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Tom Brady focused more on Patriots’ miscues rather than referees



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots had one touchdown taken away from them in Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when officials incorrectly ruled receiver N’Keal Harry was out of bounds. They also potentially could have had another touchdown on a fumble recovery had the play not been ruled dead, but quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t focused on those miscues as much as on his team’s own.

“I don’t ever make any excuses, and I certainly never blame the referees,” Brady said Monday morning in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

Brady, 42, added that he didn’t sleep much Sunday night because he was thinking about what the offense could have done differently to score a tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter but said he was anxious to get back to work.

“When you play sports long enough, I think sometimes you’re the recipient of things that go your way. And you’re on the other side of it, too. For me, I don’t think too much about it,” he said of the officiating calls.

“I wish it would go our way. Unfortunately they didn’t. It doesn’t take away from, when you watch the game, all the different things we had in our control that I wish we could have done a little bit better. We were just trying to keep grinding them out, and just put ourselves in a position there at the end with four plays in the red area, and just didn’t produce well enough to get the job done.”

Brady had his right (throwing) elbow wrapped after Sunday’s game, but he said he will be on the field next Sunday when the Patriots visit the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s all right. I just took a helmet on the inside of it. Just a typical football game. Nothing I haven’t dealt with before,” Brady said in the radio interview. “I’m just going to try to get some extra treatment and hopefully be 100 percent for next week.”

The Brady-led Patriots offense has struggled for extended stretches of the 2019 season, sparking questions as to whether there is enough talent around Brady.

The Patriots were 2-of-12 on third down against the Chiefs, and their season-long struggle in the red zone continued with just one touchdown in three trips inside the 20.

“[The defense] has been playing great all season. and they gave us every chance yesterday. We just have to keep fighting and keep battling. It hasn’t been an easy season,” Brady said.

“That’s like every other year. Every season has its own unique challenges, and we’ve faced them. We have to learn from them. And our whole season is ahead of us. We have to rally together and trust in each other and go lay it on the line like we’ve been doing every week. This is about a one-week season for us and trying to go out and go to Cincinnati and win on the road.”

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Jaguars DL Al Woods opting out of season



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Al Woods is opting out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“While I was excited to join the Jaguars, I have made the tough decision, given the current status of COVID-19, to opt out for the 2020 season,” Woods said in a statement. “The health and safety of my family has always been the most important thing in my life. I love the game of football and will be rooting hard for my teammates this season, and I look forward to re-joining the Jaguars in 2021.”

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Woods signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Jaguars in March after spending the 2019 season with Seattle. He has 204 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 10 seasons with Tampa Bay, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Indianapolis.

“As I mentioned to our media yesterday, we all understand the risk associated with COVID-19, and we will fully support any of our players and coaches that choose to opt out this season,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said. “It is important for every individual to feel comfortable and to believe that they’re doing what’s right for themselves and their family. As an organization, we respect Al’s decision and are fully understanding.”

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Sources — Bills RG Jon Feliciano out 8-12 weeks after surgery to repair torn pectoral



Buffalo Bills starting right guard Jon Feliciano underwent surgery for a chest injury Friday morning and will miss the next 8 to 12 weeks, league sources confirmed to ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that the surgery was to repair a torn pectoral muscle. It comes six months after Feliciano underwent surgery on a torn rotator cuff in January.

BuffFanatics first reported on Feliciano’s surgery.

Feliciano started all 16 games at right guard in his first season in Buffalo in 2019, the first time he had done so in his five-year NFL career. His absence leaves the Bills with several contingency plans, including moving second-year right tackle Cody Ford inside. Ford practiced at guard and tackle during his rookie training camp last season before starting 15 games at right tackle.

The Bills offensive line returns all five starters from the 2019 season and added free agents Daryl Williams, Evan Boehm and Trey Adams this offseason.

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Could NFL players wear masks during the 2020 season? Lingering coronavirus-related questions



As it draws closer to actual football practices, the NFL is still working to answer a central question of its coronavirus mitigation policy: Is there a practical and effective way to mimic a mask for players on the field?

The league’s first response, in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, was to partner with Oakley to create a mouth shield that would be attached to the helmet and presumably prevent the forward movement of droplets that contain the virus. The shields have been distributed to all 32 teams, and players will be given the option to test and provide feedback when they get on the field in August. But pushback from a number of prominent players — most notably Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt — has dampened enthusiasm for widespread adoption.

During an appearance Thursday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills acknowledged another option: a gaiter-style neck pull-up that some players already wear during cold-weather games. Sills indicated that the league’s joint coronavirus task force is researching possible designs that could be used in warm-weather games as well.

