10

C-Mac, Lil Cap, Clutchery: How Cam Newton creates nicknames

So when ESPN.com asked NFL Nation reporters to come up with the best nickname on the team they cover, it was a slam dunk that the honor for the Carolina Panthers went to quarterback Cam Newton, the self-proclaimed “Sensei of Nicknames.”

Newton made his title known partly out of necessity in 2014 when apologizing for referring to then-Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as “Donkey Kong Suh.”

“If anything, I was trying to say it as a compliment of him for wreaking havoc,” Newton said at the time. “Me going forward, I should have called him ‘Wreck-it Ralph.'”

It was during this apology that Newton said, “I just call myself the ‘Sensei of Nicknames.'”

He then rattled off a dozen or more from that Carolina team. Then-fullback Mike Tolbert had more nicknames — Tub of Goo, Tub of Mayonnaise, Plate of Paste, Chunky Soup, Toldozer, Fat Boy, Bowling Ball — than anybody because of his 5-foot-9, 250-pound physique.

Tolbert wasn’t offended. Carolina players just roll with whatever nickname Newton gives them.

“Cam’s weird. A good weird, though,” defensive end Mario Addison said. “He’s given me so many nicknames, I don’t know which one he really calls me by. He’ll say Rio, Super Mario — everything. Cam, man, I guess it’s what he’s feeling like that day which one you’re going to get.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Newton gave himself the nickname “Ace Boogie” when he initially came into the league. He also considers himself the “Sensei of Swag,” for obvious reasons, if you’ve seen his sometimes out-there wardrobe.

“I couldn’t come up with half the things he comes up with,” Kalil said. “A lot of them are more clever than people realize. There are a lot of them that are inside jokes that can’t leave the locker room that are really funny.

“He’s sharp that way. His mind goes 100 miles an hour.”10

Not all nicknames are public knowledge. Kalil’s is one of them.

“He says it a lot to me,” Kalil said. “But it’s a quarterback-center bond thing. I can’t break that trust and tell you what it is.”

Garrett Gilbert, the front-runner to be Newton’s backup, is amazed by the depth of some of Newton’s nicknames.

“Depth is a good word,” he said. “They are extremely creative. Sometimes they take a while to craft. Sometimes it hits him the first day when a player comes on the field. But they are definitely, without a doubt, very creative.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Gilbert’s nickname is a prime example, although Newton gets an assist from wide receiver Brenton Bersin on this one. Gilbert is called Glanch, after Matt Blanchard, who was on the Carolina practice squad in 2013-14.

9

NFC South Q&A: Who will win the division?

Will the Saints repeat as division champs in 2018? Our roundtable reporters give their picks for who will win the division and how many playoff teams will emerge from the NFC South.

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: The race should be a close one again, based on FPI projecting at least nine wins for the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons. The Saints took the title last season with an 11-5 record, while the Panthers (11-5) and Falcons (10-6) also made the field. No one can ever bet against Drew Brees, but the Falcons are best equipped to win the division. There are so many playmakers on offense for one-time MVP Matt Ryan, who is surrounded by Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Justin Hardy and rookie first-round pick Calvin Ridley. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian gets to put more of his stamp on the offense in Year 2 after having to learn Kyle Shanahan’s scheme a year ago. And defensively, the Falcons have a fast, physical, confident group that believes it can be a top-five unit. If the Falcons can clean up their issues on special teams and take advantage of playing five of their first seven at home, they should be right on pace for their second division title in three seasons. And the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers just might well be in the NFC playoff picture once again — along with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: Let’s get how many teams will make the playoffs out of the way first. Three. This is the strongest division in the NFC — maybe the NFL — with New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina all legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Carolina gets the early nod here for two reasons. The defense should be the strongest in the division once again. Adding Atlanta defensive tackle Dontari Poe was huge. Surrounding Cam Newton with more weapons than he’s had since entering the league in 2011 and giving him a fresh approach with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner gives Carolina the firepower it had in 2015 when it led the league in scoring and went 15-1 during the regular season.9

Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: Saints. This might not be the best team the Saints have fielded in the Sean Payton-Brees era (2009 and 2011 will be awfully hard to top). But it could be their most balanced team yet. The Saints have reloaded their offensive line, run game and defense in recent years — thanks in large part to one of the greatest rookie classes in NFL history in 2017. It was led by Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara and Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore. They had seven Pro Bowlers, including first-team All Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan and receiver Michael Thomas, a rising star. As a result, these well-rounded Saints don’t need the 39-year-old Brees to be Superman every week anymore. His attempts, yards, TD passes and interceptions in 2017 were all his lowest totals in his 12 years with the Saints. But that also allowed him to be efficient enough to set the NFL record for completion percentage (72.0) for the third time in his career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the four NFC South teams make the playoffs after New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina all made it last season. But the problem for all of them is how stacked this division — and the entire NFC — is right now, with the Eagles, Vikings, Rams and Packers among other bona fide contenders. So I’ll put the Saints and Falcons in and leave the Panthers and Buccaneers out.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: I think the Falcons and Saints — teams with MVP-caliber quarterbacks and promising young defenses that continue to add key pieces — will be back in the postseason. Jones’ contract situation and the fact that he’s creeping up in age creates a bit of a concern as to how deep the Falcons will go in the postseason, but drafting Ridley should help — even if they did lose Taylor Gabriel. Still, I think the Saints will win the division. Mark Ingram is so tough north and south, Kamara carves up defenses underneath and Thomas does damage in the slot and vertically, making that offense just too much for most teams to handle. And they now have a viable defense with Jordan up front and Lattimore anchoring the back end.

8

Rodger Saffold plays ‘poor man’s Stan Kroenke’ to rising esports powerhouse

In the middle of this scene at the Call of Duty World League tournament is Los Angeles Rams offensive guard Rodger Saffold. He finished mandatory minicamp only the week prior, and he’s tending to his other job as owner of Rise Nation, an esports team that he founded in 2014, which boasts several of the top video game players and teams in the country.

“The lights are crazy; the energy is amazing,” said Saffold, who, at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, stood out among the crowd, wearing a black sweatshirt and a diamond-encrusted pendant with a Rise Nation logo. “It’s also very stressful.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

For six months a year, Saffold is strictly focused on football. But when the season ends, the nine-year NFL pro fills much of his time with gaming. He grew up loving puzzles. Then during college, he developed a penchant for video games, more specifically “Call of Duty,” the first-person-shooter game.

The structure of an esports organization bears a resemblance to an NFL team.8

As the owner, Saffold funds the organization, “like a poor man’s Stan Kroenke,” he chuckled, in reference to the Rams’ owner. He has a partner in longtime friend Kareem Horsley and hired former gamer Jonathan Tucker as general manager.

“In big decisions, we keep him informed,” said Tucker, who first met Saffold in 2014 at a gaming tournament. “Transfers, signings, big-money moves that could affect how we work, we have to consult him. … But as far as day-to-day stuff, me and Kareem do most of it, because it’s just too many things to bother him with.”

Saffold, who studied business management at Indiana, has 10 full-time employees and a roster that fluctuates between 10 and 12 players among seven teams, depending on the games and tournaments the organization is involved in.

To develop his business, Saffold leaned on the friendships he developed within the esports industry. “Just picking everybody’s brain,” Saffold said, “we were kind of able to figure out a formula.”

He also sought the creative input of a Rams graphic designer to develop a Rise Nation logo.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“I wanted to be involved and invested into something that I have a lot of passion for,” Saffold said. “This seemed to be it.”

Saffold isn’t the only person from professional sports getting into gaming. Earlier this year, the NBA became the first professional sports league to operate an esports league when it launched NBA 2K, which features some of the best basketball gamers in the world.

7

NFLPA files challenge to league’s national anthem policy

The NFL Players Association filed a non-injury grievance Tuesday challenging the legitimacy of the NFL’s new national anthem policy on several grounds.

“The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights,” the NFLPA said in a statement.

The NFLPA, which was not consulted about the anthem policy change, argues in its grievance that peaceful demonstration during the anthem does not qualify as “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The league will need to rely on the broad powers afforded the commissioner through the personal conduct policy, including applying the phrase “conduct detrimental,” to decide whether to fine teams whose players demonstrate on-field during the anthem. NFL fans are accustomed to hearing that phrase as justification for penalizing players accused of illegal or unethical behaviors.

