Thu Jun 23 8:01pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Tennessee Titans tight end Chig Okonkwo takes part in a drill at the NFL football team's practice facility June 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Okonkwo has a really good reason not to be working with the rest of the Titans' rookies as they wrap up their offseason at the team headquarters. Okonkwo, the rookie who ran the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends earlier this year at the NFL Combine had somewhere better to be: Tight End University, (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle runs against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Jan. 2, 2022, in Santa Clara, Calif. Tight End U is back for a second straight year in Nashville, Tenn., the offseason home of Kittle. Kittle, a three-time Pro Bowler, started this a year ago with seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and another three-time Pro Bowl tight end in Greg Olsen, who's now retired. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn, File)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee tight end Chig Okonkwo has a really good reason not to be working with the rest of the Titans' rookies as they wrap up their offseason at the team headquarters.
Okonkwo, the rookie who ran the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends earlier this year at the NFL Combine, had somewhere better to be.
Tight End University, the equivalent of a master class at the rookie's position.
''It's just so amazing to be able to be here and do this ...,'' Okonkwo said Thursday. ''And it's just awesome. There's like 80 of us out here. ... And there's so many Pro Bowl guys, so many big contract to the guys. It's just really nice to be able to go out there as a rookie in my first season.''
Going into his first NFL season, Okonkwo is trying to be a sponge, soaking up everything he can, especially when seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks.
''He showed me something that I've never seen before,'' Okonkwo said. ''And I was like, `I think I should probably start working on that because he's really good, he's the best in the business.' So just learning things like that, like being able to just take little tidbits like that from different guys.''
That was the whole reason for Tight End U - or TEU for short.
A three-time Pro Bowler for San Francisco, George Kittle already had been working with eight to 10 tight ends in the offseason after moving to Nashville five years ago. He talked with Kelce and three-time Pro Bowler Greg Olsen about expanding the group, and Olsen said to invite everybody.
They expected 20, with 50 in attendance last year at the high school where Kittle's father, George, works as an assistant football coach for former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer. The invite list grew so much for this week's camp they had moved to Vanderbilt University and had at least 85 tight ends in attendance.
Kelce, Kittle and Olsen also had to tell a bunch of young tight ends no.
''We're still expanding and trying to find room for everybody to be able to come out here because everybody sees what kind of turnout it is,'' Kelce said. ''And on top of that, to hear the stories from the guys that are coming through and what they've learned, we know how unique of a situation it is. We're going to keep trying to make it bigger and better every year.''
The tight ends spend camp working through problems like blocking 300-pound linemen to running routes against much faster players. They picked the brains of veterans like Olsen in a classroom before moving onto the field to hone the physical techniques to thrive in an NFL season.
Getting that many people together costs money.
TEU has Bridgestone, Charmin, Gatorade, Levi's and Bud Light as sponsors. The tight ends also raised money again for the Boys and Girls Club. Dawson Knox of Buffalo winning the competition with Okonkwo second, and they brought in more than $131,000. Bridgestone brought that to $681,000 with a further donation Thursday.
More TEU expansion is likely in the future. Kelce said they would like to bring in more tight ends, possibly tight end coaches and maybe even college tight ends.
For now, everyone leaves having learned something, whether it's a new release on a route, a blocking technique or something off tape.
''And everyone here is hungry and everybody here wants to be a great NFL tight end,'' Kittle said. ''And so when you put all that hunger together, it's just big ol' nasty beast, and that's what a tight end is.''
The NFL and NFL Players Association have been involved in active settlement negotiations over the past few days in the disciplinary matter for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. It's unknown if a compromise will be reached before NFL designee Peter C. Harvey issues a ruling on the league's appeal of Watson's six-game suspension levied by NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson. Sources have expressed optimism that a deal will get worked out, likely because a potentially significant discipline is expected to be handed down by Harvey. "Harvey could drop the hammer on Watson," a source said. "That's why a settlement is a better outcome, even if it's more than six games and includes a multi-million dollar fine." Watson will be facing at least a six-game suspension and likely more, dropping his fantasy value significantly entering the 2022 season. Stay tuned for more.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers' soft-tissue injury isn't considered serious, according to a source. The Rams are taking a cautious approach by holding Akers out of training camp practices, but that's the extent of it. Darrell Henderson Jr. is also dealing with a soft-tissue injury at camp, and there is no timetable for either player's return to practice. Barring any setbacks, both Akers and Henderson should be fine for the start of the regular season, but fantasy managers should continue to monitor their progress. Akers, who returned from a torn Achilles late last season, will operate as LA's primary back when healthy in 2022, giving him RB2 appeal for fantasy managers. Until Akers and Henderson return, rookie Kyren Williams and Jake Funk will receive more repetitions in training camp.
The Cleveland Browns have claimed wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. off waivers from the New Orleans Saints. The 25-year-old was reportedly having a good camp with the Saints. Despite that, the team has decided to move on from the former Washington State Huskies wideout. The Browns are in need of another receiver with Jakeem Grant Sr. (Achilles) done for the season. Possibly, Winston makes the team as a special teams player. It's unlikely Winston gets significant snaps on offense unless multiple injuries happen. He can be ignored in fantasy formats right now.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock has tested positive for COVID-19. That being said, Lock will sit out Thursday's preseason matchup against the Chicago Bears. This is bad timing considering Lock was named the starting quarterback for that game earlier in the day. Now, Geno Smith is expected to make the start and has a chance to distance himself in the quarterback competition. Regardless of who wins this battle, it's tough to imagine either quarterback having weekly fantasy value.
Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (hernia) was unavailable for Tuesday's practice. Head coach Pete Carroll mentioned that Walker is working through a hernia issue. It's unknown whether or not Walker is going to sit out Thursday's preseason matchup against the Chicago Bears. Right now, the organization is considering this injury minor, so fantasy managers shouldn't be too worried. The expectation is that he'll split up the carries with Rashaad Penny to begin the season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has been released by the organization. The 27-year-old spent his first six seasons in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs. He joined the Raiders this offseason and was reportedly in the mix for the WR3 job. Now, it sounds like the Raiders have decided to move in another direction without Robinson. There should be some potential suitors out there for Robinson. He did fairly well in limited playing time with the Chiefs. Despite that, it's unlikely he'll find a landing spot where he has weekly fantasy value.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock is scheduled to make the start under center for Thursday's preseason game. Geno Smith started the first contest, so this appears to be a legitimate competition. Head coach Pete Carroll mentioned this was the plan all along for the two quarterbacks to compete during training camp. Lock has been lackluster during his first three seasons in the league. It's hard to imagine either quarterback having more value than a low-end QB2 most weeks.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (groin) returned to the practice field on Tuesday. He missed the first preseason game and a few practices due to a minor groin issue, There's a chance that the 26-year-old does not suit up at all during the preseason. Despite that, Penny should still be safe to draft with him likely starting in Week 1. Although, Kenneth Walker III should see plenty of carries as well. These two should form a committee in the Seattle backfield, which could make their fantasy value difficult to analyze right away.
New England Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler (undisclosed) has been placed on the injured reserve. The 32-year-old will see his season end before it even begins. Joejuan Williams (shoulder) will also be placed on the injured reserve, so the Patriots are out two defensive backs. Butler was attempting a comeback after not being in the league during the 2021 season. Honestly, Terrance Mitchell and Jack Jones were looking like better options than Butler anyway. This will somewhat hurt the Patriots secondary, but fantasy managers shouldn't be concerned about the Patriots defense declining without them.
New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler (undisclosed) and CB Joejuan Williams (shoulder) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Aug. 16. The team also waived P Jake Julien.
Las Vegas Raiders WR Demarcus Robinson and DT Vernon Butler were released Tuesday, Aug. 16.
New Orleans Saints QB Jameis Winston (foot) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Aug. 16, and is still considered day-to-day. Head coach Dennis Allen indicated Winston has a chance to practice Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Winston will be the starting quarterback this season, so the team can be cautious with him. He has played well in the past and will have good receivers to work with in the passing game. He likely will be a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
Miami Dolphins CB Byron Jones (Achilles) hopefully will be ready for Week 1, but he will not return to the field until he is completely healthy, according to head coach Mike McDaniel.
Cleveland Browns DT Sheldon Day was released Tuesday, Aug. 16. The team also waived/injured OT Elijah Nkansah (undisclosed).
Buffalo Bills LB Marquel Lee and CB Tim Harris were released Tuesday, Aug. 16.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley 'has looked the best he has in years,' according to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan. Per Raanan, 'his workload will be huge ... as long as he is healthy.'
Fantasy Spin: Workload has rarely ever been a concern for Barkley when he has been active, but his ability to stay on the field has in recent years. With that said, Barkley is two years removed from his ACL injury and completely over last year's fluky ankle sprain, so he may be in his best spot to deliver for his fantasy managers since his rookie year - especially if Raanan ends up being correct about the strength of the Giants' offensive line is its run-blocking. Barkley has legitimate overall RB1 upside this season.
The San Francisco 49ers released defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche on Tuesday. Nkemdiche was only with the team for three weeks before being shown the door at training camp. The 27-year-old will try to latch on with another organization before the start of the regular season. Nkemdiche was originally a first-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 out of the University of Mississippi. He played in nine games for the Seattle Seahawks last year, recording 15 tackles (seven solo) and a pass defensed. In his five-year NFL career, Nkemdiche has racked up 59 tackles (33 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 11 QB hits, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown in 38 games (six starts).
The Tennessee Titans claimed defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday, according to a source. The Chiefs waived Johnson on Monday, but he'll quickly latch on with the Titans. Kansas City acquired the 26-year-old cornerback from the Houston Texans in May for a 2024 conditional seventh-round pick. The 26-year-old former second-round pick in 2019 had 55 tackles (38 solo), three interceptions and six passes defensed in 14 games (seven starts) in 2021 in his third year in Houston. Johnson will provide Tennessee with defensive back depth heading into the 2022 regular season.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson's arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday was deemed a success, according to a source. There were no surprises from the original diagnosis. The Jets won't put Wilson back on the field until he's 100 percent healthy. There was a chance that the 23-year-old needed a full meniscus repair, which could have kept him out for the entire season, but instead he only needed a meniscus trim. He could be back on the field in two to four weeks and be ready for the regular season, but fantasy managers shouldn't get their hopes up. San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo remains available in a trade, but the Jets don't appear intent on making a move. They have confidence that veteran Joe Flacco can fill in under center until Wilson is ready to return.