Victor Cruz doesn’t need to prove anything to his Giants teammates

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If Victor Cruz’s return to the field Saturday proves to be a dud and comes with zero catches for zero yards and several drops, it won’t mean much to Odell Beckham Jr. The New York Giants’ star wide receiver isn’t worried about what Cruz does in the preseason.

Beckham doesn’t need any convincing to prove that Cruz can help the team this season. He has said on several occasions that the only date that matters is Sept. 11 — the day the Giants open their season on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.

And while the Giants and fans want a clearer idea of what Cruz can do on the field after almost two full seasons on the sideline, his teammates don’t seem to care much. They seem convinced — almost to a man — the return of the old Victor Cruz will happen. It’s only a matter of when.

“He doesn’t need to prove anything to me,” running back Rashad Jennings said.

Cruz, 29, was a Pro Bowl receiver. He has two 1,000-yard seasons and a Super Bowl touchdown catch and ring on his resume, but suffered a serious, season-ending knee injury early in 2014 and missed all of 2015 with a calf injury. Cruz also struggled this summer with a groin injury.

It doesn’t seem to matter. The way undrafted rookie cornerback Donte Deayon sees it, Cruz is a “somewhat of a legend.” It’s a sentiment shared by many of the younger players in the locker room who look up to Cruz and his salsa-dancing superstardom. They’re used to seeing No. 80 making defensive backs look foolish.

It’s not as important to his teammates. They’ve remained patient, and are willing to stay that way through the start of the regular season, if need be.

“You tell him to just pace himself,” Harris said. “We have a lot of time until Sept. 11. We have 16 games. You don’t want to poop out the first half of the season and not be able to play the second half of the season when we really need you. If you miss a couple games, it’s cool.

“We have a whole lot of games after that. I tell him every day, ‘Keep your head up. Stay focused. Take your time getting back.'”

As if two years wasn’t enough already, Cruz’s teammates are willing to wait longer if necessary. Fatigue? What fatigue?

Thankfully, they’ll receive a sneak peek on Saturday and, in their eyes, how it unfolds doesn’t really matter. As long as Cruz comes out of it healthy.

It was the first place where Bill Parcells truly tested Romo to see whether he had the mettle to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It was only a preseason game on Aug. 12, 2006, but Romo not only started the game against the Seattle Seahawks but went the distance.

He completed 19 of 25 passes for 235 yards and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton in the Dallas Cowboys’ 13-3 win.

A little more than two months later and with the Cowboys sitting at 3-3, Parcells replaced Drew Bledsoe with Romo.

Romo-mentum and Romo-mania were born. Romo has become the franchise leader in touchdown passes, been selected to four Pro Bowls and been the reason the Cowboys have been in contention when he has started and finished a season.

But things changed on Jan. 6, 2007.

That’s the night a potentially game-winning field goal attempt slipped through Romo’s hands on the snap. The Cowboys lost 21-20, and it was the last game Parcells coached.

Multiple teams inquire about availability of Josh Gordon

Multiple teams have reached out to the Cleveland Browns to inquire about the availability of wide receiver Josh Gordon, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

However, a Browns team source told Schefter that the team is not looking to trade Gordon.

Gordon said Tuesday that he doesn’t want to be traded.

“I haven’t heard too much about it,” Gordon said. “Cleveland is my team. That’s where I want to be, everything like that. That’s not even in the ballpark for me. I’m not sure how that works.”

Cleveland has tried to establish an environment in which Gordon could thrive, and many around the league believe first-year head coach Hue Jackson is the right coach for him.

“I think it works out perfectly then for me,” he said. “Mr. [Jimmy] Haslam, the organization, Coach Jackson, I think the world of those guys, this city, this organization. They’re showing me the love and respect back to me by allowing me to stay here up to this point.

“I expect to move forward with that. I’m excited about it. This is where I want to be and I’m happy to be with Cleveland.”

