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FMIA - Training Camp Tour: Tua’s New Armor, Odell’s New Approach, and Carolina’s New Brain

Young living in the moment ahead of rookie season
Peter King continues his road trip to NFL training camps across the U.S., catching up with Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, Bryce Young and the Panthers, and more.

SPARTANBURG, S.C.—A friend of mine asked me this offseason why I considered training camp my favorite time of the football season. Easy, I said. It’s because everything is possible.

The fact is, you don’t know and I don’t know if the top pick in the 2023 Draft, Carolina quarterback Bryce Young, is going to hit the ground running—but there’s a lot to like about him, and the story I’ll tell you this morning is a perfect illustration … Can Tua take the Dolphins deep into the playoffs? If he can stay on the field, yes … I think Atlanta could go worst-to-first in the NFC South because of an offense that might rival Kansas City’s for excitement … Zay Flowers: Offensive Rookie of the Year? Best rookie I’ve seen this summer … I say Jalen Hurts is a top-three quarterback right now. Will he prove me right?

So, here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of what impressed me in the last week as I melted my way down the East Coast and into the toasty south.

Bryce’s brain

Wofford College, Spartanburg, one night early in Panthers’ training camp, offensive players and coaches in a meeting room, a vital two hours for a new coaching staff and an offense with potentially new players at every skill position. “Pizza and Protections,” it’s called, with a stack of hot pizzas on hand to make it a relaxed setting. How will this offensive line block regular and “exotic” fronts, and what terminology will be used to call it in the huddle? New coaches from different systems— head coach Frank Reich, line coach James Campen, QB coach Josh McCown, coordinator Thomas Brown—have to agree on the details and verbiage and adopt them. Important night.

Before the meeting, Campen and McCown approached Reich. “Coach,” McCown said, “do you mind if Bryce facilitates? He wants to do it.”

Bryce Young, the rookie quarterback, 22 years old, wanted to run the meeting with 35 players and nine coaches. Reich was stunned to hear this. But he figured, Why not? This guy is more advanced than any rookie I’ve coached.

“How’d he do?” I asked.

“Phenomenal. Flawless. Flawless. He knew everything,” Reich said. “It was a pretty amazing night.”

Tua’s suit of armor

What’s standing in the way of Tua Tagovailoa breaking into the upper-upper echelon of quarterbacks? Durability. He’s missed four games each of the last two years with injuries. This offseason, he did two things about it. He practiced how to fall. And he changed helmets to a new position-specific helmet for quarterbacks.

As for the falling, he took a suggestion from coach Mike McDaniel and GM Chris Grier and took jiu-jitsu, which stresses soft falls. “I went on YouTube,” Tagovailoa said. “Searched ‘jiu jitsu falling.’ When you think of falling, you just fall. You don’t think there’s a way how to fall in weird, awkward positions, but it really does help.” Now he feels he can protect himself better in the pocket instead of always letting the tackler determine how he falls.

Then there’s the concussion aspect, and the new helmet. More in a bit on that.

Rookie of the Week

In Owings Mills, the Ravens’ offense is struggling—QBs threw nine picks in Saturday’s practice, which is as bad as it sounds, even for August—but one player stood out watching this team Wednesday: wide receiver Zay Flowers, the best rookie I’ve seen in nine camps so far. Four plays in one practice series:

1. Flowers, on cornerback Kevon Seymour, runs a 15-yard incut. On the cut inside, he creates five yards of air. Pass complete.

2. Ditto. Same play. Same separation. Same corner. Completion.

3. Flowers stutter-steps a different corner. Back-shoulder completion from Lamar Jackson.

4. White flag raised: As Flowers jitterbugs off the line of scrimmage, another corner grabs the jersey above both shoulder pads. Flowers is stuck in his tracks. You’re not embarrassing me, the move said.

Flowers is going to be a problem for corners.

Positionless football in Atlanta

Now, I can’t tell you if Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder will be good enough to run an efficient offense; he’s a 62-percent passer in his five college/pro seasons, and he’ll have to be better to have a long NFL life. But I will guarantee this: There will not be a more diverse, harder-to-defend offense in the NFC this year than coach Arthur Smith’s team. Positionless football is the story here.

Adding first-round weapon Bijan Robinson—he ran out of the backfield exclusively in Friday’s practice, but he’ll certainly be used in the slot and split wide—seems almost unfair. This comes after Jonnu Smith, who played under former Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, rejoined him in free agency. With Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London all in move slots, Arthur Smith will be limited only by his imagination.

“That’s who I am—a positionless player,” Jonnu Smith said.

He’ll have company. With five legit Swiss Army Knives, this could be the league’s most entertaining offense to watch—at least the most entertaining east of Kansas City.

Smith explains 'positionless' role with Falcons
Atlanta Falcons tight end Jonnu Smith joins Peter King to discuss playing for head coach Arthur Smith, his decision to join the Falcons and being "positionless" in Atlanta's unique offense.

