Scenes from an Ongoing Tour of Training Camps

Robert Griffin III arrived at Washington's camp looking to put a roller-coaster first two seasons behind him. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Robert Griffin III arrived at camp looking to put a roller-coaster first two seasons behind him. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Washington
Friday, July 25
Bon Secours Training Facility, Richmond, Va.
Robert Griffin III looks like Robert Griffin III again.

Washington’s a mystery team in a mystery division. It’s easy to look at the team and figure it was a 3-13 outfit last year, and maybe the quarterback is healthy again, but is that enough to make a playoff return? Robert Griffin III is back, and from the looks of this practice this morning—he ran, slid (surprise!) and threw the ball well—he’s got a chance to be the man he was two years ago. The big thing Griffin has going for him is the deepest roster of weapons in the NFC East. Couple DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Andre Roberts, the former Cardinal (who looked elusive and very quick today), with a tight end with breakout-star potential, Jordan Reed, and a back with 2,888 yards in his first two years, Alfred Morris, and, I mean, who tops that? The defense allowed 30 points once in the last 13 games. But the mystery comes in because, at 24, Griffin now has had two ACL reconstructions, and he simply has to avoid some of the crash-test contact that’s gotten him in trouble in his college and pro career.

“Physically,” Griffin told me after practice, “I was able to go through a whole off-season without having to worry about injury or rehab. I was able to refine my craft in the off-season. It’s a lot easier to do that when you don’t have six hours of daily rehab to worry about. I am not having to come out to see if I can do anything. I know I can. On the field, two years of playing experience really helps you at any level of football.”

And then he had to pause a second, because the kids nearby were too loud, demanding he come over to sign for them. He would in a minute.

“Ro-BERT! Ro-BERT! Ro-BERT!”

He went on. “None of us shy away from the fact that we were 3-13 last year. We have a bad taste in our mouths. For us as a group, we get to play football again, and we have a new coach, a new direction. That direction’s up.”

Greg A. Bedard’s Washington camp report: Getting it going under Gruden. FULL STORY

* * *

Baltimore Ravens
Thursday, July 24
Ravens facility, Owings Mills, Md.
Ray Rice resumes his career, chastened

Six seconds of mayhem, if that, ruined six seasons of reputation-building for Ray Rice, suspended for two games and fined $529,000 for striking his fiancée last February. And for one day anyway, the day I was here, Rice was a downtrodden man. Now the questions that remain:

1. How will he respond to the suspension, and to the world at-large that thinks commissioner Roger Goodell let him off way too easy? Rice was significantly down, I’m told, when GM Ozzie Newsome told him the news before practice Thursday. Not about the length of the suspension, but because of the weight of feeling he let so many people down. He will have to rebuild a shattered reputation brick by brick, and continue to work on his marriage, all while trying to jump-start a career that was blown off course by an awful 2013.

2. Is he really out of the woods with his wife, and can he be trusted to never hit another woman? Obviously this is the crux of the ongoing story. His wife, Janay, told Goodell this was a one-time event that would never happen again, and Goodell apparently believed her, though domestic-abuse experts say that as often as not a victim won’t tell the truth, so as to save her partner’s neck. Rice won’t get a third chance from society, so he has to know this can’t happen again.

3. What about Rice the player? Rice was making changes to his physical life before he struck his fiancée, losing about 15 pounds this off-season. He was too heavy last year to be effective, and couldn’t make anyone miss. Now 204, around his rookie-year weight, Rice seems to be ready to be very good again—for 14 games, at least. “I honestly think he’s going to dominate the league the way he did two or three years ago,’’ one Raven said. Rice had 2,068 rushing/receiving yards as recently as 2011. He looks and moves like he can still be an impact player.

Rice will leave the team after the fourth preseason game, and he can return after the Ravens’ Sept. 11 Thursday night game against Pittsburgh. You can’t play football with your tail between your legs. So he’s going to find a way to make sure he’s ready when he walks back into football in September, trying to recapture the drive he had three years ago as a player.