The NFLPA argues that kneeling during the anthem does not qualify as detrimental conduct, evidenced by the fact that the league has said players have the right to use their platform to elevate issues important to them. The players’ association believes that allowing peaceful demonstrations to be grounds for detrimental conduct discipline would set a terrible precedent, which teams could use to penalize players for other peaceful demonstrations, including prayer.7

At NFL owners meetings in May, the league voted to approve a policy that requires players and team personnel on the sideline to stand during the national anthem. Players have the option to stay in the locker room while the anthem is played. The NFL wrote and ratified the policy without input from the players, as the game operations manual is not part of the collective bargaining agreement.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL wants to “treat this moment in a respectful fashion.” Should the league determine that a player is in violation of the new policy, the team will be fined. Teams can choose to fine players.

Under Article 43 of the CBA, franchises have the right to implement “reasonable club rules.” These rules normally include fines for objectively provable violations, such as missing a meeting or skipping a workout. The NFLPA will also seek an arbitrator’s judgment on the reasonableness of team-by-team anthem rules, given the fact that no player has been previously disciplined for such demonstrations.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The NFL will have 10 days to respond in writing to the accusations set forth in the grievance. If the issue is not resolved at that point, the NFLPA can appeal to the notice arbitrator. The grievance will be heard by one of four mutually accepted arbitrators.

45

La dolce vita: Former NFL WR enjoys pizza, pigskin in Italy

Kris Durham had been through hundreds of game days. His plan, naturally, was to arrive early, get dressed, take the field and warm up.

Nope, he was told. Taking the field would have to wait.

An under-15 youth soccer game had to finish first.

The former Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans receiver laughed. This was a place so far from where he had been and, yet, so much of where he wanted to be.
“That,” Durham said. “Was one of those ones where I was like, ‘Welcome to Italy.'”nfl nike jerseys cheap china

In Italy, soccer — called calcio — is the sport of choice first, second and third. In Parma, rugby comes next. American football is an afterthought.

Yet here he was on March 5, 2017, on a field shorter than the regulation 100 yards, in a rented-out rugby stadium, playing for the Parma Panthers of the Italian Football League. His last NFL game, a 2015 preseason game playing for Oakland facing the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, had 68,032 fans in attendance.

This game had about 200.
45
That Durham was here at all was a result of a combination of events so unlikely it felt like it should be a book. In some ways, it was.

John Grisham’s novel “Playing for Pizza” was published in 2007. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, one of Durham’s closest friends, gave him a copy after he arrived in Detroit in 2012. It’s about a former NFL quarterback who was cut and ended up playing in Parma for the Panthers. It was the first time Durham realized football existed outside the United States and Canada.

Durham was released by Oakland during final cuts in 2015. He gave himself until the end of the season to find another job. No calls came. He decided to travel as much as possible as a bridge to his next career — possibly teaching or going into real estate.

A Facebook message brought him back to football.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

In early 2016, Parma owner Ugo Bonvicini scanned a list of potentially available players. He sent messages to a few of them. One responded immediately: Durham, who was traveling in Europe.

Bonvicini thought he was reaching out to a player with little to no NFL experience. Typically, about 10 percent of inquiries from Bonvicini and head coach Andrew Papoccia — a Chicago-area native who played football at Illinois State — are answered. Most say thanks but no thanks.

Before Durham, only six players with non-strike, regular-season NFL experience had played in the Italian league. Of those, only three played more than 10 NFL games. Only Louie Giammona, a running back for the Jets and Eagles from 1976 to 1982, had a career equivalent to Durham.

22

Jets’ mystery man embraces one of NFL’s least secure jobs

After a crushing playoff loss in January 2005, then-New York Jets coach Herm Edwards decided to change offensive coordinators. He fired Paul Hackett after four seasons and hired Mike Heimerdinger and did it so quickly that Hackett and Heimerdinger actually crossed paths that day in the team facility. As Hackett went in to clean out his office, Heimerdinger arrived to start his new job.

That snapshot pretty much sums up the history of the Jets’ offensive-coordinator job, which should be sponsored by a famous burger chain: In-N-Out.

The Jets will go into the 2018 season with their sixth offensive coordinator in the past eight years, making it one of the least secure jobs in the NFL. There are B-list actors with more security than Jets offensive coordinators, who usually need career rehab after a one-and-done in New York. The last person to go directly from Jets OC to an NFL head-coaching job was Joe Walton in 1983 — an in-house promotion after Walt Michaels was fired.cheap nfl nike jersey

The new man in the revolving door is Jeremy Bates, who landed his first job as a quarterbacks coach under — wait for it — Heimerdinger in 2005. No team does strange symmetry quite like the Jets. It was a one-year gig, of course, as the entire coaching staff got cleaned out after a disastrous 2005 season. Bates returned last season as the quarterbacks coach, then got bumped up when John Morton was fired in January after one year.22

“It’s exciting,” Bates said of his new job as the offensive boss. “It’s a fun responsibility.”

