NFL

Health = NFL Wealth - Seahawks lead where it counts

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Health = NFL Wealth - Seahawks lead where it counts

Written by Julian Rogers

Earlier this month, a report by NFL analyst Warren Sharp revealed that according to calculations based on the NFL’s official injury report and injured reserve data, the Philadelphia Eagles were the league’s healthiest team over the past two seasons.

You don’t have to be an NFL historian to note that during that span, those hale, hearty and unblemished Eagles won a total of zero Super Bowls. The two teams that did win the league’s ultimate prize, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, finished 24thand 17th in terms of overall health in the two years studied.

Success starts and ends with stars

Are injuries overrated? Not at all, in fact. However, while overall team health is important, it’s key injuries to a team’s star players that most determine a team’s fate. Injuries to role players and bottom-roster special teamers take a toll on a team, but it’s a burden borne by the organization staff as they test the team’s coaching acumen, ability to develop young talent and ability to replace older, broken or otherwise malfunctioning parts while (hopefully) improving.

NFL teams covet playmakers. Stars are stars for a reason. They make plays when it counts. Easier to replace: everyone else. The just-a-guys and the still-developing are far more plentiful than the stars. Every team loses role players each season — even the champions. Historically speaking, teams that lose one or more of their impact players rarely take home the ultimate prize.

Case in point, the last team to win the Super Bowl without their preferred starting quarterback was the 2001 New England Patriots, who were forced to hand the keys to a lowly regarded sixth-round draft pick in week #2, who took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe. We may never know what happened to one Tom Brady, but it’s telling that you have to go back almost a decade and a half to find a Super Bowl winner with a backup quarterback.

OK, bad example. To find a true backup quarterback that won a Super Bowl, you have to go back to Jeff Hostetler of the 1990 New York Giants.

Not just the quarterbacks

While quarterbacks are key, a star quarterback alone cannot deliver a championship. When the champion is crowned there are usually at least three stars that carried the season. Let’s look at the injury story from the framework of how each team’s stars fared, starting with the Seahawks. I’ll also note their prognosis for 2015.

Seattle Seahawks

Star 1: Marshawn Lynch

Star 2: Russell Wilson

Star 3: Richard Sherman

Their health story: Sure, Earl Thomas belongs here too, but the NFL has spoken: shutdown corners are more valuable than dominant safeties. None of the Seahawks’ top three stars missed significant time during their double Super Bowl run. The result: top talent, combined with amazing health to their stars and a deep supporting cast, created an (almost) two-year unstoppable force. The Seahawks had their share of injuries to role players — the offensive line took many hits and there was great concern at the start of 2014 of whether the Seahawks had enough healthy bodies for the defensive line. Their prognosis for 2015 is the same, given the same great run of health. It’s not altogether unlikely that a new star #3 may emerge this season with the arrival of tight end Jimmy Graham. The veteran receiver is a matchup headache with an upside the Seahawks have yet to enjoy in the Wilson/Lynch era.

The same good fortune applies to the Seahawks’ 2015 opponents — each NFL opponent has stars that must remain healthy to have a chance at the postseason.

The other guys

Let’s look at the Seahawks’ 2015 opponents from the same 2013–2014 lens.

St. Louis Rams (week 1, week 16)

Star 1: Sam Bradford (QB)

Star 2: Robert Quinn (DE)

Star 3: Chris Long (DE)

Their health story: Devastated at quarterback with the preseason injury to Bradford that shelved his entire season, the Rams had no punch, only grittiness and a stingy defense to get them to six wins. They got next to no help from Long, who was also felled with injuries. They will get no help in 2015 from Bradford, who was traded to the Eagles for new quarterback savior Nick Foles. If Foles can stay healthy and solidify the position, the needle will be pointing up for the Rams. The Rams still look for offensive playmakers to emerge. A consistent QB will help that quest. A healthy Quinn/Long combo would be a huge boost.

Green Bay Packers (week 2)

Star 1: Aaron Rodgers (QB)

Star 2: Clay Matthews (LB)

Star 3: Jordy Nelson (WR)

Their health story: The Packers saw their past two seasons adversely impacted by injuries to Rodgers. Rodgers missed nearly half of 2013 with a collarbone fracture, which almost cost the Packers a playoff spot. He was also hampered significantly in 2014 with a torn calf. His playoff effectiveness was impacted negatively by his inability to create and scramble. With Rodgers leading the way, Nelson has emerged as one of the NFL’s top big play threats (No. 18 on NFL’s top 100 players). He is expected to be fully ready for week one while he rehabs from a “minor” offseason hip surgery. Matthews remains a force when healthy. Despite 5 games missed in 2013, Matthews bounced back with 16 regular-season starts in 2014, including taking snaps at middle linebacker to shore up the Packers’ leaky run defense. A healthy trio, combined with their deep roster of additional playmakers predicts another deep playoff run for the Packers.