Greg A. Bedard’s Ravens camp report: Looking beyond Ray Rice. FULL STORY

* * *

New York Giants
Wednesday, July 23
Giants facility, East Rutherford, N.J.
How do you change everything at age 67?

After winning the Super Bowl following the 2011 season, Eli Manning and the Giants have missed the playoffs the past two years. (Seth Wenig/AP)
After winning the Super Bowl following the 2011 season, Eli Manning and the Giants have missed the playoffs the past two years. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Tom Coughlin would be a good study for AARP or the Harvard Business School. Or both. This year he did two very uncharacteristic Coughlin things:

  • He blew up an offense he’s been associated with or ran every season for the last 27.
  • A noted control freak, Coughlin handed the offense to a stranger, Ben McAdoo, a Green Bay assistant.

A stranger! “Well,” he said, “Bill Parcells didn’t know me when he hired me [as a Giants assistant in 1988] either.”

So, I asked the oldest head coach in the NFL, what does it take to hit restart at age 67?

“I looked at our team and I just felt like what I needed to do from a leadership standpoint was stimulate our veteran players,’’ he said. “Stimulate Eli. Create some energy, some renewed vigor, some enthusiasm for the unknown. Eli had played in this system for 10 years. We won two Super Bowls with it. His numbers from time to time have been out of sight. He’s a leading guy in the two-minute offense for any number of years, when we had great running teams, we had balance, he’d been incredible. He’s been the MVP of two Super Bowls. Eli’s had to do it like a young guy coming in. That’s exactly what he’s done. For me, I have to force myself, just like all the players, to learn a new system. It is stimulating. It does create a little bit of pressure. You remember when we used to practice twice a day in pads? You had about an hour between and you ran around like a crazy guy as an assistant coach. You came off the field, you grabbed lunch, you got back in a meeting, you went back in with the players, you taught a whole new installation list for the afternoon. Those things have kind of mellowed out because of the new system that we’re in. But now, I think there’s some energy that maybe we haven’t had.’’

Coughlin knows energy is one thing, wins another. He’s one win away from passing Paul Brown on the all-time NFL  list (“Wow,’’ he said when he heard this), and to get many of those this year, he knows he’d better have picked right when he chose the West Coast guy from Green Bay, McAdoo. The Giants’ season depends on it.

Peter King’s Giants camp report: The short story of Eli’s new offense. FULL STORY.

* * *

Buffalo Bills
Monday, July 21
St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y.
You want to feel pressure? Be E.J. Manuel for a day.

In a recent Bills’ practice, young GM Doug Whaley, who cut his teeth watching some bombs-away quarterbacks win games and titles in Pittsburgh—most recently Ben Roethlisberger—sidled up to E.J. Manuel and said, “Don’t be perfect. Be a football player.”

The Champs Open Camp

Out west, Robert Klemko was in Renton as the Seahawks hit the ground running.


What Hangover? The Seahawks vow no Super Bowl drop-off.


Camp report: The clock is ticking on this juggernaut.

Translation: Take some chances downfield, man. You’ve got some weapons out there now.

Manuel led all quarterbacks in football last year in percentage of pass attempts to running backs. That usually means a quarterback is checking the ball down, playing it safe. When the Bills drafted the most dangerous receiver in college football in May, Sammy Watkins, they didn’t draft him to block for running backs.

In one practice I saw, Manuel was ultra-disciplined and careful not to turn it over—I thought far too safe to ever get the full benefit out of playing with Watkins. But the next day Manuel got the ball downfield a few more times, particularly down the sidelines to Watkins. That’s going to be something Whaley and the coaching staff must monitor. You don’t want to browbeat your quarterback, but you don’t want Watkins to be running clear-out routes either.

“There is discipline in checking it down too,” coach Doug Marrone said. “We’d never have beat Baltimore last year if he wasn’t so efficient moving the ball downfield with short throws in the two-minute offense. But I won’t say you’re totally wrong either. We’ve got to get it downfield.”

Peter King’s Bills camp report: Watkins wows, but it the end it’s up to E.J. FULL STORY

* * *

It’s Tweetup Time.

