What's the difference in Mitchell Trubisky this year? How about the one thing fantasy owners need to know about the Colts? It's all in our notebook.
Welcome to the Weekend Read. This week we run through our favorite stories of the week, 15 nuggets from around the NFL as training camp gets underway and a lesson in conditioning from an NFL defensive end. Enjoy.
• Life after The Brow: How David Griffin rebuilt the Pelicans—and himself in the process. (By Jake Fischer)
• The Dodgers have the best record. The Yankees have the most resources. The Red Sox have the highest payroll. But everybody is chasing the Astros. (By Tom Verducci)
• This is the story of how a Tampa Bay–based chef helped a Cuban Olympic boxer escape from one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. (By Greg Bishop)
• Let's run through the winners and losers of the MLB trade deadline. Shield your eyes, Yankees fans. (By Jon Tayler)
• More yards over his first five seasons than Randy Moss and more consecutive 1,300-yard seasons than anyone. Torry Holt is ready to tell you why he belongs in Canton. (By Jonathan Jones)
News and Notes From Around Training Camp
Summer is in full swing in the NFL, as preseason games have begun and training camps are well underway across the league. Our NFL insider, Albert Breer, is making his way across the country on a training camp tour. Among his seven stops so far, he’s gotten up-close looks at the buzz-worthy Browns, the reigning MVP in K.C., a stacked Bears team and a Bengals squad that can’t catch a break. These are the top 15 observations from those stops:
1. CHICAGO: Bears back-up QB Chase Daniel on difference in Mitchell Trubisky this year: “Night and day. ... He’s not learning the offense, he’s running the offense.”
2. CINCINNATI: It should be mentioned that AJ Green was injured on the turf of Welcome Stadium in Dayton. Bengals were there at the league’s request as part of the NFL’s 100th anniversary celebration.
3. PITTSBURGH: The inside linebacker makeover is an obvious storyline here. First-round pick Devin Bush and free-agent signee Mark Barron should make a difference. But the Steelers feel like they've got better depth there, too. If that spot comes together, the front seven should be really, really good.
4. CLEVELAND: The key camp battle is at right guard. The hope is Austin Corbett (the 33rd pick in the 2018 draft) will win the fight, but that's no sure thing. The interior O-line spots are always key with a shorter QB (see: Saints and Drew Brees). Finding the right piece to go with left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter is important.
5. KANSAS CITY: There are lots of new pieces on defense, but rookie safety Juan Thornhill is one to watch. He's gotten his hands on the ball daily in camp, and flashes the versatility to pair well with Tyrann Mathieu. He'll likely supplant Daniel Sorensen in the starting lineup at some point.
6. DETROIT: Without question, the swing factor for the Lions looks like it will be the offensive line. The team is happy with its tackles (Taylor Decker, Ricky Wagner) and center (Frank Ragnow). It needs to work out the guard spots. The belief is OL coach Jeff Davidson's work should show this year.
7. CINCINNATI: The new staff knew Tyler Boyd was good. But he exceeded their expectations in the spring—that he got paid isn't unrelated to that. Coaches kept referring to how "natural" he looks in everything he does.
8. CHICAGO: The kicker thing here is wild. The easiest way to explain it: Normally, in camp, fans go to the bathroom, concession stand, etc. when special teams work starts. It's the opposite here.
9. CLEVELAND: Second-year CB Denzel Ward is ready to take a big step. The staff sees a player who is locked in. At practice, there were two plays when Baker Mayfield targeted Odell Beckham Jr. (one on a crosser, the other a back-shoulder fade), and Ward was all over him. He looked like a stud.
10. KANSAS CITY: I asked a couple people where Patrick Mahomes has taken a step forward. The answer I got was that it's happened with his leadership, and not just on offense; he has also tried to help the revamped defense by pointing things out in practice, which shows how he's become more assertive.
