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Friday, February 21, 2020

Football

Chad Johnson says he is having dinner with Joe Burrow to discuss Cincinnati

Chad Johnson Ochocinco

Joe Burrow is all but certain to end up with the Cincinnati Bengals, and he is poised to get some good insights from one of their all-time greats.

Former Bengals receiver Chad Johnson tweeted on Tuesday that he is planning to have dinner with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

“Having dinner with Burrow prior to the draft to let him know he’s in great hands because that f—ing city rocks and everybody will love you,” he said.

Burrow, who is from Ohio and became a star after transferring to LSU, is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in next April’s draft. The Bengals, who went 2-14 last season, are the proud owners of that selection. Johnson, meanwhile, played in Cincinnati for ten seasons from 2001 to 2010, making six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams.

There are some questions about how willing Burrow exactly is to play for the Bengals, but hopefully meeting with Johnson will help ease some concerns.

Jason Witten wants to keep playing, open to joining new team

Jason Witten

Jason Witten wants to keep playing and is open to joining a new team.

The 37-year-old tight end was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2003 and has played his entire 16-season career with them. He retired for the 2018 season and served as a broadcaster on “Monday Night Football,” but that did not go well, and he returned to the gridiron last season.

The Cowboys are undergoing a big change with Jason Garrett gone and Mike McCarthy as the new head coach. Witten had a previous relationship with Garrett that may have made it easy for him to return, but his future with the Cowboys is much less certain now.

Witten spoke to some reporters on Tuesday at the Jason Witten College Man of the Year Award gathering and talked about his future.

“I think I have to be (open to joining another team),” Witten said via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Obviously that’s not ideal. I would love to finish it out here. Coaching is in my future, but right now, I want to play while I can. We’ll see where that takes place. Of course, I want that to be with the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll always be a Dallas Cowboy. But I also understand that, with all the changes, I may have to go somewhere else.”

Last month, a report said Witten would have interest in joining the Giants, where Garrett is now the offensive coordinator.

Even at 37, Witten still had 63 catches for 529 yards last season.

Greg Olsen to sign 1-year deal with Seahawks

Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen has made his decision about his future.

Olsen is signing a one-year deal to play with the Seattle Seahawks, ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported on Tuesday.

Olsen, who parted ways with the Carolina Panthers after nine seasons with them, visited with Seattle, Washington and Buffalo and was weighing his options. He decided to go with the Seahawks, where the appeal of playing with Russell Wilson was strong.

Olsen’s deal calls for $7 million, with $5.5 million guaranteed, Schefter says.

Olsen will turn 35 next month and has battled injuries in recent years, but he is still capable of producing when healthy. He caught 52 passes for 597 yards in 14 games last season with a less-than-ideal quarterback situation. Olsen has done some work with FOX Sports and called an XFL game recently, so we know there is a TV analyst job waiting for him when he’s done, but that won’t be for another year.

What’s funny is that Olsen seemed to tip his hand about where he wanted to play in a previous tweet.

Report: Jets felt Le’Veon Bell gained weight, lost explosiveness

LeVeon Bell

Le’Veon Bell said all the right things in his first season with the New York Jets despite numerous reports that he was not getting along with head coach Adam Gase, but was the star running back doing everything possible to put himself in the best position to succeed?

The Jets have admitted they will listen if teams inquire about trading for Bell this offseason, but it seems unlikely that there will be much interest with Bell entering only the second year of a four-year, $52.5 million contract. Aside from the money, there may be some concern about the condition Bell was in last season. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the Jets felt Bell gained too much weight and lost some of his explosiveness down the stretch in 2019.

Bell was never really a consistent part of Adam Gase’s offense, and you have to wonder if his conditioning issues — whether real or perceived — played a role in that. He also dealt with a bout of the flu late in the season and said he lost 10 pounds, which factored into his explanation for why he went out bowling when he was deemed not healthy enough to play one week. That could have also been a factor in his lack of explosiveness, though Cimini said there were concerns about Bell packing on pounds rather than shedding them.

Bell had just 789 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his first season with the Jets. Gase refused to funnel his offense through the star back, and there were reports before the season that Gase never wanted to sign Bell in the first place. Bell recently downplayed any issues he may have had with his head coach and said he expects to remain with the Jets in 2020.

