Thu Jun 20 12:09pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 file photo, Former NFL player Brian Dawkins delivers his speech during an induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Brian Dawkins is tackling mental health issues the same aggressive way he took on anyone who dared cross the middle during his Hall of Fame career as a safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos. Since revealing he suffered from depression and had suicidal thoughts early in his playing career, Dawkins has been on a mission to spread awareness. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Brian Dawkins is tackling mental health issues the same aggressive way he took on anyone who dared cross the middle during his Hall of Fame career as a safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.
Since revealing he suffered from depression and had suicidal thoughts early in his playing career, Dawkins has been on a mission to spread awareness. He recently spoke at the Stay in the Game Forum to identify ways sports can be leveraged to have a positive impact on mental wellness. The event was organized by groups including Beyond Sport and the major professional sports leagues, including MLB, NFL, NBA and the NHL.
''We're trying to bring awareness to something that affects 44 million people,'' Dawkins told The Associated Press. ''One in five adults have a mental health condition or are going through some things. I like to talk about my cerebral wellness instead of mental health. I believe we need to begin to change the narrative when we begin to speak about our cerebral wellness. I think there's so much negativity surrounding mental health that it's gonna be hard to take that stigma completely off, so I believe that individuals in every walk of life, you need to take control of it, take ownership of it, you change the way that you feel comfortable for yourself to talk about yourself.''
The topic hits home for Dawkins, who shortly before his Hall of Fame induction ceremony last year publicly shared the personal issues he faced. A ferocious player nicknamed ''Weapon X'' and revered in Philadelphia for his physical style of play and his emotional connection with fans, Dawkins talked openly about the pressure he felt as a rookie second-round pick playing for a playoff contender in 1996. That, combined with being a newlywed and a new parent, was too much for him at times. It led Dawkins to drink alcohol excessively and spiraled into a depression that made him feel like ending his life was the only way out.
''I know what it feels like, my version of depression,'' Dawkins said. ''The things I went through, the dark place that I went through, the times that I didn't want to come out of my house. I did not want to leave the home. I put on a mask every day to go to work and I was pretending to be something that I was not, not in a good way, not in a positive reinforcement way of positive thinking. I was pretending to be something and covering a whole lot of pain in my life.
''So to be able to now get on out on a national scale... we're having these conversations on how sports can be a positive conduit to help others begin to talk about their feelings, talk about the things that are going on in their lives so they can be better versions of themselves so they won't find themselves in those dark pits.''
In May, the NFL mandated that all 32 teams must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. Dawkins didn't have that option 23 years ago. His wife, Connie, and Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas persuaded Dawkins to seek help. He began to see a psychiatrist and was prescribed medication for depression. But it was a renewed commitment to his faith that helped him control his issues.
''That is my No. 1 pillar,'' Dawkins said. ''That's just the pinnacle of me, my faith, my belief in the Lord. So everything else trickles down from that concrete rock. Everything else may move. My emotions may go up and down. People around me disappoint me. But that's something that will never disappoint me.''
Dawkins says he begins each day with prayer, scripture reading and meditation. It gives him the mindset that he will ''dominate'' that day.
''I recognize that when I lead with my spirit, when I allow my spiritual man to be the leader of me, my actions will then follow,'' he said. ''I'll be a more loving individual. I'll be a kinder individual. I'll be a more patient individual. I'll see opportunities that others see as bad things, I will see them as things that can actually increase me and bless me down the road. Count it all joy when you go through tests of all kinds. So when I began to view things from that perspective, even when I fall, that's an opportunity for me to get stronger every time so there's no area in my life that I can't get stronger. When I'm winning, I'm getting stronger. And even when I'm losing, I'm getting stronger because I can find something in there that can strengthen me for the next time. That's why my faith is concrete. It's the absolute strongest part of this walk.''
As a cerebral wellness advocate, Dawkins is looking forward to effecting change through the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation, which is in the planning phases of its first community initiative in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.
''It's designed to help disadvantaged young people, families and communities while promoting spiritual mental and physical wellness,'' Dawkins said.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady posted a video on his Instagram of him throwing to suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon. He has been suspended indefinitely by the league for multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy, but there is a "chance" that Gordon could be reinstated by training camp next month. This is further proof that the Patriots think Gordon will become eligible to play at some point in 2019. With New England's lack of receiver depth, they really hope he's available to them eventually. If active, Gordon is a fantasy relevant receiver with big upside after he caught 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games for the Pats in his first season with them last year.
The Green Bay Packers waived tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) with a failed physical on Wednesday less than a week after he was cut by the Lions following a voided trade to the Patriots. The 25-year-old landed on Injured Reserve last year with the shoulder injury and has appeared in 23 games for the Lions with 13 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns after being a fourth-round pick in 2017. He can go on being ignored in fantasy leagues even if he latches on for good with another squad.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas (leg) was seen riding the stationary bike on the sidelines during offseason practices, and his left leg was wrapped in a sleeve. Head coach Ron Rivera said he is hopeful Thomas will be ready to go for training camp and the preseason. Thomas figured to have a large role heading into 2019, but veteran Greg Olsen is back. As long as Olsen (foot) can remain healthy, Thomas will likely see sporadic playing time. However, Olsen's health has been a major concern over the past two seasons, and Thomas could be just one play away from a big role. He is one to remember for waiver wire purposes during the season.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Keesean Johnson is one of the three rookie receivers the team brought in during the draft, along with Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella. Johnson didn't run the quickest 40-yard dash of the trio at the NFL Scouting Combine, but wide receivers coach David Raih likes Johnson's game. "You could put a glass of water on his head and he could run 80 yards without spilling a drop," Raih said. "He's like a motorcycle. It's all one piece." The trio of rookies will have a fierce battle for targets behind future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and second-year wideout Christian Kirk. One rookie will likely have a larger role, while one might be the fourth or fifth receiver and fighting for crumbs. It's a battle to watch in training camp and the preseason before investing too much.