It’s also an enormous responsibility, because he will have the greatest impact on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the hope of the entire franchise. No relationship at One Jets Drive is more important than the one between Darnold and Bates, who will double as the quarterbacks coach. In other words, they will be together for 12 to 14 hours a day, talking ball.

If Bates can mold Darnold into a franchise quarterback, the OC Curse will be history — fittingly, via a player from OC (Orange County, California). It will be a fascinating dynamic because, once upon a time, Bates was a Darnold in the coaching profession: young, talented and so full of potential. He had a chance to be Sean McVay before anybody knew about McVay.

Bates was a coordinator by age 34, but he was fired after only one year (2010) with the Seattle Seahawks. He did one season as the Chicago Bears’ quarterbacks coach (2012), then took a four-year break from the NFL. At the time, he was regarded by those in the industry as a smart coach who needed to improve his people skills. He spent part of his hiatus in the mountains, hiking the Rockies while seeking clarity in his life. By all accounts, he gained maturity and perspective during his time away.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“There are a lot of things I’ve learned,” Bates said. “I did take a little sabbatical. Anytime you get fired, you can look at it one or two ways: You can either not think about it and try to become a better person and a better coach, or you can just move on. I obviously took a lot of time by myself and thought about some things, and I look forward to seeing how they turn out.”

21

Breaking down Jarvis Landry’s belief he is NFL’s best receiver

The discussion started when Landry was informed that he was ranked as the NFL’s 52nd-best player by NFL.com. He said his goal is to be ranked first.

Which led to his being asked where he feels he is among receivers.

“I consider myself the most complete receiver,” he said. “If you turn on the film, I do everything — I block, I play inside, I play outside and I come out of the backfield. My value is that much more to the team and to the offense. I consider myself the best receiver in the NFL.”cheap nfl nike jersey

Landry certainly has every right to believe in himself. His ability and his numbers allow that.21

But in the minds of most observers, Landry probably wouldn’t be considered the No. 1 receiver on the Browns. That honor would go to Josh Gordon.

Landry also would not be considered the best receiver in his division. Not with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Gordon catching passes.

There are very few analysts who do not believe Brown is the NFL’s best receiver — and perhaps its best player. In his four seasons, Landry has 400 catches for 4,038 yards and 22 touchdowns. In the same four seasons, Brown had 471 catches for 6,349 yards and 44 touchdowns. System and quarterback can affect a player’s numbers, but it’s hard to argue against Brown given his consistent production.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Landry’s numbers also fall short of Julio Jones of Atlanta, who had 411 catches for 6,311 yards and 23 touchdowns. Green? He had fewer catches than Landry (296) but more yards (4,380) and one more touchdown (23). Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers are thrown off by his injury last season, but Beckham will be in the discussion for the league’s best.

That doesn’t mean Landry didn’t put up impressive numbers in his four seasons in Miami before he was traded to the Browns. Follow the money and the Browns clearly think highly of him. They gave him a five-year, $75.5 million contract extension, making him one of six receivers in the NFL to average $15 million or more per season. Landry, 25, will be a starter opposite Gordon, and given the Browns’ plan to expand his role and his ability to work at different levels, Landry could have more targets (and catches) than Gordon.

However, follow the money leaguewide and Brown is the league’s best based on his average salary of $17 million per season. Landry ranks fifth, behind Brown, Mike Evans of Tampa Bay, DeAndre Hopkins of Houston and Sammy Watkins of Kansas City.

12

Can Deshaun Watson, Texans WRs repeat torrid pace of 2017?

In six starts as a rookie, Watson led the Texans to an average of 34.7 points, and Houston went 3-3. Without Watson, the team scored an average of 13 points per game, going 1-9 in those contests.

