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NFL teams up with NCAA for next round of safety improvements

Tue Jun 18 3:06pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

In this Jan. 29, 2019, file photo, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills gestures while speaking during a health and safety tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. Next to torn ACLs, the most time lost for injured NFL players is due to hamstring and lower extremity problems, of which there are far more than the major knee issue. "We are thinking about injury burden," Sills said. "Not only how many injuries but how long a player missed. We plan by the end of year in hopes of making substantial savings of time lost (for players) with those injuries," Sills said. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NFL is teaming up with the NCAA to make football safer.

Two of the league's top medical experts, Jeff Miller and Dr. Allen Sills, spent Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis meeting with NCAA officials, college team doctors and trainers. Both told The Associated Press they hope it's just the first of many meetings.

The focus until now has been primarily on concussions. But Miller and Sills are now placing even more attention on the prevention and treatment of lower-body injuries such as sprained ankles, strained hamstrings and knee problems.

League officials have been collecting data about cleat traction and how cleats release from different playing surfaces in an effort to keep players healthy. They also believe college researchers can help expedite the process.

Player Notes
Mike Williams Jul 17 2:10pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams burst onto the scene last season with his team-leading 10 touchdowns, but he's just getting started. Williams and teammate Keenan Allen were named the third-best receiver duo by NFL.com analyst James Jones, and Jones pointed out that 2019 might be a huge year for Williams thanks to a bit of subtraction. Tyrell Williams departed for Oakland, and his 65 targets from last season will now be spread out amongst those who are left, most likely Mike Williams. Assuming Melvin Gordon returns to the lineup, Williams could be one of the very best "third" options in the league this year and could easily turn into an undercover superstar.

From RotoBaller

Melvin Gordon Jul 17 2:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon clarified over the weekend that even though he is pushing for a new contract, he still wants to stay with the Chargers if he can. Gordon spoke out because he was upset that people were saying that he didn't want to go back to the Chargers, but he still reiterated, "You know, I want to get paid." Gordon is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract, and his agent has already openly expressed that Gordon will hold out and demand a trade if he is not given a new deal. Gordon's got some leverage as the team's primary running back, but the recent drop in value amongst running backs and cross-town troubles between the Rams and Todd Gurley will likely play a major role in the offers made to him. It would be surprising if this issue was solved before training camp.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Jul 17 9:18am ET

A source close to retired tight end Rob Gronkowski places his potential for unretiring at 40 percent in 2019. Gronkowski isn't thinking of football right now and is enjoying his retirement, but he could decide to return once the season starts. If quarterback Tom Brady makes an appeal to Gronk, the future Hall of Famer could come back. Gronkowski has said that he's lost only 18 pounds since retiring, and it's believed that head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't stop Gronkowski if he wanted to return. This is probably still more of a long shot, but it shouldn't be ruled out. Gronk battled injuries throughout his career and seemed to slow down in 2018, but his return would send shock waves through the fantasy industry. He had 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last year. You'd be better off using a roster spot on someone else this fall, even if it's intriguing to think about.

Grady Jarrett Jul 17 9:17am ET

The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.

Joe Mixon Jul 17 6:00am ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to improve after a solid 2018 season. After accruing just 626 yards on the ground during his rookie campaign, Mixon eclipsed the millennium mark last season to finish with 1,168 yards to go along with nine total trips to the end zone. Though it has been argued that he isn't a top-five back, he will begin his first season under the tutelage of new head coach Zac Taylor, who served as an assistant under Sean McVay. Taylor, who will mirror some parts of the Rams' playbook initially, will utilize the same packages that helped running back Todd Gurley become a fantasy success. As a result, Mixon has a better chance than most to have a dominant season despite being behind a weaker offensive line, and as long as he can remain healthy.

From RotoBaller

Alfred Blue Jul 17 3:03am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Alfred Blue is the 'frontrunner' for the No. 2 spot behind RB Leonard Fournette, in the opinion of The Florida Times-Union's John Reid.

Fantasy Spin: There are some other recognizable names on the depth chart, including Thomas Rawls and rookie Ryquell Armstead, but Blue has been penciled in as RB2 since he signed with the Jags. He remains a decent late-round handcuff for Fournette owners.

Delanie Walker Jul 16 11:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, in the opinion of Titans Online's Jim Wyatt. Tight end Jonnu Smith (knee), whose season ended in Week 14, isn't a lock to be ready after having missed all of the offseason workouts. Walker could be on the Physically Unable to Perform list during training camp, but the veteran should be ready for Week 1. The 34-year-old is more of a risk now than ever as a TE1, but he could come at a nice value later in drafts if he can stay healthy. After all, he has had at least 800 receiving yards since 2014 if you take out last year's injury.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Jul 16 11:20pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said he's "definitely not going to be full-go from the jump" at the start of training camp. He will gradually work into full activities and wants "to be ready for Week 1." It's no lock that the 32-year-old will be ready for Week 1, so that definitely makes him a risky fantasy proposition going into the 2019 season. Sanders started his Denver tenure with three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16, but he's underwhelmed since. He bounced back some with 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns in only 12 games last season. Sanders hasn't played in a full season since 2016 and will obviously have injury concerns again this year.

From RotoBaller

Jake Butt Jul 16 10:53pm ET

Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) was limited to individual drills for most of the offseason as he continued to recover from surgery on his torn anterior cruciate ligament. He believes he will do more 'team things' at start of camp while the team slowly works his reps back to where they were, according to Aric DiLalla of the team's website.

