One throw Aaron Rodgers could make ‘with my eyes closed’ epitomizes chemistry with Jordy Nelson

GREEN BAY, Wis. — If what Jordy Nelson did on Monday was “hardly even a practice,” then Tuesday’s work at least more closely resembled actual football.

“We haven’t had Jordy in a team period yet,” Rodgers said, “So we’re just going to keep expectations at a reasonable level.”

There’s no telling if Nelson will be limited early in the season, but he said Monday that he expects he’ll get plenty of work in between now and the regular-season opener at Jacksonville on Sept. 11.

“The important step is the games when it really matters,” Nelson said Monday after his first practice. “I’ve been in meetings, walk-throughs and everything. So the knowledge of the game and our offense and what we’re doing is fine. We’ll work through everything else.”

“Definitely there’s a fine line in the NFL where a guy beats a guy or he beats that guy, but then when it goes beyond after the play, dirty kind of plays at practice, I think that’s where it crosses the line,” Bennett said.

“For me, I don’t really treat the game like a game. I treat it as a job, and it’s for feeding my family. So if I feel like a guy’s doing something to injure, I feel like he’s taking food out of my daughter’s mouth or my wife’s, so I take that to heart. So that drives me insane, especially if we’re on the same team. But if we’re on the same team, I feel like we should respect each other as much where we’re not trying to hurt each other. I think everybody’s a valuable part of the team. Everybody should be treated valuably on the team at the end of the day.”

Bennett and Sowell mixed it up during a one-on-one drill Sunday. After initially being separated, Bennett charged Sowell a second time.

Coach Pete Carroll sidelined both players for the remainder of practice.

“Just two people competing,” Sowell said. “Those are two personalities that when they go against each other, it can be very vicious. We both like to win. It’s honestly an honor to get to go against someone like Michael Bennett that’s going to make you so much better. But it just got a little heated.

The NFL just challenged the NFLPA over Al Jazeera case

This may be be the case.

The league doesn’t have any evidence of these players’ drug use, and probably wouldn’t even if the players agreed to talk. That’s what makes the players’ stance on not being interviewed by the NFL so interesting. If the players told the NFL that Charlie Sly, the pharmacist in the Al Jazeera report who named those players on hidden camera, was lying and they knew nothing about his claims, what grounds would the NFL have to suspend them? A fairly unspecific allegation from someone who has recanted everything he said on hidden camera, that’s all. No failed tests. Presumably no other documentation. Almost assuredly no cooperation from Sly. Just some of his words on a hidden camera, unless the NFL has a lot more evidence than we know about. Put aside for a moment that the NFL didn’t have any evidence in the Brady case either, but suspended him anyway. In this case, all the accused players would have to do is maintain innocence and the NFL would have very little reason to suspend any of them. So there has to be a bigger reason they sent those affidavits and indicated they wouldn’t speak to the league.

Brady wasn’t the right case for the union to rally its members. The “Patriots are cheaters!” narrative infected everyone, including some players, before it became very clear that case had little to do with deflated footballs and everything to do with Goodell making sure all players knew he has absolute power over them. Also, Brady is a multi-millionaire international celebrity who has a supermodel wife and lives in a ridiculous mansion. He’s an all-time great competitor but it would seem Harrison might be easier for a majority of players to relate to, as an undrafted workaholic who became an NFL defensive player of the year.

And if Harrison (and Matthews, Peppers and Neal) can be suspended with no evidence, no failed test, just the word of one guy who won’t even stand by his statement, then they can all be treated that way too. It has to be a scary thought. All of them should be able to relate to Harrison, Peppers, Matthews and Neal if they think about it in those terms.

Harrison would seem to be the perfect player to go to war with the union against the NFL. He has blasted Goodell long before the Al Jazeera report and already seemed to be getting ready for a battle when he posted his list of stipulations for an interview on Instagram. That he was the first to send an affidavit to the NFL, via the union, was no surprise. Brady isn’t the kind of person who will angrily fight the commissioner of the NFL in a public setting. I think Harrison might embrace that battle. So now we’ll see what the accused players do. They could all just decide to meet with the NFL, because an indefinite suspension is pretty serious, especially when it would be easy to just talk, admit to nothing and presumably be in the clear.
Fantasy mistakes, I’ve made a few. If you’ll allow me the courtesy, I’d like to frame it all under “experience.”

