Le’Veon Bel did not report the Steelers Training Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers reported for camp Wednesday, but Le’Veon Bell was not among those checking in. The two-time Pro Bowl running back is upset with his contract situation after receiving the franchise tag earlier in the year and is officially holding out from training camp.

Many holdouts have the goal of negotiating a new contract, but the Steelers can’t give Bell a new deal after failing to reach a long-term deal prior to the July 17 deadline. No matter how long Bell sits out of practice, it’s just a show of displeasure and can’t result in the contract he believes he deserves.

However, there will be no ramifications for Bell missing time. Because he hasn’t yet signed his franchise tender, he isn’t under contract and can’t be punished for sitting out.

While he told ESPN that he plans to play a full 16-game regular season, Bell can report to training camp whenever he wants and that means the Steelers may not see him until mid-to-late August, according to Adam Schefter.

Bell, 25, averaged 105.7 rushing yards and 51.3 receiving yards per game last season after starting the year with a three-game suspension. That offseason was also hampered by recovery from a knee injury that ended his 2015 season, so it’s probably a safe bet that Bell won’t need many (or any) preseason reps to get back into top form.

Last year, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry faced the same situation and didn’t sign his franchise tender until Aug. 28 — two weeks before the team’s regular-season opener. It didn’t negatively affect Berry’s play, and he earned First-Team All-Pro honors anyway before signing a six-year, $78 million deal in February.

Missing training camp time inevitably draws criticism, though. Even Bell’s teammate Antonio Brown called out the running back for not signing his franchise tender yet:
Regardless of the length or outcome of Bell’s holdout, he’ll make $12.12 million fully guaranteed on a one-year deal whenever he decides to sign his tender.

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette is the only running back who will make more in 2017 thanks to a front-loaded deal that gives the rookie about $18.35 million this year. But Fournette’s four-year, $27.15 million deal averages less than $7 million per year.

Bell is hoping for much more and told NFL Network he wants to be paid like the team’s No. 1 running back and No. 2 wide receiver. That probably won’t happen, but Bell does have a strong chance of getting a deal that resets the market for running backs. He just won’t have a chance at that contract until after the 2017 season.

For now, the Steelers are getting training camp started without Bell and can’t do anything except wait for him to show up when he feels ready to do so.

The president of the Packers Mark Murphy: The appearance of the Super Bowl in Minnesota is very interesting for fans

GREEN BAY, Wis. — It would be heaven for the Green Bay Packers but a nightmare for the Minnesota Vikings.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun for all our fans to drive across the state when we’re in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis,” Packers president Mark Murphy told a crowd of about 7,000 on Monday at Lambeau Field for the team’s annual shareholders meeting.

After the meeting, Murphy clarified that it wasn’t meant to be a guarantee that the Packers would return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2010 season.

“It certainly wasn’t a guarantee,” Murphy said. “It was just that it would be really nice to play in a Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Not only is it a short drive … I hear from fans all the time in western Wisconsin, and Minneapolis is a great city, and the new stadium is really pretty spectacular. It will be a really nice Super Bowl.”

The Packers are one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, their odds are 10-1, behind only the New England Patriots (3-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (8-1).
The Packers know they’ll never host a Super Bowl in Green Bay, so Minneapolis might be the closest thing they’d ever get to playing for the NFL title at home. And it would be another chapter in the sometimes bitter rivalry between the two NFC North teams. It’s a rivalry that includes Brett Favre’s two years with the Vikings after the Packers traded him to the New York Jets.

The Packers are coming off a loss in the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta, which prompted another tongue-in-cheek guarantee from Murphy at Monday’s meeting: “We’re going to host the NFC Championship Game every year we can.”

Speaking of events at Lambeau Field, Murphy said he expected to hear from the NFL at this time next year about the Packers’ and Green Bay’s bid to host the NFL draft beginning in 2019. They have put in a bid to host in 2019, 2020 and/or 2021.

“What I’ve heard is they’re going to announce soon the ’18 draft [location soon], so it would probably around this time a year from now that they’re looking at ’19,” Murphy said.

Murphy also confirmed that there have been discussions about a college football game between Wisconsin and Notre Dame at Lambeau Field. The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that a series could start between the two schools in the 2020s, with games at Chicago’s Soldier Field and Lambeau.