Larry Fitzgerald Jul 16 10:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed with the tempo of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in pace (time between plays) in neutral situations last year, but that is expected to change drastically in 2019. Fitzgerald said the new offense contains less verbiage that when Bruce Arians was the head coach, and players are expected to process pre-snap adjustments faster. It means that Arizona's skill players should see more bulk this year, which is good for their fantasy value. The offense will ebb and flow based on how rookie quarterback Kyler Murray fares, but the early returns are very promising.

From RotoBaller

Drew Lock Jul 16 10:50pm ET

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick, remains the only unsigned rookie on the team. Offensive guard Drew Risner, who was selected a pick before Lock at 41 overall, signed a deal worth $7.14 million on Tuesday. According to multiple sources, Lock's representatives are seeking a "quarterback premium." There is hope that he'll sign before the team's first meeting on Wednesday and first practice on Thursday, but there's also the chance that Lock isn't present for the start of training camp. The Broncos made assurances to Risner that Lock won't receive a richer contract. Lock has long-term upside in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he won't have much redraft value as the expected backup to veteran Joe Flacco to begin the season.

From RotoBaller

Javon Wims Jul 16 10:43pm ET

Chicago Bears WR Javon Wims is a player who 'probably deserves more attention' after performing well during offseason workouts and appears primed to compete for a role on offense in training camp, according to Larry Mayer of the team's website.

Derrick Henry Jul 16 9:33pm ET

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry ran for 625 yards and eight touchdowns on 97 carries in five December games last season. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith intends to ride Henry in 2019, according to Jim Wyatt of the team's website.

Fantasy Spin: Henry is entering the final year of his contract and has a solid offensive line in front of him, which may be the two most important reasons why the Titans may not care about running him into the ground. Other reasons may include Smith not knowing if Marcus Mariota can hold up his end of the deal. If Smith stays true to his word, Henry has as good of a chance to lead the league in carries and rushing yards as any back.

Marcus Mariota Jul 16 7:03pm ET

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota needs to earn a long-term commitment from the team as he enters the fifth-year option of his rookie deal in 2019, according to head coach Mike Vrabel. 'I think everybody has a contract, and we're very aware of players who are in the last year of the deal. Marcus is obviously one of those,' Vrabel said. 'When you make a commitment to the QB you want to make sure that this is going to be your guy for the next 7-10 years when you look at the percentage of the cap quarterbacks are driving. Nobody is more proud of what Marcus has done in the offseason than me. He's come back stronger, bigger, with greater understanding of what we're doing offensively, being able to communicate it to players the field. I don't look at the lack of a long-term extension as a negative, though that's what people try to make it. I know Marcus's demeanor and that won't change whether he's on a 10-year contract or its up after the season. He's that type of person. So I know it'll work because of how he is.'

Fantasy Spin: Extra motivation could very well boost Mariota's fantasy numbers in 2019. The 25-year-old has completed 63.2 percent of passes over his 56 games (55 starts) with 69 touchdowns against 42 interceptions. He has scored at least two rushing TDs in each of his four seasons. After receiving plenty of hype last offseason, Mariota is worth a flier for those deploying a late-round quarterback strategy.

Ronald Jones II Jul 16 6:03pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones 'received only raves' from the new coaching staff, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, who noted his standout spring came without pads.

Fantasy Spin: Jones has been among the most hyped players this offseason and is reportedly tipping the scales at 221 pounds after playing around 208 as a rookie last season. Owners still need to remain skeptical he will break out in 2019, but the talent is there and Peyton Barber isn't the most impossible obstacle to overcome if Jones can carry over his performance from spring workouts to training camp and beyond. For the moment, owners should view him as a high-upside flex option.

Robert Ayers Jul 16 5:43pm ET

Free-agent DE Robert Ayers announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday, July 16.

Boston Scott Jul 16 4:50pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott "might actually be the front-runner" for the final spot on the Eagles running back depth chart. Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and rookie Miles Sanders are all locks assuming health, so Scott, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams could all be competing for one final spot. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia believes that Scott has "a much more complementary collection of skills" including his ability to play on special teams. Scott could be interesting if given a chance to play on offense, but it would likely take two injuries ahead of him for him to earn any significant offensive snaps.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jul 16 4:50pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking to bounce back to his previous MVP form this season. Last season was the first season since 2008 where the Packers have missed out on the playoffs when he played 16 games. Rodgers played through the season with a significant injury, with a tibial plateau fracture and sprained a medial collateral ligament. Rodgers has been working hard to learn the new offense, the first time in his entire career. Surrounding Rodgers with coaching talent is one thing, but in order to bounce back, he will hope that the surrounding skill players on the roster are able to also be looking to bounce back to being one of the most potent offenses in the league.

From RotoBaller

Roc Thomas Jul 16 4:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Roc Thomas has been suspended three games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Thomas had just eight carries during his rookie season and is buried behind Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison on the team's depth chart, so the suspension doesn't really mean much for his already nonexistent fantasy stock. Thomas remains at best the team's third back and at worse a preseason roster cut, though in that scenario the suspension will make it harder for me to latch onto another team's roster.

From RotoBaller

Marcedes Lewis Jul 16 4:40pm ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis is looking to expand on his blocking role this season. Lewis is currently one of the team's most senior players on a young roster and was the only one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers re-signed this offseason. New head coach Matt LaFleur said earlier this offseason that the team wants to expand the role he plays in the offense. Lewis will be unlikely to be a player with fantasy value. However, fantasy owners should monitor the situation as it may impact the value of fellow tight end Jimmy Graham.

From RotoBaller