Aaron Rodgers and the Quest to Be Like Brady

He swore off milkshakes years ago, one of many changes he’s made as he’s discovered his new motivation: be a starter at age 40. How consulting with the Patriots legend is helping Rodgers get there. Plus, looking for a Super Bowl hangover in Foxboro, how the Vikings are building an offense for Kirk Cousins, and how Matt Patricia is bringing a taste of the Patriots to Detroit, but trying not to be Bill Belichick. Also, why a Julio Jones deal got done, why Sam Darnold’s deal should already be done, why Dalvin Cook is in for a big year and much more
July 30, 2018

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers likes milkshakes. Even now, and that’s after he swore them off three years ago.

“I remember the old days. I remember the old, old cafeteria, which was way back over there,” the Packers quarterback says in a quiet moment Friday, pointing to the east side of Lambeau. “I don’t even know what’s over there now. It was a tiny room, and we had soda machines, we had ice cream bars all over the place, and we had these milkshakes at night that were enormous, which I loved.

“The eating habits in 2005 were different than 2018.”

Rodgers was different then, too. He’s 34 now. He has 13 NFL seasons, 10 as Green Bay’s starter, under his belt. And maybe if he turned 35 during the 2005 season, rather than the 2018 season, he’d be looking at his quarterbacking mortality the same way Joe Montana (retired at 38), Dan Marino (38), Jim Kelly (36), John Elway (38) or Troy Aikman (34) did a generation ago. But it’s a different time. The math has changed, and Rodgers sees himself as a beneficiary.

It took a commitment on Rogers’s part. After the 2015 season he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to take care of a lingering issue. After that he looked for ways to get out in front of the pain he’d experienced. It started with a simple fix, one that cost him his milkshakes.

“I decided just to cut out dairy from that point,” Rodgers says. “I have an allergy to it—I’m intolerant to it, my body just doesn’t enjoy it, my bowels especially. So I thought about how that’d affect my overall health. So it’s that, it’s eating more of a raw-type of diet, where it’s actual foods, or compositions of foods that are five ingredients or less. It’s being smarter about what I’m eating, limiting my sugars.

“And my overall health has improved. I haven’t had the same type of knee pain since that season, and I’d had a chronic knee issue since I was in high school. So that’s obviously improved, increasing the information on my body. And then I think you get older and you actually enjoy working out more, because you know it’s directly tied to your longevity.”

I came to Green Bay on Friday to kick off the longest leg of my training camp swing with the idea to ask about Rodgers, and what his collarbone injury cost the Packers last year, and how that look at the Packers without Aaron might affect things for him personally, as well as for a team going through a transition.

I left believing Rodgers has plenty of time left, and that in a few years we’ll be talking about him in the way we talk about Tom Brady now, rather than looking at him like we did Marino or Elway or even his predecessor in Green Bay, when they got to their late 30s. Brady, in fact, has a lot to do with it.


Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

This week’s MMQB has camp in full swing. I’m going to take you with me to Patriots, Vikings and Lions camps. We’ll also look at some of the contract situations lingering out there, plus the ones in Atlanta and Los Angeles that got resolved.

But we’re going to start in Lambeau, with the idea that Green Bay struck this offseason under new GM Brian Gutekunst to try to maximize what’s left of Rodgers’s prime. It’s been eight years since the Super Bowl XLV championship, and the Packers have come painfully close very recently, making it to conference title games in two of Rodgers’ last three full seasons.

Add that to an uncharacteristically splashy offseason, with Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis and Mo Wilkerson anchoring a robust free-agent class, and Gutekunst trading aggressively on draft night, and the easy thing to think is that there’s more urgency here.

After visiting Green Bay, I learned one part of my equation was wrong—the notion that Rodgers sees the sun setting. He doesn’t, and as far as I could tell, the Packers don’t either.

“I’d say this: He’s a young 34,” coach Mike McCarthy told me. “He had the first three years to sit behind Brett [Favre], and if you look at him physically, the last three, four years, he’s clearly in the best shape of his career. He’s done a tremendous job taking care of his body.”