Gordon took part in three series with the Browns’ starters in Sunday’s practice.

Gordon, 25, is suspended for the first four games to start the regular season, but the NFL is allowing him to participate in team activities during the ban.

Jackson said he wants to be sure that Gordon will be ready to face the New England Patriots in Week 5 on Oct. 9, the same game Tom Brady returns from a four-game suspension.

Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in the 2013 season but was suspended for 27 of the next 32 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has 161 receptions for 2,754 yards and 14 touchdowns in 35 career games, all with the Browns.

Record crowd greets Rams back … for a horrible start

The Rams claimed they expected about 90,000 fans (they ended up with 89,140) and that would make it the largest crowd for a preseason game in U.S. history, and that technically appears correct. A crowd of 112,376 attended a preseason game between the Cowboys and Houston Texans in 1994, but that was in Mexico City. There were 105,840 fans on hand for an exhibition game between the Chicago Bears and a college all-star team in 1947, but that’s not an NFL preseason game. So the Rams’ statement holds. The combination of the first game back in L.A., the Cowboys being a marquee opponent and the size of the Coliseum gave the Rams a shot to break the record.

There shouldn’t have been much concern that the Rams would draw a lot of interest right away (and they will again in 2019 when their grand new stadium opens in Inglewood), but still had to be nice for the Rams to see such a huge turnout for a game that didn’t count.

The calm before the storm #DALvsLA
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 13, 2016

The NFL has a long history in Los Angeles, it had just been a while since it could add to it.

The last time NFL football was played in Los Angeles was Dec. 24, 1994. The Rams played the Washington Redskins in Anaheim, while the Raiders took on the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum.

The Rams lost 24-21. Heath Shuler’s third-quarter held up for the Redskins. Chris Miller threw for 303 yards for the Rams in a losing cause. The Raiders lost too, 19-9 against their division rival which started Joe Montana at quarterback. Former Raider Marcus Allen rushed for 132 yards for Kansas City.

It was a long, long awaited return to the Coliseum for the Rams. The Rams played their home games at the Coliseum from 1946 to 1979 before moving to Orange County. As Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News pointed out, the Rams’ last home game at the Coliseum before Saturday came when Magic Johnson was a rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Rams got a chance to reacquaint themselves with the old Coliseum after a long, long time away. After more than two decades, the people of Los Angeles finally had a home team to root for again. And look at it this way: It can only go uphill from that terrible start to preseason game No. 1.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — To borrow from Bill Parcells’ famous maxim that you are what your record is, players are what their production is.

Before they have much of an on-field resume, they can also be what their public persona is.

In the case of Tennessee Titans rookie running back Derrick Henry, his preseason debut Saturday night started a shift from persona to production. And that’s a big thing.

The second-round pick out of Alabama regularly smiles and laughs with his teammates. But in front of cameras and notebooks, he’s been regarded as somewhat sour in his first few months with the team, particularly when the line of questioning hasn’t qualified as fawning.

That’s irrelevant if he’s running well, and he ran great against the Chargers in the Titans preseason opener.

“I like him even more now,” Mike Mularkey said when Henry’s public personality is mentioned and how the group of reporters asking the questions might have a big hand in it. “No, we’ve got some quiet guys. Tajae Sharpe doesn’t say a whole lot, Derrick doesn’t say a whole lot, Jack Conklin.

Osweiler doesn’t get why Elway doesn’t get why Osweiler wanted to finish Week 17

And thus, we’ve arrived at the main issue here — at least how I perceive it. The issue isn’t that Osweiler was benched, it’s that he was benched on the eve of a Super Bowl run. This even though he probably deserved the chance to lead the team to the Super Bowl because he was actually the better quarterback last year, statistically speaking. The competitor in Osweiler, I’m guessing, looked at Manning and his noodle arm and knew that he was better at that point in time.

