12,000 in the 80,000-plus capacity Lambeau Field. Packers president Mark Murphy said: “We followed the CDC guidelines and determined that we would only have 10,000 to 12,000 people in the stands if we decide to allow fans to attend.” The Packers won’t have fans at their training camp or at the annual family night, which in the past has drawn more than 60,000 people per year to the evening practice at Lambeau. — Rob Demovsky
Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium
What we know: The Vikings have not announced a specific attendance figure for home games but acknowledged that games will be played at “a significantly reduced capacity and include a different in-stadium experience.” If games are indeed played in U.S. Bank Stadium at a limited capacity, the priority will be given to stadium builders license owners. Season-ticket holders have the chance to opt out of their season tickets by requesting a full refund for the 2020 season or have their accounts credited toward a 2021 season-ticket package. There is also the option for fans to keep their tickets and if games are canceled or reduced capacity is implemented: “A credit for the portion of your paid 2020 season tickets applicable to the missed game(s) will automatically be applied to your account, unless you request a full refund for the missed 2020 game(s).” — Courtney Cronin
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
What we know: The Falcons are preparing for a limited capacity of 10,000-20,000 inside 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will cater to 55,000 PSL and suite owners through a drawing based on preference for the first four home games, with those fans receiving one game each, possibly two. The system will be evaluated to determined how to proceed for the last four home games. Falcons officials understand nothing is final, as higher authorities could step in and say no fans are allowed to attend. — Vaughn McClure
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
What we know: The team has made no official statement, but owner David Tepper has said publicly that he believes fans should be in the stands this season. There have been discussions of about 20,000 fans in the 75,000 seat stadium. PSL owners already have been sent a letter saying they will have the option to purchase tickets, but they can opt out without losing their PSL. — David Newton
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
What we know: The Saints have not yet finalized a plan as they continue to work with city and state officials, medical experts and the CDC to find the safest way to have a reduced number of fans in the Superdome. They are targeting the middle of this month to submit a plan to the governor and New Orleans mayor for approval, though that plan remains a work in progress. — Mike Triplett
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
What we know: The Bucs are still determining at what capacity they can safely operate at in 2020, but the team is rolling over all season-ticket holders’ payments for 2021 or they may use that credit to purchase single-game tickets for 2020. Fans who wish to roll over their credit will also be given priority access to single-game 2020 tickets based on tenure. Fans also will have the option for a full refund for 2020 but will still receive an offer for a renewal in 2021 in the same location. The deadline to apply for a refund is Aug. 9. Unused parking funds can be rolled over for 2021 or fans can request a refund. — Jenna Laine
Stadium: State Farm Stadium
What we know: In an email telling season-ticket holders that their ticket plans will be canceled for the 2020 season, the Cardinals said “it is not clear at this point how many spectators — if any — will be permitted to attend Cardinals home games in 2020.” Until that is decided, which may not be until the eleventh hour because of Arizona’s high rates, the Cardinals have yet to publicly announce any plans. — Josh Weinfuss
Stadium: SoFi Stadium
What we know: The Rams announced that the capacity at SoFi Stadium will be capped at 15,000 fans this season, and the possibility remains that no fans will be allowed to attend games in 2020. — Lindsey Thiry
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium
What we know: Given the state of things in California, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers having fans at games this year even in a limited capacity, though no official decision has been made yet on that front. For now, the Niners have said that they “may not be able to host fans in a full or limited capacity this season.” With that in mind, the team has already said all single-game ticket sales for the season will be refunded and season-ticket holders can decline tickets for the season with the ability to renew next year. If fans are permitted, they will be required to wear masks and tickets will be made available on a game-by-game basis, with season-ticket holders having first priority. — Nick Wagoner
Stadium: CenturyLink Field
What we know: The Seahawks have not announced a range of fans they plan on allowing at each home game, but all signs point to a significantly reduced capacity being the best-case scenario. King County is paused in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan. Large sporting events are not allowed until the final phase, meaning things would have to get significantly better in a hurry for CenturyLink Field to have any fans in the stands by the time the Seahawks play their home opener against New England in Week 2. The team has allowed season-ticket holders the option of opting out of the 2020 season. — Brady Henderson
Capping off an offseason filled with honors and accolades, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ranked No. 1 in The NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2020.
