Buffalo Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza is already living up to his “Punt God” nickname.
The Bills beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 on Saturday during both teams’ first preseason game of 2022. With the Colts leading 10-7 near the end of the first half, Araiza lined up all the way back around the Bills’ five-yard line for his first punt of the game.
Araiza caught the snap, took a few steps forward and unloaded a booming 82-yard punt with his left foot at around the eight-yard line.
The ball landed around the Indianapolis 15-yard line and rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
Talk about a huge swing in the field position battle.
The 22-year-old’s punt fell 16 yards shy of the 98-yard NFL record set by New York Jets rookie punter Steve O’Neal in 1969.
Araiza was drafted out of San Diego State in the sixth round with the No. 180 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It is somewhat rare for a college punter to be drafted, but last year’s Ray Guy Award-winner for the most outstanding punter in college football was known for some roaring punts during his college career.
In 14 games last season, Araiza averaged 51.2 yards per punt and had 4,044 total punting yards on 79 attempts. He also made 18-of-28 field goals and drilled all 45 of his extra point tries.
The NFL conducted an investigation into Watson’s off-field behavior that led him to be named in 25 lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct. The disciplinary officer hearing the case ruled that Watson should be suspended six games. The NFL appealed the punishment, and Roger Goodell appointed Peter Harvey to hear the appeal.
Rather than have things go to the appeal, the NFL and player can still reach an agreement on their own.
Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
“It was planned. No one is worried. He’s fine. It’s not, to my knowledge, a medical emergency for him or anyone close to him. I was told everything is OK,” NFL Rapoport said on the Pat McAfee Show. “The best description I got for this is that it is important to find a work/life balance. Brady has been doing this for 23 years. He knows the scheme as well as anyone. He wasn’t gonna play in those two (preseason) games anyway, so he steps aside to do some actual personal things, family things.”
Brady is a noted family man but his absence comes at an interesting time. Not only is he a sidebar to the Miami Dolphins’ tampering scandal, but Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin suggests Brady has looked “miserable” at Bucs camp this summer.
“I do wonder where his head is at right now,” Volin said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “He was so good at 44, there is no doubt in our minds that if Brady is fully committed he can have a terrific season at 45, but there are definitely signs that his head is not fully into it. I try not to be the body language police, but I was at Bucs practice yesterday and he looked miserable.
“I don’t think he loves the humidity in Tampa; it is very swampy out here every morning. His buddy Gronk has retired, that’s his running mate, that’s his guy, and now he looks all over the field and he’s throwing to Kyle Rudolph, Chris Godwin is banged up and we’re not sure when he’s going to be himself again. Brady’s center [Ryan Jensen] goes down. There are just a lot of things going on with the team, and we also know playing with the Bucs was not his number one wish this year.”
Volin notes, as we all now know, that if Brady had gotten his way, he’d currently be a member of the Dolphins.
“If he got his way he would be running the Dolphins, and the only reason he went back the Bucs was because he really had no other options,” Volin added. “He had an excused absence last week around his birthday and the local reporters down here were holding their breath, they thought this was it and that Tom Brady had had a change of heart, and that he was going to retire.
“Now Todd Bowles announces that Tom Brady was not at practice, and he’s gone through next week, through the second preseason game, and gone another 10 days, so I definitely question where his head is at. It might be related to a health thing, whether it’s related to his parents or a family member — if that’s the case then certainly it’s going to be a distraction also, so it does seem like Brady is not 100% focused on football.”
The interpretation of Brady’s body language aside, it’s clear to even an outside observer that the seven-time Super Bowl champions has some reservations about playing this season. He announced his retirement in February only to walk that back a few months later. Now he’s suddenly taking a random personal leave in the middle of training camp.
The Bucs have to be concerned that Brady may ultimately decide not to return.
Feb 2, 2022; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Commanders team. President Jason Wright speaks during a press conference revealing the Washington Commanders as the new name for the formerly named Washington Football Team at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Commanders have narrowed down their new mascot to four different categories, and want input from their fans regarding which group to move ahead with.
During Washington’s 23-21 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, the team asked fans to “command the mascot” by voting for one of four themes provided on the Commanders’ website.
The choices were narrowed down to a hog, dog, historical figure or superhero.
Washington’s name change was a big story this offseason. After being referred to as the Washington Football Team for the last few seasons, a video leak prematurely revealed that their new name would be the “Commanders.”
A list of eight final name options included the Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Red Hogs, Commanders, Red Wolves, Defenders and the Washington Football Team. Red Wolves ran into some trademark issues that would have made the nickname too difficult to use.