“I would say we’ve been working on that for a while, and I’m very hopeful very soon we’ll be able to make an announcement,” Murphy said. “What we’d like to is, and I mentioned it, have a big major event in the bowl every year. I thought last year the Wisconsin-LSU game was very positive, and the Billy Joel concert, and obviously I think a Notre Dame-Wisconsin game would be pretty special.”

The Cardinals re-signed Chris Johnson for a year

The Arizona Cardinals re-signed running back Chris Johnson to a one-year deal, the team announced Thursday.

The 2017 season will be Johnson’s 10th in the NFL. He called it a “blessing” to be able to play that long.

Johnson, 31, was placed on injured reserve last season after suffering a groin injury in Week 4 that required surgery. He wasn’t chosen by coach Bruce Arians to return late in the season, and he finished with 95 rushing yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.

It was the second consecutive season ended by injury for Johnson, who was third in the NFL in rushing and on pace for his seventh 1,000-yard season when he suffered a fractured tibia in Week 12 of the 2015 season. He re-signed with the Cardinals last offseason on a one-year deal knowing he would be David Johnson’s backup, but he quickly found himself with fewer touches than anticipated.

Johnson did not miss a game because of injury during his first seven seasons.

His first six NFL seasons with the Titans were highlighted by a 2,006-yard season in 2009, when he led the league in rushing, broke the NFL’s single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509) and was named The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection has averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry just twice in his nine seasons.

No deal, Le’Veon Bell and Steelers prepare for 16 confrontation

PITTSBURGH — Now the fun begins.

One of the most prolific players in the NFL will play on a one-year contract for a Super Bowl contender after the franchise tag deadline passed Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had hoped that wouldn’t be Le’Veon Bell’s reality. For months, they’ve wanted to sign him to a long-term deal. But Bell was toting the $12.1 million rock, thanks to this year’s franchise tag. He wasn’t going to undermine his own leverage. So now he’s betting on himself with a one-year audition, just like his old Michigan State teammate Kirk Cousins.

Le'Veon Bell will play the 2017 season under the franchise tag at $12.1 million.

Le’Veon Bell will play the 2017 season under the franchise tag at $12.1 million.

oth sides are squaring up for an even bigger stare-down next offseason, assuming Bell continues to pump MVP numbers into the Steelers’ offense.

That both sides are here is surprising. Bell was clearly the team’s best player last year after averaging 157 yards per game. Despite his history of injuries and suspensions, many around the league figured a deal of around $10 million per year would get this done.

This is a win-lose situation for Bell.

The loss: The volatility of the running back market forces Bell to add one more year of heavy workload, plus he already has proved what he can do. What more is there to prove, besides staying healthy?

The win: The 2018 franchise tag is around $14.5 million. If he’s indispensable next year — and he undoubtedly was last season — the Steelers might owe close to $27 million in franchise money over two seasons.

“We will resume our efforts to address his contract situation following the 2017 season,” general manager Kevin Colbert said.

Since he hasn’t signed his franchise tender yet, Bell can nudge the Steelers by showing up late to camp. He’s not required to be there by Day 1. The Steelers are known for acting in good faith — both parties prevented media leaks during this negotiation — so perhaps Bell reporting on July 27 would build goodwill for a future deal.

Technically, though, he can stay away until Dec. 1. Bell already has said publicly that he has no problems playing with the tag.

In other words, there’s still a chance — possibly a good chance — Bell finishes his career in Pittsburgh as he wishes. He turned 25 in February, and his production is insane. Bell amassed nearly 4,800 yards over the past three seasons, second among running backs — despite missing 13 regular-season games during that span. He’d potentially be at 6,000-plus on a full slate.

If his injury issues finally dissipate, he’ll be even more lethal. His receiving skills should prolong his career.

But the Steelers put a value on Bell based on several factors, and they weren’t going to be muscled into the stratosphere of $12 million to $15 million per year. Both sides must navigate a monetary sweet spot.

The next 16 games will determine whether this can work out for everyone — depending on how much money is left. The Steelers can use their $16 million in remaining cap space on defensive end Stephon Tuitt or left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Tony Lomo changed the angle in the offseason football preparation

For the first time since he was a little kid, Tony Romo is not spending his summer getting ready to play football.

On July 22, the Dallas Cowboys will fly to Oxnard, California, for the start of training camp, and for the first time since 2002, Romo won’t be there. Romo walked away from a playing career and moved on to a broadcasting career with CBS in April, but his preparation has not ended.