Chicago Bears (week 3)

Star 1: Jay Cutler (QB)

Star 2: Alshon Jefferey (WR)

Star 3: Matt Forte (RB)

Their health story: It wouldn’t be crazy to list tight end Martellus Bennett as a star; possibly higher than Cutler. His 2014 output almost equaled No. 1 receiver Jeffery’s. Underrated Forte proved (again) that his reliable versatility keeps Chicago in games. Their defense is devoid of studs and remains a liability in 2015, as it has been over the past two years. Former No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall faltered in 2014 and was shipped to the New York Jets. The health outlook for the Bears once again rides on the up-and-down Cutler. The backup QB plan is a mystery, but the surrounding playmakers are there.

Detroit Lions (week 4)

Star 1: Calvin Johnson (WR)

Star 2: Matt Stafford (QB)

Star 3: Ndamukong Suh (DT)

Their health story: These Lions stars of the past two seasons are three of the most talented in the NFL at their positions. The healthiest of the three no longer plays for the Lions. Suh is now a Miami Dolphin. Johnson, the NFL’s consensus best wide receiver, missed significant stretches of games due to injuries over the past two years: three games in 2014; two games in 2013. Stafford has overcome early career injuries and has started every game over the past two seasons. In 2015, the Lions can expect their defense to step back with the absence of Suh and will have to cross their fingers that Johnson puts in his first full season since 2012, when he led the league with nearly 2000 receiving yards.

Cincinnati Bengals (week 5)

Star 1: A.J. Green (WR)

Star 2: Andy Dalton (QB)

Star 3: Geno Atkins (DT)

Their health story: The Bengals’ 2015 future may most depend on a star not listed here: running back Jeremy Hill, who blew up late in his rookie campaign with 5.1 yards per carry on 222 rushes. Green remains a special talent that missed three games last season. He helps Dalton appear more potent than he would otherwise. Look for Hill to be a bigger star in Cincy than Dalton by season’s end. Difference-maker Atkins is a force on defense. He missed seven games in 2013. He is the key to the Bengals tough defense. Would the Bengals have been swept out of the first round of the playoffs if they had Green and (now former) tight end Jermaine Gresham in the game? They didn’t have them, and they did get knocked out without much of a fight.

Carolina Panthers (week 6)

Star 1: Cam Newton (QB)

Star 2: Luke Kuechly (LB)

Star 3: Charles Johnson (DE)

Their health story: The cast of characters vying for star status in Carolina after Cam Newton has changed significantly each of the past two seasons. It used to be Steve Smithand DeAngelo Williams. Both have departed over the past two offseasons. On defense, the Panthers rely on Charles Johnson and used to have Gregy Hardy, who is now in Dallas. The Panthers still have Jonathan Stewart, up-and-coming star Kelvin Benjamin and linebackerThomas Davis, but Johnson needs to be a bigger star due to his outsized contract. Good health for Carolina’s top three stars will likely mean another NFC South division crown. Newton missed two starts in 2014.

San Francisco 49ers (week 7, week 11)

Star 1: Colin Kaepernick (QB)

Star 2: Anquan Boldin (WR)

Star 3: Frank Gore (RB)

Their health story: Since you started reading this article, two more 49ers have retired. Just kidding (maybe). Seriously, though, the 49ers have experienced an epic talent drain due to retirements and other choices. This isn’t your slightly older brother’s 49ers of yesteryear.Vernon Davis was supposed to be one of the team’s top stars but was virtually forgotten last year. Boldin continues his impressive consistency, which is vital for the still-developing Kaepernick. Kap needs a bounce-back season. Curiously, his somewhat reckless style hasn’t cost him any starts over the past two seasons so expect him to put in another full season in the new Jim Tomsula era. Newcomer Torrey Smith may miss Joe Flacco more than he thinks. Gore is now an Indianapolis Colt, so will not be a factor. The unknowns surrounding the 49ers are a tall list, starting with their totally reshuffled offensive line, defensive line and linebackers. Health alone may not be enough to get the 49ers out of fourth place in the NFC West. Veteran Boldin, it should be noted, has been more healthy in his 49ers tenure than he was during his Ravens and latter-day Cardinals stints.

