The Panthers are teaching Christian McCaffrey that a strong work ethic is key to NFL success:

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Author: Jon Kuzma

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Christian McCaffrey finally was able to practice after being sidelined by an NFL rule that stated players from a quarter system university must finish out the length of their school year before participating for their new team. That pretty much meant even though McCaffrey was drafted and moving on to the professional level he still couldn’t practice until now which is when Stanford finished up their year. That’s a big setback for the rookie running back because he lost out on a lot of reps but the good news is McCaffrey was back at practice yesterday and showing off his playmaking abilities. The Panthers were utilizing Christian McCaffrey on wildcat formation plays and it’s clear Carolina believes they can use the rookie running back as a change of pace on offense. By having multiple looks with Cam Newton and McCaffrey both lining up at the quarterback position it gives opposing teams one more wrinkle to prepare for. It should also be noted that while the Panthers want to use McCaffrey as a return man and as a pass catching running back this first year, the team still humbled the Stanford alum by putting McCaffrey on kick coverage special teams. That’s a spot usually reserved for a player on the bottom end of a team’s roster but the Panthers want Christian McCaffrey to develop a good worth ethic in the pros. By showing McCaffrey what some players have to do to get by in this league it should keep the 21 year old kid humble. That move also sets the precedent that even though McCaffey was drafted in the 1st round he still has to earn his excellence day by day. We all know Christian McCaffrey has it from a playmaking perspective, now the Panthers are ensuring McCaffrey understands he has to do it from a maturation stand point as well. So far though everything looked good for Ed McCaffrey’s son on his first official day.

Charity of the day: American Bird Conservancy

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Reuben Foster is expected to be a full go at San Francisco 49ers practice, a huge improvement considering he was expected to miss all of 2017:

Photo credit: Stacy Revere / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

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John Lynch has to be feeling good with the news that Reuben Foster will indeed participate in 49ers practices. Lynch drafted Foster with the 31st pick in the 1st round of this past NFL Draft and it was initially suspected that Foster would miss the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. Foster was facing a similar situation that Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith went through in 2016. Now though Foster’s health has taken a turn for the better and this is great news if you’re the general manager who drafted Rueben Foster. You’d hate to see your guys (the people you drafted) injured and out of action. That’s not how you build winning football teams and that wouldn’t have been a great start for John Lynch’s first ever draft class. Instead though the 49ers have gotten extremely lucky and now it does appear Ruben Foster will be ready to go for this upcoming season. When healthy Foster is a guy that can immediately step on the field and assume the role as a starter. At 6’1 245 pounds Foster has the perfect frame for an inside linebacker position and rookie Defensive Coordinator Robert Salah will benefit greatly from having Foster in his line up. San Francisco is also transitioning to a 4-3 defense so Reuben Foster should do a great job of playing the Mike linebacker position which has been made famous by the likes of Ray Lewis, Dick Butkus, and Ray Nitschke. It’s up to the middle linebacker to own it in both A gaps when playing the 4-3 defense and it will be a great test for the young linebacker who is looking to make a name for himself. Solomon Thomas and Foster will give the 49ers an edge on the defensive side of the ball and we all know defense wins championships. That’s clearly why Lynch made it a point to get better in that regard and get ready to hear Reuben Foster’s name much more frequently.

Charity of the day: Rotary Foundation

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Amari Cooper is taking over at Oakland Raiders training camp, the third year receiver has been flat out dominant:

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Author: Jon Kuzma

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Amari Cooper has really been hitting his stride at Oakland Raiders training camp and that’s has helped Cooper earn the respect of his teammates. Quarterback David Carr had this to say about Cooper’s playmaking abilities “The guy has been going off all camp, all offseason. We were kind of just laughing at how impressed we were.” Clearly Carr has all the confidence in the world in Amari Cooper and expect that to pay dividends when it comes to the former Alabama receiver’s stat total. Cooper has already put together back to back 1,000 yard seasons in his first two years as a pro and it’s scary to think that Carr has seen this much progress in Amari Cooper’s game. Cooper actually put up better stats at Alabama than Julio Jones did and now it looks like the raiders receiver could push Jones at the pro level as well. The Raiders have to be very pleased with that and if you need a wide receiver for your fantasy football team don’t forget about Cooper. As long as Derek Carr stays healthy Amari Cooper could be on the path to 1,500 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s going to help the Raiders organization win a lot of games and NFL defensive coordinators are going to have their hands pull when they play Oakland. The silver and black have weapons all over their offense and Marshawn Lynch should help this unit be more dynamic as well. Now those defenders have to worry about Beast Mode carving them up on the ground and that will make those linebackers creep up a bit. As soon as that happens Amari Cooper can beat the defense over top and we all know Derek Carr is going to deliver the ball with accuracy. Between Carr’s quick recovery, the addition of Marshawn Lynch, and Amari Cooper’s progression the Raiders look like a favorite in the AFC. This team should be able to easily make their second consecutive postseason appearance at the end of the year.