Below I’ll talk about eight fantasy themes I’ve learned through the years, a collection of notes that cover the 22 years I’ve played fantasy football. I’ll start with the more rudimentary concepts, then shift to subtler ideas. I’m all ears for your thoughts, pics and pans; catch me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski. Let’s try to solve this puzzle together.

101-Level Mistake — An Inflexible Draft Plan

It’s wonderful that you have a draft blueprint ahead of time. By all means, mock and mock and mock draft some more. Join side leagues, low-maintenance leagues, best-ball leagues. Talk football on the Internet. Do everything that gets you ready for your primary league and auction.

But whatever plans you do write down — make sure they’re in pencil. Don’t lock yourself in. Don’t become so focused on your expected path that you miss gold at your feet.

Every draft is going to have unusual flow to it — and that probably goes tenfold for an auction. You want to be prepared to react to surprise opportunities that pop up. As much as I’ll anticipate upcoming decisions in a draft, I refuse to make those final calls until I see what the game situation actually is. Anticipating the market is important; reacting to the actual market is what the game is.

101-Level Mistake — Mishandling September’s Waiver Wire

This is probably going to sound contradictory, but the two worst things you can do with your early roster is hold on too tight and hold on too loosely.

Michigan plans to play Peppers 3 ways and up to 100 plays

”Somewhere in there, there’s a sweet spot,” Harbaugh said. ”In terms of load, 95, 100 (plays) is probably the max we’re looking for.”

On some snaps, Peppers will be on the field simply as a decoy to distract defenses.

”That’s the best part of everything,” he said. ”That’s where I can work on my acting.”

Peppers said he was on the field for 96 plays last season at Minnesota. Against Ohio State, he had a career-high seven carries, caught two passes and threw one, along with making five tackles.

He didn’t play in Michigan’s win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl because of an injury to his right hand.

How did he hurt his hand?

”That’s going to be forever undisclosed,” Peppers said with a chuckle. ”I’m good now, though.”

Peppers said he has added eight pounds – and the extra weight appears to be all muscle – and is probably faster than he was last year.

What’s his fastest 40-yard dash?

”4.31,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, who was a San Francisco 49ers assistant coach for Harbaugh, has been around a lot of great athletes and said Peppers ranks among the best of them.

”He’s one of the most explosive, dynamic players I’ve ever been around,” Drevno said. ”He’s in a league with the Frank Gores, Michael Crabtrees and Vernon Davises.”

Drevno wishes he could have Peppers on the field for every snap, but he knows his day job, so to speak, is on defense. On the roster, Peppers is listed as a linebacker and defensive back. Defensive coordinator Don Brown said it isn’t fair to say his position is linebacker or a hybrid.

”We’re going to give this guy a lot to do,” Brown said.

Based on Peppers’ upbringing in New Jersey, he’s thankful to be where he is, playing football for a storied program and attending a famed university. Peppers’ father went to prison when Jabrill was 7 and didn’t get out until his was 14, he wrote last year in The Players’ Tribune, and his older brother, Don, was shot and killed at the age of 14.

”People where I’m from, they don’t have this opportunity,” he said, surrounded by a pack of reporters and cameras at Michigan’s media day. ”This alone, I’ve made it from my circumstance. What I do here is show guys there are other ways to get where you want to be without following the usual statistical path that people where I’m from follow.”

Folks turned on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, expecting to see football for the first time since the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Instead, they saw Chris Berman and his pregame show gang filling time.

There was no game on Sunday night, a big embarrassment to the league.

The Hall of Fame game was canceled due to unsafe field conditions. Paint that was put down on the 50-yard line and end zone congealed and would have been dangerous for players. Suddenly, ESPN had three free hours on its hands and the Pro Football Hall of Fame had a stadium full of upset fans who paid to see a game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts.

Colts owner Jim Irsay appeared on ESPN and said he wasn’t happy the game had to be cancelled.

“Again, this is disappointing but we have to vet it out and find out what occurred, and this shouldn’t happen. It’s not difficult. Obviously, everyone out there says, ‘Hey, you’re a $12 billion league, how can you have a field not ready to go?’

“Well, the Hall of Fame is sort of separate and gets run a little different from the league. But we have to as owners, Mark [Murphy, Packers president] and I discussed, we have to get it right so it never happens again.

“We have to make it right to our fans and also get to the bottom of exactly who got this paint job done and why there was incompetence.”

Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford avoid potential conflicts as QBs

Wentz’s down-to-earth mentality put Bradford at ease, which in turn encouraged Bradford to serve as a mentor to Wentz. Bradford was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Wentz was the No. 2 pick six years later.