Dallas Cowboys (week 8)

Star 1: Tony Romo (QB)

Star 2: Dez Bryant (WR)

Star 3: DeMarco Murray (RB)

Their health story: Running back Murray is now no longer a Cowboy, so his rushing prowess and relative health (2 games missed in 2013) will be replaced by a committee. At 35, Romo is at the age where he may be more likely to miss significant time than be available for all 16 games. He missed one start in each of the past two seasons. Bryant has been steadily spectacular and healthy the past two seasons. His health (and contract status) is the biggest key to the Cowboys’ 2015 hopes. With their supporting cast, the Cowboys’ stars are enough for a deep playoff run if health and Dez Bryant’s agent are on their side.

Arizona Cardinals (week 10, week 17)

Star 1: Carson Palmer (QB)

Star 2: Larry Fitzgerald (WR)

Star 3: Patrick Peterson (CB)

Their health story: Even more than the Rams, the Cardinals’ 2014 season was wrecked by poor health. Before Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury, they were leading the NFL. They could hardly cobble together wins since. The list of missing starters plagued the Cardinals throughout the season. Fitzgerald missed a couple starts in 2014 and may be at the age, like Palmer, that more significant time lost is expected. Peterson has been fully available in his three seasons as the unit’s dominant shutdown corner. It will take more than another full season from Peterson to get the Cardinals in a position to go deep in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (week 12)

Star 1: Ben Roethlisberger (QB)

Star 2: Antonio Brown (WR)

Star 3: Le’Veon Bell (RB)

Their health story: The defense in Steeltown ain’t what it used to be. It will be difficult for the defense to regain its lost luster with the departure of longtime coordinator Dick LeBeau. Instead, the Steelers sport some top-level talent at the three most important offensive positions. Brown is called by some of his peers the best receiver in the game (ahem, Megatron). Bell is consistently in the top three of running backs over the past two years. Roethlisberger remains an arguably top five quarterback. Unfortunately, Bell missed three games in 2013 and will miss three games in 2015 due to suspension. Big Ben missed starts from 2009 through 2012, but has played in all 16 games the past two seasons — only the second and third times he’s managed that in his 11-year career. Full seasons from these three point to a deep playoff run for the Steelers.

Minnesota Vikings (week 13)

Star 1: Adrian Peterson (RB)

Star 2: Teddy Bridgewater (QB)

Star 3: Xavier Rhodes (CB)

Their health story: The consensus best running back in the NFL, Peterson, missed all but one game last season due to suspension and two games in 2013 due to injury. He is expected to be fully healthy and ready to dominate again. Few doubt he will bounce back to top form in 2015. Bridgewater’s rookie campaign was an unqualified success. Once he took over the starter’s role partway into the season, he played well and only missed a start against the Packers due to a sprained ankle. The Vikings’ defense remains a mediocre-at-best unit due to ongoing injury issues to key talents. Rhodes is no exception as he missed the end of 2013 before bouncing back to solidify the backfield with 16 starts in 2014. If the Vikings lose Peterson or Bridgewater, Rhodes and other top defenders won’t be enough to get the team a playoff invitation.

Baltimore Ravens (week 14)

Star 1: Joe Flacco (QB)

Star 2: Terrell Suggs (LB)

Star 3: Justin Forsett (RB)

Their health story: Flacco has not missed a start in his seven NFL seasons. That remarkable availability has helped him become one of the best (if not always recognized as such) quarterbacks in the game. He lost Torrey Smith to the 49ers, which does not help his passing prowess. Much-traveled Forsett has only spent one season in Baltimore, but what a season it was. If he can come close to last year’s 1266 yards and 5.4 YPC, he will be huge to their fortunes. Suggs may be getting up in age (32), but he started 16 games in each of the past two seasons. The Ravens are solid in most other areas. If this trio stays healthy, they can go deep in the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (week 15)

Star 1: Joe Thomas (LT)

Star 2: Joe Haden (CB)

Star 3: Josh Gordon (WR)

Their health story: It’s tough to find three impact stars of the past two years with the Cleveland Browns. Josh Gordon is a rare talent that is also a sad memory. He should be the building block of their future. Instead, he’s out of the league. When he played, he dominated. Haden is the star defender on an underrated defense but has not yet completed a full season in his five-year career. Joe Thomas is considered by many to be the top left tackle in the game. He has not missed a start in eight seasons. He is what you build around, but without top talent at the “skill” positions on offense, the Browns can get totally lucky with health and still won’t make the playoffs.