Charity of the day: Rotary Foundation

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DeMarco Murray is singing high praise for his offensive line, claims they’re “one of the top in the league”

Photo credit: Frederick Breedon

Author: Jon Kuzma

Running Back DeMarco Murray has recently told the NFL media that he believes his offensive line is “one of the top in the league.” While most football players would give their own team high praise, it must be noted that Murray played for the Dallas Cowboys in the past who are known for their offensive line play. Murray was very respectful of his past team’s offensive front but it’s also very clear that Murray believes his teammates in Tennessee can compete with Dallas. Murray continued on saying that Jack Conklin, Taylor Lewan, and the rest of the Titans offense lineman work “extremely hard” and “handle themselves on and off the field.” Clearly Murray has a lot of respect for the guys blocking in front of him and truthfully it’s a good move morale wise to give the hogs upfront a little bit of spotlight. By showing his appreciation for their efforts Murray can earn a deep trust with his blockers. That should motivate Conklin, Lewan and Ben Jones to give everything they got when it comes time to get down and dirty in the running game. Football is a unique sport in the fact that it takes so many different players executing their jobs properly in order for an offensive play to be successful. DeMarco Murray is a veteran in this league and he understands that process to the fullest extent. By endorsing the guys he goes to battle with, DeMarco Murray has effectively built up this team’s cohesion which should make the Titans even better. We’ve all seen Any Given Sunday where the Miami Sharks unravel under a self centered Willie Beaman. DeMarco Murray decided to take the opposite approach and it’s a reflection of the attitude the Tennessee Titans have right now. Everyone in the Titans’ locker room truly believe they can compete at the highest level.

Charity of the day: Scholarship America

Go donate! www.scholarshipamerica.org

Texans Owner Bob McNair booked Deshaun Watson’s flight to ensure the rookie made it to his White House visit:

Photo credit: Bob Levey / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

It’s pretty safe to say that Houston Texans Owner Bob McNair has DeShaun Watson’s back. McNair recently booked Watson’s flight to the White House and the Texans owner wanted to make sure his rookie quarterback was honored for winning the National Championship last year at Clemson. The Tigers beat the Alabama Crimson Tide on the biggest stage in collegiate sports and DeShaun Watson was a force for Clemson in that game recording 420 passing yards and 3 touchdown passes. That helped get Dabo Swinney’s team to the White House and it seems like Clemson had a blast soaking up their accomplishments in Washington D.C. Almost 200 people made up of Watson’s former teammates and coaches joined their old quarterback to meet President Trump. There was noticeably more people at this White House visit than there was when the New England Patriots visited the President back in April. One thing that Donald Trump did praise was the fact that the Clemson Tigers had “a little extra.” Which was referring to when the Tigers were coming down to the to wire with the Crimson Tide, they had a little something extra. That something very well might have been DeShaun Watson and Sean Spicer even brought Watson along for a press briefing. So you have the National Championship, the White House visit, and all these experiences make it clear that Watson has been an established leader throughout his life. Now Watson has to go and take the job from Tom Savage. One thing is for sure Watson sure seemed to have a lot of fun meeting up with his old teammates in the East Wing and it’s good to see Texans Owner Bob McNair ensuring that his quarterback takes part in such a outstanding tradition. The Clemson players will definitely remember that White House visit for the rest of their lives.