And it kicked into overdrive with that wake-up call he got from the adjustment in his diet back in early 2016. That was just the start. In seeing what changing his diet could do, Rodgers found a new challenge. For the longest time, the idea that 23 teams passed on him gave him an edge. Then he won a Super Bowl. A year later, he was league MVP. Three years after that, he was MVP again. Somewhere along the way, it became tougher to convince himself he was still the plucky underdog. So his motivation changed, too.

“I can’t really rely on the chips on my shoulder, whether it was actual or perceived, that motivational stuff you use,” Rodgers says. “So you look for different ways to challenge yourself. For me, it’s that longevity now. We play at a high level. And 40 is an interesting number for quarterbacks. There haven’t been a lot of guys that have gotten there. Tommy [Brady] was obviously incredible last year at 40, but there aren’t a lot of guys who can do that.”

That’s where Brady comes in. The two quarterbacks have talked about this quest for longevity, and Brady sent Rodgers the TB12 Method book he released last September. Rodgers has taken stuff from it and applied it in conjunction with the advice he gets regularly from Packers director of performance nutrition Adam Korzun, a man partially responsible for the disappearance of Rodgers’ beloved milkshake machine. Rodgers did his own research too, and as a result, it’s not just his knee that’s gotten new life. He has more energy. He’s sleeping better. He feels stronger.

“I do my own reading, and Adam’s been a fantastic resource, and obviously Tom and I are close,” Rodgers says. “We’ve talked about the stuff he does. I don’t swear off nightshades like he does. But I had a lot of room to grow in that area. I love sweets and food in general, so being smart about what I was eating tied to my performance.”

As he’s become a technician with his diet, he’s doing the same with his mechanics, focusing on balance and rhythm and timing, and being able to retain muscle memory on each throw. “I can make throws that look difficult, that are difficult, but I’ve done them before and you’re able to recall those moments, how to aim properly, how to release properly to complete balls that are difficult for most people to throw.”

That would qualify as bad news for the other 31 teams. As long as he’s healthy, Rodgers might be getting better the way Brady seemed to as he approached, and then hit, age 40. Rodgers knows what he wants now, too, because just as 2013 did, last year provided a valuable moment of self-actualization that came almost immediately after Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr slammed him into the US Bank Stadium turf.

“It’s that time that tells you, ‘Am I kind of over it? Are the injuries, that type of injury, too much? Are you worried about your future? Or do you miss it so much? Do you miss the camaraderie? Do you miss the competition so much that you can’t wait to get back?” Rodgers says. “And mine was obviously the latter. I love this game and I’ve given a lot to it, and it’s given a lot back. I want to keep rolling as long as I can.”

For how long?

“Minimum is 40,” he says. “I’d love to be a starter at 40, so that’d be 40 turning 41. That’d be awesome because not many guys have been to play really well to that age.”

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That means getting to the 2024 season. So to answer the question I came here with: Yes, the Packers are trying to get the most out of Rodgers, and Gutekunst’s proactive approach has been part of it. But it’s not because some figurative clock is ticking.

“If this was all based on how the quarterback plays, we may win ’em all, just being honest,” says McCarthy. “It’s the other 52 [players], that’s the part that we always have to make sure that we’re focused on. But, yeah, I hope that when we’re sitting here 10 years from now, we’re looking back and that question isn’t asked.”

You can rest assured Rodgers is doing everything he can to make sure it won’t be.


Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The Patriots opened camp with a feisty back-and-forth between Bill Belichick and Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, centered on the offseason’s biggest question in New England: What happened with Malcolm Butler on Feb. 4?

There have been plenty of rumors. But Belichick hadn’t addressed it directly to that point, and an explanation from the horse’s mouth wasn’t coming last Wednesday.

Even the Patriots aren’t immune to the NFL’s new fatal-flaw trend, where one mistake from the Super Bowl follows the big game’s loser around for an entire offseason. This is the fourth straight year we’ve had something.

• After Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were dogged over the call to put the ball in Russell Wilson’s hands, rather than Marshawn Lynch’s, with the game on the line. Wilson was, of course, picked off by… Butler in the waning moments.

• The decision of Panthers QB Cam Newton not to jump on a loose ball late in Super Bowl 50, and his demeanor in the postgame press conference, led to rounds of questions about the 2015 league MVP during the subsequent spring and summer.