Jalen Hurts is not joking

I left Philadelphia after camp thinking Howie Roseman has constructed the deepest team in football. Ironic, really, that the most important depth piece he drafted tore this team apart. I’m exaggerating there, because Jalen Hurts didn’t tear the team apart—the immaturity of the oft-injured Carson Wentz did. Wentz handled the drafting of Hurts in the second round three years ago childishly when it was an excellent team-first move.

And today, on Hurts’ 25th birthday, one thing is clear: The quarterback who took the Eagles within a whisper of winning the Super Bowl six months ago is a long-term keeper with the kind of fire coaches pray they’ll get to coach at least once in their lives.

“What’d you try to improve this offseason in your game?” I asked Hurts the other day.

“I think just the overall development. Every time you go into an offseason, for me at least, I look at guys like MJ (Michael Jordan) and Kobe [Bryant] and how they diagnose their game. Obviously two different sports, but trying to get better at my strengths and then turning my weaknesses into my strengths. I’ve always been a unique player. But embracing the rarity of being a true triple-threat … Throwing, running, and mind. For a long time people said guys like me couldn’t think or couldn’t process.

“Trying to put that to sleep.”


You can get deluded this time of year, easily. That’s because so many plans make perfect sense today. Then reality intrudes. What I saw in a little more depth in the past week:

Dolphins: The Tua Plan

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.— “Sometimes you’ve just got to open your eyes,” Mike McDaniel said before practice one morning last week. He meant: The quarterback has been getting hurt, and we need him for 17 games, and let’s think. McDaniel, GM Chris Grier and Tua Tagovailoa talked. Working with jiu-jitsu for both a stronger body and a better way to fall was one thing. The new position-specific helmet from VICIS was another thing. And maybe something a bit counterintuitive—some physical contact in the off-season—was a third.

Last year, Miami backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater postulated something to McDaniel. “It’s bizarre that quarterbacks go zero to 60 in terms of how they handle contact,” McDaniel said. “They don’t get touched all offseason until the regular season begins, and then they have defenses come at them full speed. There’s no in-between. So I figured I’m not going to have defenders tackle him, but we can drill stuff that can get him used to taking hits after a follow-through.”

Tagovailoa missed five games last year due to two concussions, including a scary one in Cincinnati. That led to exploring the new position-specific helmet for quarterbacks, the VICIS Zero2 Matrix, which includes slightly more protection when the quarterback falls backward and slams his head on the turf. The helmet actually dents when making hard contact with another helmet or the ground, thus absorbing more of the hit, in theory, when the impact occurs—than the player’s head. The combination of learning a better way to fall and better helmet support when the head hits the ground seems smart. We’ll see if it works.

“On the [NFL’s helmet-information] chart,” Tagovailoa told me, “as we were discussing new helmets and whatnot, they were talking about that it’s 1 percent better than the helmet that I’m in. Now OK, you look at 1 percent. That’s not a drastic change from the helmet that I’m in. But then you look at playing on the field, and I figure that 1 percent better that you got on this play or that play, and eventually it ends up adding up. I’m willing to take my chances with it. I’m definitely going to see what this thing can do.”

Tagovailoa said the new helmet actually feels slightly lighter than his former headgear.

He looks slightly thicker. He’s optimistic that he’s done as much as he can physically do to prepare for the physical realties of a four-month (or five-month) season. “I think the cool thing about the entirety of the offseason is that I feel like I’ve put myself in a situation where I checked the boxes on, like, okay, this is what happened last year. What were some other injuries? I feel like I checked the boxes to prepare myself the best way I can to avoid those this year.”

One other thing interests me in the Miami camp: the McDaniel-Tua relationship. NFL Films last year captured McDaniel on the sidelines against Houston talking to Tagovailoa about what seemed to be random stuff. It was … odd. At one point the coach said to his QB that he scoured YouTube looking for clips of Tagovailoa playing quarterback in high school. “Bro, your technique was trash,” McDaniel said.

This was in the middle of a game. A game, you know, that counts in the standings.

“Well, it’s two-fold,” McDaniel said. “I’m generally pretty intentional, whether that stuff works or not. That’s a backhanded compliment—like, he’s really improved. You cannot forget that these are human beings, not robots. Levity within the chaos can kind of calm people. I say random stuff to people all the time just to get the human element, to get them loose and concentrated on the right stuff because the pressure could encapsulate them, but it doesn’t have to.”

Levity within the chaos. Hard to imagine Brian Flores inserting levity within the chaos while coaching a football game with Tagovailoa as his quarterback in 2021. Tagovailoa said playing for McDaniel has “heightened the joy of the game” for the players. “We have so much fun,” he said. “If you were to ask me this question two years ago, you probably would’ve never seen our guys get as excited on a sideline because it felt like more of a job.”

McDaniel's Dolphins know how to have fun
Peter King runs through his three takeaways from Miami Dolphins training camp, including the hallmark of a Mike McDaniel team, Vic Fangio's new confident defense, and the promise of safety Jevon Holland.