It’s often said that in the NFL, it’s not who you play but when you play them. Catch a team when their top star(s) are on the sideline and your chances go way up. The talent disparity among the Seahawks opponents’ stars is evident, but each of these teams could defeat the Seahawks if they come in healthy and the Seahawks experience the heretofore unseen experience of missing Wilson, Lynch and/or Sherman.

Of all these teams just examined, the only ones that did not lose their top three stars to injury (or suspension — call those intellect injuries) in the past two seasons were the Seahawks, the 49ers and the Ravens. The 49ers no longer have the services of one of their great stars (Gore). They did make a deep playoff run in 2013, however. The Ravens missed the 2013 playoffs as Super Bowl defending champions but won a first-round playoff game in 2014. The Seahawks rode their remarkable health to two Super Bowl berths.

Seahawks get approval from NFLPA for infectious disease emergency response plan

Seahawks get approval from NFLPA for infectious disease emergency response plan

The Seattle Seahawks cleared another hurdle to kick off the 2020 season.

All 32 NFL teams, as of Wednesday, now have been approved by the NFLPA for their infectious disease emergency response plan, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast with host Joe Fann and special guest Gregg Bell to dissect the Seahawks offseason].

The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, told Rapport that teams’ plans are crucial to enhancing the safety of everyone on the team and everyone in the facility.

I am very proud of the innovation and attention to detail that our club medical staffs have shown as they have created these plans, which were reviewed and approved by the league, the NFLPA and our infectious disease experts," NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told Rapoport. "Our teams have looked at all aspects of their operations through the lens of risk mitigation, and have made significant changes all around which will enhance the safety of the environment for all players, coaches and staff.

The Seahawks, along with the Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Chargers, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington were the last remaining teams seeing approval for their IDER plans from the Union. 

Now with every NFL team being approved by the Union, all teams can now have more than 20 players in the building at one time, required by the NFLPA.

It is only a matter of time before the Seahawks head back into training camp, and this is one step closer before the NFL season is back.

A timeless Father's Day message from my late father about the National Anthem

A timeless Father's Day message from my late father about the National Anthem

In all my years of writing columns for The Oregonian and Portland Tribune, I didn’t make my family a part of my work very often.

I didn’t think it was right that they had to share their personal life in public just for the sake of my column once in a while. I always thought there were better things to write about that were less exploitive of my own family.

But since today is Father’s Day and memories of how my late father would have reacted to what’s going on in the world today seem relevant, I figured maybe it is time to write about Bill Jaynes.

My dad has been gone for years now, but I believe everyone who ever met him still treasures his memory. He was one of those men who brightened every room he walked into -- a good man whose word was his bond and his handshake was his contract.

He worked for decades for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Amtrak as a conductor on freight and passenger trains. Worked long and hard.

He managed to find the money somehow to buy both his sons brand-new cars of their choice when they graduated from college and spoiled his grandchildren with his attention. No matter their activities, he was there in the front row to support them.

"Everybody has 'grandpa stories,'" my daughter said Sunday. "I loved him so much."

He was a veteran of World War II, but didn’t talk a whole lot about the experience. I remember his frequent lament that he was shipped off from his base in St. Louis to Europe just a week before the one and only “All-St. Louis” World Series in 1944 and how sad he was to have to miss those games after watching the Cardinals and Browns play all season. And he would speak with tears in his eyes of how it felt to watch some of the New Yorkers sob as their ship passed the Statue of Liberty on its way to war. "They could almost see their house," he would say.

Mostly, though, he would entertain us with stories of his time in Germany and Belgium, painting himself as something of a WWII version of Sgt. Bilko.

He loved his country and was a staunch union man, as were most of the people who worked alongside him on the railroad. He loved sports, his family and his job. And he was a man strong enough that, in his 70s, he bought a backpack, some plane tickets and headed out alone to retrace his steps in the war, in France, Belgium and Germany.

Politics? They usually had a way of raising his blood pressure.

He always stood up for the “little guy” and loved Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, whom he corresponded with on several occasions. That meant he was solidly against the war in Viet Nam, as, of course, was Morse.

