NFL news and notes: Brown finds certified helmet, Cowboys extend… Smith?

By Sports Desk August 20, 2019

The drama appears to be cooling off in Oakland, but things could really start heating up in Dallas.

With one player nearing the end of his equipment dilemma, another is only digging himself into a deeper hole as he likely prepares to extend his contract holdout into the regular season.

Three things that matter

Antonio Brown 'helmetgate' could be nearing an end

Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden told reporters the star receiver participated in Tuesday's practice at the team's facility with a certified helmet, which is a step in a positive direction considering Brown's other headgear has either been removed from the NFL's approved list or failed testing in recent weeks.

"He's all in and ready to go," Gruden said. "That's my understanding. Really happy to have him out here. He's a great player."

If there are no further setbacks with his latest helmet, Brown could be ready to make his Oakland debut next month when the Raiders open the regular season against the Denver Broncos.

Cowboys extend Jaylon Smith

Turns out, the first lucrative deal that Dallas are willing to give out ahead of the 2019 season will not be to Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott or Amari Cooper. Instead, the Cowboys agreed to an extension with Smith, who was in the final season of the four-year, $6.49million contract he signed when he was drafted by Dallas in the second round in 2016. It is worth noting the linebacker missed all of 2017 with a leg injury but Smith has since bounced back and started in 22 of his 32 career games, including all 16 in 2018.

Still, the news cannot be sitting well with Elliott amid his holdout.

Andrew Luck won't practice this week

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback has been limited to just three practices since April and he will not be getting any extra work this week, as coach Frank Reich said Luck will continue to be held out. Reich noted the issue remains a matter of "full speed movement versus pain threshold", though it does not bode well for Luck considering the team want to decide by the third preseason game whether he will be able to start. Given Luck's latest setback, it is looking like backup Jacoby Brissett will assume the opening-game starting role.

Two things that don't matter

Demaryius Thomas activated from PUP list

The New England Patriots wide receiver took a big step in his rehab from an Achilles tear in December as he took the practice field on Tuesday in a jersey and helmet. Thomas' season was cut short after he was traded to the Houston Texans from the Broncos last year, but he appears ready to turn around his production decline after reportedly being moved off the physically unable to perform list and onto the active roster.

Julio Jones could finally be on the verge of getting paid

The wide receiver's agent, Jimmy Sexton, is in Atlanta to reportedly try to nail down a deal for his client this week. Jones, who is set to earn $9.6m in 2019, has two years left on the five-year contract worth $71m he signed in 2015.

"Yeah my agent is in town," Jones said, per the Falcons' official website. "There's nothing for me to report, just front office business with my agent."

Jones had sat out amid his contract holdout in 2018 but took a different approach this year, and it seems to be paying off.

One video you have to see

Carli Lloyd stopped by Philadelphia Eagles practice and showed Jake Elliott how it was done.

Tuesday's tweet of the day

Troy Polamalu is back, and he took down Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes with two fingers.

Related items

  • NFL news and notes: Belichick mum on Brown's Week 2 status, Newton shoulders blame NFL news and notes: Belichick mum on Brown's Week 2 status, Newton shoulders blame

    With Week 2 underway, we take a look at the top storylines around the league. 

    From reaction to the Carolina Panthers suffering another loss on Thursday to New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams responding to Odell Beckham Jr.'s recent comments, we follow all that is happening on Friday in this edition of NFL news and notes. 

    Three things that matter

    Cam Newton takes blame after Panthers start season 0-2

    After the Panthers fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14 on Thursday, quarterback Cam Newton shouldered most of the blame. He said all fingers will be pointed at him to try and figure out how to turn around an 0-2 start. 

    "We didn't uphold our end and we're past due. Special teams had a good return, defensively we were stout all game, but all fingers are pointing back to me specifically – and the offense," Newton said. "It's extremely frustrating knowing that you're getting opportunities and you just can't put the ball in the end zone. That's what we have to figure out – what I have to figure out."

