I’m back from the road now, and with plenty to do…
• The bengals really let Joe Terrier guide him back to the training ground – and gave him all the time he needed (and obviously he needed the doctor’s clearance too) to get to where he felt completely comfortable on field. But for the rest of the job? Burrow didn’t miss much. He joined the meetings a few days after his appendectomy and was in the building as much as he otherwise would have been.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably best to think of this as, say, a sprained ankle. Just avoiding doing anything too aggressive until he felt better, where a player would continue to do all the mental work to prepare for the season and kick in when he regained his health.
Then there’s this: The Bengals planned to only give Burrow one or two rounds of snaps in preseason games anyway, and might not even have done that if Burrow had the felt like he didn’t need it. So yeah, I would expect to see the same old Burrow at the start of the season.
• Tuesday is a very big day for the Jets. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform an arthroscopy knee surgery on Zach Wilson, and it won’t be until he’s actually in the knee that he’ll know if the second-year QB will need his meniscus cut (meaning he’ll be out for a few weeks) or repaired (likely out for the season). And while doctors in New York are optimistic, there’s really no way to know for sure until her knee has split open.
There are also reasons to be concerned about the stability of the knee, depending on how it bent. My understanding is that cutting the meniscus won’t really help in that department. So that’s at least something to watch for in the future, especially since Wilson is a quarterback who moves around a lot.
Either way, hopefully Tuesday goes as planned for Wilson.
• While we’re at it, I’d classify the Jets’ interest in quarterbacks as one where the Browns are – depending on how long their starter is absent. If Wilson is out for a month then I guess they would be more than comfortable moving forward with Joe Flacco and Mike White. If it was months, plural, then I would think they would explore their options.
This is also where Jimmy Garoppolo would come into play for Cleveland or the Jets. Therefore the 49ers will also follow all this closely.
• Following Wilson’s injury, I’m going to say this (and knock on wood)—there seem to be far fewer injuries this year than there have been in the past. And I have to wonder if it’s because teams are more intentional about getting players up to full speed, which they have to do, to some degree, because of the changing rules. That doesn’t mean there do not have had serious injuries. Broncos WR Tim Patrick, for her part, tore her ACL. They just seem to be happening with a lot less frequency than they have in previous summers.
And one thing I’m sure of is that there’s a lot of tinkering when it comes to this stuff, just going from camp to camp. With even more rules in place this year than before (you can’t be in full pads more than two days in a row), some of that was bound to happen. But it goes beyond just following the guidelines – the two teams I started my camp tour with (the Browns and Invoices), for example, could not have handled the acclimatization period more differently from each other.
It will probably take some time to figure out who is doing things the right way and who is just a bit behind. But if it gets everyone to a place where we have healthier players throughout the season, then obviously it would be worth it. (And yes, that’s still under closer scrutiny, with the early stages of the regular season likely to tell us a lot about how it all works.)
• I will give credit to Russell Wilson for not hiding his big picture in an age when athletes are trained to say they only pay attention to what is directly in front of them, and nothing else. I asked the Broncos quarterback two Thursdays ago if he thinks much about the legacy he will leave in professional football.
“Always,” he replied. “Every day.”
And as to what he wants that legacy to be, he said he would like to be remembered as “one of the greatest winners of all time.” That’s what it’s about. That’s why I tie the crampons.
• It’s hard not to like Aidan Hutchinson’s star turn in the NFL (despite last November). The Lions rookie burst onto the training camp news cycle when hard knocks broadcast his moving interpretation of Michael Jackson Billie John for his teammates last week. And then he punctuated it by celebrating a tackle for loss at the MJ in Friday’s preseason opener against the Falcons.
Even better? I was told that before the game he promised his mother that he would pay tribute to Jackson if he made a big play. And maybe it’s not Babe Ruth calling, but it’s pretty cool.
• Xavier McKinney walked out of college in 2021 with a pretty strong sponsor – his college coach, Nick Saban. That spring, I had heard some scouts talking about how Saban had raved about McKinney and his NFL future, and it caught the attention of a lot of teams. And now the reason that’s being played out in New York, where new giants DC Wink Martindale decided to give McKinney the green dot, which makes him the guy to communicate with coaches through the headset. This positions him, more or less, as the quarterback of the defense.
A big key to the Martindale defense is having smart safeties who can run the show and make adjustments until the break. It’s why Martindale loved Eric Weddle the way he did and why Chuck Clark became such an important piece for Baltimore.
The fact that McKinney is placed in this kind of role in his second year says a lot about him. And tells you a lot about what Saban was trying to tell the teams two springs ago.
• The profession of JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a good example of how swinging and missing a draft pick can end up costing a team dearly. The Arcega-Whiteside failure was part of the Eagles then having to draft first-round receivers the next two years (Jalen Reagor, DeVonta Smith), and later having to deal out a first-round pick to get a guy (AJ Brown) to be the biggest target that Stanford’s product was meant to be.
The interesting thing, too, about Arcega-Whiteside is that he was only picked six times after Brown in 2019. That year, 12 receivers entered the top 80 picks. Five landed big second contracts (Brown, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin), with four of those deals exceeding $20 million a year. Meanwhile, four of the 12 (Hollywood Brown, N’Keal Harry, Jalen HurdArcega-Whiteside) are no longer among the teams that drafted them, with a fifth (Andy Isabelle) having spent part of this offseason on the trading block.
• The Roquan-Smith The situation is getting stranger and stranger, with teams at the NFL Board of Management warning Monday that an agent posing as Smith’s representative is trying to speed up trade talks. As we said in the MMQB column Monday morningtrying to get fair value for Smith won’t be easy for the Bears.
• The Cowboys’ penalty counts over the weekend—they were reported 17 (!) times in Denver on Saturday night—certainly caught my eye, especially considering how last year ended for Dallas. And it seems to be one of those things that, even if your backups are present, would be systemic in nature. So for all the irrelevant stuff happening in pre-season games, it’s probably worth keeping an eye out for the next two weeks.
More NFL coverage:
• Aaron Rodgers explains why he is now at peace
• Ranking the best QB moves of the 2022 offseason
• Pete Carroll still going strong, establishing Seahawks culture
• Mailbag: three teams likely to be interested in Roquan Smith