I said, “You seem to have done well playing for guys on both ends of the spectrum—Mike and Nick Saban. You think you’re the same in either setting?”

“For myself, I think it’s either/or,” he said. “I’m fine. With Nick, I was able to be myself. Nick was tailored more towards the defense. When we would practice at Alabama, it would be a bad practice if the offense did really good and it would be a great practice if the defense killed the offense. When we made a big play against the defense, we understood how much it would piss him off. It would be like a win for us offensively. We loved it.”

Tagovailoa says he’s fine with either way of coaching. Maybe. He sure seems happier this way. “Mike allows me just to play quarterback,” he said. “I don’t have to be anyone other than Tua.”

Now he just needs to be that guy for 17 weeks, and a few more in the playoffs.

Ravens: This is Odell?

OWINGS MILLS, Md.—Biggest surprise in two weeks on the camp trail: the psyche and maturity of new Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

I do not know Beckham well. I hadn’t talked to him in several years, since the Giants’ days. I came here thinking I’d write about Lamar Jackson being back in the fold and trying to recapture the staying power and electricity of his four-year-old MVP season. Time for that will come this summer. But I found Beckham to be a compelling story—30 going on 45, a different man than the one many in football didn’t care for and presumed was living out his NFL days with one last payday. But he’s been a different Beckham in his first Baltimore offseason. He’s turned into a leader, one Raven said. Totally unselfish, an exec said.

We met in the Ravens’ indoor facility, post-practice on Wednesday. Coach John Harbaugh had given him a veteran rest day. He’s dyed his hair purple. I found Beckham calm and thoughtful, seeming to understand the road doesn’t go on forever, and wouldn’t his legacy be best served if in his last stop he could make a slew of explosive plays and be a wise man too?

“In my career, even when I was the young guy, I was always looked [at] as an older guy because of what I accomplished early in my career,” Beckham said. “I feel that part of the reason why I was brought here was to be that person for those younger guys. Try to show them the good and bad, because, as you know, I’ve already been through a lot of the bad. I believe I have the blueprint for what to do and what not to do, and I just try and share that with them.

“I think my biggest thing now is the way that I listen. I’ll sit there and just listen. Hear them out. When I was younger, even if I respected a person, if someone’s talking and talking and telling me information, I think it’s hard to lead that way. Everybody’s story’s different. You have to understand a person, really understand them, before you tell them how to do something, I think. It’s kinda cool. I actually love the role.”

I wondered about Beckham’s influence on the new Beckham, so to speak, first-round pick Zay Flowers. What an impressive player. His separation is already other-worldly. Through the offseason Beckham has been a resource for him, even though Flowers is smart and mature himself.

“You know that question people are always asking—what would you tell your 21-year-old self? When I think of the question, my journey isn’t Zay’s. You have to tell your 21-year-old self you’re gonna go through your own journey. There’s no manual for what you’re gonna go through. You’re gonna have a lot of f---ups. You’re gonna learn from them. You don’t wanna make the big mistake, but if you do, you usually grow from it and get stronger.”

“Ever wish you could change one or two things about your career, your life?” I said.

“If I could go back,” Beckham said, “would I like to have a career where the first three years of my career could have been repeated? Yeah, of course. I’d be sitting here, 30 years old, with 100 touchdowns and 14,000 yards. I wish I could’ve never been injured, never shattered my ankle or came back too early from a high ankle sprain. But those are things I now have to live with. I can’t live in regret for the rest of my life.”

King: Flowers 'most impressive' rookie in camp
Peter King's New Kid in Town for the Baltimore Ravens is rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers, who he heralds as the most impressive rookie he's witnessed on his training camp tour so far.

Beckham’s been chasing his 22-year-old self for the last six seasons. At 22, 23 and 24, he had 1,300-yard receiving seasons. He hasn’t had a season of 1,300 yards in any of the six seasons since, mostly due to injuries. It seems highly unlikely after all these years, but Beckham thinks he can turn the clock back, and the Ravens handed him a huge payday--$15 million guaranteed for 2023, in part to appease the then-unsigned Lamar Jackson—to chase his best self too.

His best self. “That’s how I felt when I was at the Rams [in the Super Bowl season, 2021] and I wasn’t even getting the ball that much. [Ravens receiver Rashod] Bateman asked me the other day, ‘Did you feel like yourself at the Rams? Because it really looked like you were back to having fun. They were playing you man-to-man and you were catching every pass.’ That’s how I felt. Unfortunately, I was playing knowing I was probably gonna have to have ACL surgery.”

Beckham had a 113-yard receiving game in the 2021 NFC title game against the Niners, then scored an early TD against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. He told me the Super Bowl was supposed to be the reaffirmation of his greatness.

“People have no idea what I was actually gonna do that day,” Beckham said. “It was gonna be the day where I catch 15 balls, maybe 250 yards. The gameplan was for me. We would’ve beat ‘em 42-17.”

