Eagles

NFL Notes: Fights break out in several training camps

NFL Notes: Fights break out in several training camps

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As the weeks progress in NFL training camps, it's not unusual to see players grab each other by the jersey, wrestle, yell a few profanities and then get separated by teammates as the coaches repeatedly blow their whistles.

It's the old boys-will-be-boys approach, and the New York Giants have been going through it lately as camp stretches into its second week and players don shoulder pads.

Coach Ben McAdoo doesn't mind it. He wants his team to be physical. He wants his players to know what it is like to hit and be hit.

What the second-year head coach doesn't want is the prolonged scrums. Invariably, someone gets stepped on or knocked down and an injury happens.

"The extracurricular stuff after the whistle is something that irritates the vets, and those are the things we need to put an end to," McAdoo said Thursday. "You can be physical and you can be heavy-handed; you can fit your pads in and you can finish, but when that whistle blows, that extra stuff after the whistle is unnecessary."

Seahawks: Clark ejected for punching Ifedi
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark was tossed from practice Thursday after punching teammate Germain Ifedi in the face during a heated skirmish between offensive and defensive linemen.

Defensive tackle Malik McDowell also reported to the team after missing the first three practices of training camp after injuring himself in an ATV accident.

Clark was sent off for the final half hour of practice after his punch dropped Ifedi to the ground. Ifedi also left practice as he was being attended to by trainers after the incident.

"Disappointed we had a couple guys get after it today," coach Pete Carroll said. "There's no room for fighting in football. It is not part of this game. It's not supposed to be part of this game, and we frown upon that very heavily. Real disappointed that that happened today. We have to learn and get better and be right."

Dolphins: Tannehill reinjures left knee
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill reinjured his left knee in practice Thursday when it buckled as he scrambled and fell without being hit.

Tannehill walked slowly off the field accompanied by trainers. He underwent an MRI, but results weren't definitive regarding the extent of the injury, and further assessment was expected Friday.

"You see your quarterback go down, you think the worst," tight end MarQueis Gray said. "He's in all of our prayers, and we hope he's back on the field."

Tannehill missed last season's final four games, including a playoff loss at Pittsburgh, after spraining two ligaments in the same knee. He decided against surgery and took part in all offseason drills.

He was wearing a brace when his knee gave out near the right sideline while running full speed to escape tackle Ndamukong Suh. Tannehill stayed on the ground at least 15 seconds surrounded by teammates before rising and leaving the field.

"I saw him buckle and go down. There was no contact on the play," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. "The initial reaction is, `OK, next man up.' That's football. It's going to happen somewhere in this season. The game doesn't stop. You go on to the next play. And then, obviously, my personal thing is, `Boy, I sure hope it isn't serious'" (see full story).

Patriots: Fans’ adoration highlights Brady’s 40th birthday
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady was already the oldest player on the Patriots roster before he stepped out on the practice field for training camp Thursday.

He spent the abbreviated workout being constantly reminded he's now a 40-year-old quarterback.

From a sculpture spelling out "G.O.A.T." that was erected near the entrance of the practice field gate to multiple chants of his name to sporadic "Happy Birthday" serenades from spectators -- everything revolved around No. 12 and his 40th birthday.

"It's fun. It reminds you that Tom's old. Very old," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "But I think he has a lot of fun with it. A lot of guys sung `Happy Birthday' in the locker room. But it's also a reminder of how good he's been. Forty years old and still our best player" (see full story).

NFL: Goodell says Kaepernick not being blackballed
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says teams aren't blackballing Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem last year.

"No, teams make decisions (based) on what's in the best interest of their team ... and they make those decisions individually," Goodell said Thursday following his appearance at a forum with about 200 fans at the Denver Broncos' indoor practice facility.

Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with the 49ers on March 3, has drawn interest from Seattle and Baltimore but remains unemployed a year after throwing for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 11 games. Several teams have signed lesser backups without giving Kaepernick a call.

Goodell demurred when asked if he thought Kaepernick should be in the league based strictly on his talent.

"There are other people who make those evaluations and that's a decision that those teams all make individually," Goodell said. "It's not one that I would make as a commissioner" (see full story).

Even without Wentz, Eagles will chuck it

Even without Wentz, Eagles will chuck it

The question that everyone is waiting to get answered is can Nick Foles lead this team into the postseason by clinching home-field advantage and a first-round bye?

Winning two of the final three games will give the Eagles both home field and the bye. Also, an Eagles win and a Vikings loss this weekend would accomplish both of those goals, as well. 

And I am confident in Foles' ability to lead this team. His challenge will be to get the ball to his playmakers. This is the difference between Foles and Carson Wentz. Wentz is the playmaker. Foles has to be the facilitator to the playmakers. Our expectations for Foles have to be focused on just that — a facilitator.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has lost his best playmaker on offense, but he believes in his new starting QB's ability to throw the ball. In fact, I see the Eagles’ offense throwing more because of the trust Pederson has in his veteran QB. So, I know everyone is dead set on the Birds running, but I would put money on Pederson's run-to-pass ratio being 2-to-1 in favor of passing.

There are playmakers everywhere in this offense on which Foles can rely:

• Alshon Jeffrey — 50/50 ball, red-zone threat.

• Nelson Agholor — slot WR and explosive player.

