Aaron Rodgers

North Notes: Steelers, Packers, Vikings

Details of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown‘s January domestic dispute have been released via a police report, as Andy Slater of the 640 The Hurricane tweets. Per the report from the Hollywood, Florida police department, Brown allegedly pushed the mother of his daughter to the ground. The woman was reportedly dropping off Brown’s daughter and requested reimbursement for the child’s recent hair appointment. As she blocked Brown from closing his front door, Brown allegedly used both hands to push her down. No arrest was made following the incident, and Brown’s attorney has refuted any wrongdoing on the part of the star wideout, per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The NFL is planning to investigate the episode, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Aaron Rodgers‘ 2020 $19.5MM roster bonus became fully guaranteed today, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link), virtually ensuring what we already knew: Rodgers will be the Packers‘ quarterback for at least two seasons. Rodgers, 35, inked a four-year, $134MM extension last August that made him the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback by a wide margin. He’s collecting $33.5MM annually, $3.5MM more per year than Matt Ryan. Rodgers finished in 10th in adjusted net yards per attempt (the passing stat which correlates most with winning) in 2018, but ranked just 20th in ESPN’s Total QBR, a metric based on expected points.
  • The Vikings already moved former tackle Mike Remmers to guard in 2018, and they may end up doing the same with their blindside protector. Minnesota is considering shifting left tackle Riley Reiff to guard, sources tell Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Reiff, 30, has played tackle in all 105 of his NFL appearances, and he’s played it quite well: in 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 23rd-best tackle in the league. Per Goessling, the Vikings will take an “open approach” to rebuilding their offensive line, meaning they’ll search for new players in free agency and the draft before finalizing their front five configuration.
  • The structure of Everson Griffen‘s 2017 extension could end up making him a viable candidate for release as the Vikings enter the offseason, as Goessling writes in a separate piece. Per the terms of Griffen’s deal, he received nearly $19MM in new guarantees, but that money has already been paid out in his 2017-18 base salaries and roster bonuses. As Goessling notes, cutting Griffen after a year in which he dealt with mental health issues could seem cruel, but the club could save $10.7MM in cap space by doing so.
  • The Steelers have hired Adrian Klemm as assistant offensive line coach, the club announced this week. Pittsburgh lost offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Broncos earlier this offseason, and replaced him by promoting Shaun Sarrett from within. Klemm, 41, enjoyed a six-year playing career with the Patriots and Packers before joining the collegiate coaching ranks in 2006. Most recently, Klemm was the offensive line coach/run game coordinator at UCLA from 2012-16.
  • Armed with the third-most cap space in the NFL, the Browns have begun to consider extensions for their current players. Cleveland has initiated talks with “most of” a group that includes linebacker Joe Schobert, safety Damarious Randall, tackle Greg Robinson, and receiver Rashard Higgins, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Schobert and Randall are still under contract through 2019, Higgins is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month, and Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent.

Packers Notes: LaFleur, Rodgers, Murphy

Here’s the latest on the Packers and new head coach Matt LaFleur:

  • LaFleur will report directly to team president/CEO Mark Murphy, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Such arrangements can lead to problems sometimes in the NFL, but GM Brian Gutekunst is presumably on board with the plan.
  • LaFleur told reporters that he that he had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Rodgers prior to accepting the job. “I cannot wait to get to work with him. I think he’s equally excited,” LaFleur said of Rodgers (Twitter link via Olivia Reiner of the team website).
  • The Packers interviewed a number of candidates for the job, but Murphy was unimpressed by everyone outside of LaFleur “Quite honestly, no one stood out,” Murphy said (Twitter link via Pelissero). After talking with other coaches, they interviewed LaFleur in Nashville on Sunday afternoon and found him to be “the most prepared candidate.”

Jim Caldwell Has Interviewed For Packers HC

Just before Christmas, it was reported that former Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell would be a head coaching candidate in 2019. Just a few days later, he has apparently already interviewed for the vacancy in Green Bay, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (Twitter link). 

The vacancy, of course, is the helm left after the team fired longtime head coach Mike McCarthy earlier in the season. A longtime quarterbacks coach, Caldwell would seemingly be a solid addition to work with Aaron Rodgers. In his career, Caldwell has worked with franchise quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford.

However, Rodgers seemingly put his support behind interim head coach Joe Philbin after this past week’s win, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal.

During his run as a head coach, Caldwell has amassed a 62-50 record and delivered three winning seasons in four campaigns with Detroit after the team logged just two such seasons in the previous 16 years before his arrival.

Before that, Caldwell was a longtime assistant with the Colts who became Indianapolis’ head coach in 2009 after Tony Dungy retired. He guided his club to an AFC championship in his first season at the helm and the Colts lost the Super Bowl that year. They returned to the playoffs in 2010, but finished 2011 with a 2-14 record after the season-long injury to Manning and Caldwell was fired at the end of the season.

