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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Football

Matthew Stafford reportedly played last season with broken back

Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford experienced a down season last year by his standards, and a significant injury may have had a lot to do with it.

Appearing on his weekly podcast with WJR’s Ken Brown, Detroit Lions writer Mike O’Hara said Stafford had a broken back last year and was playing with broken bones in his back.

“He had a broken back last year,” O’Hara said. “Broken bones in his back.”

Stafford was listed on the injury report with a back injury after taking 11 hits against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. The Detroit Lions quarterback played through it and did not miss a game — his eighth straight season playing in all 16 games. He faced criticism last season but tried to stay above it and did.

Stafford passed for 3,777, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season. The yards were his lowest mark since 2010 and the touchdowns were his lowest since 2012. On top of his injuries, the Lions also traded away one of his best receiving weapons.

Saints to make Michael Thomas highest-paid WR in NFL?

Michael Thomas

The New Orleans Saints confirmed this week that they have begun discussing a possible contract extension with Michael Thomas, and it sounds like they are prepared to make a massive commitment to him.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini reports that the Saints are “comfortable” making Thomas the highest-paid wide receiver in football.

If that is truly the case, it would be tough to imagine the negotiations lasting very long. Odell Beckham Jr. is currently the highest-paid receiver in football with an annual salary of $18 million. Guaranteed money is obviously the big thing with NFL contracts, but Thomas should be a happy man if the Saints are willing to give him a deal similar to Odell’s.

Thomas is entering the final season of his contract, and the Saints do not hold a fifth-year team option since he was drafted in the second round. He has gotten better and better in his first three seasons and caught a whopping 125 passes for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Still just 26, Thomas can make an easy case that he deserves to be the top-paid player at his position.

Baker Mayfield teaches Texas kids ‘Horns Down’ gesture at football camp

Baker Mayfield throat

Baker Mayfield is getting kids everywhere hooked on the Oklahoma Sooners, even some in Texas.

Mayfield hosted a football camp last week at his former high school, Lake Travis High School outside of Austin in Texas. According to the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis, Mayfield greeted the campers with a “Boomer Sooner!” and Horns Down gesture.

Mayfield began his college career at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma, where he went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner and the eventual No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. He has disliked the Longhorns for a while and said of them in an Instagram post last year, “can’t stand them.” He even went so far as to taunt a Texas signee last year.

The Horns Down hands gesture has long been viewed as a disrespectful symbol towards Texas, one the Big 12 has even cracked down on, much to the unhappiness of their opponents. Mayfield is going to keep the gesture alive in any way he can.

Is Nick Caserio eager to leave Patriots for Texans?

Nick Caserio

A brief but unusual saga saw the Houston Texans deterred in their efforts to hire New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio as their new general manager, but the story may be just beginning.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote Monday that all signs are pointing toward Caserio wanting to leave New England for the Houston job at some point, even if not now. He suggests that, while the Texans’ job would have been a lateral move at best, the Patriots had to file tampering charges to keep him from departing.

Volin notes that Caserio’s contract runs through the 2020 NFL Draft. After that, “every sign” points to Caserio refusing to re-sign and instead depart to become general manager of the Texans.

Houston dropped their pursuit of Caserio when the Patriots filed tampering charges, and have decided against hiring a general manager. That may well be because they know that if they wait it out, Caserio will be theirs next summer, and there’s nothing New England can do about it. It’s not guaranteed, but it certainly isn’t illogical.

Matt LaFleur has had ‘good talks’ with Aaron Rodgers over audibles

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers raised some eyebrows earlier in the week when a seemingly critical quote about his freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

New coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive system, by default, grants a quarterback less freedom to make adjustments at the line. That did not seem to go over well with Rodgers, who has made a living of doing such things over the course of his career.

LaFleur told Michael Silver of NFL.com that he and Rodgers have had “good talks” about balancing Rodgers’ skills with his preferred offensive system, but they need to keep working on it.

“Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”

There have been reports — denied by Rodgers — that he actively undermined his previous coach. True or not, it gives an added layer of intrigue to stories like this and whether Rodgers can work well with another coach who has his own offensive philosophy.

Todd Gurley’s trainer confirms RB is dealing with arthritis in knee

Todd Gurley

There has been a lot of talk about Todd Gurley battling knee issues since he was largely ineffective in the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game, and we finally have confirmation that there is at least something going on.

Gurley’s trainer, Travelle Gaines, told Dave Richard of CBS Sports this week that Gurley is managing some pain and soreness in his knee, but he referred to it as an “arthritic component” that was expected after the star running back tore his ACL in college.

“Everybody knew when Todd came out of Georgia that there would be some kind of arthritic component to his knee, which is part of every surgery whether it’s a shoulder, a knee, an ankle,” Gaines said. “He’s now at the year-five mark, all we’re doing is managing that. If we can pound him less in the offseason while keeping his weight down, working on his strength, working on his agility in short areas, that’s going to give him a better chance to be healthy Weeks 14 through 17 when they really count.”

While he had a couple of big games toward the end of last season, Gurley seemed to wear down as the year went on. His 256 rushing attempts were actually his lowest mark since his rookie year in 2015, so you can understand the concerns about workload. Gaines said he is unaware of any concrete plan to reduce Gurley’s workload after the Los Angeles Rams drafted Darrell Henderson in the third round, whom he described Henderson as a “home-run type guy.”

Gurley tore his ACL in 2014 at Georgia. His struggles in the Super Bowl led to the assumption that he must be injured, and Gaines admitted the 24-year-old was “a little tired.” However, the trainer insists Gurley’s offseason routine remains exactly the same as it has been since he entered the NFL.

“Not one thing has changed,” Gaines said. “Our routine has worked, he’s been strong, he’s been in great shape, he’s done well.”

Rams coach Sean McVay admitted this offseason that the team needs to pay more attention to Gurley’s workload, and one report claimed that was a very mild way of putting it. It’s certainly a plus that there is no structural damage, but the Rams need Gurley to be better than 35 yards on 10 carries if they want to contend for a Super Bowl again. Managing the “arthritic component” will be key to making sure he can do that.

Ex-Patriot thinks Cam Newton, Tom Brady have one key thing in common

Cam Newton tie

Wide receiver Chris Hogan played in three consecutive Super Bowls with Tom Brady before moving to the Carolina Panthers, where he hopes to record similar accomplishments with Cam Newton.

Hogan admitted that the two quarterbacks are very different in the way they play, but in his mind, they share one key factor in common.

“That competitive nature, it’s there,” Hogan said, via David Newton of ESPN. “When it comes time to strap on the pads and play football, their focus is on one goal and that’s winning football games.

“Cam wants to win. You can tell that right away from talking to him and being around him.”

Hogan hasn’t received a full view of Newton’s talents yet as the quarterback is still working his way back from shoulder surgery. A fully healthy Newton can certainly be a Super Bowl quarterback — he’s played in one, after all — but that health is a key factor.