• The call by Falcons coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan not to run the ball, in field-goal range and with an eight-point lead, in Super Bowl LI. Matt Ryan took a sack, and a holding penalty forced the Falcons to punt. The Patriots’ completed their 25-point comeback, forceed overtime and won. That one lingered in Atlanta right into the 2017 season.

So how are the Patriots handling their Super Bowl disappointment this summer? The first thing to remember is that those other teams really didn’t fall on their faces as a result of all the noise. Both Seattle and Atlanta got to the playoffs, and advanced in them, the next year, while Carolina missed the postseason in 2016 but got back the year after.

Second, each guy is handling it differently. Veteran corner Eric Rowe told me he’s purposefully avoided watching the team’s loss to the Eagles again, while defensive end Tre Flowers said he’s only seen bits and pieces. Safety Duron Harmon, conversely, has gone the other way. And it’s not just that he’s watched it at work, like Flowers. He’s studied it at home, too.

“I’ve watched it numerous times,” Harmon says. “You watch it to see what you would do different, how you could play different. What can you learn from it? It’s still a game, an opportunity to go out there and play football, and you can always go out there and learn, seeing how teams attack you. I’m sure teams are gonna try to attack us the way the Eagles did.”

The day I was in Foxboro last week, it was really too early to tell if the messy ending to last season would have any tangible effect on the team. Brady didn’t seem particularly intense, but he looked like Tom Brady throwing it. Rob Gronkowski wasn’t boisterous as he had been during the June minicamp but still flashed dominance. There’s a long way to go.

What you can say: If any team is capable of putting something like the mystery of the Butler situation, and a rough Super Bowl loss, behind it, this is the one. The Patriots went 16-0 in the face of Spygate, and won a Super Bowl the year Brady served his Deflategate suspension. The internal strife here might be a little more like what we saw during the Lategate season of 2009 (when Randy Moss and several other players were disciplined for reporting late to a practice; the Patriots went 10-6 that year). But they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

Jason McCourty is a good guy to go to. He’s yet to make a postseason appearance in nine NFL seasons, and he was on the 0-16 Browns last year. But his twin brother, Devin, has played in four Super Bowls, and Jason has now been on the inside for five months.

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“We talk about that year-in and year-out, how drastically different our experiences have been,” Jason says of his brother. “For him, he’s been in the AFC Championship Game every year except one, and that’s abnormal. What’s special here is they know that. The guys here know how much work it takes to get to that point, and guys put in that work. Everybody knows that last year, making it to the Super Bowl, no one cares, it’s over with.”

Soon enough, we’ll see if it really is.


Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

It’s been a while since Kirk Cousins entered a season without the chance that the bottom could fall out from under him. An injury his junior year in high school meant he was fighting for his first scholarship offer as a senior. A lukewarm evaluation from the NFL meant returning to Michigan State in 2011 with a ton on the line. His first three years in Washington he fought for playing time. The last three he was fighting for a contract.

Now he has everything he could want: a team committed to building around him, a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal, a loaded roster. He knows all that can imply—and that he can’t get comfortable.

“When you’re playing in the NFL, there’s an edge, so I don’t have to do anything to have it be there,” Cousins said Saturday, just outside at the Vikings locker room at their sparkling new facility. “It’s there. I’m as locked in and wired for the first practice of training camp as I’ve ever been. I came in a few days early with the rookies because it’s so important, and there is an edge to us. That doesn’t change.

“But I do agree with you, when you’re put under stress, that allows for a lot of growth. And I read a quote somewhere once that said, really, the only way to grow is under stress. So while we don’t love the stress, we do grow. And I’d look back on my first six years in the league and say there just was a tremendous amount of growth, and it’s been for my good.”

