Williams, 27, enters the season as an RB1 for the first time in his career and said he has been focused on things like nutrition and hydration — things that will keep him healthy during a long season.
The early returns, though, are not encouraging. Williams missed most of the first two weeks of Chiefs training camp because of a sore hamstring. He returned to practice late last week but didn’t play in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Williams regained his spot as the Chiefs’ No. 1 back on Monday when they returned to camp. But his lack of availability so far illustrates how the Chiefs are taking a chance on the unknown by counting on Williams.
“There’s a certain challenge that comes with that [job],” coach Andy Reid said. “That’s a tough position to play. You have to prepare yourself on and off the field.”
Williams played well late last season after taking over the Chiefs’ lead back role when they released Kareem Hunt. But many backs have proved they can handle the load for a short period of time. Fewer can handle the demands of a physically and mentally draining job over the longer term.
“It’s a good early reminder that the little things like stretching and hydration really matter,” general manager Brett Veach said of Williams’ early camp injury. “Those are things elite-level players do away from the field.
“It’s just a matter of acclimating his body to that kind of workload. He has to figure out the stuff away from the field: diet, extra treatment and things like that. Sometimes when you’re a guy that has been a role player your entire career, you don’t get a lot of wear and tear. There’s not a lot of need to stay in the training room and there’s not a lot of need to watch exactly what you’re putting in your body. Now all of a sudden you’re talking 16, 18, 20 carries a game over the course of a 16- and hopefully a 19-game season, that will take a toll on you.”
Williams said he’s learning how to acclimate.
“I had to change my eating habits,” he said. “I actually did this thing where they draw your blood and tell you what’s actually necessary for you. I kind of just picked up the workload when I’m working out, doing a little more, doing a little extra because you know even though this is my sixth year I’ve never had the role of the starter or have had to take the bulk of the reps.
“I learned I’m allergic to spinach. I can’t eat spinach, obviously. It’s cool to just kind of learn what you can and can’t eat and what I’ve been eating thinking, ‘this is good,’ but it’s not good for my body type.”
Last season Williams rushed for 256 yards on 50 attempts (5.1 yards per carry) and had four touchdowns. He also rushed for 129 yards and a score in a divisional-round playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. Now he has to prove he can sustain it. The Chiefs are comfortable Williams is mentally tough enough to make the leap.
“There’s no question about his desire,” Veach said. “He’s one of the toughest guys on our offense. He just has to make sure he knows that wanting to be that guy on the field, there’s another part to that. So I’d say when he has his helmet on, he’s ready for this. When he takes it off, that’s when he’s going to have to grow. To go through the violence and the amount of hits he’s going to take, it’s a lot different than what he’s used to.”
The Chiefs have alternatives. They signed veteran Carlos Hyde, who was the starter in Williams’ absence. They brought back Darrel Williams from last season. They drafted Darwin Thompson, who has played well in camp and in the preseason game against the Bengals (five rushes for 22 yards, one catch for 29 yards and a TD).
Each figures to have a role as the season progresses. But offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said the Chiefs would be patient with Damien Williams.
“He’s the starter,” Bieniemy said. “We need to make sure than Damien continues to do the things he needs to do in order to help himself be ready when called upon.”
Patriots can’t lose with incentive-laden deal for Cam Newton – New England Patriots Blog
If Newton is healthy, and performs at the high level he did when he won NFL MVP and led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50, he could be the Patriots’ starting quarterback and put them back into the conversation as one of the AFC’s elite teams.
If his previously injured foot doesn’t respond well, or his performance and fit in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system doesn’t measure up, there’s limited financial pain for the team in quickly moving on.
So with Newton willing to accept what the Patriots have to offer — a low-cost chance to battle with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer to be Brady’s replacement — it adds a stick of dynamite to what was already a compelling situation.