As training camp begins, the reigning NFL MVP carries a different distinction, ranking 589th in the league — in base salary. Over one-third of the NFL, or essentially the amount of players it takes to field 11 football teams, make more money than Jackson, who will earn $1.341 million this season.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes recently signed a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million — the richest-valued contract in American professional sports — after his third NFL season. Jackson, who is entering his third season, could be nearing a similar premium payday.
So, what crossed Jackson’s mind when he heard about Mahomes’ deal?
“My reaction: I’ve just got to win a Super Bowl,” Jackson said. “I don’t really focus on what he has going on, because I’ve still got to prove myself. When that time comes, then we can negotiate after the Super Bowl. But until then, I’m focused on winning right now.”
Jackson’s response was a familiar one, albeit genuine, according to those close to him.
Minutes after being drafted by the Ravens, Jackson said: “They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me.”
Last year, when coach John Harbaugh brought up on the sideline how Jackson will inspire kids for the next 20 years, Jackson replied, “But right now, I got to get to the Super Bowl.”
For Jackson, it’s not all about the riches. It’s about the ring.
“[Mahomes’ contract] hasn’t crossed his mind at all,” said Joshua Harris, Jackson’s personal quarterback tutor. “I know it sounds cliche, he really is focused on winning a Super Bowl. I’m saying that as someone who has personal conversations with him. That’s where his mind goes behind the curtains. That is really him.”
Jackson gives the Ravens an added advantage toward winning the Lombardi Trophy because he is the best bargain in football. He doesn’t account for 13% or more of the salary cap like Russell Wilson, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo. Jackson’s $2.58 million cap hit represents 1% of Baltimore’s salary cap and is easily the lowest by a reigning NFL MVP over the past two decades, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Baltimore can spend more on Jackson’s supporting cast and on defense because he doesn’t absorb a huge chunk of the cap. The challenge arrives when franchise quarterbacks go from their rookie deals to NFL-record ones.
Entering 2020, there have been eight instances of a quarterback playing a season with a contract that averages $30 million per season. Just three of them reached the playoffs in that season, and the best finish was a loss in the 2019 NFC Championship Game by Aaron Rodgers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Baltimore understands the difficulty all too well. After making Joe Flacco the NFL’s highest-paid player in 2013, the Ravens reached the playoffs twice in six years (and Jackson spearheaded the one postseason run).
Jackson has two years remaining on his rookie contract, which is scheduled to pay him $1.771 million in 2021. What’s working against Jackson landing a big-money extension before his rookie deal expires is an expected shrinking salary cap next year and a group of five other Pro Bowl players who are also in line for new deals in Baltimore over the next two years (left tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Matthew Judon, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, tight end Mark Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.)
The Ravens have the flexibility of playing a waiting game with Jackson, whose game is much different than Mahomes’. Jackson’s strength is his speed and elusiveness. Mahomes beats teams with unbelievable arm talent, which doesn’t decline as sharply as mobility.
If the Ravens want to see how Jackson develops as a passer, they can keep Jackson in 2022 by exercising the fifth-year option, which would be equivalent to the franchise tag if Jackson reaches the Pro Bowl this season. The tag was worth $26.8 million this season. Baltimore could then use the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson the following season.
So, as far as Jackson’s second contract, it could come as soon as next season or get pushed back after the 2023 season.
“Right now, I’ve got to focus on winning,” Jackson said. “I can’t put [a new contract] on my mind. You’ve got to win first. If you’re not winning, then you won’t be worried about no $500 million either.”
Ravens officials always have been impressed by Jackson’s mindset and work ethic. This offseason has been no different.
Outside of Mahomes, no one has received more praise than Jackson this year. He was named the unanimous NFL MVP, was placed on the cover of Madden NFL 21 and was voted by his peers as the top player in the league.