“It feels a little bit like I’m training for something,” Romo said in a news conference at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe. “As an analyst, I’m having to learn a lot. And I’m trying to create as many opportunities for myself to evaluate myself as I can. And that means doing it. And it’s just hard to find new avenues to do it over and over again. But I’m finding those, and it’s keeping the competitive nature in you going. It’s keeping me obviously close to the game, which I’m passionate about. So it kind of, like right now, it doesn’t feel that different because I’m still involved in football a lot.

“And the only thing that will be different is my body will probably feel better at the end of August.”
In preparing for his first season as CBS’ lead football analyst, Romo has gone through what he has called a “boot camp,” calling games with in-season partner Jim Nantz as well as longtime Cowboys radio play-by-play man Brad Sham.

Tony Romo is working with veteran broadcasters this summer to get ready for his new CBS gig.

Tony Romo is working with veteran broadcasters this summer to get ready for his new CBS gig.

“When I took this job, I really didn’t know operationally how anything worked,” Romo said. “I just didn’t know like, ‘Where do you look during the game? Do you watch the field? Do you watch the television set? ‘And so with all these little things that you had to learn the nuances of it, some people can tell you, but I really just wanted to experience it and go through it.

And we just figured it out, and I give CBS credit for finding an avenue to make that happen. And we’ve done a great job with that in Dallas.”

One significant challenge a player-turned-broadcaster typically faces involves critiquing players, even former teammates.

“The first two games I did, actually some of my bosses there at CBS told me, ‘You know, we don’t need to be quite that harsh,’” Romo said. “So I think that part of it I probably have to find a fine line, because the standard for playing this game is just, it’s high. And to win and win a championship or to get there, I never got a chance to obtain that, and that’s something that I’ll always regret. But at the same time, I understand what it takes to be kind of good. Getting yourself in position to make the playoffs is hard, then to win games there. And to do it like how Tom Brady does is astronomical; [it] doesn’t compute to most of the players because you’re trying to win one…that’s the standard. It’s those players. The Tom Bradys, the Peyton Mannings. That’s what you’re evaluating. And now I have to understand that and come back to that and know that there’s certain things that are easier for some than others and just talk about it.”

Romo is one of the favorites at this weekend’s golf tournament. He has not played in the event since 2012, but he finished in the top five each year from 2009-12. With no more football to play, Romo has been able to work on his golf game. He did not advance in U.S. Open qualifying earlier in the spring, but he has played other tournaments, and will play in the Western Amateur next month.

As the summer goes on, he will be kept busy by his new job and the pressure that comes with it.

“They both have their unique traits,” Romo said of being a starting quarterback and the lead analyst. “But ‘pressure’ is a unique term, too, in the sense of it kind of is what you make it to be. I think when I was young in football, you were so nervous about trying to achieve this goal and be good at this thing you chased your whole life and all of a sudden it’s there in front of you, and those feelings — I don’t know if they’ll ever be duplicated in anything. But I’ve learned over the years, if you want to have a chance to be good, when you step up there, you gotta own it. … So I think I’m probably in a little bit more of a right frame of mind or mindset to be a little bit more successful earlier than I might have been in football. Now saying that, it might take me nine years to be decent, but I like to think it will take me a little bit less time in this.”

By the curse of the body is his blessing, Greg Oden returned to Ohio State

This is a story from ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2017, on newsstands on July 7. Subscribe today!

GREG ODEN HAS a recurring dream. He’s playing defense for the Trail Blazers. He blocks a shot and passes to the outlet and sprints downcourt, light and fast and strong. He’s three years removed from his last NBA appearance now, trying to build a new life out of the lows of his last one, but in the dream he can still play. He can still run. He glides to the paint, catches a return pass and dunks. Coast-to-coast. The crowd explodes. He feels a sweet rush of adrenaline. Fans love him, and he loves himself — all joy and no shame.

The Heat signed Oden in 2013, but he played sparingly that season, and the team let him walk.

The Heat signed Oden in 2013, but he played sparingly that season, and the team let him walk.

