|Copyright Boston Globe|
As teams around the NFL embark on the first slate of pre-season games there have already been plenty of talking points from around the league. From player/coach spats to season ending injuries I’ll attempt to round up the most interesting news items in the following paragraphs. Without further ado..
Another ACL Bites the Dust
One unfortunate hallmark of training camps, pre-season and indeed football in general is injuries and this year has unfortunately been no different. What is perhaps slightly surprising is the amount of non-contact injuries that have occurred. After the new collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2011 teams have had to tone down the amount of contact in practices, however this has failed to prevent players suffering knee injuries in camp so far this year and there have been a host of big names already ruled out for the whole of the 2013 season. Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was the first star to go down, and his injury comes at the end of a relatively tumultuous off-season for the defending Superbowl champions who have also lost Ray Lewis to retirement, Ed Reed to free agency and Anquan Boldin via trade. Although Joe Flacco was signed to a lucrative contract extension it would appear that the Ravens will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to become the first Superbowl champs to successfully defend their title since New England did so in 2005.
Jeremy Maclin to suffered a season ending knee injury shortly after Pitta, the Philadelphia wide receiver going down before the Eagles even began practicing in pads. As it turns out Maclins injury may have saved Riley Cooper his job when he was suspended (rather than cut) after his videotaped n-word outburst. Cooper is back training with the team now however, and he is currently listed as the teams second starting WR opposite DeSean Jackson. Depth behind those two is dubious at best so even though Chip Kelly is expected to run a run orientated offense Maclins injury has left his receiving corps looking pretty thin.
The third household to be ruled out for the season is Green Bay left tackle Bryan Bulaga. Obviously Bulaga’s job was an important one protecting Aaron Rodgers blindside, so the Packers will have to try and replicate his production if they want to keep their prized asset on his feet. Bulaga actually played right tackle last season but was scheduled to move across the line this year. Keep an eye on this situation as the pre-season progresses, as it may transpire the in house options aren’t up to the job and Packers general manager Ted Thompson could be forced into scouring the available free agents.
Cousins Shines, Pollard Penalised (again)
Washington and Tennessee squared off last night in one of the first pre-season games to take place this year, and there were a few notes of interest. Newly acquired Titans safety Brian Pollard, formerly of the Ravens, was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he hit a receiver who was clearly out of bounds. Pollard often penalised so the incident should come as no surprise, although those who thought that his style of play was a product of his former team should probably get used to him giving up 15 yards in the powder blue of the Titans.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was held out of the game as he continues his recovery from the knee injury he suffered in last years play-offs, which meant that his understudy Kirk Cousins had a chance to impress. Cousins played well and completed 6 of 7 passes for 52 yards and one touchdown, a solid return that will perhaps ease the fears of Redskins fans who are worried should RG III not be ready for week one. As ever, the usual caveat about pre-season statistics meaning nothing applies.
Wes Welker Apparently Doesn’t Like Bill Belichick
One of the bigger moves in free agency was the Broncos snagging of former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. Welker has consistently been at or near the top of the receptions charts since he joined New England in 2007, so although his relationship with Belichick was reported to be less than ideal his comments have still come as somewhat of a surprise. Welker was quoted as saying that working with BB was “hard”, and that he had “to endure him”. It’s likely that the pairs bad relationship was the main factor behind Welker leaving for slightly more mountainous terrain in Denver (although the dollar amount also likely had an impact), and I’d love to hear Tom Brady’s take on the subject as he embarks on the new season without his favourite target in tow. Peyton Manning, meanwhile, will be grinning from ear to ear thanks to his teams new addition.
If you ever wondered what would happen if an American football coach took control of a football/soccer team, then check out this video (courtesy of Deadspin). Good stuff.