When Jackson reported to camp this past week, he didn’t carry himself as one of the best players in the game. He talked about wanting to improve his deep throws and reading defenses.
“He’s a realist,” Harbaugh said. “He understands what’s required and what he needs to do to take his game to the level that brings our team a championship. That’s his whole focus and goal. That’s what I always admire about him and why I respect him so much.”
The reality of Jackson’s financial situation is he has significantly outplayed his four-year, $9.471 million rookie contract. There are 28 quarterbacks who will receive a higher salary than Jackson this season, including 10 backups. Raiders No. 2 quarterback Marcus Mariota is scheduled to make $7.5 million in salary, which is five times more than Jackson.
But those who know Jackson don’t believe this will be a distraction. Why? It’s the competitor in him.
“He remembers the Ravens drafting him. He’s a loyal person,” Harris said. “So, what would be the ultimate thing to repay the Ravens? Winning a Super Bowl. [Contracts are] more of a ‘me’ thing, and he’s not wired like that.”
Sources: Doug Pederson tests positive for COVID-19 Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to league sources. Pederson convened a previously unscheduled team meeting Sunday night to share the news with his players. He did this after receiving a second positive test result confirming the diagnosis. Pederson is asymptomatic and feeling fine, according to a source.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew was one of five players the team put on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced Sunday. In addition to Minshew, the team also put running back Ryquell Armstead, tight end Charles Jones, receiver Michael Walker and safety Andrew Wingard on the list. A player doesn’t have to test positive for the virus to be placed on the list. The Jaguars have announced Minshew as their starter in 2020 after he threw for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions as a rookie in 2019.
New England Patriots safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty ripped the NFL on Sunday for attempting to move the deadline in which players can decide to opt out of the 2020 season. “I think it is an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out. I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out,” McCourty said in a video conference with Patriots reporters. “I think it’s terrible. I think it’s B.S. that the league has changed that date.”
“As long as we’re keeping score it won’t be too difficult.”
Saints receiver Michael Thomas on NFL games without fans
“I just want to see the cops be arrested for who killed Breonna Taylor and the investigation for Stephon Clark get reopened.”
Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson on how NFL can support Black Lives Matter
What our NFL Nation reporters saw today
Wide receiver Jalen Reagor‘s stock is ticking upward, even before the Philadelphia Eagles take the practice field. Reagor said he was training at the X and Z positions — a departure from earlier this season, when coach Doug Pederson said he would be learning one spot to start. And you can tell special-teams coach Dave Fipp is eager to get him involved in the return game. “Jalen’s obviously a really explosive player,” Fipp said. “When the ball is in his hands, he’s electric.” The 2020 first-round pick probably will take on a bigger role with Marquise Goodwin opting out of the 2020 season. — Tim McManus
Defensive tackle Kawann Short is the only one of five captains who returns from last season’s Carolina Panthers, and Short spent last season on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. After an unusual offseason because of the coronavirus pandemic, Short faces a rebuilding team in which he is one of four defensive starters returning. Short considered opting out but has decided to play. He’s appreciative for all the strict measures Carolina has taken to insure the safety of everyone. “The process is crazy,” Short said Sunday. “I mean, as soon as you get out of the car you have to do a test. You can’t really get in the parking lot without a mask. Hand sanitizers everywhere. Then after that, before you get to the door, you have to fill out a survey and have another temperature check. We have these monitors where you can’t get too close to anybody [8 feet for more than 10 minutes and an alarm goes off]. … It was overwhelming, but it’s the right thing to do.” The good news for Short is he has 2020 first-round pick Derrick Brown beside him and the shoulder is ready to go. — David Newton
Jalen Rose and David Jacoby go in depth on why they think the positive MLB tests could force the NFL to change its plans for the 2020 season.