ODEN IS IN the lobby of the academic support center on the Ohio State campus on a late-May morning, registering for classes to finish the degree he started a decade ago. He lived in a dorm a block away at the time. He remembers returning to Columbus after a Final Four run ended in a national championship loss to Florida in 2007. Most assumed he would leave for the NBA, but he came back to go to class. “I never planned on leaving,” he says. Students waited for him outside his dorm. Cars stopped on the street to stare. It took him 45 minutes to walk one block. Oden called his coach, Thad Matta, and said, “I can’t get to class.” A few weeks later, Oden announced that he would leave for the draft, one of many decisions in his life that wasn’t really his to make. Now, 10 years, three major knee surgeries and a failed career later, Oden arrives at the academic support center unnoticed and unbothered, his burden no longer walking to this building but rather walking up it.
THREE FLIGHTS OF stairs. That’s what he’s looking at to reach his adviser’s office. At 29, Oden can’t jump like he used to — he can’t leap at all off his right leg — but he swallows half a flight of stairs in his first step. He gently grunts. His body is hurting and scarred, but he actually looks young. It used to be the opposite. In high school, the deep creases near his eyes led some to suspect he was older than his verified age. Even then, with a seemingly limitless future, he struggled under the pressure placed upon him by his body, by what it seemed capable of, by the way it dictated to him. He was going to play basketball. He was going to be a superstar. He was going to take care of his family. He was going to be a Hall of Famer.

The pressures grew when his body failed him. Over the course of a decade, he developed a dependence on painkillers and alcohol to sleep, and he was arrested on domestic violence charges. Oden is now a student again, with a fiancée and 9-month-old daughter, still processing being at the center of a mania and disappointment to which few American athletes can relate. He reaches the top of the first flight of stairs at the academic support center, breathing too hard for the distance, and says, “Dead lifts are catching up to me!”
THE DAY BEFORE registering for classes, Oden is in the weight room at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on campus, where he once played and now helps the basketball team as a student assistant coach. He places just two 45-pound weights on a bar — “I’ve got nothing to prove,” he jokes with a shrug — and deadlifts it, bending and straightening his fragile knees. In between sets, he describes himself as the “biggest bust in NBA history,” as if saying it out loud will give him some kind of dominion over the pain of it. Before the NBA, Oden never had a serious knee injury. Not at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he first worked hard at basketball. Not at Lawrence North in Indianapolis, where he won three consecutive championships and was a two-time Parade All-American. And not during his single season at Ohio State, where he was a first-team All-American.

Two lifts into another set, something is off.

“Coach!” Oden hollers, dropping the bar and easing himself to the ground until he lies flat on his back. Dave Richardson, Ohio State basketball’s longtime strength coach, runs out of his gym office. He crouches down and lifts Oden’s right leg, gently shaking his foot, then pulling hard as if he were tugging a rope, his face reddening, Oden wincing for almost a minute before they both feel a pop of relief.

Still sweating, Oden explains that when he was in sixth grade, he grew so volcanically — 6 inches in less than a year — that his right hip detached from its socket. After surgery to place two pins in the joint, Oden enjoyed swinging his gangly legs on crutches down the hallways at school. But though the procedure worked, it left his right leg 8 millimeters shorter than his left. He walked with a bit of a dip, leaving people to assume that he was strutting, acting hard. Over time, his body adjusted, but the hip required the occasional heavy tug when it jammed.

After Oden was drafted first overall by the Trail Blazers in 2007, one pick ahead of Kevin Durant, the team outfitted him with a special orthotic insert to even his legs. “Three weeks later, I’m in surgery,” he says. Oden can’t prove that the orthotic is the sole reason his body collapsed in the NBA. The wheels were in motion for his body to fall apart the moment he hit his first growth spurt on the way to 7 feet. Everything in his life since has been governed by it.

“And now I’m back here,” he says at the gym, “trying to figure it all out.”

The former NFL player was accused of murdering his mother; the family blamed the league

A former NFL player has been accused of murdering his mother, but the family of De’Von Hall believes the ex-safety wasn’t provided help to combat his mental illness which culminated with the gruesome death of a woman he once called “his rock.”

Hall, who had stints with the Vikings, Colts and Buccaneers in 2009, is being held on $1 million bail after an argument turned violent in April outside Los Angeles. The argument led Hall to stomp his mother unconscious, according to a Los Angeles Times feature that was published Thursday.

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A Utah State product, the now 29-year-old played just four games with the Colts, and had appearances on the Vikings, Panthers, and Bucs’ practice squads. His strange behavior worried his college and pro teammates, even leading the Bucs to part ways because they were afraid of how he’d react to the rookie skits.

In Carolina, Hall was cut after the team chaplain called his agent, concerned about Hall’s unusual behavior and soiled clothes. There were a number of other incidents outlined by the Times, including a strange story Hall would tell teammates about the time his allegedly was in a car accident where he hit his head and had to be put in a straitjacket.