He hasn’t played a football game in the 18 months since. He’s had two ACL surgeries since turning 28. No one knows what he’ll give the Ravens, but he said he feels healthy and ready to be a major factor. “I think that there’s still some dust on that ’76 Mustang that we need to work out, but the car runs beautifully.”

The one thing he says he realizes, as he prepares to play football for the first time in his thirties, is how much he still wants to play. “I feel like I’m walking that fine line of gratitude and happy to be healthy and playing football … but also I still wanna be great. Like, bad. I dropped a pass the other day and I was pissed about it. Really pissed. If I thought I didn’t care about this game, that dropped showed me no, I care. I absolutely care the same way I always have.”

Panthers: The Young Era

SPARTANBURG, S.C.—Thoughts on the beginning of the Bryce Young Era:

  • Bad day for the Carolina offense Saturday. Like, borderline brutal. I looked back at my notes Saturday night. Five false-start penalties. Two delay-of-games. Two red-zone touchdown drops of well-thrown Bryce Young balls in the end zone. And: Four throwaways by Young. Two scrambles out of bounds by Young. But I actually liked those last two. The offensive staff, led by Frank Reich, has harped on one thing that should give the 5-10 Young a chance for a long career. Throw it away, live to fight another down. “That’s something that I’ve always kind of believed in—how important it is to not turn the ball over,” Young said. “Being aggressive but not being careless and making sure that I’m smart with the ball.”
  • Up close, you see Young throws a pretty good fastball, faster than you’d expect for a small guy. “Somehow he’s been able to be on the same page with a lot of new receivers without having many reps together,” said Adam Thielen, the ex-Viking who’s slated to be a starting wideout. “I think he does an unbelievable job of making the ball friendly and catchable. There’s this balance between zipping it in there and having enough arm strength, but also having the ability to give a little bit of air for us to be able to go and track the football.” His two end-zone drops Saturday could not have been thrown better, or to more perfect locations.
  • His size is striking. Look at Young in the huddle, and he comes up to the shoulder pads of his linemen. “Everyone is taller than me,” Young said, “but it’s been like that. Height-wise I haven’t seen anything [different].” As he did at Alabama, Young has displayed the pocket presence to move around to find clear lanes. Being short may hamstring him at some point, but he’s been told his height will be an issue all his life—and it really hasn’t been.
Panthers QB Young living up to the early hype
Peter King runs through his takeaways from Carolina Panthers training camp, including rookie QB Bryce Young's potential, the importance of QB coach Josh McCown and the promise of the team's new group of skill players.

  • It’ll be so hard to predict this team. The running back (Miles Sanders) is new. The starting three-receiver set (Thielen, DJ Chark, second-round rookie Jonathan Mingo) will be all new if Mingo wins the third spot. Hayden Hurst is the new tight end. On opening day, the six guys who touch the ball all could be first-day starters for Carolina, with a new head coach (Reich), coordinator (Brown) and QB coach (McCown). How chemistry class will go for the Panthers is impossible to know.
  • Back to Pizza and Protections. The precociousness of being in your first training camp, asking to run a meeting with a veteran coaching staff and teammates you barely know is really way beyond expectations, even the expectations of a confident player like Young. Center Bradley Bozeman shook his head when asked about it. “It doesn’t matter what year you are in the league, how much knowledge you have of the game,” he said. “When you step up there in front of the whole offense, there’s always still that little bit of nervousness, presenting in front of everyone. And then you’re teaching something that is as important as exotic protections, the crazy looks you can get from a defense. That’s serious. That’s serious knowledge of the game.”

Eagles: Not Slipping Back

PHILADELPHIA—The rich are getting richer. One of the reasons the Eagles can be so optimistic about their future was on display during the practice I saw on Tuesday. Lane Johnson, the all-pro tackle, went across the line during a break to chat up rookie first-round defensive linemen Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter. Then vet defensive linemen Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox talked to the rookies. Imagine the resources on display there, in ability and experience.

Carter, obviously, comes into the league with questions about his character, work ethic and off-field decision-making. That’s why he was there at the ninth overall pick for the Eagles to take him. Will he make it? No one knows. But look at the support system he’ll have to help him. There was respect in Johnson’s voice when I asked him about first impressions of Carter. “He can be a player who helps us right now,” Johnson said.

I can’t see the Eagles declining. They lost some valuable pieces—running back Miles Sanders, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, guard Isaac Seumalo, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Those are some big losses. And there are some question marks around the newbies. Middle linebacker Nakobe Dean, at 5-11, looks like Sam Mills once did calling signals in New Orleans; he has the trust of coaches and will wear the green dot on his helmet, the man getting the defensive signals called into him from the sidelines. But this is the way football works for the great teams—you get vultured by teams that want a piece of greatness, and you can’t pay everyone.