He would very often take my brother and me to sports events, most often Portland Beaver games.

But he would usually start those evenings very agitated. And my brother has the same memories of it that I do. My dad, who served this country in its biggest war, was very much against playing the National Anthem before sporting events.

“It makes no sense,” he would say. “They don’t play it before movies or plays or concerts or other things -- why sports?

“I’m sitting here in a cold, damp ballpark with rain dripping off my cap, listening to somebody attempt to sing a song that most people can’t come close to getting right. Why? Why are we doing this? It doesn’t honor the country. It’s not respectful. And look at the poor pitcher out there -- he’s just warmed up, he’s ready to go and now he’s standing there with his cap off as somebody forgets the words to a song.”

And believe me, my father wasn’t angered because he was personally inconvenienced by time wasted or the chilly weather.

He just felt that it was a case of sports teams wrapping themselves up in the flag in order to make themselves look more patriotic -- or to pander to service veterans.

And he just wasn’t having it.

“This doesn’t honor the country or the flag,” he said to me later, when we were adults attending a game. “It’s just wrong. It makes very little sense. It's played so often and so poorly many times that it loses meaning. And people aren’t paying attention. Look around -- they aren’t affected by it."

I’m not sure how my father would have felt about players kneeling during the anthem, but I have a feeling he’d be supportive of their right to do so.

But more to the point, I think he’d probably just offer a suggestion that the anthem be saved for the Super Bowl, first game of the World Series and no other games.

And I know he would have been supportive of the players' right to peacefully demonstrate anyplace where their message wouldn’t get wrapped up in an irrelevant controversy about the flag and the national anthem.

He would probably look at it as an opportunity to point out that a song before a ballgame is no measure of anyone’s love of country or their patriotism. It’s just a song that people hear so frequently it’s often rendered as background noise.

My dad loved his country, you see, but he didn't always love its government. And he wasn't afraid to say so.

We miss you, Dad.

The NFL has the worst chance of all the pro leagues to play a season

The NFL has the worst chance of all the pro leagues to play a season

Dr. Anthony Fauci finally said it. Maybe because nobody else would:

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

I will take it even a step farther. I don’t think the NFL is going to be able to safely get off the ground this season, even if it attempts to operate in a bubble. Power-5 college football may have a better chance, because its players are often in some sort of athletic-dorm bubble, anyway.

Of all the pro sports, football is by far the most difficult to sequester personnel in a practical way. There are just so many more people -- players, coaches, support staff, even game officials -- than any other sport.

And the game itself features constant body contact and a high level of exertion. Listen to Rams Coach Sean McVay try to make sense of it:

"We're gonna social distance, but we play football? It's really hard for me to understand all this. I don't get it. I really don't."

The NBA has some body contact, too, and is wrestling with how to safely protect its players -- even going so far as issuing orders about no doubles in ping-pong because of social distancing...

...Between players who have just finished a basketball game where they are bumping, pushing and leaning on each other constantly -- and you want them to stay six feet apart while playing ping-pong?

Silly, right?

And whatever problems the NBA will have, it will be nothing compared to the NFL, which doesn’t seem prepared for the daunting task ahead of it. I'm not even sure it will get through training camps without having to shut down.

The league seems to be intent on each team playing in its own stadium and there even seems to be hope of having fans in the stands. There has been no public discussion of a bubble and with so many people to keep track of, I can’t see any hope of any of these teams being kept free of positive COVID-19 tests.

And when one tests positive, what happens then? That player will have had physical contact with many others. This virus is nasty, in case you haven’t noticed. It spreads quickly and obviously, can be deadly.

It just takes one. One player, one coach or one trainer -- and it can blow all kinds of holes in any sport’s bubble.

The NFL, it seems to me, has been waiting for some sort of virus Hail Mary -- a vaccine or treatment program that can solve its problems.

It’s not happening. And neither is that season.

Sports Uncovered: How to listen to 'Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn’t get to know'

Sports Uncovered: How to listen to 'Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn’t get to know'

Former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor is one of the most talented defensive backs the NFL has ever seen, but sadly, he was taken away from us far too soon. 

On a new episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast, NBC Sports Washington takes a look back at the life of Taylor, including his football career and tragic death at age 24 in November 2007 during a burglary attempt at his home in South Florida.