“Sam’s been great,” Wentz said. “He was once the top draft pick. He’s been through it all. There’s lots of things we’ve talked about. It’s a really good room for me to not only grow mentally in the playbook, but also off the field and everything. It’s been great.”

With a relaxed atmosphere in the quarterbacks meeting room, Bradford has been able to put his brief walkout behind him and concentrate on making the most of this season. It may be his one chance in Pederson’s offense to shine and create opportunities for himself next season.

“I think I learned to just take it day by day,” Bradford said. “That’s really all that I’m worried about, just coming out here each day and getting better. No one knows what the future holds. Whatever happens, happens. That’s kind of my mindset.”

Back in April and May, when Bradford staged his walkout, he was criticized in the media and by fans on talk radio and message boards. The concern was that his action could sabotage the Eagles’ season before it even began.

A week before the preseason opener, that seems like a long time ago. Bradford, Wentz and Chase Daniel are getting along and there’s no sign of friction. Thanks to the personalities of the three quarterbacks, a potential disaster was averted.

The one-on-one matchups, any defensive back will say (and bemoan), favor receivers. That’s a point even Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson made Thursday, defending the guy who has been covering him much of camp: Josh Norman.

Yes, Norman has allowed some catches and has been beaten deep on occasion. No, it’s not every play and it’s not as if he’s having a bad camp. He hasn’t made any big plays, as Bashaud Breeland has, and that’s perhaps one reason the bad ones stand out.

“It’s crazy,” Norman said. “I practice my tail off and work hard, you practice against guys you haven’t seen before. I’m learning them as much as I can. But DeSean is DeSean. He’s the fastest guy in the league, oh my gosh. If you don’t stay over top of him, things like that will happen. But it’s practice, so this is where I’m learning where to play my leverage and where not to play and how to play him. It’s unique and interesting to me.”

Thursday, Norman defended Pierre Garcon on a deep ball in one-on-one work. During team sessions, Norman allowed two catches in front of him — Garcon once drove him off deep and ran an excellent comeback. Garcon has looked solid in camp.

But because Norman is the NFL’s highest-paid corner, he is scrutinized heavily. Coaches haven’t whispered any concerns and don’t overreact to what happens during one-on-ones.

“It’s practice,” Jackson said. “That’s what we’re out here for. It’s not like he’s going against a guy that’s not capable of winning matchups one-on-one. It’s really for a wide receiver to win. He’s known to be a top corner in this league so everybody is supposedly like, ‘He’s supposed to stop whoever it is that’s coming out there.’ But it’s challenging on both sides. As far as his intangibles, his length, his arms, he’s got some great intangibles with his game. He’ll be ready for the season.”

Josh McCown: I’ve spoken to Browns about trade talk

The Browns also have Austin Davis and rookie Cody Kessler on the roster behind Griffin. Davis is a run-of-the-mill backup who won’t go AWOL on the team ala Johnny Manziel. Kessler bonded quickly with coach Hue Jackson before the draft and remains a dark horse to see starts down the road.

McCown isn’t a long-term target for the youth-infused Browns, but he’s also potentially their best quarterback for 2016. He’s also an unmatched leader in the locker room, which has plenty of value for a team with one of the league’s youngest rosters.

The Browns can’t just trade McCown for a bag of wet spoons. The Cowboys are in a pinch, meaning Cleveland shouldn’t settle for anything less than something that will help this team continue to grow.

When Tharold Simon first surfaced on the national radar, it was in the scapegoat role as Tom Brady victimized the second-year Seahawks cornerback for a pair of touchdowns in Super Bowl XLIX.

Simon went on to miss the bulk of the 2015 season with a toe injury, leading the 2013 fifth-round draft pick to concede that the upcoming contract year is a “make-or-break” campaign.

Finally healthy and yet to miss a practice since the offseason began, Simon is battling DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane for the starting job opposite Richard Sherman.

What caught our attention early in training camp, though, was Sherman’s willingness to double down on a prediction from a few years ago that Simon would someday surpass the three-time All Pro as a cornerback.

“He’s an incredible athlete,” Sherman said earlier this week, via the team’s official website. “He’s going to be a great ball player. I continue to stand by what I’ve always said: he’s going to be better than me by the time it’s all said and done.

Although West entered the offseason squarely on the roster bubble, he helped his case by reporting to OTAs in the best shape of his life. By the time camp rolled around in late July, he was flashing elusiveness and big-play ability not seen in his first two NFL seasons.