If Osweiler had won the Super Bowl for the Broncos, the questions that followed him to Houston this offseason wouldn’t exist, at least not in the same magnitude. Talking heads wouldn’t be talking about his inexperience, they’d be citing his Super Bowl run. Winning a ring in the NFL as a quarterback might be the only way to gain immunity from criticism.

Furthermore, if Osweiler had played and won the Super Bowl, he’d probably still be in Denver. When Osweiler departed, a report emerged that said he wasn’t interested in playing in Manning’s shadow. That wouldn’t have concerned Osweiler had he led the Broncos to a title with Manning sitting on the bench.

Obviously, Elway has no reason to regret the Broncos decision to play Manning. It didn’t cost them a ring and it provided Manning with the perfect sendoff. But it’s a little surprising to hear Elway say he was surprised by Osweiler’s reaction, which is why Osweiler’s response seemed to be also steeped in surprise.

Josh Norman takes on all comers. And he’s not just taking the field for the Washington Redskins, this new team, this season. He’s adding television to his curriculum vitae.

Per The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan, Norman will be a regular contributor on Fox’s NFL coverage. His one-year contract states he’ll have a minimum of 10 appearances this season. Most of the sessions will be done from his home in Virginia, although Norman will travel to the Fox studios during the Redskins’ Week 9 bye in the first week of November.

Eat your heart out, Brandon Marshall.

Norman watched Marshall earn two sports Emmy nominations with Showtime as an analyst on “Inside the NFL,” and the ever-competitive Redskins cornerback told friends he wanted to double Marshall’s nominations with four.

Oh, and Norman — one of the more outspoken and bold players in the NFL — agreed to do it without his coaches knowing about it … although they likely are aware of it by now.

“I haven’t told Coach [Jay] Gruden or [defensive coordinator Joe] Barry yet, but I’ll give them a nice shout out on TV,” Norman says. “It’s not at all going to be a distraction. If you keep your focus on you and not anybody else, you’re going to be fine. I’m going to be me on Sunday.”

The Redskins pounced on Norman, 28, who was named the Carolina Panthers’ franchise player this offseason — and then summarily made a free agent when the Panthers rescinded Norman’s tag, getting nothing in return for him.

Dolphins coaches: Laremy Tunsil on second string ‘not alarming at all’

Tunsil’s transition hasn’t been easy. He has struggled with some of the differences at guard, such as keeping his hand on the ground and understanding the different leverage. That’s resulted in missed assignments in practice.

“Every player on the team has something to work on. He is not alone in that,” offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “He is really doing a great job — having him in two positions, he is studying, having him learn two spots technique-wise, all the things that go with it. He has done a really, really fine job to this point. (I) couldn’t be any happier with his progress.”

Tunsil will get a good share of reps in the preseason to improve his game. According to Christensen, Tunsil is going to be a building block with Miami for a long time, despite his rookie learning curve.

“He’s really a talented guy,” Christensen said. “He’s going to be a really fine left tackle at whatever point, but there is a learning curve for him at guard. Things actually happen quicker at guard. You have all of the twists. You’ve got a lot more movement. You’re setting outside about 85 percent of the time. It probably is going to be good for him long term to have played in there and understand how quickly things happen in this league.”

At a time when some have wondered whether this would be Carson Palmer’s and Larry Fitzgerald’s last season, Arizona has extended the contracts and careers of both players.

The Cardinals announced one-year contract extensions for Palmer and Fitzgerald on Friday, tying the quarterback to Arizona through the 2018 season and the wide receiver to the team through 2017.

The total deal for Palmer will be just over $24 million, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. He will get a $6.75 million signing bonus and a new $2 million roster bonus, plus $15.5 million in salary and bonuses fully guaranteed in 2017. Before the extension deal, none of his money for 2017 had been guaranteed.

His 2018 salary will be $12.5 million plus a $1.5 million roster bonus, none of which is guaranteed, according to the source.