• Zach Ertz — red-zone threat and more than likely Foles' security blanket to pick up first downs.

• Corey Clement — screen game and red-zone threat.

But more importantly, the other phases of the team will have to adjust to Wentz's absence.

The defense may have to play more reps throughout the course of a game. Wentz was unbelievable at extending drives with his scrambling and picking up the first down. At times, picking up the first down on a 3rd-and-8 was as easy as 3rd-and-2 to this offense.

So, how aggressive will the Eagles be in 3rd-and-longs? It is a little easier to be aggressive with Wentz at the helm. Which means, the defense will have to step up. There will be more reps for the defense during games. It may be up to 10 more plays for this defense in a game. That’s 10 more opportunities the opposing QBs will have to execute with their offense.

Coach Dave Fipp will also need to get his special teams back on track after struggling in punt protect against the Rams last week. Having a punt blocked and allowing good returns for the better part of the last few games forced the Eagles to bring back special teams guru Bryan Braman.

Role talk, Giants' mess, quotables and more

Role talk, Giants' mess, quotables and more

Marcus Johnson felt like he had carved out a nice little role with the Eagles this season. The second-year receiver wasn't playing a ton, but had averaged nearly 12 snaps per game as the team's fifth wide receiver. 

Until three weeks ago. 

That's when Johnson was inactive against the Bears. That was just the start. Without much warning, Johnson has gone from being a contributor to being inactive in the last three games, replaced by rookie draft pick Shelton Gibson. 

"I was [surprised]," Johnson said Friday. "It's part of it. It's part of how it goes. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job. Being undrafted, you have to stand out. You can't just fit in."

Johnson caught just two passes in nine games, but seemed to find a role as the team's receiver when the Eagles use 13 personnel (three tight ends). Johnson thinks the switch was more about special teams instead of offense. Because while Gibson has barely played on offense since becoming an active player, he has averaged eight special teams snaps per game, while Johnson averaged just 6.5. Even that seems like a little bit of a stretch. 

The Eagles haven't really offered a definitive reason for the switch. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich, the week after the first time Gibson was active over Johnson, said it was about "spreading the love a little bit."  

"It's frustrating as a competitor," Johnson said. "You want to be out there. I want to be out there. I want to be productive. I want to help this team, whether that's special teams, offense or whatever it may be. And when you're not out there, you're watching and it's definitely frustrating." 

Johnson, 23, has taken this news in stride for the last month. He's been trying to continue to work hard in practice; he doesn't want coaches to see any type of drop-off because he knows he'd be in trouble then. 

"Tough situation, but I feel like I handled it well," he said. "I just have to be ready when I get back out there." 

A Giant mess
The last time the Eagles and Giants met was in Week 3 and the Eagles handed the Giants their third straight loss to start the season. But it was just a three-point loss, so plenty of folks in North Jersey probably thought things could only get better from there. 

Those people were wrong. 

The Giants ended up losing their first five games, have won just two all year and have seen their head coach and longtime general manager get the boot midseason. 

"It's been a rough one," interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said on a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week. "You just never know when these things are going to happen, not only in the NFL but in life. Sometimes it gets tough to get back on course. 

"You can make all the right decisions and I'm going to say this like I've been saying up here all week: I think Ben McAdoo is a terrific head coach. I thoroughly enjoyed working for him, I'm indebted to him for having kept me here two years ago.

"We're all tired of this. I'm tired of the failure as well. I don't forget that. Now, I've had to step in to do this job; I'll do it with honor. I respect this organization and love the New York Giants and we're going to just move on and hopefully unite, and try to find a way to win some games has been the motto." 

The late Bum Phillips once found a pretty succinct way to sum up the coaching professions: "There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired." 

Yup. Pretty much. 

Pretty much every NFL coach either has been — or will be — fired. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is no different. He was a part of that 2012 coaching staff under Andy Reid that was fired. While the Eagles let that staff finish out the year, pretty much everyone saw the writing on the wall. Pederson joined Reid in Kansas City the next season. 

"It's not what you wish on anybody," Pederson said. "As a coach, you're looking for where am I going to be next spring? As players, it's very uneasy and unsettling a little bit. The one thing I know about Spags is he's going to continue to rally. He's going to continue to coach his tail off. He'll have those guys ready to play." 

Take a seat 
The Eagles didn't have Joe Walker (neck) for last week's game in Los Angeles, but it didn't really matter. The Rams used three wideout sets all game, so the Eagles were in their nickel defense all game. That meant the MIKE linebacker in the base defense — normally Walker, but Najee Goode last week — didn't see the field. 

Expect that to continue this weekend. The Giants' offense normally revolves around 11 personnel, which means they have three wideouts on the field. That forces you to use either nickel or dime defenses to combat it. The Giants haven't used 11 personnel as much this year because of injuries at the receiver position, but they still prefer to use it. 

That should make for a lighter workload for Walker as he returns from injury this week. 

Quote of the Week I: "What happened is, I'm an idiot." — Jason Kelce on his temper tantrum after getting cleated during Thursday's practice (see story)

Quote of the Week II: "I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team." — Nick Foles 

Quote of the Week III: "All due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he's only been working with those guys." — Jim Schwartz on Sidney Jones' return to practice (see story)

Random media guide note: Donnie Jones' first job was working at the Chicken Shack at Blue Bayou, a water part in Baton Rouge.