There’s a flip side to that. There certainly is benefit to being the guy, and not having to look over your shoulder constantly. Cousins took me through how he sees that, after the Vikings’ first full-squad practice…

• John DeFilippo is building the offense for Cousins—“that’s just good coaching,” the coordinator told me. And that means all the details are tailored to who Cousins is and what he does well. “Coach Flip installed the snap count one of the first days in April,” Cousins says. “And I came in the next morning, and had a couple thoughts, a couple suggestions. And I thought it was going to be a conversation, a dialogue, a back and forth. He looked and me and said, ‘Is that what you want?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Great,’ and turned around and started crossing stuff out and changing it.” Cousins’ belief is that, because DeFilippo is doing those little things, he’s going to “have an ability to play fast, to operate out of instinct, to let the best player inside me to come out.”

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• Cousins can now lead, which was challenging in Washington because of the circumstances and might be hard for most players coming into an established winner like the Vikings. “It’s one thing to, on the outside, have it look like you should have that,” Cousins says. “It’s another thing to, on the inside, actually back that up. And what I love, since I’ve been here, the organization has really backed that up. They’ve really given me a license to lead behind closed doors. They’ve said, ‘Hey, what would you like the offense to look like?’ Teammates have been very supportive, and very inclusive in terms of bringing me into the fold. So that helps as well. The outside doesn’t see that—they see the structure of my role and the contract and assume that’s going on. But it really is.”

• It’s possible Cousins loses DeFilippo next year, but Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman aren’t going anywhere, and QBs coach Kevin Stefanski is a likely heir should DeFilippo get a head coaching job somewhere. Bottom line: There’s stability to build relationships, which creates more certainty than Cousins would have had if he chose another team in free agency. “I’ve always been a guy who likes to know what’s coming,” Cousins says. “Even with the littlest things, I like to plan. I’m a planner. I like to have things on the calendar weeks, months in advance. I like to be ready for Sunday. I talk through blitzes, I don’t like being surprised by a coverage or a blitz or a route. We make adjustments. So naturally, playing on one-year deals goes against my wiring, I wanna know what’s going to happen.” Cousins then said, “That’s not life.” But for the next couple years, it could be.

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The first day of practice didn’t tell anyone much in Minnesota. The Vikings have a long way to go, like everyone else. But it sure seemed like everyone here was pretty pumped that, for the first time in what feels like a long time, the Vikings know who will be taking them through it. Minnesota will have its fifth Week 1 starter in five years under Mike Zimmer.

“Right now, it does [feel good], only because you feel like Kirk is going be here for a while,” Zimmer said. “I felt that way about Teddy [Bridgewater], then he got hurt. And really Sam [Bradford], too. But it feels different in the way where you have a veteran, experienced quarterback coming out here. … He’s 28, not many times does a guy who’s thrown for 4,000 yards the last couple years get to the market. It’s felt like every year we were trying to get the position right. We think we’ve got it right.”

Cousins does too.

• SUBSCRIBE TO THE MORNING HUDDLE: Get the The MMQB’s essential NFL look-ahead in your inbox every weekday during training camp.


 

Detroit Lions/AP

Over the last six months, new Lions coach Matt Patricia has gotten a first-hand perspective on just how turnkey an operation New England had become for him. And over the last few weeks, that realization had him ordering new goalposts for the practice fields for his new home facility in suburban Detroit. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the sort of thing anyone expects to be doing when they’re envisioning becoming an NFL head coach.

“The system’s been in place for so long [in New England], there are things you don’t even notice, because those things operate in such a smooth manner,” Patricia said on Sunday morning. “It’s, ‘Wait, why are we doing that? Where are the goalposts?’ And then you go order the goalposts.”

And that relates to what I was wondering about when my travel buddy Kalyn Kahler and I got to Lions camp—after a half-year, how much would this look like New England? The answer is that earmarks are there. The coaches are demanding. The action is physical, swift and intense. I saw the nutcracker version of the Oklahoma drill (albeit not at full speed) on an NFL field for the first time. Patricia is intimately involved in drills, like a Bill Belichick or Nick Saban would be. He’s not playing CEO.

But there’s a line there too, and Patricia knows it. Trying to recreate principles of New England is one thing. Trying to be New England is another. That’s why he took advice from a friend of his and asked coaches who’d left Foxboro and failed elsewhere what went wrong. The information that came back was pretty consistent, and so in a certain way he’s actually trying not to be Belichick.