“Clearly these are two core members of our team who have played major roles in our success,” said Cardinals general manager Steve Keim in a statement. “Each of them had contracts that were due to expire in the next year or two so these extensions provide a measure of certainty and clarity for the players and organization, both now and in the years ahead. It also reaffirms our long-stated intention that when the time comes, these two great players end their stellar careers as Cardinals.”

The deals came one day after Arizona signed defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to a five-year, $62.5 million extension, with $21.5 million guaranteed at signing.

The Cardinals wanted to keep the core of their team together for as long as they could, and these extensions will enable them to do just that. Palmer is 36 and Fitzgerald turns 33 this month, but they have played as if they’re in the prime of their careers.

Gruden: Redskins to ‘experiment’ with touchback rule

“I’m sure they’re probably discussing that possibility, and you know, that’s something everybody’s looking at due to the speed of the kickoff and the injuries that might happen on kickoffs, but it’s been an exciting part of football for a long time,” Gruden said. “It’d be unfortunate if it were to be dismissed from football in my opinion. But, my opinion doesn’t really matter. I think it’s an exciting part of the game and something that’s very important to the game.”

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan has the ability to win a Super Bowl — he has the arm strength, the accuracy, the tools you need. The third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft is the most prolific passer in Falcons history, possessing the franchise records in career yards (32,757), passing touchdowns (202) and completions (2,915). He just never has had a complete team around him. Last season was a mixed bag for Ryan, who posted the third-best completion percentage (66.3) and yardage total (4,591) of his career, along with his second-lowest touchdown total (21) and third-worst passer rating (89.0). As always with Ryan, the key is the cast around him, and while Atlanta did add a solid No. 2 receiver in Mohamed Sanu, I have concerns about the defense’s ability to rush the passer.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
I think you can throw out Luck’s 2015 season, which was kind of a disaster, as a casualty of the injuries that dogged him for most of the year. The fact remains that he took Indianapolis to the playoffs in each of his first three professional years, advancing a level each time out. He has everything you need for success — athletic ability, speed, arm strength, accuracy and leadership qualities. Yes, he’s been saddled by a lack of roster support throughout his Colts tenure, but even after 2015, I have faith in Luck’s power to elevate a lesser team through his play.

Jaguars fans are about to get an extended look at Myles Jack.

Jacksonville defensive coordinator Todd Wash told reporters that the rookie linebacker will share reps with the starters during Wednesday’s training camp practice.

With veteran Paul Posluszny taking the day off, Jack will have a chance to show off some of the insane athleticism that triggered the team to grab the former UCLA star in the second round of the draft.

Jack was seen as a top-five pick, but spiraled down the board amid concerns over a knee injury that could eventually require surgery. After many initially projected Jack to the Jaguars at No. 5 overall, Jacksonville might have pulled off the draft’s biggest steal by grabbing him at No. 36 — a slide Jack won’t soon forget.

“It’s all motivation and I actually appreciate it. It’s made me hungry. It’s grounded me a lot,” Jack told The Rich Eisen Show in May. “It was, honestly, humiliating. It was embarrassing having to sit there, and afterwards walking out, having my girl to my left, my mom to my right, my grandmother to the right of her and having to look at them, it was a tough feeling. It wasn’t a good night, truthfully.”

Jack is expected to eventually replace Posluszny at middle linebacker, but Wednesday’s snaps aren’t a permanent promotion. With lightning-quick Telvin Smith notched on the weak side, Jack could wind up playing the SAM role as a rookie. The pairing of Smith and Jack would give the Jaguars plenty of speed and explosion, something the rookie has already shown off during camp.

Ravens will be investigated for full using pads during minicamp

Still Fangio doesn’t sound concerned.

What do Jerry Jones and DJ Khaled do at a Beyonce concert? ‘Mogul talk’

Have you heard of the popular musician Beyonce? She has a new album out, titled “Lemonade,” and is currently on tour. The first single from the album was called “Formation.” It dropped the day before Beyonce was scheduled to perform at halftime of Super Bowl 50. The tour she is currently on is named after the song. It’s called The Formation World Tour.