The episode features appearances from several of Taylor's former Redskins teammates, including Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley, who provide an in-depth look at what made the hard-hitting safety such an incredible player and teammate.

The episode releases Thursday, June 18. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To never miss an episode, be sure to subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

Joe Buck has been quoted as saying that when or if the NFL plays games without fans in the stadium, it’s “pretty much a done deal” that fake crowd noise will be used by Fox and other networks.

He also indicated that “virtual fans” might be used to give the impression of a packed stadium, which is going too far, I think.

I wouldn’t mind the crowd noise, if people need that, because I usually tune it out, anyway. And I’ve also had some thoughts that a few stadiums and arenas pipe in extra crowd noise, anyway -- just to give their venue a better atmosphere, even though there are rules against that.

I have watched MMA and Korean baseball without fans in the seats and I do think that unless you are very interested in one of the teams or competitors, it's a rather dull experience without the crowd noise.

But the fake noise would require an astute audio person with a good sound board who could manipulate sound as quickly as the course of the game can change with an interception, fumble or bad call by an official.

It’s going to be a new world when sports resumes and we are all going to have to adjust. But I’m curious -- what do YOU think? Leave your comments here or on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

The 2020 NFL schedule was released Thursday and it was written almost as if there are no concerns for COVID-19 problems. It’s a full schedule with fans in the stands.

But don’t get too excited about those early season games. They are very likely to be casualties of the virus.

And remember, of all the major professional sports leagues, the NFL could prove to be the most challenged to find a way to play in this environment.

A closer look at the schedule reveals that there is a plan to shorten the season, if necessary. Weeks three and four of the schedule feature no divisional games. They would apparently be the first games canceled. Then weeks one and four could be shoehorned into bye weeks later in the season.

That could allow for a 14-game season with a month’s delay. And it could be played with the Super Bowl pushed back just one week. I would assume the league would then, if it must, continue to push the schedule and Super Bowl back a week or two at a time until able to play.

I would also assume there are many more contingency plans that have not yet been revealed. There have to be -- because what was released Thursday just doesn’t seem possible.

The league took the approach of scheduling its season in very much a normal fashion, but a statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear his league will attempt to adjust as needed:

"We are prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual offseason program, and the 2020 NFL draft."

If virus concerns continue through the summer, which appears more than likely, the NFL faces more logistical problems than the other pro leagues, simply because of the number of participants in its games.

First of all, this game features a tremendous amount of physical contact between participants, meaning the virus could spread quickly through a team or even an entire league.

You can reasonably talk about being able to quarantine a 15-player NBA roster, but NFL rosters feature 55 players, along with a 12-player practice squad. In addition, NFL teams have a multitude of coaches and support personnel.

While NBA and Major League Baseball are considering scenarios featuring putting their entire leagues in a "bubble" to keep them safe, possibly playing out a season in one location without fans, the NFL would seemingly have an impossible task of trying to do the same thing.

And it’s also questionable that even traveling to all NFL cities by September will be possible.

States are opening up at different times. It’s likely that a team in Florida or Georgia could begin practice sooner than the one in Washington, for example. Would the league allow that or would all teams have to begin at the same time? Could all the teams be ready to play in time for the season to start as scheduled?

The NFL schedule reflects a great degree of optimism and the league is going to have to be very nimble in order to make it work in some fashion.

But that’s a league not necessarily known for its flexibility. I would say this is not a schedule, it’s a wish.

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

It appears that Jameis Winston is signing a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.

And now that Marcus Mariota has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, it leads me to think that perhaps, after five seasons in the NFL, we still don’t know which of those guys is the best quarterback.

They were drafted in 2015, Winston No. 1 out of Florida State by Tampa Bay and Mariota No. 2 from Oregon by Tennessee, in a year when the draft wasn’t exactly loaded with blue-chip quarterbacks. Both players had previously won a Heisman Trophy.

And it’s certainly time to ask the question, are either of these players going to emerge as a high-quality NFL quarterback?

Of course, regional bias in these parts will always say that Mariota is a star in waiting. The storyline has always been that he hasn’t been used properly, the offense hasn’t been tailored to fit his skill set, he hasn’t had quality receivers, hasn't had a good offensive coordinator, too many coaching changes, etc., etc.

I’m not going to bury you with statistics, you can find Mariota’s stats here and Winston’s here. Just see for yourself and cherry-pick the ones that bolster your argument.