“I’m looking at everything that makes us safer,” Sills said. “So I would certainly hope that we arrive at a design that offers protection and doesn’t hinder performance, and I think if we do that, it would certainly be something I would want to see everyone adopt. If we can hit that sweet spot, if we can find something that does offer protection and doesn’t hinder how guys breathe or communicate on the field, I would have to think the players would buy into that and want that.”

As it stands, there is expected to be some voluntary use of masks during practice and games. The league’s game-day protocol strongly recommends that coaches, staff members and non-participating players wear them on the sideline. Referees and other officials are likely to be in masks too, to be used in conjunction with electronic whistles.

But for now, the only people required to wear masks on the field on game day are the relative handful of non-football personnel who will have access to the field. So the fundamental paradox of playing football in a pandemic — minimizing virus spread among players in a game that does not allow for social distancing — might only be solved by voluntary adoption of technology designs that remain in development. Absent a visor or mask, the NFL will have to hope that the rest of its protocols, from daily or near-daily testing to strict limitations on in-person meetings during the practice week, will prevent infected people from getting onto the field in the first place.

Let’s consider a few other relevant topics in our weekly look at the NFL’s fight against the coronavirus.

Browns’ no-huddle sparks an idea

Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters Thursday that the team won’t huddle during training camp walk-throughs, a football version of social distancing. That tweak brought to mind a larger adjustment the XFL introduced during its 2020 season, and planned to enhance in future years, until the league filed for bankruptcy in April.

To speed the pace of the game, the XFL initiated a major expansion of wireless communication from a coach’s headset to a small speaker in players’ helmets. The NFL currently allows it for quarterbacks and defensive signal-callers. But the XFL also used it for some skill-position players and planned to implement it for linemen in 2021.

There is no need for a huddle, of course, if every player hears the playcall at the same time as the quarterback. Conservatively, a team could eliminate at least 100 instances of players gathering close together during each game.

There is no evidence that the NFL gave serious thought to expanding coach-to-player communication as part of its pandemic protocols. Historically, it has been slow to adopt technology on the field. Remember, it still prohibits teams from using their Microsoft Surface Pro tablets to view video on the sideline.

But there is a world of advantages to consider in such an expansion, even if it has to wait until a less chaotic time. According to Sam Schwartzstein, the XFL’s former director of football operations, the league was planning multichannel communications in 2021 that would have allowed position coaches to speak only to their players prior to the snap. The XFL also eliminated the cutoff point for communication to help improve the quality of play. (The NFL’s cutoff point is with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock.)

“You don’t need to make the game harder than it already is,” Schwartzstein said. “Coach-to-player communication is definitely the next step. We had just scratched the surface with it.”

Less roster churn?

For beat reporters, the first task of every NFL practice is to take attendance. Roster turnover is so high, both during training camp and the regular season, that often the first indication of a roster move is noticing a new number on the field.

In fact, according to research by Matt Willis of ESPN Stats & Information, NFL teams collectively signed or claimed on waivers an average of nearly 700 players during training camp or the preseason during the past five seasons. It slowed down during the regular season, with an average of about 800 over the 17 weeks.

In camp, coaches and general managers worry every day about ensuring the normal range of players at each position, in order to support practices that don’t overtax veterans and allow them ample time to recover from mild injuries. In the regular season, they use their practice squad for similar purposes.

It’s reasonable to wonder how much that approach will change this season, given the five-day intake process the NFL and NFLPA mandated in their coronavirus protocols. At the moment, any player a team signs or acquires must produce three negative tests in four days before he can enter the team facility on the fifth day — even if he has already done so for a previous team. That gap reduces the utility of bringing in a player for a potentially short-term stay in what Sills has called a “virtual football bubble.”

As Sills and others have said, the NFL’s protocols will continue to evolve and change. But for now, at least, NFL teams can’t be quite as agile as they usually are in (micro-) managing their rosters.

Collecting $150,000 could be tough

The NFL and NFLPA offered players a two-tiered opt-out plan. Those who fall into a predefined high-risk category would receive $350,000 if they chose not to play in 2020. Players who aren’t high risk but were uncomfortable with playing for other reasons would receive $150,000.

That $150,000 has several catches, however. For one, it is actually an advance on the player’s 2021 base salary. So if that player was due to make $1 million in 2021 base salary, he’ll actually receive $850,000 that year.

Here’s where it gets interesting: If that player is cut or otherwise doesn’t play in 2021 for non-pandemic reasons, he will in theory owe the team $150,000. But there really isn’t an effective way to collect what amounts to an unfulfilled salary advance from an inactive player, said Andrew Brandt, who negotiated contracts for the Green Bay Packers from 1999 to 2008. So unless the NFL and NFLPA adjust this rule, it seems unlikely that teams will recoup the advance if the player isn’t in the NFL next season, unless he voluntarily pays it.

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