There was a show on Monday, May 9 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That’s the $1.3 billion palace where the Dallas Cowboys play their home games. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jerry Jones, owner of said Cowboys, was at the concert.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising to see that Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott isn’t the top favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016. As long as there’s a rookie quarterback starting Week 1 (Jared Goff of the Rams) in play, it could be tough.

But our friends out in the desert are badly undervaluing Elliott. According to Bovada, the over/under for Elliott’s rushing yards in 2016 is set at 900.

Yes, Bovada expects Zeke to fall short of 1,000 yards.

It’s an early prop given less than a week ago, Elliott was barely out of his crop-top tuxedo and hadn’t even welcomed Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith as a teammate.

There is some logic in wondering how often he’ll touch the ball given the presence of Darren McFadden (holdover) and Alfred Morris (free-agency addition) on the roster.

Here’s what we learned during that interview:

He drinks “not that often. Maybe once or twice a week — depending. During the season, barely ever. Offseason, you get your workouts in, you do what you got to do, and then you can go have some drinks.”

His drink of choice is a “vodka water.” He also adds a “splash of cranberry.”

Beer? “That tastes weird,” Gronk said. He added that he “sometimes” drinks beer, “depending on the mood.” He then outlined a scenario that could get him to drink a beer. It involved a keg stand.
The only way this makes sense is if Tom Brady is slowly converting Gronk to his ultra-healthy diet.

Snoop Dogg is down to hop on a track with Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell


Jason Pierre-Paul totaled 6.5 sacks for the 13 games of his final season at South Florida: .5 sacks per game. When he broke into the New York Giants’ starting lineup his second season (2011), he more than doubled that with 16.5 sacks over 16 starts: 1.03 sacks per game. Injuries have undercut him but when he managed 16 starts in 2014, he totaled 12.5 sacks: .78 per game, still half-again his college rate.

J.J. Watt, taken in the No. 11 slot by Houston in his draft, had 11.5 sacks in the 26 games of his two defensive-end seasons at Wisconsin: a rate of .44 sacks per game, or one every 2.26 games. In the NFL Watt has amassed 74.5 sacks in 80 games: a rate of .93 sacks per game, or one every 1.07 games.

The kid is too skinny

Legendary New York Giants general manager George Young once dubbed the first 15 picks of the draft as “the Dance of the Elephants,” because of the conventional wisdom of drafting size for the NFL game. The perceived problem with the Bears’ drafting of Floyd is that they traded up within that top 15 and took perhaps the lightest-weight for his NFL position. No. 4 overall pick and running back Ezekiel Elliott, for instance, weighs 225 pounds but has it on a 6-foot frame, while Floyd’s 240 stretches over six more inches of altitude.

No surprise then that the topic de jour with Floyd is his weight, which the Bears said would be in the 240’s and Fangio said would be something like 230-235. Clearly not big enough at the NFL level, or at least the NFL of George Young.

Plus, he has so much trouble keeping weight on naturally that the Bears have cooked up a reminder-alarm program that uses his cell phone to prod him to eat.

Yeah, but…

Von Miller was 245 pounds coming out of Texas A&M, generously listed at 250 now. Plus, he’s a smurf at 6-3, nowhere near big enough to heft a Super Bowl MVP trophy… oh, wait, never mind.

Kalil Mack (15 sacks) finished second to Watt last season. At 6-3, 247 pounds.

For historical sake: When Richard Dent came to the Bears in the 1983 draft, he was a puny 228 pounds, principally because of dental problems that made eating a miserable experience. The Bears invested in corrective dental work, Dent at 6-5 went up to 265 pounds and then on to Canton and the Hall of Fame.

What Dent learned was leverage, how to keep his body at arm’s length and odd angles from blockers, and the ability to keep tackles from getting good sets and squaring up with him. The success or failure of Floyd projects to trace to far more than his weight.