Caldwell is a Wisconsin native who was born and raised in Beloit, just across the border from Illinois.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Aaron Rodgers Won’t Be Part Of Packers’ Coaching Search

After firing their longest-tenured coach since Curly Lambeau, the Packers will enter a hiring period with a high-profile vacancy.

While Green Bay’s next head coach will be tasked with recharging the Aaron Rodgers-led team and maximizing the championship potential created by the quarterback’s employment, the two-time MVP will not be part of the Packers’ coaching search, team president Mark Murphy said Monday (via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, on Twitter).

Obviously, he’s free to provide input and talk to us,” Murphy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “But he’s not going to be a part of the process. … The other thing I would say, Aaron was no part at all in the decision to move on from Mike (McCarthy).”

Murphy will be the one making the hire, not GM Brian Gutekunst, though Murphy said he obviously will not pick a coach with whom the soon-to-be second-year GM is uncomfortable. Gutekunst will be “actively involved” in the search, however (Twitter links via Wilde).

Gutekunst, Russ Ball and McCarthy each reported to Murphy this year in the Packers’ post-Ted Thompson-era arrangement. It appears that power structure will not change entering a crucial time for the franchise.

Interim head coach Joe Philbin will be a legitimate candidate, per Murphy (via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein, on Twitter). Rehired as offensive coordinator this offseason, Philbin was Green Bay’s OC during the team’s most recent Super Bowl title season and finished that stint in Rodgers’ 2011 MVP slate prior to becoming the Dolphins’ HC. But the two-stint Packers assistant landing the top job would obviously be an upset.

The Packers fired McCarthy early to dive into the search process early, but Murphy won’t be hiring a coach before the season ends, per Silverstein (on Twitter). While the Packers are mired in their most disappointing season in more than a decade, Rodgers (via Silverstein, on Twitter) doesn’t view the team as entering a rebuild. Prior to a Rodgers injury leading to the end of the Packers’ playoff streak last season, the franchise had qualified for the previous eight NFC brackets. At 4-7-1, the Packers are now a long shot to make that nine in 10 years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Dez, Seahawks, McCarthy

Saints WR Dez Bryant suffered a brutal blow when he tore his Achilles just two days after signing with the club, thereby shelving him for about eight months. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) noted that Bryant’s recovery timeline could make his 2019 foray into free agency just as complicated as his 2018 one, though RapSheet does report in a separate piece that the Saints are open to bringing Bryant back next season (which Jay Glazer of FOX Sports [video link] also hears). Rapoport also says that Saints head coach Sean Payton fully expects Bryant to continue his playing career, and that Saints players quickly got to know Bryant and were stung by the injury (Twitter link). Given that, and given that Bryant made a concerted effort to improve his route running this offseason, perhaps he will still end up playing for New Orleans.

Let’s round up a few more items from the NFC:

  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com details (via Twitter) the $500K in incentives (all tied to receptions) that were built in to Bryant’s contract with the Saints, which is obviously a moot point now. Earlier today, Schefter reported that the Saints are expected to pursue Brandon Marshall now that Bryant is on IR.
  • Rapoport writes that, when the Seahawks are sold to a new owner, the beneficiary of the transaction will be the Paul G. Allen Foundation, which consolidated the causes of recently-deceased owner Paul Allen. That means that the proceeds of the sale — which could exceed $2.5 billion — will be going to charity. As of now, Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, has taken more of a visible role in team operations, but the club is still expected to be sold (though it will remain in Seattle). Potential buyers are already preparing for the Seahawks to hit the market.
  • Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com confirms what we have been hearing for some time: that something is off in the relationship between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy, which could lead to McCarthy’s ouster at the end of the season. McCarthy is widely perceived to be on the hot seat, though Dougherty points out that team president/CEO Mark Murphy thinks highly of McCarthy and has final say over all football matters. However, Murphy will give a great deal of credence to the opinion of new GM Brian Gutekunst when it comes to the head coach’s future with the club.
  • We learned that top decision-makers for the Giants were in attendance at the Oregon-Utah game yesterday to scout Oregon QB Justin Herbert, even though Herbert is unlikely to enter the 2019 draft. Greg Joyce of the New York Post confirms that GM Dave Gettleman was one of the attendees, along with assistant GM Kevin Abrams and West Coast scout Jeremy Breit. If Herbert changes his mind and declares for the draft, New York will certainly be in play for him.
  • We learned earlier today that the Cowboys nearly fired OC Scott Linehan during last month’s bye.