Charity of the day: Oxfam-America

Go donate! www.oxfamamerica.org

Jeremy Maclin is a Baltimore Raven after signing a two year contract:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Baltimore Ravens have been light at the wide receiver position ever since Steve Smith retired and now the Ravens have signed Jeremy Maclin to bolster the position. Maclin spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles early on in his career. Maclin now heads to Baltimore to pair up with veteran Quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco and Maclin are both coming off years where they underperformed especially in terms of their own expectations. Jeremy Maclin only had 536 yards and 2 touchdowns during 2016 and that was way down from the 1,088 yards Maclin had in 2015. Joe Flacco also struggled throwing only 20 touchdowns all last season. Flacco’s career high is 27 touchdowns in a season and it has to be noted that Joe Flacco has never thrown for 30 touchdowns during an entire regular season. That’s kind of alarming when you consider Aaron Rodger has been able to throw for 30’s touchdowns in a season 6 different times throughout his career. That shows how big of gap there is between Flacco and the elite quarterbacks in the league, which is ultimately why the Ravens had no choice but to sign Jeremy Maclin. Baltimore couldn’t afford to play 16 games without Maclin on their roster because there wasn’t enough receivers that could get the job done. Maclin will give the Ravens offense some big plays and actually could form a nice tandem with Mike Wallace. If Flacco can get back to his 2013 form in which he was playing at a Super Bowl M.V.P caliber of level. That could help Jeremy Maclin have a break out year and the Ravens are definitely a better football team after signing this guy. Jeremy Maclin ran 4.45 40 yard dash when entering the league back in 2009. One thing Joe Flacco does do well is throw the football deep. Wallace and Maclin are both extremely fast which should mesh nicely with Flacco’s arm strength. So it just adds up from a football stand point that the Ravens would sign Jeremy Maclin and now the Ravens have at least two competent receivers on their roster.

Charity of the day: Oxfam-America

Go donate! www.oxfamamerica.org

The Los Angeles Chargers ink Melvin Ingram to a four year $66 million contract:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Chargers knew they had to retain Melvin Ingram’s services for the long haul and now the Chargers are putting up the money to make that deal happen. The Chargers recently signed Melvin Ingram to a $66 million dollar contract and that’s a great move considering Ingram has recorded 18.5 sacks in the last two seasons. When you combine that production along with Joey Bosa’s it’s easy to see that the future is bright for the Los Angeles Chargers. That’s great news because the Chargers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 but it’s finally safe to say that this franchise is heading in the right direction. Avoiding a hold out with Ingram is a big part of that good momentum and Los Angeles didn’t want that dark cloud hanging over their organization for two years in a row (Bosa sat out four games in 2016). Now the Chargers will have their top two pass rushers (Bosa and Ingram) until at least 2020 and both guys should go over the 10 sacks mark in 2017. Ingram also recorded four forced fumbles last season, so having this guy on their roster gives Los Angeles the chance to get takeaways along with sacks. Those combined elements are essential to playing winning football and this was really a no brainer for the Spanos family. By signing Melvin Ingram to a long term deal the Chargers head to Los Angeles drama free. There are no worries whether or not Ingram will sit out training camp or be disgruntled throughout the season. That’s great for the team’s overall morale and give credit to this front office. They knew they had to roll out the red carpet for Melvin Ingram and now their top linebacker has to reward the Chargers by playing his best football. If Ingram can play at the level he has done the past two seasons then he will easily live up to expectations.

Charity of the day: Mental Health America

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Dez Bryant made it very clear he would like to see Darrelle Revis in a Cowboys uniform:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

In the era of social media fans can feel much closer to athletes by following their every move online. Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant used social media for a much different purpose though. Bryant took to Twitter to recruit Darrelle Revis recently and that could be a big addition considering the Cowboys lost both their starting cornerbacks in free agency this off-season. Revis struggled in 2016 and played extra soft coverage all year due to his declining speed. However it’s still safe to say that the Cowboys would be better off with Revis on their roster. If Revis can get into shape and get back to a better form he could certainly still contribute to the Cowboys secondary. Not only that but Revis will serve as a great mentor to the younger defensive backs in that locker room. There’s nothing like having one of the best cornerbacks of all time coaching you up and Revis has a lot of knowledge that he can pass down. That role could help Revis get some good momentum going and lets be honest the Cowboys are in much better shape than the Jets are. With the Jets being a catastrophic letdown right now a lot of Revis’ bad plays were brought to the forefront because New York was losing. If Revis has a miscalculation with the Cowboys at least the team will still be winning games. That will help tremendously with Darrelle Revis’ personal confidence and there’s no reason the veteran cornerback can’t get it done at 31 years old. Now from a business point of view, the word around the league is Revis wants at least $8 million dollars to play in 2017. That’s going to be a little steep for the Cowboys but then again it would only be a one year deal. So either Revis is going to have to come down a little on that asking price or the Cowboys are going to have to gamble and risk that big money contract for at least one season. Fortunately for the Cowboys they did free up a decent chunk of cap space when Tony Romo retired so it is possible that Revis to Cowboys could actually happen financially.