As with so many teams, so much comes back to the quarterback. And to have a player who finished last season as a top-five quarterback, at 24, and played the best game of his life in the biggest game of his life … it’s daunting to think the Eagles got him with the 53rd pick in a draft. Hurts’ Super Bowl—304 passing yards with one TD, 70 rushing yards with three TDs, a two-point conversion run that tied the game at 35 late, dueling with Patrick Mahomes down to the wire—was all the proof the Eagles needed to sign Hurts long-term in the offseason.

Hurts embracing being a 'triple threat' for Eagles
Peter King chats with Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts from Eagles training camp about how he is using last season's Super Bowl loss as motivation and is focused on leading his team back to the big game.

“When I worked with Frank Reich in Indianapolis,” coach Nick Sirianni said, “I remember him saying, ‘No man suddenly becomes different than his cherished thoughts and habits.’ That’s Jalen. It’s like when he signed the deal and I congratulated him. I don’t remember his exact words but it was something like, ‘Great. Let’s get to work.’ That’s what’s important to him—the work.”

Falcons: Mystery Offense

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.—Above, I presented the case for the Falcons to be the 2023 run-and-gun-and-fun team in the NFL, with four targets between 6-2 and 6-6 for Desmond Ridder (Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Drake London, Cordarrelle Patterson). Makes all the sense in the world for a passer who’s not the most accurate to be able to throw short and intermediate into the land of the giants. And into the land of Bijan (Robinson, the very versatile eighth pick in the draft).

But let’s examine the case of 2019 and 2020 Tennessee play-caller Arthur Smith. Smith called runs for Derrick Henry 386 times in 2019 (including playoffs) and 396 times in 2020. The results: 4,053 rushing yards in two seasons, and 35 rushing TDs in 35 games. That’s quite possibly the most dominant two-season run a back has ever had. Two years, 782 rushes. My, my.

Hidden strengths of Smith's young Falcons offense
Peter King sits down with Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith to discuss the versatility of his team, the promise of QB Desmond Ridder and how the defense got more physical on the defensive side of the ball.

Which brings us to the 2023 Falcons backfield. Last year, rookie Tyler Allgeier and Patterson combined for 1,730 rushing yards, and they’ve added the biggest rushing/receiving weapon in the draft in Robinson. Atlanta had a 55-45 run-pass ratio last year. With Robinson, what could it be this year?

This mystery to the outside world, I’m sure, absolutely delights Smith. He loves shifts and motions. He loves positionless players. And now you know how much he loves running the ball. With a quarterback no one’s sure about yet, leaving his play-calling options open is the smartest thing Smith can do in 2023.

What I’ve Learned

Haason Reddick, linebacker, Philadelphia

After the quickness of virtually every player on both sides was diminished on an ice rink of a field in Arizona in the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss to Kansas City, I asked Reddick: What did you learn from your game being so impacted, playing on a rotten field in the biggest game of your life?


“In the offseason, I constantly wondered, ‘Was there anything that I could’ve done differently? Was there anything that was more in my control?’ The only thing that I could honestly come up with was, I have to figure out a way to be an asset out there no matter what the conditions are. I let the conditions in the game weigh too negatively on me. I thought about it too much. I worried about it too much. We were all talking about it too much.

“Here’s what it comes down to: Out of all the talking that’s been going on about it over the last couple months, what has changed? Nothing. Gee, we didn’t get to play the game again. Chiefs still won. They’re still the champions. From now on, I’m gonna take whatever the circumstances are and I ain’t gonna complain about it. Just keep lacing my cleats up. It was the Super Bowl, and it wasn’t ideal. But I won’t let anything negative weigh me down like that again.”


This is a new section of the column this year. This is my 40th season covering the NFL, and one of my colleagues, Ron Vaccaro, suggested I do a note in the column each week about one memory from each of those 40 seasons. So I’ve recorded some videos along the camp tour, and each week I’ll put one in the column.

This week: 1995. Steve Young throws six touchdown passes in the Super Bowl—then throws something else a couple of hours after the game.

40-For-40: Young's Super Bowl XXIX 'celebration'
In honor of his 40th season covering the NFL, Peter King tells the behind-the-scenes story of how MVP Steve Young spent his night following the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XXIX win over the Chargers.

Quotes of the Week


I feel wind underneath my frickin’ wings, man.

--Detroit coach Dan Campbell, in training camp, in one of the most Dan Campbellish quotes there ever could be.


I had planned to do everything I wanted to do at that point in my life, spend as much money as I possibly could and then my plan was to take my life.

--Johnny Manziel, in the documentary “Untold: Johnny Football,” about his plan to kill himself. When he tried to do that, he said, “the gun just clicked on me.”


The Taylor haze hovers over this camp like the smoke from the Canadian wildfires. Taylor’s presence here at training camp is toxic.

--Longtime Colts observer Bob Kravitz, writing in his “Musings of an Old Sportswriter” site on Substack, about the presence of unhappy running back Jonathan Taylor at training camp.


Bill letting that happen, that is weird. He always says, ‘You’re either all in, or you’re all out.’ Is he losing control or something? I don’t know.