    Newton threw for 324 yards but completed just 24 of 51 passes and was sacked three times as the Panthers failed to score a touchdown. There has been speculation with Newton's health as he had shoulder surgery during the offseason and suffered a foot injury in the preseason. Coach Ron Rivera insisted, though, that Newton's health is not a concern.

    "There's no issue with his shoulder. He threw the deep ball today, threw it a couple times," Rivera said.

    Williams responds to Beckham's 'cheap shots' comment

    Jets defensive coordinator Williams responded to Beckham's accusations that the coach told his players to injure the wide receiver during a preseason game two years ago.  When pressed about Beckham's recent claims, Williams said with a slight laugh: "Odell who?" before saying, "That was a joke ... that was Jerry [Jones]," in reference to how the Dallas Cowboys owner responded to Ezekiel Elliott holdout questions in the preseason. 

    "We don't do that. Never done that anywhere I've been. We don't do anything to hurt the team," Williams said.

    Beckham said on Thursday that Williams, who was a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2017-18 before serving as interim head coach in 2018, coaches his players to make "dirty hits and cheap shots" targeted at him. Beckham added Williams "changed my life forever" when he was hit during a preseason game in 2017 while playing for the New York Giants, which resulted in an ankle injury. He claims Browns players told him that Williams would tell his players to take the receiver out. 

    Needless to say, Monday's Week 2 game between the Jets and Browns will be an interesting one.

    Giants receiver Sterling Shepard out against Bills

    The Giants will be without a key part of their offense against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. New York have ruled out wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol this week as a result of a hit he suffered in Week 1's loss to the Cowboys. The Giants had been hopeful that Shepard would be ready to play and he continued working on the side in practice this week.

    Coach Pat Shurmur said on Thursday he was "doing OK", but still needed to pass steps in the protocol before being cleared.

    The news certainly is not good for the Giants as their receivers have been hit hard with injuries. Cody Latimer (questionable for Sunday's game) and Darius Slayton (ruled out) are both hampered by hamstring injuries. In addition, Golden Tate has three games remaining on his suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, and Corey Coleman is on the injured reserve.

    The Giants re-signed TJ Jones on Thursday to fill the void.

    Two things that don't matter

    Bill Belichick mum on Antonio Brown's Week 2 status

    New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed Antonio Brown's Week 2 status, though he was not willing to divulge too much information about his game plan for Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

    "We'll do what's best for the team," he told reporters on Friday.

    Brown practised with the Patriots on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal with the team at the start of the week, but Belichick said Brown still has "a long way to go" and the receiver is "not familiar with our offense".

    Brown has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, Britney Taylor, in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit alleges there were three separate incidents, two of which occurred in June 2017. Taylor alleges in the suit she was "forcibly raped" by Brown in the other incident, which took place in May 2018.

    Torrey Smith retires after eight NFL seasons

    Torrey Smith is ready to call it a career. The former receiver last played for the Panthers, but he was cut less than two weeks ago. He previously spent time with the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

    "Dear football, I knew this day would come, and to be completely honest, I've been preparing for it my entire career," Smith said during a video posted on Twitter. "You and I both knew the game for me wouldn't last forever. It's the NFL circle of life and I'm prepared for what's next."

    Smith, 30, finished his career with 319 catches for 5,141 yards and 41 touchdowns. He won Super Bowl titles with the Ravens and Eagles.

    One video you have to see

    In the NFL, players become known for their touchdown celebrations, and it looks like some rookies were practising their moves.

    Friday's tweet of the day

    Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had high praise for the Jacksonville Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey. He said Ramsey is his "favourite corner to play against".

  • Cam Newton after Panthers loss: All fingers are pointing at me specifically Cam Newton after Panthers loss: All fingers are pointing at me specifically

    Cam Newton acknowledged fingers will be pointed at him as he took the blame after the Carolina Panthers fell to a 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.

    Quarterback Newton threw for 324 yards but completed just 24 of 50 passes and was sacked three times as the Panthers failed to score a touchdown and slipped to 0-2 for the first time since 2013.

    The former first overall draft pick was wayward with a number of his attempted passes but denied he was feeling any lingering effects from January shoulder surgery and a preseason foot injury.