But in summary, I would state the obvious: that Mariota is the steadier of the two, less prone to mistakes. More careful. But Winston, who has been in a Pro Bowl, can be more spectacular, more likely to take chances.

Everyone talks about Winston’s 30 interceptions last season, but he also had 33 touchdown passes, a figure Mariota has never approached. Mariota’s all-time high in picks is 15 and he has only 44 in 63 career games. Winston has thrown 88 interceptions in 72 games. On the other hand, Winston has tossed 121 TD passes while Mariota has thrown just 76.

Both quarterbacks get to hit the reset button -- Winston for a team that resurrected Teddy Bridgewater’s career and Mariota with a coach who seems to love him.

I don’t think I’d be betting on either of them becoming a breakout star with their new franchise, but anything is possible with a fresh start.

At this point, though, I think it’s probably fair to say that neither man has lived up to expectations.

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

What is the New England Patriots locker room really like?

That is the question that has plagued mankind for centuries, or at least since 2000 when Bill Belichick became head coach and changed the franchise's fate forever. 

20 years later, Belichick is still going strong and the Patriots have won six Super Bowls during his tenure. 

It helped that he had Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time under center, but Belichick was the man that called the shots.

On Monday, former Oregon Ducks running back Kejon Barner joined The Brian Noe Show to talk about his time in New England. 

Barner played for the Patriots in 2018 and he used his first-hand experience to give host Brain Noe a glimpse of what Patriot life is like. 

The former Oregon Duck admitted he was nervous to enter the Patriots locker room based on what he had heard. 

But, when he arrived, his eyes were opened.

"It's a special place," said Barner. "There's a standard of excellence that they have and you're either gonna live up to it or you're not, and if you're not, you won't be there for too long."

That standard of excellence has made the Patriots one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. 

It's that success, coupled with Coach Belichick's constant grumpy face, that leads outsiders to believe that the Patriots locker room is all business, all the time. Barner says that couldn't be further from the truth. 

I had a ton of fun. That was something that was obviously a concern. I wanna have fun playing this game. I wanna enjoy it. I wanna laugh. I wanna be goofy. I wanna be who I am. I wanna be the goofy guy that I am. It wasn't like this is strictly business, you're not gonna have fun. That was just as fun as any other locker room I've been in. When we worked, we worked. There is a time for work and there is a time for play. But when you worked you were gonna work. But outside of that, it's no different than any other locker room. Same goofy guys laughing, joking around, playing around. It's a locker room, no different than any other place. It's just, when it's time to work, you are going to work... and you're going to work."

If you noticed, Barner put some emphasis on work. That is what set the Patriots apart. When it was time to work, it was time to put the joking aside to get the job done. 

"That's what a learned there. If you walked into that organization, you did the things you were supposed to do, carried yourself as a professional athlete, you came to work every day, grinded hard, did the things that were required of you, you don't have a problem at all," said Barner. "But for the guys that come in and they aren't accustomed to that type of locker room environment where when it's time to work you actually have to work, there's gonna be a problem for you."

Barner spent just five games with the Patriots, and spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons where he was the team's primary punt returner. Barner h 35 punt returns for 267 yards and a single touchdown. He also had 17 kick returns for 406 yards.

Barner is currently a free agent and is continuing to train while waiting for his phone to ring. 

Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

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USA Today Images

Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

NFL clubs announced Tuesday plans to expand the postseason by two teams beginning with the 2020 season. The expansion had recently been voted on and passed in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Now official, there will be seven playoff teams from each conference, including three Wild Card teams. The No. 2 team will no longer receive a bye and will instead host the No. 7 team. 

But buried in the announcement is the launch of a kid-friendly broadcast on Nickelodeon, which will attract a younger crowd.  

Yes, the NFL will be on Nickelodeon.  

The league announced NBC and CBS would broadcast the additional wild card games. NFL Wild Card Weekend will include three games Saturday, Jan. 9 and another three games Sunday, Jan. 10. In addition to CBS’ extra broadcast on Jan. 9 — which also will be carried via a livestream on CBS All Access — the NFL noted a separately produced telecast of the game will air on Nickelodeon, tailored for a younger audience.

The Nickelodeon broadcast could quite possibly be the most watch-worthy event of them all. Just imagine: SpongeBob on the sidelines doing player interviews, or a superstar slime down during halftime. 

NFL Twitter seems into it, honestly. 

You’ll have to wait until January 10, 2021 to catch the kid-friendly telecast, but it is happening.