Rob Gronkowski, on New England pass-rusher Matthew Judon “holding in,” reporting to camp but not practicing fully, and his surprise at Bill Belichick allowing it to happen. On Friday, the Patriots handed Judon a contract that guarantees him $14 million this year, a major upgrade.

Gronk said this on The Dan and Ninko Show, a podcast featuring former teammate Rob Ninkovich, per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe.


DEVIN! DEVIN! DEVIN! DEVIN! DEVIN! On a scale of 1 to 10, how much am I bothering you right now!?

--Young fan, maybe 12, at Ravens training camp Wednesday, haranguing wideout/returner Devin Duvernay unendingly so that Duvernay would pay attention. He did not.

Numbers Game


Great note from longtime Browns beat man Tony Grossi: Of the 371 men enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Joe Thomas played on teams with the worst winning percentage. Thomas’ Browns teams were 48-119 in the games he played, a win percentage of .287.


Taylor Swift played three concerts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, in a venue laid out to seat 64,800 fans. That is a total of 194,400 tickets sold.

Swift’s three shows had fewer than 800 no-shows, total.

In the NFL, the average no-show total per stadium is about 10 percent, or an average of about 7,000 fans per game.

That means 10-percent no-shows, on average, who bypass the biggest sport in America, and 0.4 percent no-shows who skipped T-Swift.



The Browns held a celebration of the late Jim Brown’s life last week. Mike Tirico, who spoke, reported one of the great notes I’d never known: Brown, a multi-sport athlete growing up on Long Island, threw two no-hitters in high school games played at Yankee Stadium.


At Charlotte News and Gifts in the Charlotte airport terminal, I went looking for a newspaper Saturday afternoon. Finding none, I asked a clerk: “Do you have newspapers?”

“They don’t sell papers in the airport,” the clerk said.

Odd, at Charlotte News and gifts, I said.

“Yeah, I don’t know. We don’t have news items here,” he said.

They don’t have newspapers, or “news items,” in The Wall Street Journal news shop in Detroit either. News outlets in airports that don’t sell papers. Interesting. Feeling particularly dinosaurish on this trip.

I did find The Wall Street Journal, for $6, elsewhere in the Detroit airport, though.

King of the Road

Planes, Trains, Automobiles (and Feet, and Subway) Dept.:

Start of week two on the training-camp trip:

Tuesday, Aug. 1

6:10 a.m.: Leave Brooklyn apartment with rolling bag. Walk four blocks to the subway stop in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

6:20 a.m.: Board C train toward Manhattan.

6:39 a.m.: Get off the C at Penn Station. Walk to Moynihan Train Hall. Get coffee.

6:55 a.m.: Board 7 a.m. Acela train for Philadelphia. Schuykill River looks beautiful on the home stretch. Rowers present.

8:08 a.m.: Arrive 30th Street Station, Philadelphia.

8:15 a.m.: Kelsey Bartels and Annie Koeblitz, videographer/producer team, in SUV, join for the trip. Drive to Eagles Nova Care complex, south Philly.

8:40 a.m.: Arrive, spend day with Eagles. Practice, interviews (Jalen Hurts, Nick Sirianni, Nakobe Dean, Lane Johnson, Haason Reddick, Jason Kelce), tape The Peter King Podcast from the Eagles’ practice field.

2 p.m.: Back in SUV for drive to Owings Mills, Md.

4:05 p.m.: Arrive Owings Mills. Check into Hyatt Place Hotel. Evening free. Dinner for me, “Oppenheimer” at the Owings Mills IMax for Bartels and Koeblitz.

Johnson: 'Nothing to lose' playing injured in SB
Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson meets with Peter King to discuss his NFL Top 100 ranking, Super Bowl LVII, Jalen Hurts, mental health and more.

Wednesday, Aug. 2

8:30 a.m.: Work out with trainer Elise Young over FaceTime in Hyatt Place “gym.”

Noon: Day with the Ravens—Roquan Smith, practice, John Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr.

4:55 p.m.: Hustle to BWI Airport. Return SUV at car rental place.

6:30 p.m.: Crew dinner. Peruse the Baltimore Sun while noshing on a crabcake sandwich in terminal.

8:25 p.m.: Baltimore-Fort Lauderdale, Southwest Flight 3386. There may or may not have been a nap taken somewhere over the Carolinas. Arrive 10:37 p.m. Step outside into the lovely south Florida humidity. There may or may not have been a fish swimming through the air.

11:55 p.m.: Sleep, Fairfield Inn Fort Lauderdale Airport.

A lot happened in two days, in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Florida. One cool thing about living on the East Coast is the relative ease of getting from here to there. Don’t underestimate the New York City subway. Love it. Air-conditioned, convenient, always there.