The Patriots have been high on Stidham, while some on the club have also acknowledged there’s always a blind spot with a young signal-caller until he actually plays. So now they protect themselves more at the game’s most important position, increasing competition, and seeing if Stidham rises up.
Meanwhile, Newton could have considered waiting for an injury somewhere in the NFL with more of a clear path to start. But his decision to come to New England on a prove-it type of deal reflects a desire to compete, which has to be appealing to coach Bill Belichick, who often says nothing is given and players ultimately earn their roles through their performance.
Belichick has always had respect for Newton as a competitor.
“When you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions — I mean, I would put Newton at the top the list,” Belichick said in 2017 prior to a game against the Panthers.
“Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, he’s the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he’s strong, he’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in ’13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s public enemy No. 1.”
Can Newton can be that player in 2020, and also fit into the Patriots’ hard-driving culture?
His new teammates are intrigued to find out, with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore tweeting two eyes as the news broke Sunday night.
— The Gilly Lock (@BumpNrunGilm0re) June 29, 2020
Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Jason McCourty said on his “Double Coverage” podcast: “I’m excited. Bill always says it: ‘The goal for any good team is to have as many good players as possible.’ Cam Newton is a former MVP of this league, played in the Super Bowl, that caliber of a player. The better players we have in our locker room, the better we’re going to be able to go out there perform as a team.”
“I agree fully with you,” longtime captain Devin McCourty responded. “When you add a guy like Cam Newton, it makes our quarterback room even better. We’ve already spoken about it before — the poise, and the jump and the leap you expect for Stiddy to make. I think it will be interesting in training camp and competing, and all of that, that’s how we all get better. I would think adding him to the quarterback room with B. Hoyer, you have veterans in there, you have young guys in there, I think it will give us a really good chance to be good at that position.”
McCourty added one more thought: “It will be a fun year, if the year goes as expected and we have a season.”
New England Patriots fined $1.1 million, lose draft pick in film crew fallout
The NFL fined the New England Patriots $1.1 million and took away a third-round pick in the 2021 draft among punishments for their television crew’s filming the field and sideline during a Dec. 8 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns,
In addition, the Patriots’ television production crews will not be allowed to shoot any games during the 2020 season, and senior club officials will undergo required training on league operation and game policies.
NFL spokesperson Michael Signora confirmed the punishments on Sunday night after ESPN broke the news.
The NFL also banned David Mondillo, who was suspended by the team at the time of the NFL investigation, from NFL facilities until further notice. Prior to the league’s discipline, Mondillo was terminated by the Patriots.
The Patriots admitted that their production crew inappropriately filmed the field and sideline. The crew was credentialed by the Browns to shoot video for a Patriots web series called “Do Your Job,” but the Patriots did not inform the Bengals or the NFL, which they called an “unintended oversight.”
“The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road,” a Patriots statement said at the time. “There was no intention of using footage for any other purpose.”
The Patriots also said the production crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, is not part of New England’s football operation.
A Patriots spokesperson confirmed the team won’t contest the penalties.
Cam Newton signing with Patriots — NFL players react on social media
Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, reached agreement on a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Patriots, league sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.
Here is how the NFL reacted on Sunday:
I salute Coach Bill Belichick for that!
That’s Real. Congratulations Cam!
— Jamal Adams (@Prez) June 29, 2020
Couldn’t be happier for @CameronNewton! Patriots are getting a stud!! 👏👏👏
— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) June 29, 2020
Yeah this that 🔥 https://t.co/y2iIh2pcNX
— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) June 29, 2020
Cam in a great situation💯
— ⚡️Primetime!!!⚡️ (@Joe_MainMixon) June 29, 2020
— Devin&Jason McCourty (@McCourtyTwins) June 29, 2020
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) June 29, 2020
Soo happy for cam! Everyone is about to witness a come back season like no other!
— Jonathan Stewart (@Jonathanstewar1) June 29, 2020
Coach McDaniels about to get in his bag with Cam 😈
— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) June 29, 2020
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