“It was, Be yourself, make sure the players see who you are, make sure they see the passion, the love for the game, make sure they understand the message,” Patricia said. “I’m always going to be me. I think the fundamental philosophies we learned in New England, from how we look at the game, what we believe in the game, are absolutely the right way to do it. I just have to be my own individual.”

Now, here’s what’s really interesting about that: Patricia is just the second guy from the Belichick Patriots tree to be hired as a head coach by a guy he worked with in Foxboro. Romeo Crennel, elevated to the top spot in Kansas City in 2012, is the other, and no one would accuse him of trying to be Bill.

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As such, simple logic would tell you that Lions GM Bob Quinn, the old Patriots pro scouting director, has some insight that’s hard to come by. He and Patricia grew close in Foxboro, after they were paired to travel together when scouting college players a decade ago. Quinn knows what he’s getting.

“Matt’s a very unique guy, very intelligent, and has his own way of doing things,” Quinn says. “Obviously he has the experience in New England under Bill, and Bill obviously taught him a lot of those things. But I think he has a lot of different ideas on how to run a program, how to run an organization, that are pretty unique. And we’re starting to implement those slowly as we go here.”

Some of it may be coming slow. Other stuff, by the looks of Sunday’s work, isn’t.


… OF THE WEEK

TWEET

The really crazy thing about the Dez vs. Cowboys fight? It was all sparked by that Sirius account cherry-picking something Dallas COO Stephen Jones said on the air without proper context (to their credit, the folks there did take it down). And this, on the day that a column by ex-Cowboys TE Jason Witten on the dangers on Twitter went up on ESPN.com. A column, by the way, that I’m told one assistant coach printed out copies of, with plans to pass it out to his players, only to have the head coach beat him to it by doing a presentation on Witten’s piece to the entire team.

VIDEO/YOUTUBE

I’ve been in Latrobe for Antonio Brown arrivals in the past. I’ve seen the outrageousness. This takes the cake.

QUOTE

“I anticipate we’ll be speaking with his agents sooner rather than later. I’m not going to get into exact timetable with that nor are we gonna get daily or weekly updates on that but I think we’re gonna start pretty soon. Hopefully we’ll come to an agreement. … I think this was the time that we always had in mind. But I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction. He has come in here with a good attitude. Showed up yesterday with a smile on his face. He’s worked hard. I think he’s ready to go. He’s ready for a great season.”

Giants co-owner John Mara on Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract situation. There is confirmation that Beckham’s handling of the spring went a long way with management. It’s been my strong belief all along that Giants weren’t going to enter into talks with their star receiver until, and unless, he’d put some skins on the wall for new coach Pat Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman. And in being a pro over the last six months, he’s done that.

MEME

I’m shoehorning this meme in here to say that I’m not surprised that Jimmy Garoppolo would think he was better than Tom Brady, because most pro athletes think that way. And also because: That was once Brady. Six years ago I did a story on Brady, looking at whether or not he was the best ever, and talked to Aaron Shea, an old Michigan teammate. Shea told me that over the summer of 2001, Brady told him that he was going to take Drew Bledsoe’s job. Brady had been fourth-string in New England the year before, and Bledsoe was the greatest QB in franchise history with a new $100 million contract in his back pocket. Shea thought Brady was nuts. Turns out, he wasn’t. So I’m not killing Jimmy for thinking that way.

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S/O TO …

49ers management, in general, and GM John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and their community relations staff in particular for a pretty awesome program that has position groups picking special guests to bring to practice each day during camp. On Saturday, Lynch tweeted that the outside linebackers brought kids battling cancer and their families out. What a great experience for the kids, and a great experience for the Niners to give their players.\

• THE MMQB AT TRAINING CAMP: Our staffers check in from the road with what’s new and what’s happening at each camp. Read their postcards here.


Mark Brown/Getty Images

TEN TAKEAWAYS

1. The Jets’ standoff with Sam Darnold has gone on for long enough, and should be settled by now. For a while, the issue was offset language, but once Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen did deals with offsets, Darnold’s side showed a willingness to concede on that. At issue now is the forfeiture language that the Jets put in their player contracts, which details what can lead to a player’s guarantees being voided. Bears LB Roquan Smith’s situation relates to this too, with how suspensions tied to the new helmet rule would factor in at issue. In Darnold’s case, the hold up is the breadth of what could lead Darnold to default. The language is standard in the team’s contracts. Whether or not it’s too punitive is what needs to be settled. I know you’re probably enthralled by this legal talk, but what we all can agree on: This should done by now.