Now that defensive leader C.J. Mosley has opted out because of coronavirus concerns, the issue becomes: How do the Jets replace him at linebacker? Avery Williamson (75 career starts), Patrick Onwuasor (32), Neville Hewitt (23) and James Burgess, Jr. (21) are an experienced group, which helps. The spotlight shines on Williamson, currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after missing last season because of ACL surgery. Once pegged as a potential salary-cap casualty, he could wind up as the Jets’ starting Mike linebacker, if healthy. — Rich Cimini
Veteran fullback Jamize Olawale became the third Dallas Cowboys player to opt out of the season, joining cornerback Maurice Canady and wide receiver Stephen Guidry. Olawale has been the Cowboys’ starting fullback the past two seasons, and the team picked up his 2020 option earlier in the offseason. His absence might not seem big, but coach Mike McCarthy relied on a fullback while coach of the Green Bay Packers. The only other listed fullback on the roster is undrafted rookie Sewo Olonilua. — Todd Archer
The Pittsburgh Steelers put two more players on the reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday. Wide receiver James Washington and running back Jaylen Samuels joined DB Justin Layne and DB Arrion Springs on the list. Samuels and Washington are both entering their third seasons in the NFL. Washington took a step forward in Year 2, adding 735 receiving yards and three touchdowns, making the most of his increased playing time during JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s injury. Samuels, a versatile back, had 175 rushing yards and one touchdown last season. The Steelers also released eight players, including former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, leaving the team with four quarterbacks in camp: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Duck Hodges and Paxton Lynch. — Brooke Pryor
The Green Bay Packers are going with a 90-man roster — for now. General manager Brian Gutekunst said Sunday that they will operate under the split-squad rules to start camp. “Technically our roster is right around 83 with some of the COVID [reserve] guys that won’t count,” he said. “We’re going to do the split squad thing. How long we’re going to do that for, we’ll kind of determine as we go forward.” Teams have to reduce rosters to 80 before the first padded practice on Aug. 17. Teams who reduce to 80 before that can hold full-squad (not split) sessions. “It’s really the rookies and a certain portion of the players who were injured last year and then the veterans, and that’s how we’d have to keep them split,” Gutekunst said. “That’s where we are right now.” — Rob Demovsky
With tight end Matt LaCosse deciding to opt out of the 2020 season on Sunday, it upped the New England Patriots‘ total to eight players deciding not to play. That’s easily an NFL high. LaCosse projected to make the initial roster, complementing rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, both whom the Patriots traded up to select in the third round of the draft. So his absence will put even more pressure on the rookies for immediate contributions. — Mike Reiss
New York Giants coach Joe Judge had to call an early audible. The Giants wanted to go the 90-man roster route and give every player a look, but in the end, it was not possible. So the Giants trimmed their roster, cutting eight players, including running back Jon Hilliman and outside linebacker Chris Peace. Defensive end Leonard Williams (hamstring) was also designated a non-football injury. The Giants deemed it necessary to get down to the 80-man roster option in order to have full-team walk-throughs, even during this acclimation period. Judge, ultimately, needed to get his players working together on the field, and thought this was necessary to have his team ready for the season. — Jordan Raanan
The Cleveland Browns placed wide receiver Jarvis Landry on the physically unable to perform list following his physical over the weekend. However, the receiver remains on schedule to be ready before the start of the season. Landry underwent offseason surgery to address a hip injury that plagued him all last year. He has never missed a game in six seasons in the NFL, and has said his goal is to keep that streak alive. — Jake Trotter
The Atlanta Falcons now have six players on the reserve/COVID-19 list after starting linebacker Foye Oluokun was moved to the list Sunday. He joined defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, fullback Keith Smith, safety Jamal Carter, safety Jaylinn Hawkins, and quarterback Danny Etling. The Falcons can’t comment on the status of the players, but sources said Smith and Carter were asymptomatic after testing positive, and that Etling could return Monday or Tuesday. The Falcons have 79 players active and six on that reserve list, which does not count against the active roster. The Falcons cut punter Ryan Allen on Sunday after drafting a punter in Sterling Hofrichter, and they waived tight end Caleb Repp, center Austin Capps, tackle Scottie Dill, and linebacker Jordan Williams. They have yet to add veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who is believed to be going through the necessary testing to join the team this week. The Falcons have to be at the new 80-man roster limit by Aug. 16, so more moves will come as guys return from the COVID-19 list. — Vaughn McClure