Please join me at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville next Sunday at 5 p.m. for a Tweetup, to discuss everything you need to know about the 2014 NFL season. Actually, I’ll be there to answer any questions you have and to meet and greet whoever is interested. I’ll have The MMQB Team with me, along with our country-touring RV (which is starting to get a little gamey; imagine what it’ll be like in a week), on the heels of watching the Titans practice Saturday night in Nashville.

A Tweetup, for those not well-versed in Tweetdom, is this: I show up at a public place, you come and see me, we talk for a while, maybe have a beer, and then we leave. The minor-league Louisville Bats play that night, and this being a Serenity Now evening for me, our team will relax at the ballpark.

Follow me on Twitter (@SI_PeterKing) for exact details and location, which I’ll post Friday on my Twitter feed.

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201 comments
LJSpivak
LJSpivak

Flacco has a little bit of counter-culture to him?  I'd love to know what you have in mind.  This is the guy whose own Dad called him dull, who majored in accounting in college, celebrated a Super Bowl win by stopping for some McNuggets, summers at the Jersey shore like he always did, and pretty religiously attends the extended family pizza Fridays.  I think most Ravens fans are quite content knowing all of the above.  Joe can be as dull, and cool, and ordinary as he likes.  So long as his second six years are as good as his first, we'll be very happy campers.

Ciscos
Ciscos

Year two of the Saints defense under Rob Ryan.  The extra year grasping his concepts should help improve that defense.  Dumbest thing Jerry Jones do was letting that guy walk. That's besides the point tho. The Saints still get the bonehead award for trading Reggie Bush, a constant threat on the field, for drafting Mark Ingram, who really can't get further than 3-4 yards down the field.  And who, quite frankly, isn't a threat to anyone on the field. 


Chip Kelly, like I said yesterday is in the zone of finding out if his offensive philosophy will truly work in the League or not. DCs from every other team have had time to study film and develop new schemes. It'll be interesting to see what they've come up with.

busherbee
busherbee

Godell dismisses domestic violence.

CliffHaggenjos
CliffHaggenjos

Thought about Manziel-If I was his teammate and saw a photo like the one you referenced, I might start to question his commitment to the team and to winning. Might wonder if he felt the same way about his craft as I do. Might question his decision making, and perhaps begin to question my confidence in him as a potential leader. Not a good start at being the "guy" in Cleveland.

theYerg
theYerg

there DOES need to be more education by the NFL and roger goddell on the topic of domestic violence.  1 in 4 women in the US will be abused by a partner at some point in their life.  statistically the same number of women that are affected by breast cancer.  the only difference is that we can prevent domestic violence through education and break the cycle.  those who grew up in abusive households are more likely to become abusers.  and there is never anything a woman can do to "provoke" an abuser, contrary to what stephen a. smith thinks.  volunteer for an afternoon and you will understand why his remarks and a two game suspension are offensive to millions of survivors and the friends and family of those who didn't get help in time.

-Jared Yerg

Founder of Beards BeCAUSE


hozay.camp
hozay.camp

I play a lot of fantasy football. I once drafted Ray Rice with my last pick. He sucked last year & I would still brag about it. Now, no where near my draft board. Not that I don't make mistakes. Big ones but he's a little big tank unloading on a female. As Chris Rock would say in this situation. Oh there's a reason to hit a woman. You just don't do it.

gary7
gary7

Can't believe Snyder and Allen let any of you around any R E D S K I N S  Players or Coaches, but you all being the hypocrites that you are I guess they felt like taking the high road and letting you ill-informed lackeys in.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Yes Allen Barbre, "mitigated disaster" for the Packers. A swinging saloon door straight to Aaron Rodgers.

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

Amazing how many people come here seemingly only to complain about how bad King is.

JimCody
JimCody

Wow, over half of this article was about football. That has to be some kind of record, Peter.

