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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Football

Tom Brady hints eccentric hat was a preview of things to come

Tom Brady

Cam Newton is typically the player that draws the most attention for his fashion when the Carolina Panthers play a game, but Tom Brady’s wardrobe selection became an attention-grabber before and after Thursday’s preseason matchup. Apparently, we can expect to see more of that from the New England Patriots quarterback going forward.

Here’s a look at the hat Brady rocked at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night:

Some people thought Brady may have been trolling Newton, who is known for making some truly unique fashion statements during press conferences. However, Brady tweeted on Friday that his hat the night before was just a sneak preview of what’s to come.

Brady turned 42 this offseason and has won six Super Bowls, so he’s at a point where he can pretty much do whatever he wants. Any hat he wears is bound to become a major fashion trend.

Cam Newton has foot sprain, should be ready for Week 1

Cam Newton tie

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton left Thursday night’s preseason game against the New England Patriots with a foot injury and was later seen exiting the stadium in a walking boot, but it sounds like there is a good chance he will still be ready to go in Week 1.

Newton was diagnosed with a mid-foot sprain after undergoing tests on Friday, and Panthers GM Marty Hurney says the team is “cautiously optimistic” he will play in Week 1.

Considering the area of Newton’s foot that was being examined is the one where troublesome Lisfranc injuries tend to occur, a sprain seems like good news. The walking boot was likely just used as a precaution.

Newton is coming off another shoulder procedure and has been throwing the ball well in practice, so the last thing he needs is a new injury to deal with. He was hampered by his shoulder issue last season to the point where he openly admitted he could not throw the ball down the field, and that is a big reason the Panthers finished 7-9. A healthy Newton is the key to potentially bouncing back in 2019.

Brian Flores intentionally played Jay-Z songs to ‘challenge’ Kenny Stills

Brian Flores

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores chose to begin a practice this week with several Jay-Z tracks playing in a row, and it did not seem like a coincidence that the string of songs came the day after Kenny Stills openly criticized the NFL over its partnership with Roc Nation. As many suspected, it was not.

Following Miami’s 22-7 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Flores admitted he chose the Jay-Z songs in an attempt to “challenge” Stills.

“It was a challenge to Kenny to perform regardless of whatever is going on outside,” Flores told reporters, via ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. “I would say, and I said this to him, he hasn’t performed up to that level over the course of training camp, or as I’ve seen. So that was the challenge — to get open, catch the football and make plays for this team, regardless of what’s going on outside of this building.”

Flores openly challenged Stills at practice after the eight consecutive Jay-Z songs played, and he later addressed the team over it after being surprised at the amount of media attention the decision got. He told his players he supported Stills and his protest, and the wide receiver said the issue has been handled “in-house.”

“For the most part, I think it was him seeing if I could handle if people were going to heckle me or play Jay-Z in another stadium if I could be mentally strong enough to handle that sort of treatment,” Stills said. “I’ve been dealing with this since 2016 — music, boos, racial slurs. So I don’t think a little Jay-Z music is going to ruffle my feathers that bad.”

It’s worth noting that Flores was an assistant under Bill Belichick for many years, and we know how Belichick feels about distractions that are unrelated to football. Flores could be trying to send a message that it is time for Stills and the rest of the team to focus their attention exclusively on the field.

Stills said Monday that the NFL’s partnership with Jay-Z’s company is “not something I agree with or respect.” The veteran also made headlines earlier in the month when he challenged Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ support of Donald Trump. Stills has been a community activist during his time in Miami and is among those who protested during the national anthem.

Marshall Faulk to help train Ezekiel Elliott in Mexico during holdout

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott has been away from the Dallas Cowboys for several weeks as he prepares for the upcoming season, but he is going to get some help from a more experienced personal trainer than most running backs around the NFL have the pleasure of working with.

Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk revealed on “The Rich Eisen Show” this week that he is planning to travel to Cabo to train with Elliott.

“I’ve got some drills and some stuff that I used to do. I’ve challenged him with his conditioning, and trying to get him closer to football ready, not just being in good shape,” Faulk said, as transcribed by Joey Hayden of the Dallas Morning News. “So, I’m going down to try and make him throw up. That’s my job.”

Faulk met Elliott when Zeke was 16, and he has been mentoring the former Ohio State star ever since. They also share the same agent, Rocky Arceneaux, and Faulk said Elliott has a right to be angry about the way the Cowboys have handled his contract negotiations.

“These holdouts, they affect teams,” Faulk said. “They actually affect the nucleus of your team. And I’ll be honest with you, if I’m Zeke and I sit down and I saw that they signed Jaylon Smith – I’m pissed.”

Faulk also criticized the system that is in place with NFL contracts, which allows teams to have a fifth-year option on a first-round draft pick. He would not say either way whether he believes Elliott will return to the Cowboys before Week 1, but he admitted there’s “a lot of risk on both sides.”

There’s no reason to think Elliott will be at anything less than full speed when he eventually returns, as he took the same training approach when he was suspended in 2017. For what it’s worth, there has been talk that Elliott and the Cowboys are closer to an agreement than people think. If one comes together quickly, Faulk may have to cancel his flight to Mexico.

Watch: Minkah Fitzpatrick nails Dede Westbrook with huge hit

Jacksonville Jaguars logo

Dede Westbrook had a nice final stat line for the Jacksonville Jaguars in their preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday. But he did take some punishment in the process.

The third-year wide receiver was absolutely nailed by Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick while trying to make a catch across the middle of the field:

Westbrook bounced back up after that hit, which was completely legal.

Westbrook, a 2017 fourth-round pick, finished with four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown in the game. He looks to build upon last season’s strong showing where he had 63 catches for 707 yards and five touchdowns.

Pat Shurmur has message for Daniel Jones doubters

Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones has looked great through three preseason games, which has given the New York Giants a renewed sense of confidence.

The team took a public beating when they selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft this year. Many media projections did not have Jones going nearly that high, which led to calls that the Giants had “reached” with the pick.

Jones is proving all the doubters wrong so far.

In 10 preseason drives, Jones has gone 25/30 for 369 yards and two touchdowns. His performance has left Giants head coach Pat Shurmur impressed and a little cocky.

“Every six or seven days now I’ve been able to tell you ‘that’s what we saw when we drafted him.’ He’s steadily getting better every time he takes the field, whether it’s practice or games. You can ask me all you want about why I like him. I think it’s time to start asking the people that didn’t like him what they think,” Shurmur said Thursday night.

He’s right — what do all the people who laughed at the Giants think now? Jones has looked better than any other rookie quarterback this preseason. He’s even made a great case for starting ahead of Eli Manning, though ownership’s preference on the matter will likely prevent that from happening.

Dolphins coach does not want to rush young quarterback Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen Dolphins

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores continues to emphasize a patient approach when it comes to quarterback Josh Rosen.

Rosen and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick are battling for the Dolphins’ starting quarterback job this season. Flores has not officially named a starter, though Fitzpatrick has been listed at the top of the depth chart.

Fitzpatrick went 12/18 for 126 yards and a touchdown pass in the team’s preseason game on Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rosen was 5/7 for 59 yards and 23 rushing yards.

Flores said after the game that Rosen played well and is making the decision over who will start at quarterback more difficult. However, he said he does not want to rush the young quarterback.

Rosen was drafted No. 10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals last year and did not play until Week 3. He passed for 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and lost several fumbles on the 3-13 team. Even if he is showing improvement, Flores seems more inclined to open the season with Fitzpatrick as the starter.