Baltimore Ravens starting center Matt Skura was placed on the PUP list to begin training camp. Skura suffered a season-ending knee injury in November, but he is expected to return at some point in camp. “I’m optimistic about Matt, I really am,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week. “But we’ll be careful.” Skura will battle Patrick Mekari and Bradley Bozeman for the starting center job for the Ravens, who led the NFL in scoring last season. — Jamison Hensley
Two corners hold a big key to Washington’s versatility in the secondary: Kendall Fuller and Jimmy Moreland. Washington signed Fuller, whom it had traded to Kansas City in 2018 as part of the Alex Smith deal, this offseason. Fuller will start in the slot, but he can play safety in some alignments as well. Washington can tap into that versatility even more if another player shows he can play inside and that’s where Moreland enters. He played inside last season, though he had never done so at James Madison University, where he was strictly a man corner on the outside. Moreland struggled to defend inside, but if he can improve here it allows Fuller to move around more. Moreland also could compete on the outside where Washington likes his instincts and ball skills. New secondary coach Chris Harris said he loves Moreland’s toughness.
Football — college and the NFL — is wrestling with how to play amid the coronavirus. A look into the pages of history reveals some of the same questions surrounding travel restrictions and the desire to play just over a century ago.
The H1N1 virus — called the Spanish flu when it broke out in 1918 — is estimated to have infected 500 million people worldwide, with 675,000 deaths in the United States, according to information from the CDC.
Longtime Pro Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan and curator and historian at the College Football Hall of Fame Jeremy Swick have spent time over the past several months looking back at football during the 1918 flu pandemic.
“Something that struck me right away, that the circumstances, a time of social unrest, a health emergency like most had never seen and people trying to navigate all of that,” Horrigan, 68, said. “You see there is a sense of people wanting, really wanting, to try to get back to normal and that sports, even in those early days of pro football, pro football was going to try to have a role in that.”
Horrigan, who retired in June 2019 after 42 years with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is considered the leading professional football historian. He says the impact of the Spanish flu on sports included a list of cancellations and schedule changes, such as the Cubs and Red Sox ending an abbreviated baseball season by playing the World Series in September 1918, a series that featured a young left-handed pitcher named Babe Ruth for the Red Sox. Players, coaches and umpires wore masks during the games.
Pro football in 1918 — the NFL wasn’t formally organized until 1920 — was largely a regional affair in the Midwest’s Rust Belt, with an irregular quilt of locally organized teams. Most of those teams elected not to play or were prevented from playing by local guidelines as men were being pulled into the military for World War I, as well as the effects of the pandemic. There also were travel restrictions and limitations on crowds.
There were just a few professional teams that played limited schedules, including in the Ohio League, which included what would be one of the NFL’s original teams: the Dayton Triangles, who won the title in the abbreviated 1918 season.
But if you’re looking for a record of professional football in 1918, the Hall of Fame lists no 1918 entry in its historical timeline.
“You just see the difficulty teams were having because of the difficulties the communities they were in were having,” Horrigan said.
College football was king at that time but many schools did not play in 1918, while others elected to play a limited schedule of three or four games. Because of the restrictions, few games were played until late October or early November.
“A lot of teams that were able to play, were able to play because perhaps many of their players had not yet shipped out — World War I was a relatively short war for those in the United States when compared to, say, World War II, so the cycle of men leaving and returning was different,” Swick said. “There were a lot of travel restrictions in place, however, for the war and the virus, so it became a local affair.”
Louis Riddick applauds Dont’a Hightower and other players for opting out of the NFL season instead of putting others at risk.
ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel, whose personal library includes about 300 books on college football, said information about the 1918 season is hard to come by.