Hall’s family blames the NFL.

“The NFL, in my opinion, should’ve done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid,” his uncle Tony Benson said, via the Times.

Eric Weddle: Tony Jefferson makes security easier

Eric Weddle was a key actor in Baltimore’s sales pitch to Tony Jefferson during free agency.

According to the veteran safety, the effort is already paying dividends.
“No disrespect to any of the guys I’ve played with, but it’s nice not to have to explain why I do certain things or why I’m doing this in this coverage,” Weddle said, via a detailed feature on Jefferson’s path written by The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker. “From day one, he already had a feel for how I play and how to work off me.

“It frees me up a lot more mentally. I don’t have to tell him after each play why I did this or, before the snap, let’s do this. He already knows. That is just light years ahead of most guys I’ve played with. I’ve loved every guy I’ve played with, but he’s just on another level.”

In late May, it was coach John Harbaugh raving about Jefferson, Baltimore’s key defensive addition in the secondary. But Weddle’s words carry more weight, because he’s a five-time All-Pro and his deep secondary mate.0ap3000000818201_thumbnail_200_150

Baltimore’s defense finished ninth in the league in passing yards allowed, but entered the offseason with a pressing need at cornerback., addressing that by signing Brandon Carr away from Dallas and drafting Marlon Humphrey. Jefferson became a luxury signing, getting younger and better at the position by replacing him with incumbent starter Lardarius Webb, who remains on the roster. He’s evidently a natural learner, too, based on Weddle’s comments.

With a starting secondary that will include Weddle, Jefferson, Carr, Jimmy Smith and whoever at nickel corner (Humphrey is likely, though Brandon Boykin and Maurice Canady are possibilities), the Ravens are turning back to what has made the franchise great in the past: excellent defense.

On paper, it’s promising. On the practice field, it’s encouraging, according to Weddle. We’ll see how it plays out come September as Baltimore aims for a return to the playoffs.

At first glance: Texas poker player Connor Williams

 

Editor’s note: NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a “first look” at college football’s top players for 2017. This is the eighth in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.

0ap3000000817877College football is loaded with talented quarterbacks, many of whom I’ve already studied and written about this summer. However, there is plenty of talent at other positions, including the offensive line. Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams is arguably the best of the bunch. I’ve listened to my colleague Lance Zierlein rave about Williams for more than a year. I finally had a chance to dig in and study the talented Longhorn. Here’s my scouting report.

Click through tabs above to see other scouting reports.

Connor Williams, junior offensive tackle, Texas

Height, weight: 6-foot-6, 320 pounds (school measurements)

Game tape watched: Notre Dame (Sept. 4, 2016), Oklahoma State (Oct. 1, 2016), Oklahoma (Oct. 8, 2016).
What I liked: Williams is an exceptionally talented player in both the run and passing game. As a run blocker, he takes good angles, rolls his hips on contact and shows a nasty demeanor to keep moving opponents both to and through the whistle. When you have a mauling run blocker, that player often lacks some athleticism as a pass protector. That’s not the case with Williams. He’s a graceful mover with tremendous knee bend, balance and the ability to redirect. He plays with great awareness and can sink his weight to anchor down vs. the bull rush. He has a very sharp punch and makes it look easy once he gets position.
Where he needs to improve: He can get a little too aggressive at times in the run game. He’ll duck his head and fall off of his block. This doesn’t happen very often, but it’s an area he can clean up this fall. Williams doesn’t appear to have ideal length and he’ll need to be a little quicker with his punch when he plays elite edge defenders. I’m anxious to see how long his arms measure. On occasion, longer edge rushers get their hands inside and lock him out. Overall, there aren’t a lot of holes in his game.

Biggest takeaway: Williams is an easy player to evaluate on tape. Great players make the difficult tasks look effortless on the football field. That’s him. He’s a better player than any of the offensive tackles in the 2017 draft class. He reminds me a lot of Joe Staley coming out of college. Both guys are natural athletes and play with a physical edge.

I can’t wait to see him play … at USC on Sept. 16. I love it when the elite programs in college football square off. These two teams haven’t met since that epic Rose Bowl battle that featured Vince Young and Matt Leinart. USC has a pair of talented edge rushers (Uchenna Nwosu and Porter Gustin) and I plan to attend the game to see how Williams handles that challenge.