Reach me at

You’re right, Benjamin. From Benjamin Pister, of Glennallen, Alaska: “Love your column. But I do have a quibble. In your latest column you said ‘He (Rodgers) plays Belichick twice, Tua Tagovailoa twice, Josh Allen twice.’ This sort of comparison drives me nuts every week! Rodgers won’t play Belichick. He won’t play Tua. He won’t play Josh Allen. He will play against the Patriots defense, the Miami defense, and the Bills defense. This is a rant against NFL journalists and you’re just a proxy. Why not describe the real matchup? Why not give the defensive players their due? Rodgers will play Ja’Whaun Bentley, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Von Miller twice each.”

Guilty as charged. Good points, and I will remember them. Thanks, Benjamin.

Thanks so much, Tim. Appreciate you. From Tim Fowler: “We are at different ends of the political spectrum. But you seem to be the kind of guy I would love to sit down with over a beer. And the naps? All the greats took an afternoon nap, including Winston Churchill. I look forward to enjoying your superb writing and coverage this season.”

Maybe that should be my next big project: Greats of the World Who Nap. Al Michaels reached out the other day after reading about my nap proclivity and said he agreed 1,000 percent. So we’ve got some momentum for napdom.

Mike Shanahan for the Hall. From Greg Fuhrman: “I saw the HOF Candidate list was whittled down today for seniors, coaches and contributors. Of the coaches, there’s Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves and Tom Coughlin, but in my opinion, Shanahan changed the game with his zone-blocking scheme and expanded on the West Coast Offense that Bill Walsh built in a way the other coaches did not. His disciples, starting with son Kyle, have taken his offense and expanded it. I think Holmgren’s genius and Coughlin’s two Super Bowl wins put them in the conversation, but Shanahan’s contribution to the game puts him above the others this year.”

You’ve got lots of company, Greg. All are good candidates, but I think Shanahan (two Super Bowls, far-reaching legacy) and Coughlin (two Super Bowl wins over the dynastic Patriots, building an expansion team into a playoff team in Jacksonville) have an edge on that list.

10 Things I Think I Think

1. I think it’s been enlightening to ask coaches and execs, anonymously, in several camps what concerns them most on the football landscape. The two most common answers: college football and gambling.

2. I think this response from a GM about the potential of gambling really hit home: “The league needed to make some of these penalties really severe for one reason: It got the players’ attention,” the GM said. What worries him, he said, is if a player knows he can’t gamble on football anywhere or gamble on anything from the team facility, he could use an uncle or buddy to place bets for him—someone he thinks can’t be traced back to him. But the tracing mechanism by the league is sophisticated. “Players just shouldn’t risk it,” the GM said.

3. I think my big question about the college football crisis is: When did the NCAA just abdicate all responsibility about the future of college football and hand it to TV networks?

4. I think one club executive told me that’s the big problem. “It’s the wild west in college football now,” he said. “The NCAA has disappeared as a governing body. We used to have important conversations with them about rules and stuff that’s really important to the future of the game. Not now.”

5. I think I see the Pac-12 (Pac-4?) orphans and wonder what will become of them. Will they be independents, scrounging up games against all comers? These four schools out in the cold produced some pretty big names over the past generation or two. Like:

  • Cal: Jared Goff (first overall NFL draft pick), Aaron Rodgers (24th), Tony Gonzalez (13th).
  • Oregon State: Brandin Cooks (20th), Steven Jackson (24th), Chad Johnson (36th).
  • Stanford: Christian McCaffrey (eighth), Andrew Luck (first), John Elway (first).
  • Washington State: Drew Bledsoe (first), Ryan Leaf (second), Marcus Trufant (11th).

So do great prospects now just gravitate to the haves and throw the have-nots into the dustbin? I’m sure these schools have every intention to continue the rivalry games that have become a vital part of their football lore. But tell me: six, eight years from now, when Oregon is in the Big Ten and recruiting the best players in the country, what will the Civil War against Oregon State be like? When the Beavers are getting none of the premier players and just the lesser ones? Will the Apple Cup turn into Washington 56, Washington State 3? Life will go on, but it’s just a troubling story to me.

6. I think, finally, this is another concern. The answer to everything in college football seems to be, Expand the playoffs. Okay. Expand the playoffs to 16 and play the championship game on the off weekend between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. This season, that would be Feb. 4. So now, for the very best teams in college football, the season would last longer than for most NFL players—from practice starting on, say, July 25, to the title game on, say, Feb. 5. That’s six-and-a-half months. And any pretense of a player at Ohio State or Georgia or Alabama being a “student” continues to fly out the window … aided, of course, by the existence of spring practice. The college football season would mimic to a T the NFL season, playing for six months and then coming back in the spring to have what in essence are the kinds of minicamps the NFL has.

Waddle discusses the origins of his 'waddle' dance
Jaylen Waddle joins Peter King to discuss playing in the heat, Tua Tagovailoa's leadership and the origins of his 'waddle' touchdown celebration.

7. I think Alvin Kamara getting a three-game ban for his role in that violent fight in Las Vegas is a favorable result for him and the Saints. I thought it would be more.

8. I think the underrated contract note of the week was linebacker Logan Wilson signing a four-year deal to stay a Bengal. Vital. Excellent. He’s one of the five most important players on that team.