2. The helmet rule coming up in the Roquan Smith negotiations (and other negotiations) is just a precursor of what’s to come. Coaches I’ve talk to fear it’s going to be a mess in the preseason, as officials use the exhibition games to try to get a feel for how to enforce the rule. As for where things go with Smith from here, I’m not sure. One nugget I can pass along: The language has been standard in Bears contracts, and the team did not enforce it when Danny Trevathan was suspended for spearing Davante Adams last year—they went after neither his signing bonus money nor his guarantees. That doesn’t mean Chicago couldn’t do it. It just means they didn’t, which gives the club some credibility in that regard. And if the player’s rep is any indication, Smith’s resolve is an X-factor. This is the same kid who once refused to sign a letter of intent with colleges, in order to maintain his flexibility up until he enrolled at Georgia.

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3. No team wants to give players raises with three years left on contracts. It’s not great precedent, and the back end of deals is where the team’s upside usually lurks. But if you’re going to do it, make it someone like Julio Jones. Way back in 2011, one of the things that sold Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on trading up for Jones was that Alabama coach Nick Saban called the star receiver “unaffected”. What does that mean? That no matter the circumstances, Jones would be the best he could be for his team. That has played out in Jones’s NFL career, most notably in how he’s pushed through injuries. So where Dimitroff and Co. could feel comfortable breaking policy and giving Jones a bump was in the message it would send to everyone in the organization, in rewarding a player who personified what the GM and coach Dan Quinn want the place to stand for. And the compromise here was sensible. The Falcons showed a willingness to redo Jones’s deal next year, which is still early. And Jones wanted a little bump now to reflect the changes in the receiver market. The $2.9 million moved into 2018 pushes the four-year total on the deal he signed in 2015 from $57.5 million to $60.4 million, and gets Jones into the cluster of seven (now eight) receivers making between $15 million and $17 million.

4. Want some quick thoughts from the four camps I went to this weekend? I’m convinced that the Patriots’ ability to maintain their accustomed level (seven straight AFC title games) will come down to what they get out of their front seven …. Take Vikings RB Dalvin Cook in your fantasy draft, then thank me later. Even without the pads on, his vision and explosion were on display this weekend. If you didn’t know he tore his ACL last fall, there’s no way you’d be able to tell by watching him … New Packers DC Mike Pettine covets corners, and he has one intriguing group that has youngsters Kevin King, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson backstopped by vets Tramon Williams and Davon House … If the Detroit O-line stays healthy, look out. Taylor Decker is an All-Pro waiting to happen, rookie Frank Ragnow is ready to play, T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner are healthy, and Graham Glasgow has looked good back at center.

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5. I did ask Aaron Rodgers about his contract. Here’s what he said: “We’ve talked about a number of different types of deals. There’s obviously mutual interest on both sides in keeping me in Green Bay for the duration. That’s definitely what you want as a player. You see the rarity of it in sports, and you think about guys like Kobe, guys like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, who spent entire career with one organization, Tommy in New England. It’s very rare. That would be the goal. …. As far as setting a trend or breaking down things, it’s great for the game and its players, for sure, when Kirk [Cousins] does a deal like he did. The reality is, there’s not many teams that would do that, first of all. And there aren’t many teams that would do it for more than three years. So at some point, there are going to be contracts that will continue to extend that, and there’s been guys who’ve done it over the years, who’ve done monumental things, whether it’s Reggie White in free agency, that make a difference for the next generation. That’s something you can have as part of your legacy.”

6. The Eagles are going to be cautious, both in how they handle Carson Wentz and what they say about his situation. But my sense is that they’re very happy with where he is, and in particular how he’s moving on his surgically repaired knee, through the first few days in camp. I’m told there was a moment in a team rush period on Saturday, when he escaped an oncoming Michael Bennett, that got the attention of plenty of people within the organization. Six weeks ’til the opener.