Before he tore his right ACL in early November, Watson was having a historic season and was on pace to shatter the NFL rookie record for passing touchdowns. In seven games — six starts, because he replaced Tom Savage at halftime of the Texans’ 2017 season opener — Watson threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

The record for TD passes by a rookie is 26, set by Peyton Manning with Indianapolis in 1998 and tied by Russell Wilson with Seattle in 2012. Both played in all 16 games their rookie seasons.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Watson’s success led to big numbers for two of his receivers in the six starts. DeAndre Hopkins came close to eclipsing his breakout season of 2015, and he likely would have done so had Watson stayed healthy. After a down season with Brock Osweiler under center, Hopkins returned to his All-Pro form with the rookie.12

The pair of former Clemson stars played seven games together. Taking Hopkins’ stats and extrapolating them over 16 games, he was on pace for 106 catches for 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, only two players in NFL history have hit those three benchmarks in the same season, and they’re both Hall of Famers: Cris Carter in 1995 (122 receptions, 1,371 yards and 17 touchdowns) and Randy Moss in 2003 (111 receptions, 1,632 yards and 17 touchdowns), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

As it was, Hopkins nearly hit those markers with Savage, T.J. Yates and rookie Taylor Heinicke throwing to him in the second half of the season, so it’s likely he could have surpassed those projected numbers if he’d continued playing with Watson. Hopkins finished with 96 catches for 1,378 yards in 15 games, setting a career high with 13 touchdowns. Seven of his touchdowns came from Watson.

“We can be the best in this league,” Hopkins said. “He can be the best quarterback. I know I can be the best wide receiver, and that’s our mindset coming into the season.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Watson’s rookie season also led to big results from second-year receiver Will Fuller. He broke his collarbone in training camp, so his first game of the season came in Week 5 against Tennessee, a 57-14 Texans victory. In four games with Watson, Fuller caught seven touchdown passes. He did not have a touchdown reception in the six games played without Watson.

11

NFL fines Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for workplace misconduct

Outgoing Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been fined $2.75 million by the NFL after an investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Thursday.

The independent investigation, conducted by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, substantiated the allegations against Richardson. It also stated that the team failed to report the allegations or any resolution agreements to the league.

The NFL, in a statement, said most of the money from the fine will be “used to support the work of organizations dedicated to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside of the workplace.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

The Panthers initiated an investigation into Richardson on Dec. 15 and informed the league of what was taking place. The NFL took over the investigation two days later when Sports Illustrated published a story in which four former employees anonymously stated they reached a financial settlement with Richardson in exchange for silence.11

Richardson, 81, announced shortly after the NFL took charge of the investigation that he planned to sell the team that he and investors paid $206 million for in 1993. He also stepped away from the day-to-day operations, naming Tina Becker the new COO.

The allegations against Richardson included three cases of sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur toward a team scout. None of the employees remain with the organization.

In a letter to Richardson published by SI, one of the women said she “didn’t know what to do” about alleged multiple sexual advances by the Panthers owner.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I didn’t know what to do when you called me to your stadium suite in the middle of the week so you could take off my shoes, place my legs in your lap and rub their entire length, from toes to crotch,” the woman wrote in the letter. “I didn’t know what to do when you asked me to turn around so you could see how my jeans looked. I didn’t know what to do when you brushed my breasts to put my seat belt around me in the front seat of your car. I didn’t know what to do when you put your hands on my mouth, for me to kiss them. I didn’t know what to do when you asked me uncomfortable, sexually charged questions.

59

Report: Julian Edelman’s Appeal Hearing for PED Suspension Set for Monday

New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is preparing a “vigorous defense” for his appeal of a four-game suspension, which is set for Monday, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.

The veteran reportedly violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs and will miss the first four games of 2018 if he loses his appeal.

Edelman had apologized immediately following news of the suspension earlier this month on a since-deleted Instagram post (via ESPN):cheap nfl nike jersey

“I am very sorry—I don’t know what happened. I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates and fans. As this matter is being appealed, I can’t say anymore but no matter what, I will be ready to play and pursue another championship with our team and for Patriots fans around the world.”59

However, the 32-year-old plans to appeal based on two factors, including a reported mishandling of the test results.

Albert Breer of the MMQB also previously reported the failed test result was “triggered by a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and there are scientists analyzing it.”

The receiver is attempting to work his way back from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2017 regular season. While he has been participating in organized team activities this offseason, the suspension could delay his return to competitive action.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

While Edelman finished with 98 catches for 1,106 yards in 2016, it was one of only two seasons in his nine-year career where he played all 16 games. A pending suspension could lead to more missed playing time for the veteran.