9. I think Marcedes Lewis signing with the Bears at 39 reminds me of Calais Campbell playing this year at 37 with the Falcons. One difference: Campbell is on track to play about half the snaps or more with Atlanta. Lewis, if he makes the Bears, might play a quarter of the snaps.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Let me be the 9,467th to say losing or winning by penalties is a terrible way to decide a game. But the coach saying, “We’ve been working on penalties for the last nine, 10 months” to Jenny Taft of FOX, and the U.S. missing three of the penalties on non-saves?

b. I know there’s pressure, major pressure, on these players. The game is hard. But missing the net on three of seven PKs when the keeper never touches the ball is not good.

c. “Soccer can be cruel sometimes,” said Vlatko Andonovski, our coach. It can be, and it was. But you make your own breaks in sports. For a United States team to score one goal in the last 300 minutes of World Cup play (1-1 Netherlands, 0-0 Portugal, 0-0 Sweden in 120 minutes) is fairly shocking, and a clear sign that we’ve stagnated while the rest of the world has caught up with us.

d. It’s great to see the world catch up—I’m not down on that at all. It makes the sport better. But scoring one goal in five hours of soccer is awful, and finding and developing finishers has to be the focus of our team for World Cup ’27.

e. Canine Story of the Week: Cathy Free of The Washington Post on a dog that sat in a Louisiana animal shelter for 11 years (11!!!) before being adopted.

f. So much awful, and so much great, about this story.

g. But at least Vanessa has a home for her final months, or years, thanks to Ellie Mitchell, a paramedic from Delaware. Wrote Free:

Vanessa, a senior pit bull, had been dropped off at the dog shelter in August 2012 when she was a puppy. Her owners were moving and didn’t want her anymore.

For more than a decade, Vanessa has spent the majority of her life in a kennel at Villalobos, a pit bull rescue that holds 400 to 500 dogs, with about 50 adopted every month. Vanessa was passed over every time.

… “I just want to make her final years the best years she’s ever known,” Mitchell said. “Vanessa has definitely earned it.”

h. Sports Biz Story of the Week: ESPN somewhere between transition and freefall, by Kevin Draper and Brooks Barnes of The New York Times.

i. When I got to Sports Illustrated in 1989, it was unassailable, rock-solid, the bible of sports. Lots of real-world things intruded, mostly the steep decline of print, and 34 years later, it’s not the same place.

j. ESPN, of course, is still the Ohtani/Mahomes of sports media, but cracks are showing. Good look by Draper and Barnes into why:

Last year around 71 million United States households paid for a television package that included ESPN, and those cable providers, in turn, paid ESPN an average of $8.81 per month for each home, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates that ESPN has also taken in more than $2 billion annually in advertising in recent years.

But cord cutting has been hurting both those revenue streams. A decade ago, more than 100 million households received ESPN, meaning 30 million fewer households get ESPN today than in 2013. ESPN has consistently raised its affiliate fee to offset this decline, but its ability to continue doing so will be limited in the coming years: By 2027, fewer than 50 million homes will pay for cable television, according to PwC, the accounting giant.

At the same time, ESPN’s costs are exploding. ESPN will pay an average of $2.7 billion annually over the next decade for the right to show the N.F.L., a 42 percent increase from what it used to pay. It will soon negotiate with the N.B.A. on a potentially very expensive renewal of its rights agreement.

k. The impactful piece of that: Over a 14-year span, cable TV households in the United States will be cut by more than half.

l. Speaking of impactful …

m. Shameless Plug of the Week: It’s fantasy football season, as you may have heard. My friends at Rotoworld asked me to tell you about the best draft guide on the market, the 2023 Rotoworld Football Draft Guide. It has regularly updated rankings, profiles and mock drafts. Click here, use promo code King20, and save 20% at checkout.

n. While you’re at it, do not under any circumstances take fantasy football advice from your friendly Football Morning in America columnist. I’m the guy who advised fantasians to pick Danny Wuerffel once, as Steve Spurrier’s QB1 in Washington. That genius move disqualifies me from ever telling you who to draft again.

o. Probably a good time to not be watching the news, correct?

p. I don’t turn the TV on in my hotel, as a general rule. I broke the rule Sunday when I woke up in Cleveland because of the U.S. women’s World Cup game, but it’s the first time in my 1.5 weeks away that I clicked the remote to watch something.

q. Good to meet Central Michigan Chippewa Alex Kemp, NFL ref, getting coffee in my hotel near Browns camp Sunday morning. (Browns stuff coming next week in the column.) Nice fellow.

r. Brian Sipe, 74 tomorrow. Man, where’d the time go?

s. Why I bypassed Framber Valdez—ace of my fantasy baseball staff last year—for Sandy Alcantara in my baseball draft this year is beyond me. But it’s just one reason why the Montclair Pedroias are languishing in sixth place in my league.

The Adieu Haiku

My apologies

if you’re grossed out today by

Steve Young vomiting.

Peter King’s Lineup