If the Jets can’t trade Bell, both he and Gase will need to put their egos aside and find a way to coexist next season. Bell was one of the biggest difference-makers in football during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that is why New York paid him so much money. The talent is obviously there, and it’s up to Gase to find more effective ways to utilize it.

Ben Affleck reveals what Tom Brady told him about free agency decision

Tom Brady

Tom Brady probably has somewhat of an idea by now of where he will be playing in 2020, but apparently he is not willing to discuss his impending free agency with all of those in his inner circle. That includes Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

Affleck was a guest on ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Tuesday, and he revealed that he and fellow award-winning actor Matt Damon are in a group text together with Brady. Naturally, Affleck and Damon have asked Brady where the 42-year-old thinks he will be playing next season. How did TB12 respond? Affleck says Brady sent back nothing but a shrugging emoji.

Affleck didn’t seem like he was playing coy, and it’s not hard to imagine someone as private as Brady keeping everyone but his wife in the dark about his career decisions. He’s been around long enough to know how easily things can leak. It’s also possible that Brady genuinely doesn’t know how things are going to play out with the Patriots and other teams that pursue him.

As someone who grew up in Massachusetts, Affleck said he would be heartbroken if Brady left New England, but he feels Brady has taken less money for years while allowing the Patriots to profit off of his legendary performances. The flip side of that would be that taking less money is something Brady has always chosen to do to allow the Patriots to build a better roster around him, thus resulting in more titles. The team didn’t really do that last year, and an assurance that they will make an effort to remedy the situation in 2020 is probably more important to Brady than money.

Whatever the case, it sounds like Brady trolls his celebrity friends about free agency the same way he trolls the rest of us on social media.

Did Joe Burrow hint he has considered pulling an Eli Manning?

The Cincinnati Bengals are believed to have already decided on taking Joe Burrow with the top overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and Burrow has said he will be happy to play for any team that wants to pay him. However, one comment he made this week may have the Bengals feeling at least slightly uneasy.

While Burrow technically can’t do anything about the Bengals drafting him, he did say this week that he has “leverage” The implication seemed to be that if he doesn’t want to play in Cincinnati, there are steps he could take to assure he winds up elsewhere.

“I do have leverage,” Burrow said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the (NFL) combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered.”

Burrow may be in a slightly uncomfortable spot. The Bengals have yet to say — at least publicly — that they are definitely picking Burrow, so the former LSU star doesn’t want to sound like he is guaranteed to be the top pick. However, he has been given opportunities to say how much he would love playing for a team in his home state of Ohio, but he only said this week that he is “focused on being the best football player I can be.”

For what it’s worth, at least one former No. 1 overall pick thinks Burrow should pull an Eli Manning and force his way to another team if the Bengals draft him. Former NFL quarterback Steve Bartkowski told the Star-Telegram that being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons first overall in 1975 ended up being detrimental to his health and career.

“I know what it’s like to go to a bottom-feeder team. I’d hate to see that happen to him to be honest,” Bartkowski said. “They beat me up. I spent more time at the hospital recuperating from injuries my first three years than I did throwing touchdowns. It was tough.”

Burrow being from Ohio is probably the biggest thing working in the Bengals’ favor. While the Heisman Trophy winner has not exactly expressed excitement over the possibility of playing in Cincy, there have been many reasons to believe he will not pull an Eli. It’s true that the Bengals have not been a successful franchise, but Burrow may be motivated to be the guy who turns things around for them.

Jerry Rice praises Donald Trump for pardoning ex-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo

Jerry Rice

Donald Trump made an unexpected decision on Tuesday to pardon former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was one of the first to praise the President.

DeBartolo was the owner of the 49ers during the most successful run the franchise had. The team won five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s under his leadership, but DeBartolo stepped down in 1997 after it was reported that he would be indicted for gambling fraud. DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony after he paid former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards $400,000 in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.

Rice was in attendance for the White House announcement on Tuesday along with NFL legends Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley. The former wide receiver threw his support behind DeBartolo and commended Trump for pardoning the 73-year-old.

DeBartolo avoided prison time but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the NFL. He stepped down anyway and handed over control of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York. DeBartolo’s nephew Jed York owns the team now, so it has remained in the same family.

The scandal did not stop DeBartolo from being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. There were also rumors a couple of years back that he could buy another NFL franchise, though that never came to fruition.