BillPetrello
BillPetrello

This will be the LAST article I read from Mr. King until he apologizes for how he reported the NFL's action toward Mr. Rice.  I was hoping to read an apology from him.  Sadly, he failed.  I said this before and I'll say it again, "If Mr. King was reporter only and NOT commentator, then why did he NOT ask Mr Goodell if he considered the bus incident in DC in September when Ravens players were involved in an incident where a player was hit with a champagne bottle by a stripper on the bus who was defending herself when deciding the penalty.  The Ravens have chosen NOT to do anything when this CLEARLY shows a pattern of violence in these Ravens players regarding women!  


The NFL coming out today saying it was "fair" is a total joke.  I am disgusted at how the NFL holds so little concern for women...yet will fake concern for Breast Cancer awareness.  2 games is a joke and the fact the Ravens could have added to the suspension themselves tells me all I need to know about that organization.  Ozzie, you caved here.  NFL, you too. Mr. King, get in line.

Test-Icicles
Test-Icicles

Even is Manziel is a screaming success in the NFL, he'll still have haters. That "I can't hear you I've got so much money" clip has got to be one of the Top-5 d-bag videos of all time.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

again remember pete a few years ago big ben had two sexaual harrassment accusastions lobbed at him, but never ever charged, never, and guess what big ben got, as we had no video, only the women's words 6 games no charges, down to 4, here we have charges filled, part of the video released, and the nfl and goodell saw the other video and all rice gets is 2 games, taking of 2 game checks and a 3rd and oh yeah nice also to pete to overlook the fact that the fine could've been bigger, had goodell used rice's base salary this year and not his 2013 salary, as the fine rice could've paid should've been 7 figures, but goodell also decided to help the ravens out by fining him an ammount from last year.  goodell needs to be fired, as he is no longer the hammer of goodell and is just like uncle bud serving at the owners pleasure and instead of doing the right thing, instead being weak and doing nothing

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

How would you like to come out of the shower and have dozens of men and women staring at your junk. This is what management and media do to male pro-sport athletes. They have effectively silenced male athletes on this. They face fines and discipline by the leagues and vilification in the media. Look up an article by Shuana Richer in the Globe & Maillast year. It was the of the most disgusting, vulgar and voyeristic pieces of shaming thrash I have ever seen. You would never, ever see women being put into situations of forced nudity, ever, let alone a man writing an article like that about women. I stopped supporting pro team sports long ago because of this. These men are owned, and are treated as such. Nor do I think pro-sport an appropriate role model for boys. It tells them that their role models have no right to boundaries. In this day and age that's the last message that young men should be getting. On so many levels this is wrong. I will not pay for any endeavour that treats grown men like this.


LenaBrun
LenaBrun

Why is the Ray Rice suspension not the major story today? King have regurgitated repeatedly over the legal name of the Red Skins, yet can not bring himself to dwelve into the extremely poor performance by Godell, NFL and Ravens in how the Rice suspension have played out.


Poor job by Godell

Poor job by NFL

Poor job by Raves

poor job by Peter King

stagger
stagger

@Ciscos  Meh, the Saints got rid of Bush for Sproles, which was an upgrade IMO. I agree with the bonehead award for moving up in the draft for Ingram, however. He's just not good.

evetsyarsh
evetsyarsh

@Go_Niners! I actually take his football picks, bet the opposite, and do quite well. Never fails. So he is a must read for me.

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger Coby:  more periods, fewer commas.  Peter just may choose your question/issue someday for the Mailbag - if he can ever fully comprehend it.

evetsyarsh
evetsyarsh

@alan.fournier49 If this is your major issue then you need to get out more. I'm sure Kapernick is so traumatized he had to go out and pose for that nudie athlete magazine they put out. I mean these are grown adults, not scared little children cowering to hide their little bits. They work on their bodies and are proud of themselves. And what does your insecurities have to do with peter king anyway? I think also the message you think "young men" are getting is unique to you.

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@alan.fournier49 :  I just read the story authored by Shawna Richer that you mentioned and I didn't read anything vulgar nor voyeuristic except the stories related by her and other female sportswriters about players being vulgar to them.  I'm afraid you have your head so far up your rear end that all you see is crap.