“[Floyd] has got length, so that can help him ward off people from getting into his body,” Fangio said. “He’s gonna have to be quick and sudden with his take-on. He’s not going to be able to wrestle people as much.

“But so much of whether you win or lose on a block happens early in the down; it doesn’t happen late in the down. We’re just going to have to make sure he’s technique sound and being quick and explosive and decisive with his take-on.”

Ask Joe Maddon about Addison Russell and an uncontrollable smile creeps along his face.

Ask Joe Maddon about Addison Russell’s potential and his eyes get a sort of glossy look in them.

The Cubs manager gushes about nearly all his players, but he speaks about Russell a bit differently.

Maddon is a wordsmith, but even he has to be running out of different ways to talk about the 22-year-old shortstop.

After an infield single in the Cubs’ loss to the Pirates Sunday, Russell is now working on a nine-game hitting streak.

He has 13 RBI in those nine games and drove in nine runs in his last four starts before Sunday. Russell is on pace for 122 RBI and 86 walks.

Look up any “clutch” stat and Russell is excelling in that category. So what makes him so different?

“Just a slow heart beat,” Maddon said. “If you talk to the kid anytime, he’s always suavecito. There’s nothing really hurried about him. He’s just got a great way about him.

“Again, he’s gonna keep getting better. Everybody’s liking when he’s doing good. I’m here to tell you: He’s gonna get better.”

Maddon pointed to Friday’s game when Russell moved past a bad swing-and-miss at a pitch out of the zone to deliver the crucial blow to the Pirates – a three-run homer off Francisco Liriano.

Former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green dies at age 67

Green, who also was a head coach in college at Northwestern and Stanford, helped build the Vikings into one of the NFL’s stronger franchises in the 1990s. The Vikings won four division titles and made the playoffs eight times in his 10 seasons. He also coached one of the best regular-season teams in NFL history, the 1998 Vikings. The Vikings went 15-1 with incredible rookie receiver Randy Moss leading the way, but were upset in the NFC championship game that season by the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings also advanced to the 2000 NFC championship game with Green at the helm but were defeated by the New York Giants.

Green became just the second black head coach in the NFL’s modern era when the Vikings hired him in 1992, following Art Shell. Green also became the second black head coach at a major college football program, when Northwestern hired him in 1981.

“Well, I feel very fortunate. I’ve always said I was born at the right time, with being born in 1949 and growing up right at the height of the Civil Rights Movement,” Green told in 2015. “I came along at a time when opportunity was created by very brave and determined people that came before me, and I was fortunate enough to benefit from it.”

He was popular with his players, and many players and others around the NFL expressed their grief on social media, including former Vikings running back Robert Smith.

Rest in peace Denny. I lost my mother in April, I feel like I just lost father.
— robert smith (@Robert26Smith) July 22, 2016

But more than two years in, the move has not worked out for Indianapolis.

Jones missed seven games of the 2014 season to an ankle injury, and then missed all of last season to another ankle injury, this time surgery to repair torn ligaments.

Last month, the 28-year-old Kaepernick vowed to be at full strength and much heavier come Day 1 of training camp. He is recovering from surgeries on his right thumb, his left knee, and on his non-throwing left shoulder to repair a torn labrum, which landed him on season-ending injured reserve after he lost his job last fall to 2011 first-round draft pick Gabbert. Kaepernick was especially lean during the offseason and not as filled out through the upper body given rehab limited his time in the weight room.

”We’re in the meetings together, we’re in the locker room together, we’re out there working on getting better together,” Gabbert said of working alongside Kaepernick.

Earlier this year, Jones agreed to a pay cut that dropped his salary from $4.5 million to $2.5 million for this year, and he would be able to earn the $2 million back through roster bonuses and incentives. The suspension now makes it impossible he could earn the full difference back, and it’s possible the Colts could cut Jones; doing so would cost $3.3 million in dead money against the salary cap.