11. INDIANAPOLIS: A rookie who flashed: WR Parris Campbell. He made two circus catches before tweaking something in his thigh. The staff believes he's more than just a gadget player and can evolve into a well-rounded receiver. Frank Reich was pumped to get him.
12. CHICAGO: The Bears are cautiously optimistic a breakout year from Leonard Floyd is coming down the pike. He’s built on momentum from the spring, and Khalil Mack has made it a point to take him under his wing. The talent has always been there in the former top 10 pick.
13. INDIANAPOLIS: *FANTASY ALERT* The Colts are going to platoon RBs like most teams do. But Marlon Mack has had a great offseason, and is considered a pretty steady hand that they'll lean on when it counts.
14. PITTSBURGH: The receiver position is muddy—it's JuJu Smith-Schuster and ... we'll see. James Washington dropped weight this offseason, taking lessons learned as a rookie. They love rookie Diontae Johnson’s talent. And don't rule out veteran Donte Moncrief carving out a significant role.
15. DETROIT: The Lions are pumped with their tight end group. Matthew Stafford, maybe because he came up with Calvin Johnson, does well with big targets. He's got them here. And Jesse James has been a very valuable resource for rookies T.J. Hockenson and Isaac Nauta.
When Training Starts Before Camp
Danielle Hunter, the Vikings' defensive end, had a breakout season last year with 14½ sacks, tied with Von Miller for fourth-most in the league. He's hoping to carry that momentum into his fifth season, so he made sure to carefully prepare his body for the grind of training camp, which began last week. Hunter does his offseason training in Houston, where he grew up, and the weeks before camp are unbearably hot. So his trainers at O Athletik scale back his workouts. In the spring, for instance, he'll often do a series of 100-yard sprints, but not in the summer. "The most important thing for me right now is making sure I stay hydrated, get tons of sleep and stretch," Hunter says.
Hunter tries his best to get eight to nine hours of rest a night, and he takes any free moment to stretch. "In football you end up in a whole bunch of awkward positions," he says. "If you aren't stretched out enough it can cause injuries. I stretch whenever I get a chance, because you never know what position your body might end up in."
But he doesn't neglect strength and conditioning. A week-and-a-half before the start of Vikings camp, Hunter spent his afternoon doing an incline workout, backpedaling and lunging up a hill to get his quads and legs ready. He also runs a mile at least every other day during the offseason to maintain some basic endurance. "My strength, I can get that back, but my stamina is something that I have to keep up because that enables me to go a long way whenever I'm playing football," he says. "When everybody else gets tired, my stamina is still going to be there." — By Kalyn Kahler
Best of the Rest
Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Bailey Carlin.
• If you've seen Quentin Tarantino’s newest film, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, this piece breaking down every single movie and show referenced in the film (surprise, it’s a lot) is for you. You even get a very random Joe Namath reference, so sports! (By Brian Tallerico, Vulture)
• If you are between the ages of 23 and 100, you know the song “Summer Girls” by LFO. This incredibly in-depth breakdown of the song’s lyrics as well as its surprisingly significant cultural significance is spectacular. (By Rob Harvilla, The Ringer)
• The title of this piece, “Peyton Manning’s Undeserved Reputation Is His Greatest Accomplishment” pretty much tells the whole story. Between his catchy TV commercials, a legendary career and time on SNL, Manning has come about as close as any athlete to being universally liked. How exactly did he get there, though? (By Will Leitch, NYMag)
• Yasiel Puig got traded during a game. Then, a brawl happened. Puig still brawled. This was just one level of the guaranteed-to-be-legendary scuffle between the Reds and Pirates. (By Pete Blackburn, CBS Sports)
• Odell Beckham Jr. has probably never been described as quiet. However, the (very fashionable) superstar opened up about how he felt about departing New York, his waning moments with the Giants and a whole lot more. It is rare you get a truly, unfiltered-feeling interview with an active athlete, especially one in their prime. (By Mark Anthony Green, GQ)
Editor’s note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.