Eleven camps in the books for me. Three more this week, and then the “games” begin …
1. I sensed a great deal of respect from the Lions organization for their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, in how he’s handled his wife Kelly’s illness. During the offseason, understandably, Stafford took some time away. But there were other times when coaches and scouts would arrive at the facility at 5:30 a.m. and see the quarterback’s car in the lot. On those occasions, Stafford would replicate what his teammates would do later in the day, then make it to the team meeting, and hustle to hospital to get to Kelly’s side as she was waking up (she’d sleep in on those days). I know how much the Lions appreciated his commitment in doing that, and the feeling went the other way too.
“The Lions were awesome in helping me through that and giving me the space I needed,” Stafford says. “And I tried to reward those guys for being nice, and understanding that I was in here as much as I possibly could, as quickly as I could after her deal.”
Kelly has been healthy enough of late to make it to Lions camp practices (I saw her with owner Martha Ford when I was there), and Stafford is locked into what he’s doing football-wise.
“When it was all going on, my priority was them, my family, making sure they’re good,” Stafford says. “I probably took a little more time off mentally from this game, and maybe that will help. Sometimes you need a little bit of a break, something to take your mind off of it. Obviously, you don’t wish for something like that to happen to do it. But I for sure was away from it for a little bit, and it’s nice to be back doing it. I love doing this. This is what I love doing. It’s just good that she’s able to move around and be good.”
2. While we’re there—there’s a note in MMQB about Detroit coach Matt Patricia toggling between offense and defense coaching. Stafford affirmed that despite the head coach’s defensive background, he’s gotten a lot out of Patricia’s coaching. “He’s super involved, he’s a smart guy and he’s coached on both sides of the football, which gives him unique perspective,” Stafford says. “We’ve done a good job of bouncing ideas off each other, talking about what we see, what gives that defense a problem, what gives our offensive set a problem, whatever it is. It’s been fun to have it. It’s a challenge every day going against that defense, trying to outsmart them and beat them”—which, in fact, is the whole idea, as Stafford sees it.
“We’re trying to create smart players, trying to create guys that don’t just go out and run the plays, but know why we’re running them, what we’re looking to try to do when we’re running them, both offensively and defensively, special teams, all of it,” he says.” The more of those guys we have running around on the field, the better we’ll be.”
3. One thing that I’ve continued to hear about Tom Brady’s contract is how the team and player are in an unprecedented situation. No quarterback has played at the level that Brady did last year at 41 years old. And yet, it’s really hard to know what he’ll look like in a year or two, because there’s no precedent for what a guy like him will be at 42 or 43 or 44 either. The best way to summarize the deal is that it gives everyone flexibility and options. And while it’s pretty hard to envision Brady in another uniform, it’s not as difficult to see a scenario where the sides have differing opinions on value. So obviously, this bears watching, with Brady’s path to free agency now clear. Before the news of the voidable years came (the 2020 and ’21 seasons on the deal automatically void next March), I did ask one source if there were triggers ahead of those to create early decision points for the team. The response: More likely, there’ll be conversations after the season. Which makes sense now.
4. As part of the contract revision, Brady got a $20.25 million signing bonus, a $1.75 million base, and $1 million in per-game game roster bonuses. He’ll collect the bonus and the base. He has to stay healthy to get those per-game roster bonuses, though. In essence, the Patriots get a small refund if Brady gets hurt ($62,500 per game).
5. Underrated important coach this summer: Vikings line coach Rick Dennison, charged with fixing a unit that’s been like a donut on the bat of the Minnesota offense, and blending it into an offensive vision that Kirk Cousins has excelled under in the past.
6. I don’t see the Chargers coming much off their position on Melvin Gordon—they’re at about $10 million per. At some point, Gordon will probably need to make a decision on what he wants to do next. If GM Tom Telesco were to put Gordon on the block and actively shop him, it’s hard to see there being much of a trade market, because doing a deal would likely mean another team parting with a high-end draft pick and doing a blockbuster extension. (The caveat: It only takes one team to overreach.)
7. Jets GM Joe Douglas is putting his fingerprints on the roster quickly, with the acquisitions of C Ryan Kalil and guard Alex Lewis. The former is obviously a bigger pick up than the latter, but both reflect a commitment to building a foundation through the line of scrimmage. That’s really how Philly laid the groundwork for a championship, with Douglas there leading the scouting department as Howie Roseman’s top lieutenant.
8. As Pro Football Talk reported, the NFL and NFLPA met again Monday. This was an important because the last meeting ended with the sides far apart on the economic split and left to return to their corners and find flexibility in their proposals. The good news is that things remain amicable. At this point 10 years ago, you had lockout threats and staged walkouts.
9. The Rams feel like they’ll be able to get more out of Clay Matthews, by virtue of pacing the 33-year-old. Matthews played over 70% of the Packers’ defensive snaps last year. He won’t have to do that with Dante Fowler and Samson Ekuban as part of his position group in LA.
10. An under-the-radar important player: Texans LT Matt Kalil. The team likes its rookie tackles, Tytus Howard and Max Sharping, but both have been cross-training over at guard, with Kalil getting most of the work on Deshaun Watson’s blindside. Kalil’s health has failed him in the past. If it does again, Houston’s gonna have to either put Seantrel Henderson over there, or ramp one of the rookies up quickly. If Kalil can stay in one piece, though, the rest of the line has a shot to come together.
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