7. Josh Gordon’s announcement last Monday that he would be delaying his arrival this summer caught plenty of people by surprise, some in Browns football ops among them. Suffice it to say, if and when Gordon returns, trust is going to be an important element. Here’s hoping he can take care of his business and find a way back into the league. But I’d say, if you’re Cleveland, at this point you have to look at anything you get from Gordon as a bonus from here on out, and that’s probably how they should’ve been approaching it for some time now.

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8. In stocking their roster, the Rams have had a bit of a deficit in high draft picks the last couple years. They’ve made only two picks in the first two rounds over the last three drafts (Jared Goff in 2016, Gerald Everett in ’17). And next year’s 2 is already gone, as part of the Marcus Peters deal. But they’ve been smart in trying to make up for it by playing the compensatory pick game. None of their big-name acquisitions this offseason (Peters, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Brandin Cooks) hurt them in the formula, and there’s a good chance they’ll get third-round picks for letting Sammy Watkins and Trumaine Johnson walk. Next year, there’s a good chance they have four picks in the first three rounds.

9. That said, I’m not sure there’s real light at the end of the tunnel on Aaron Donald. And that goes for Khalil Mack in Oakland, too. As we’ve outlined here over the last couple months, the fact that the market for elite defensive players hasn’t moved much since March 2015 is a part of the problem. And I don’t think Mack and Donald are wrong to seek a market correction in getting to a certain percentage of what the highest-paid quarterback (Matt Ryan, for now) is making. No one’s arguing that quarterbacks aren’t more valuable than anyone else, but the gap between their pay and everyone else has absolutely exploded. Consider this: If you go by APY (average per year), the NFL’s 18 highest-paid players are quarterbacks. And guys like Wentz, Goff, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky are still on rookie deals and aren’t factored into that 18. That’s kind of crazy.

10. The fact that the NFL and NFLPA had a face-to-face meeting on Friday, and that it wasn’t the first one of the month, is reason for optimism that they’ll find a solution to the league’s anthem problem. The fact that it’s been quiet in the days since is another good sign. And I’ve heard quiet optimism that they’ll figure something out soon. Three days until the Hall of Fame Game.

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OFF-FIELD ISSUES

1. As someone from Massachusetts, I was skeptical about Chappaquiddick. I finally saw it last week, and there was no reason to be. It was really well done. Jason Clarke was convincing as Teddy Kennedy, and the details were there, right down to the On Time car ferry. See it if you haven’t.

2. While we’re on entertainment, I didn’t know how into Taylor Swift my wife was until I asked her if she wanted tickets to the July 28 show at Gillette Stadium. And that was before she turned into a teenager ahead of it last week.

3. No matter what you think of LeBron James, you gotta tip your cap to him for what he’s doing in Akron this week, in opening an entire public school to give at-risk kids in his hometown a better education and a better chance in the game of life. Absolutely amazing.

4. Best to everyone that’s out, and to those still left at the New York Daily News. I don’t think you need me to tell you that there’s a real need for good journalism in America. Here’s what I will say, separate from what happened last week in New York: It’s on all of us in the business to find better and more innovative ways to deliver it to the public, and not yearn for the way things were.

5. It was interesting to see Stanford’s Heisman candidate, Bryce Love, miss Pac-12 media days because of class commitments. When I asked around about why the outrageously productive Love didn’t declare last year, the answer I got back is that he genuinely loves school. And this would back that up.


FIVE-DAY FORECAST

We’ve got a football game (sort of)!!!!

O.K., so normally the Hall of Fame Game is a terrible product. It’s been three years since a starting quarterback has taken a snap in it. But this year, we’ve got intrigue for a couple reasons.

First and foremost, we’ll get a glimpse of Lamar Jackson on an NFL field—maybe he starts the game—and that gives everyone something to look forward to. Second, we’ll get a look at what will probably be a scaled-down version of the offense that Matt Nagy and Co. have been cooking up in Chicago.

Will it be worth watching all the way through? Probably not. But it will probably be worth something, which is more than you could say for last year’s Blaine Gabbert/Kellen Moore matchup.

And if nothing else, it’s a milestone that says we’re getting pretty close to the real thing.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)