    Asked where things went wrong, Newton said: "A lack of execution offensively. Through my lens, it's hard to look defensive guys in the eyes after a game like this. Offensively, we didn't hold up our end of the bargain.

    "We didn't uphold our end and we're past due. Special teams had a good return, defensively we were stout all game, but all fingers are pointing back to me specifically - and the offense.

    "It's extremely frustrating knowing that you're getting opportunities and you just can't put the ball in the end zone. That's what we have to figure out – what I have to figure out.

    "I have to be better. No matter what physical condition I'm in, no matter what – shoulder, foot – I didn't get the job done.

    "It's time for me to look myself in the mirror and do some real soul searching because I had some opportunities and I didn't get it done."

    Newton had two carries for zero yards and the lack of threat he offered on the ground helped the Bucs stop Christian McCaffrey, who had 37 yards rushing, on fourth-and-one from the two-yard line with one minute and 21 seconds left in the match.

    "That's the thing that's most frustrating, having the talent and skillset we have and not putting up one touchdown," Newton said. "That's just unfortunate. It starts with me. I've got to be better."

    Coach Ron Rivera dismissed questions about Newton's condition, the signal caller having undergone a second shoulder surgery in less than two years at the start of 2019.

    "There's no issue with his shoulder. He threw the deep ball today, threw it a couple times," said Rivera.

  • Newton struggles as Panthers fall to Winston's Buccaneers Newton struggles as Panthers fall to Winston's Buccaneers

    Both teams had something to prove on Thursday and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out on top against the Carolina Panthers 20-14.

    Jameis Winston had to show that he was ready to lead the Buccaneers, while Panthers star Cam Newton had to prove he was ready to return to form as an NFL MVP.

    Winston and Newton were coming off forgettable starts but only one was able to turn it around in week 2.

    Winston was able to lead Tampa Bay past Carolina at Bank of America Stadium as the Panthers' winless start to the season continued.

    The Bucs' defense helped shut down Newton and company, who had a chance to complete the comeback when they had the ball, trailing by six points, inside the five with time winding down. But a big defensive stop by Tampa Bay sealed the game.

    Here are three takeaways from the Buccaneers' much-needed win over the Panthers.


    The 'Quarterback Whisperer' finally got to Winston

    Bruce Arians is known for his ability to fix quarterbacks. He has helped develop Pro Bowl signal-callers Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. Now, Arians is tasked with turning around Winston's career.

    Winston – the first overall pick in the 2015 draft – has underperformed after his Pro Bowl rookie season. Since joining the NFL, he has the most turnovers (79) and interceptions (61) in the NFL and is tied for the most fumbles lost (18) and his first game of the 2019 season did not look promising. He threw three interceptions while completing just over 55 per cent of his passes in last week's 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

    Normally, a quick turnaround to a Thursday night game would fatigue most players. But it seemed to do the opposite for a seemingly energised Winston.

    He finished the game 16-of-25 passing for 208 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.

    Newton shut down by Bucs defense

    Like Winston, Panthers QB Newton needed a big night. Unlike Winston, he was unable to do so against a tough Buccaneers defense.

    Now how much was Newton self-sabotaging and how much was the effort of Tampa Bay, which has turned around under the leadership of Todd Bowles, is up for debate. But at the end of the night, Newton was sacked three times and had the ball punched out by the Bucs, who then recovered the fumble. He completed 25 of his 51 passes in the loss.

    On its own, it could be chalked up to a poor night. But consecutive ineffective games is a troubling sign for the seemingly healthy Newton.

    Did the Panthers ruin their playoff chances?

    This is not a first, or second, week overreaction. Now that the Panthers are 0-2, they have a 12 per cent chance of making it to the postseason. The odds — unless they become the 2018 Houston Texans or Seattle Seahawks, who made the playoffs despite the dismal start — are not in their favour.

    Both of Carolina's losses came at Bank of America Stadium, which is not ideal considering four of their next five games are on the road. If wins at home are hard to come by with a struggling Newton and Christian McCaffrey, who has yet to get going, then facing the likes of the Texans and Buccaneers (again) on their turf will be a big test for the team.

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