Charity of the day: Team Rubicon

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Irsay needs to win one Super Bowl with Andrew Luck before he makes multiple Super Bowl victories his expectations:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Jim Irsay won a Super Bowl back in 2007 when Peyton Manning was wheeling and dealing for the Colts but Irsay is expecting a little bit more from Andrew Luck. Irsay told the media recently that he still expects at least two Super Bowl victories from Luck. Irsay actually used the term “multiple Lombardis” but that mindset puts a whole lot of pressure on his 27 year old quarterback. Andrew Luck has yet to even get to the big game and now his owner is setting lofty goals for the future. You would think the Colts organization would be focused on winning their first Super Bowl with Luck, but apparently a single Super Bowl isn’t even good enough for the Indianapolis signal caller. It just feels like Jim Irsay is being a little delusional with how hard it is to win it all in this league. That’s not to say that Andrew Luck can’t win multiple championships, it’s just that Indianapolis has to give Luck a lot of help in order for that to happen. The Colts have been one of the less talented teams roster wise for the past two seasons. If Irsay really wants Luck to bring it home to Indiana then the front office has to put some talent around Luck to even make the feat of winning a Super Bowl achievable. The Colts haven’t made much noise in free agency in awhile and their draft wasn’t very convincing either. Malik Hooker has the chance to be a good player but how about drafting a wide receiver early on for Andrew Luck? How come the Colts can’t go after a guy like O.J Howard which would have brought a little razzle dazzle to the organization? Even Jonathan Allen or Garrett Boles would have been solid picks and neither of those guys play nine yards off the ball like Malik Hooker does. The point is the game is won in the trenches and by dominating the line of scrimmage. Drafting a safety that high doesn’t help this team enough and truthfully the Colts need to load up on draft picks because it’s hard to recruit to Indiana. All the players today want to play for warm weather teams so you have to build your team up through the draft if you’re the Colts. That’s the best course of action for Andrew Luck and Indianapolis right now, this team should also try to work a few trades to bring in some big name players. Something has to happen roster wise to put Andrew Luck in a position to win it all multiple times and right now he isn’t getting that opportunity from the Colts front office.

Charity of the day: United Cancer Support Foundation

Go donate! www.unitedcsf.org

The Lions lose starting Left Tackle Taylor Decker for four to six months due to a torn labrum:

Photo credit: NurPhoto

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions got some bad news when it was announced that Taylor Decker would be sidelined four to six months due to shoulder surgery. Decker tore his labrum a couple of months ago at Lions OTAs and now Detroit will be without their emerging star left tackle for at least until October. Taylor Decker started all sixteen games last season as a rookie, that’s very impressive and not only was Decker a starter he was flat out impressive. Stafford rarely saw pressure from the left side and that’s because Decker was going toe to toe with some of the best defensive ends in the game. Taylor Decker stood his ground extremely well and the young offensive lineman understands how to get back in his pass protection and keep everything in front of him. By using great angles Decker can keep pass rushers on the outside and not many opposing players get into the pocket when number 68 is on the field. Those outstanding pass blocking skills gave Matthew Stafford a whole lot of time to operate last season and the Lions are definitely going to feel the loss of Taylor Decker when the regular season gets here. Now they have to find a player who can fill the vacancy left behind by Decker but the Lions have to be happy that this isn’t a season ending injury. If Taylor Decker can get a good jump on his rehab that will allow the second year left tackle to come back at the end of the season. That would be just in time for the playoffs which is when Decker is needed the most. Matthew Stafford is entering his prime and he has was it takes to consistently beat NFL defenses, however Stafford can’t do it alone and he needs competent offensive lineman to cut down on the pass rush. That’s where Taylor Decker comes in and Lions fans can’t wait to see the former Ohio State Buckeye healthy doing what he does best. Until then it’s a waiting game for Taylor Decker.

Charity of the day: United Cancer Support Foundation

Go donate! www.unitedcsf.org

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