NFC Notes: Manning, Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Redskins

Plenty of people criticized the Giants’ decision to take Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. While Barkley has been electric, many people thought the opportunity to take one of this year’s class of quarterback prospects was too good to pass up. Eli Manning has struggled mightily this year, and the Giants now have no clear succession plan. Despite not drafting a quarterback early this year, New York “believed that somehow, some way, they’d find their heir apparent somewhere down the line”, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Now that they might have to find that heir apparent earlier than expected, Vacchiano went through all the Giants’ options to find a quarterback of the future, including a trade before the deadline this year, free agency, and the draft. They have fourth round rookie Kyle Lauletta on the roster, and Vacchiano writes they must “absolutely take a look at him in a game this year.” One way or another, it looks like Manning’s days as the Giants’ starter are numbered.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • There’s been growing frustration with Jason Garrett as coach of the Cowboys, especially after his decision to punt the ball away on 4th & 1 in overtime last week. While owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen have insisted, Garret’s job isn’t in danger, “there’s been buzz in league circles indicating that the Joneses may eventually set their sights on Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley”, according to Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • Aaron Rodgers recently suffered a setback with his injured knee, but is looking to avoid going back to the bulky brace he had to wear initially, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN. Rodgers re-injured the knee on a hit he took early in the Packers’ loss to the Lions last week. The game against Detroit was his first game without the large brace that made it harder for him to move around.
  • Josh Norman was benched to start the second half of the Redskins’ loss to the Saints on Monday night, and it apparently wasn’t about his play. “It was definitely something between Gruden and Norman that got a little heated and definitely not because of him getting beat in coverage”, according to John Keim of ESPN (Twitter link). Apparently Norman and coach Jay Gruden got into an altercation at halftime, and this will be an interesting situation to monitor going forward.

Latest On Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy

Packers star QB Aaron Rodgers made a few comments during his postgame press conference last week that many interpreted as a dig at his team’s coaching staff and its offensive play-calling. And Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, even though Rodgers later went out of his way to clarify those comments, he remains frustrated with the state of Green Bay’s offense and is still upset about some of the changes made to the roster and coaching staff this offseason.

Of course, last week was not the first time that Rodgers has made comments indicating his displeasure with play-calling, and now that head coach Mike McCarthy has once again taken over play-calling duties, the relationship between McCarthy and Rodgers — which has already been a hot topic of conversation in recent years — is once again under the microscope.

Indeed, La Canfora says several sources who have “regular contact” with McCarthy and Rodgers wonder if the two will be working together in 2019. Obviously, the Packers are not going to part way with Rodgers, whom they just signed to the most lucrative contract in NFL history, but the team could certainly sever ties with McCarthy, whose contract runs through the 2019 season and whose job has not been entirely secure in the last several years anyway.

But Ian Rapoport of NFL.com paints a different picture. As indicated above, there has been tension between Green Bay’s head coach and its best player before, but the two men have always been able to resolve their issues in the past, and club CEO and president Mark Murphy expects more of the same this year.

Murphy did not deny that there was some strain in the McCarthy-Rodgers relationship at the moment, but he said it was a non-issue. Murphy is in regular contact with McCarthy and has spoken with Rodgers, and he said, “We’ve seen this before. I think they’ve had a great relationship. It’s just, two highly competitive people. The most important thing, they both want the same thing — they want us to win and obviously score as many points as possible. I think it’s a very stressful environment, too. Highly pressurized.”

Murphy added that Rodgers’ knee injury, which he sustained in Week 1, is rapidly improving, which will of course be a tremendous benefit to a team that is currently 19th in the league in scoring and 17th in total offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Rodgers, Vikings, Lions

The Vikings were not the first team that sought Dan Bailey‘s services this season. Although he’s in Minnesota now, other franchises wanted to sign the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history. Bailey agreed to terms with the Vikings on a one-year, $2MM deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). However, the 30-year-old specialist also turned down offers worth double that on multiyear deals, Rapoport adds. The Jets brought in Bailey to work out just after the Cowboys cut him, but nothing came to fruition. Gang Green may have been one of the teams that presented a better offer, but that’s not known. Nevertheless, Bailey will replace Daniel Carlson, whom Mike Zimmer said it was not difficult to cut after his performance in Minnesota’s Week 2 tie in Green Bay.

Here’s the latest out of the NFC North:

  • Aaron Rodgers did not exit the Packers‘ Week 2 game with any new discomfort on his injured left knee, Mike McCarthy said (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Rodgers is “obviously sore,” and McCarthy does not have a read on whether his quarterback’s condition is better or worse than at this point last week. But it’s encouraging for the Packers that Rodgers didn’t sustain any additional damage while clearly playing hurt.
  • Carlson’s cut will save the Vikings $200K, though the Bailey addition will negate those savings. Only Carlson’s signing bonus ($248K), plus his base salary through two games, will count against Minnesota’s cap, per Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (on Twitter). The Vikings are up against the cap but managed to add Bailey, Aldrick Robinson and Tom Johnson in the past two days.
  • Robinson will only make the league minimum, and no guarantees exist in the soon-to-be 30-year-old wide receiver’s Vikings pact, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. The former Redskins, Falcons and 49ers pass-catcher now comprises part of the Vikes’ receiving corps. Minnesota currently has five receivers on its roster, the same amount it did prior to the Robinson signing. Stacy Coley, a 2017 seventh-rounder, was cut to make room.
  • On a busy day for workouts, the Lions brought in two veteran edge rushers who would slot in as defensive ends in their 4-3 scheme. John Simon and David Bass trekked to Detroit for Tuesday workouts, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM reports (on Twitter). A recent Colts cut, Simon already met with the 49ers and Jets since being released. A six-year veteran, Bass led Jets edge rushers in sacks last season with 3.5. Former Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski also worked out for the Lions today, NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets. Also among the workout contingent: linebacker Tyrone Holmes, fullbacks Jalston Fowler and Jay Prosch, and tight end Donnie Ernsberger, per Balzer. Wide receiver Keon Hatcher visited with the Lions.
  • Former Jets wideout Chad Hansen was among those who auditioned for the Packers today, with Balzer tweeting Shay Fields, Korey Robertson, Taj Williams and quarterback Brogan Roback — of Hard Knocks fame — joined him.

Latest On Aaron Rodgers

After his remarkable comeback during the Packers’ season-opening win over the Bears last Sunday night, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers assured a national audience that he would be playing in Week 2. The fact that he practiced with the team yesterday all but confirmed as much, even though we also learned that the star signal-caller is still dealing with swelling in his left knee.

The situation remains generally murky. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported earlier this morning that Rodgers does not have any ligament damage, but Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets that Rodgers does indeed have a ligament sprain, to go along with a deep bone bruise. Rodgers also has what one of Schefter’s sources called a “pretty unusual injury that would keep most people out awhile,” which Glazer agrees with. Another of Schefter’s sources added that Rodgers probably should not have returned to the field after suffering the knee injury last week, and that he will likely be kept on a short leash as he continues to recover.

His recovery, per Schefter, could take another couple of months. Schefter says that Rodgers sustained a “compression injury from blunt force while bent,” and he will simply have to play through the pain. As we saw last week, though, even a hobbled Rodgers is still about as good of a quarterback as there is, and Green Bay has no hope of contending for a playoff spot without him.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) indicates that Rodgers will indeed play today, but that despite A-Rod’s bravado, his game status was no sure thing earlier this week, as he was “swollen and hurting.” Glazer says Rodgers is still experiencing a great deal of pain and swelling, and he is wearing a very large brace on his injured knee today. We can probably expect a lot of shotgun formations and quick passes from Rodgers for the next few weeks at least.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Rodgers, Hawks, Linehan, Bucs

The Aaron Rodgers watch now includes a practice return. The Packers saw their best player resurface at Saturday’s practice after he’d missed all week of workouts. Although NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero points out Rodgers is still questionable (Twitter link) and the Packers will see how he looks Sunday morning, now that he’s gotten in a practice it’s a bit difficult to see the 34-year-old quarterback not suiting up Sunday against the Vikings. Swelling in Rodgers’ left knee remains an issue, per Pelissero (on Twitter), and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tabs it as unlikely the Packers will give their centerpiece a green light if he’s still sore or experiencing swelling from Saturday’s workout. But the 14th-year passer has dealt with myriad left knee trouble at several points in his career. That said, the Vikings’ defense may be the toughest unit he faces all season; and Minnesota’s front seven will be facing a surely less mobile Rodgers than it ordinarily would.

Here’s what’s new out of the NFC going into Week 2 Sunday.

  • Bobby Wagner serves as the anchor for the Seahawks‘ front seven, having played in 42 straight games. That streak will end on Monday night after the Seahawks declared their top linebacker out for their Bears game. K.J. Wright also will not play. Wagner is battling a groin injury, while Wright is still recovering from a knee scope. Perhaps this explains the team’s need to make the controversial decision to sign Mychal Kendricks, who may face prison time after pleading guilty to insider trading. Barkevious Mingo is the only starting linebacker Seattle will have available in Chicago.
  • Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan saw increased latitude this offseason in the team’s effort to restructure its offense, with Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News writing the fourth-year Dallas OC was involved in the decisions to release Dez Bryant and move on from four offensive assistants. Linehan signed an extension in 2017 that calls for him to be paid approximately $2MM per season, George notes. This makes the Cowboys’ OC one of the NFL’s highest-paid assistants. George adds Linehan could well be on the chopping block if Dallas’ offense nosedives. The Panthers did not see much from Linehan’s unit in Week 1.
  • DeSean Jackson appears set to have another chance to face his original team. The Buccaneers wide receiver is expected to surmount concussion protocol and be on the field against the Eagles on Sunday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Jackson had his best game as a Buccaneer last week, hauling in five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.