The Arizona Cardinals released veteran cornerback David Amerson, meaning Robert Alford will either remain at right cornerback during the absence of Patrick Peterson (six-game suspension), or move left during his suspension. If he moves, Byron Murphy and Tramaine Brock would compete for the starting job at right cornerback for the first six games. The team also has Nate Brooks, Chris Jones, Deatrick Nichols and Brandon Williams jockeying for position. It's going to be a spirited battle in training camp and the preseason, and the Cardinals defense should be improved heading into 2019, but not necessarily enough to warrant fantasy consideration outside of the deepest leagues.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (neck) has been able to participate in organized team activities (OTAs), but he and fellow tight ends Charles Clay and Maxx Williams are finding the looks rather scarce in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's new spread offense. Early on in offseason practices the Cardinals have used a 10 Personnel package frequently, featuring four wide receivers, one running back and no tight ends on the field. RSJ, Clay and Williams might be fighting for scraps in the offense, and their fantasy outlooks are rather bleak at the moment.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds is making adjustments on the field and trying to put himself in better shape for a larger role in 2019. "I come on that field every day a lot more confident in my abilities," Edmonds said. "Last year was kind of walking on eggshells, and my mentality was more like to not mess up, as opposed to just make big plays." He played the spread offense in college, and is excited by head coach Kliff Kingsbury's new scheme, too. David Johnson will be the bellcow in Arizona, as long as he is healthy, but Edmonds is a player to watch in deeper fantasy leagues, particularly in PPR formats.
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas and the team remain far apart in contract talks, and nothing is imminent. However, both sides are motivated to get a deal done.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas is an elite WR1 whether he has a new deal in place or not.
New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon, who is on the Reserve/Commissioner Suspended list, posted a video of him working out with Patriots QB Tom Brady Wednesday, June 19.
Fantasy Spin: There has been speculation that Gordon could be reinstated again, and he's still such a tease of a fantasy asset. Keep tabs on his situation.
Seattle Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise could be cut in order to keep RBs J.D. McKissic and Travis Homer, in the opinion of the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta, who believes the team may not be able to sneak Homer onto the practice squad and that McKissic's dependability gives him an edge over Prosise.
Seattle Seahawks TE Will Dissly (knee) is the only lock to make the 53-man roster among its tight ends, in the opinion of the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta, who gives the edge to TEs Nick Vannett and Jacob Hollister for the other two spots.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins averaged 3.11 yards per route run from the slot in 2018, the third-highest average among qualified receivers per Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas averaged 3.68 yards per route run from the slot in 2018, easily the highest average among qualified receivers per Pro Football Focus.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) played all 16 games in 2018 to run his consecutive-starts streak to 128 despite reportedly finishing the season with broken bones in his back, according to Mike O'Hara of the team's website. 'He had a broken back last year. Broken bones in his back. ... It's been reported. I read that. Word gets out in the NFL,' O'Hara said during a recent episode of his weekly podcast with WJR's Ken Brown.
Fantasy Spin: Stafford played through a multitude of injuries last season - chest, finger and back among them. His production slowed down considerably around midseason and took another hit in December, although most of his supporting cast was already gone or out for the season at that point. Detroit is talking up its desire to be a running team, but it's a safe bet Stafford will still perform at a solid QB2 level in fantasy if he stays healthier in 2019.
Atlanta Falcons WR JUlio Jones will have a long-term contract extension before training camp arrives, according to 'confident' team sources.
Fantasy Spin: Jones turned 30 in February but posted an NFL-most 1,677 receiving yards last season and is in a good spot to garner the last big contract of his career. As for fantasy 2019, Jones should be one of the top four receivers off the board in any format.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees turned 40 in January, but the team is dealing with the situation on a year-to-year basis. 'I think we look at it in terms of, 'Hey, this year,' you know? And man, he had a great season last year, and we expect a great season this year,' Saints general manager Loomis said recently. 'And so for as long as he wants to play and can play, he's going to have that opportunity.' Thanks to restructured contract that pushes a $10-million-plus cap hit to 2020, Brees will count more than $21 million against the cap that season, and number will increase if Brees isn't signed to a new deal that will kick some of that hit over future seasons.
Fantasy Spin: Brees is on the Tom Brady "better-with-age" track, throwing for 3,992 yards and 32 TDs in 2018 while finishing eighth among fantasy QBs -- his 15th straight season in the top 10. And, surprise, he looks to be a low-end QB1 again this fall. If he falls to you as your starting QB later in the draft, chalk it up as a good value.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton averaged 2.64 receiving yards per route run from the slot in 2018, which ranked fourth among wide receivers who played at least 100 snaps.
Fantasy Spin: Despite missing two games and being at less than something than full power in a couple others, Hilton bounced back with Andrew Luck's return last season to finish 15th among fantasy wideouts. Look for a low-end WR1 finish if Hilton (and Luck) have reasonably good health fortune in 2019.
Philadelphia Eagles FS Rodney McLeod (knee) expects to be ready for training camp, and he's on schedule in his rehab from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans restructured his contract Tuesday, June 18, which created $3.2 million in 2019 salary cap space.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy said he "feels good" about tight end Trey Burton (hernia) being ready for the start of training camp this summer. Burton had hernia surgery this offseason. The 27-year-old caught a career-high 54 passes (76 targets) for 569 yards and six touchdowns in his first year in Chicago with Nagy running the show. In this improving offense, Burton could improve further and will be a strong TE1 as long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks in training camp.