It is unclear as to whether or not the team will actually select a theme based on which one gets the most fan votes. Perhaps a similar voting process would occur for the final list of mascot choices as well.
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith has publicly requested a trade, and this has apparently led to a very strange situation developing within the NFL.
An individual claiming to represent Smith has begun calling teams to gauge potential trade interest, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. While it is unclear if Smith is aware of the development, Florio’s report implies that it is happening with the linebacker’s knowledge.
Smith acts as his own agent, so whoever is claiming to represent him is not NFLPA-certified. The Bears have not actually given Smith or anyone in his camp permission to seek a trade, so Smith would essentially be baiting teams into a possible tampering violation if they were to engage with this alleged representative. No team is going to want to be attached to that allegation, particularly with how it has been in the news lately.
Whatever is happening here certainly sounds incredibly bizarre.
Smith, a two-time All-Pro selection, made his public trade demand on Tuesday. The Bears have not given any indication that they are going to act on it anytime soon. Assuming this report is true, it could certainly complicate Smith’s demand and cause further issues between him and the Bears.
Mar 25, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with the media during a press conference at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
In the aftermath of the league’s appeal, Watson and his representation reportedly proposed a counter-offer. Rather than serving a one-year suspension, which is what the NFL is seeking, the Cleveland Browns quarterback said he was willing to accept an eight-game suspension. That would include incurring a fine of $5 million.
There’s a specific reason Watson is looking to avoid a one-year suspension and it has nothing to do with hurting the Browns in 2022. Rather, it has everything to do with his contract and the potential money being lost.
From Watson's side, avoiding a year suspension is financially imperative. If he is suspended a year, his contract tolls: 2022 becomes 2023 and so on. He would keep his $45M bonus this year but only make a $1M salary next year, thus he'd make $46M over two years, not one year.
Despite the ongoing appeals process, the Browns opted to start Watson in their preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night. He completed just one of his five pass attempts for seven yards before being removed from the game.
Prior to the 24-13 victory, Watson apologized to the women he “impacted” for the very first time.
“I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said on the team’s in-house pregame show. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back. “But I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”
Previously, Watson had stated he had “no regrets” regarding any of his actions during massage sessions.
There is no specific deadline for Peter C. Harvey to rule on the league’s appeal, but he must work on an “expedited” basis, according to the collective bargaining agreement. A decision could come at any moment.
Aug 21, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) smiles on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Campbell made the surprising decision to start quarterback Jared Goff in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but the head coach says it actually was not his call.
Campbell said during the week that his plan was to have Goff sit while other Lions starters played the first quarter. He told reporters that Goff was “in a good spot” and there was no need to risk an injury. Goff played anyway. According to Campbell, the veteran “demanded” to be on the field.
“He came into my office and said, ‘I want to play,’” Campbell said, via Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit. “And I said, ‘Well, you’re not playing.’ He said, ‘Well, if they’re playing, I’m playing.’ And I said, ‘Okay, you’re playing.”
Goff played the first series and looked sharp. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 47 yards and led a touchdown drive. The only incompletion was a dropped pass from running back Jamaal Williams.
Left tackle Taylor Decker loved that his quarterback insisted on playing.
“You want your quarterback to go out there. He’s like, ‘If my guys are out there, I’m going to go out there and compete and we’re going to go right down the field and score,’” Decker said. “And that’s what we did.”
Reports from training camp have indicated that Detroit’s offense looks sharp. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is poised for a huge second season after catching 90 passes for 912 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. Detroit won just three games in 2021, so there is plenty of room for improvement. Goff is at least getting off on the right foot.
Dec 29, 2019; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the second half of their loss to the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Belichick did not seem particularly happy with how the New York Giants operated during Thursday’s preseason opener.
Statistics showed that the Giants blitzed Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe on over half his snaps during Thursday’s game, which seemed to prompt New England to dial back their playaction calls. When asked about that, Belichick offered up a quote that certainly hinted at some frustration with the Giants.
Got the sense Belichick wasn't all that pleased with how blitz-happy the Giants were.
On the Pats' lack of play-action: "Well, with what the Giants were doing, there's a lot of reasons for some of the things that we did just to try to manage the game. So, just leave it at that." https://t.co/TFnogLMpau
Belichick is a man of few words at the best of times, but this certainly looks pretty pointed from him.
The Giants are adjusting to life under first-year defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who certainly has some fire to him. He would likely argue that the Giants were practicing plays and schemes they intend to use during the season, and a lot of them happened to be blitzes. Belichick probably would not buy that explanation either.