“You see a lot of the information, the war and the pandemic are treated largely as one thing in the discussion about college football,” Maisel said. “And the fact is they were. They were very separate things, but you also see the pandemic isn’t really talked about in much detail. But the differences in who played, how many games they played, how the season looked for each school, I think that’s something we could see in the season to come.”
The Army-Navy game was not played in 1918, for example, and the Missouri Valley Conference, which included Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas at the time, canceled its conference season. LSU did not play football in 1918 and later honored it’s now-named “silent season” a century later in 2018 with a commemorative uniform.
Knute Rockne, in his first year as Notre Dame coach, saw his team’s travel restricted because of the flu outbreak and the war. The Fighting Irish finished the season 3-1-2. At one point, Notre Dame played a game — against Wabash — that had been scheduled the same day.
But President Woodrow Wilson, who later cited a need to improve “morale” in the country, ordered football teams to be created at military posts around the nation and those teams played some of college football’s powers in 1918.
John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team played almost a full schedule — it went 6-1 that season. Tech surpassed 100 points three times, with six games at their home field, including games against the Georgia Eleventh Cavalry and Camp Gordon, a camp built in Georgia for World War I that was closed in 1920.
“The NCAA did exist then, so there were guidelines for schools to follow to play, but I’m certain nobody was checking IDs on all of the players from those military teams,” Swick said. “It’s certainly possible there may have been some older players, players who might have been the age of those on professional teams at that time. There were likely a variety of players in some of those games.”
A photograph that has resurfaced plenty in recent months — taken by a Tech student during the 1918 season — shows fans at a game wearing masks.
The only away game Georgia Tech played that year was Nov. 23 at Pitt, which was coached by Glenn “Pop” Warner. Pitt won 32-0 and reports from the time list a crowd of about 30,000 at Forbes Field. That win had many declare Pitt as the national champion.
“I would say, in looking back at it, you see the teams that succeeded were simply more fortunate,” Swick said. “It’s a virus, it didn’t pick and choose then and know who was coaching the team or how organized you were or how much talent you had or if more of your players had simply not shipped out to war yet. It was far more of a roll-of-a-dice thing about who won and lost.”
Pro football took the uncertainty of the schedule, travel and scarcity of players as a sign it needed to be better organized.
“And in looking back, you see a sense of the pandemic, as World War I was ending, having somewhat of role in everything that was happening in the country, having a role to push people to organize in pro football,” Horrigan said. “That the need for organization for teams, for players, could clearly be seen by those trying to make pro football a reality as they tried to navigate everything that was going on … and in 1920, just two years later, the NFL is born.”
Swick said he has found references to some college campuses “using correspondence to hold classes,” so students were not allowed on campuses for part of the 1918 school year.
“It’s hard to tell fully what it was like because the culture sometimes wasn’t to save things,” Swick said. “Some things are lost in someone’s attic right now or have been thrown into a dump long ago, but you see places where the students weren’t on campus, but there were attempts to have school so that impacted the ability for some to play sports, including college football, beyond simply having many able-bodied males fighting a war.”
To get a sense of life and the reach of pro football in those pre-NFL years, Horrigan has mined newspaper clippings to see how people grappled with the desire to return to games and gatherings as the virus was active.
A notice about school closures in an October 1918 issue of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal said teachers were trying to find the best way to limit their contact with students as “some of them have declined to go into homes where there are serious cases in influenza and pneumonia fearing they might contract the disease.”
A notice in the Ransom (Kan.) Record in December 1918 offered “considerable pressure has been brought to persuade the health board to remove the ban from public gatherings, in view of the approaching holiday season that the people may indulge in Christmas-tree festivities and other social entertainments” and that people would be allowed to return to some gatherings if there wasn’t a “serious turn in the course of the prevailing pandemic scourge.”
Said Horrigan: “Those are the kinds of cities, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, in that part of the country, where pro football is operating. And while large public gatherings were banned at times and the football season, college and pro, was largely canceled, you do see these attempts to play. And in looking at it, you really have to believe that with the aftermath of war, of the pandemic, those events put people in a position to try to reorganize things, and the NFL is one of the things that came out of that.”