Here's the link, make up your own minds what the story is about:


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/a-womans-eye-view-of-the-mens-locker-room/article11717125/?page=1

ianlinross
ianlinross

@alan.fournier49 Is this the same Shawna Richer who was fired as an editor in New Brunswick for running a story in 2009 that resulted in the paper printing a front page apology to the Prime Minister of Canada?

blynder
blynder

@alan.fournier49

I believe there is a "grace period" where media are not allowed in NFL locker rooms immediately after a game so that players can do the things they need to do.  Now I'm not a pro football player and never will I be lol - so who knows if that time is actually appropriate or adequate for that use.  It *might* provide an opportunity for those who do not wish to be viewed starkers to get showered and cleaned up before the press arrives.  Let me stress that *MIGHT* bit; cause 20 minutes after a game just isn't enough time in my estimation.

Wombat
Wombat

@alan.fournier49 1) These guys are paid bazillions of dollars for this scrutiny. They can leave if they want to

2) Most guys don't give a crap who sees them starkers... admit it, we'd all run around like that if we were that young and in that good condition. You don't hear them crying about it. It's a non-issue.

Wombat
Wombat

@LenaBrun Your outrage is noted but will have little, (actually no), effect. Sadly the news cycle has passed this item by...

Mike26
Mike26

@LenaBrun Probably because it was so reported, rehashed and rehashed from the rehashing that there was nothing new to say.  It's obvious that PK doesn't have a strong enough opinion he wants to share with it, so he just briefly acknowledged it and moved on.  I and many others have no interest in going over it again - the horse has been beaten to dust on this one.

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@evetsyarsh @alan.fournier49 You're just upset because your heroes are being objectified and sold like livestock Believe it or not all men don't share your exhibitionistic fantasies. Your gladiators are owned by the leagues and media who treat them like the bi*ches they've become. No insecurities here. There's plenty of porn out there for you buddy This is sport, not a forced sex show. The action takes place on the playing surface not the locker room.     

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@Shane Mac @alan.fournier49 If you can't see what's wrong with that article, then your beyond your rear end. How would you feel about men in your mothers, sisters, wives or girlfriend locker room hero?

Wombat
Wombat

@blynder @alan.fournier49 Most, if not all, team locker rooms now have dressing areas free of all media. The team can come out once showered and dressed. I just can't see giving up watching a sport for an issue like this... to each his own.

alan.fournier49
alan.fournier49

@Wombat @alan.fournier49 Sure I used to love running around naked A lot of women and men used to do it with me. I'm very liberal when it comes the human body.


                                                        BUT


It's called choice. Not all men enjoy it. And it shouldn't be a prerequisite too being a pro-athelete.You don't force anybody into situations of nudity for an audience. That is and should always remain illegal. Not women. Not men. Why is that so hard for some guys to accept. 

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @LenaBrun Actually - I think this issue will have more legs than some of the other off the field incidents in the NFL - since the NFL will start trotting out pink helmets, gloves, etc. in October which will bring this issue back to the forefront in the discussion about how serious the NFL truly is in taking a stand against domestic violence.

Wombat
Wombat

@usameos6 @Wombat @LenaBrun The NFL is long on platitudes and PR but short on understanding sometimes, (look how long it has taken to really get traction for the concussion thing). I may be wrong but I don't think it's the Ray Rice issue that will bring domestic violence into focus for them.

Knowitall
Knowitall

SlowHairyAndWeezus - or as the rest of us refer to, Mr Tedious - can you find another place to pursue your therapy?

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @usameos6 @LenaBrun I do agree with you there - especially since there's no pending litigation to force any changes in their behavior.  I'm just surprised at how poorly they've done at managing the messaging around this.

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @usameos6 @LenaBrun I almost wonder if it isn't the opposite and putting the old adage that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' to the test.  Had they given him 6 games and then let it be reduced to 2 on appeal - that would likely have been enough to sweep it under the rug.  The way it's been handled has pretty much guaranteed that it is being talked about and discussed not only in the sports media world but in the larger media circles as well.

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