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Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur unsure if Aaron Rodgers will attend minicamp; Jordan Love gets OTA reps

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers don’t know if Aaron Rodgers will show up for next week’s mandatory minicamp but considering he’s already missed enough of the offseason program to forfeit his $500,000 workout bonus, what’s another $93,000?

That’s what the Packers could fine Rodgers for missing the three-day camp, which begins Tuesday.

“I don’t know,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said when asked whether Rodgers will report. “We’ll see come Tuesday.”

LaFleur reiterated that he wants Rodgers to continue to serve as the Packers’ quarterback even though Rodgers has become disgruntled with the organization.

“I’ve got nothing to update on that situation, and you guys all know how we feel about it,” LaFleur said.

Without Rodgers at OTAs, Jordan Love served as the No. 1 quarterback again this week. During Tuesday’s session that was open to reporters, Love completed 10-of-17 passes during the lone 11-on-11 period but was sacked twice and intercepted once (on ball that went off the hands of his receiver). He often could be seen working through his progressions and at one point threw short to running backs on six plays in a seven-snap stretch.

LaFleur didn’t mind Love’s penchant for checking the ball down.

“One thing we’ve really stressed onto him was reading with your feet,” LaFleur said. “Today was the first time we’ve had a competitive period that wasn’t seven-on-seven, so I think there was definitely some learning for everybody on the offensive side. It was a little bit of a rough day for the offense, but typically this time of year I think that’s pretty normal, just in terms of the defense is typically ahead of your offense. So we’ll take a look at the tape, but I think he’s really attacking it the right way. The focus is there, the work ethic, he’s grinding away and trying to get a little bit better each and every day.”

The Packers have not made Love available for interviews yet this offseason, but he is scheduled to speak to reporters during next week’s minicamp.

It was also the first look at veteran Blake Bortles, who was signed last month. Bortles served as the No. 2 quarterback and had the longest completion of practice: a deep ball to undrafted rookie receiver Bailey Gaither, who got behind cornerback Kevin King for an outstretched catch.

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Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins spending offseason rewatching whole career

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EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins added a new element to his offseason enrichment program.

Instead of doing the usual unpacking at the end of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 7-9 finish in 2020 by watching all 16 games to evaluate his individual performance, the 32-year-old quarterback did something he had never done before.

“This year, I decided to go back and really watch my whole career, watch a couple other offenses to see what they have been doing, or what they did the year they had a lot of success,” Cousins said. “I do think that time looking at tape through the winter and spring, and even now as I go home through the summer after next week, I do think that it’s helpful now to see what has worked in the past, what I want to make as a staple for myself as I move forward, but then also, where I have improved and where I need to improve.

“That evaluation certainly comes from your coaches, day in and day out, but there’s also got to be an ability to self-evaluate and say, ‘I like what I’m doing there; keep doing that,’ or, ‘That’s not good enough — I want to improve that.'”

Cousins has appeared in 109 games since being drafted by Washington in the fourth round in 2012 and has started 104, including 47 games since signing with the Vikings in 2018. The sheer volume of game film is something he hadn’t had access to until recently, which allowed him to up the ante with his self-scouting.

“I wanted to go back and really just study, create cutups and really build up some volume that I can pull from as we go forward,” he said. “I regret I hadn’t done it earlier in my career but I did get the film set up in my house to basically have access to all of that so that all offseason, even if I’m not in the facility, I’d have access to tape. I do think it’s been a very valuable resource to have and I’m kicking myself I didn’t do it sooner in my career. It was just a piece that hopefully can help me improve this coming year.”

In spite of Minnesota’s 1-5 start, the Vikings boasted a top-10 offense throughout the second half of the 2020 season before missing the playoffs. Cousins’ bounce-back following a Week 7 bye resulted in the QB throwing for 4,265 yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 67.6% of his passes. Minnesota’s offense featured a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher (Dalvin Cook) and 1,000-yard receiver (Justin Jefferson) for just the eighth time in franchise history and second season in a row.

Asked about what he has gleaned from his expanded film-watching sessions, Cousins cited a line from ESPN’s 2011 documentary the “Brady 6,” which recapped Tom Brady‘s college career at Michigan and the careers and lives of the six quarterbacks taken before the future Hall of Famer was selected with pick No. 199 in 2000.

“[Brady] was quoted as saying, ‘I watch myself on film, and to this day, I still don’t feel like I’m that good,'” Cousins recalled. “And I really felt that sentiment. When he said it, I was in college, but I understood what he meant. And now going back and watching my career, I would echo that sentiment. I’ve watched myself in ’12 and ’13-14 and think, ‘Man, I’m such a better quarterback now. I can’t believe that the coaches didn’t just cut me when I did that and made that mistake. I can’t believe they were patient with me.’ Because nowadays looking back, it would just be unacceptable to myself, allowing myself to play that way or make that read or make that throw or that decision.”

Among Cousins’ biggest takeaways from watching the entire catalog of his NFL playing career came from rewatching his years in Washington, where he supplanted Robert Griffin III for the starting job at the end of the 2014 season through 2017.

Being able to revisit the tendencies of his playmakers in Washington and how it affected the way Cousins transitioned to playing with new receivers in Minnesota was an eye-opening moment for the quarterback.

“What just jumps out as the players you play with,” Cousins said. “You realize that the way Pierre Garcon ran a route or Desean Jackson ran a route, that affects you in the way you play and the way you think, and then you come to a new team and you’re trying to tell Adam Thielen to run a route that way, and he’s saying, ‘No, I don’t do it that way.’ So just the process of then learning those players and saying, ‘OK’ and understanding that you always have to be aware of what your teammates do well and try to put them in those positions to be successful.”

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady knew early in 2020 that he’d need knee surgery

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday said he knew as early as April 2020 that he’d need offseason surgery on his left knee.

“It was an injury I dealt with since last April-May,” said Brady, who had the procedure after leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in February. “I knew I would have to have something done at the end of the year. Happy I did it.

“It was probably something that was needed — it certainly needed to be done and there was a great outcome. I feel I’ll be able to do some different things this year that I wasn’t able to do last year.”

Brady declined to give specifics on the injury, saying he’s “a little bit old school” in that regard.

“You deal with [injuries] and make the most of them,” Brady said after his second minicamp practice. “The good part is I’ll be able to commit a lot of time to other parts. I’m sure I’ll be faced with different adversities this year, but I had to spend a lot of time tending to that particular injury, which happens when you have something that you need to ultimately have surgery on to get fixed.”

Brady, who was not on the injury report during the 2020 season, said he had the procedure 15 weeks ago Wednesday. He was cleared to resume throwing three weeks ago, with his only limitation being coach Bruce Arians holding him out of blitz periods in the event an outside linebacker turned the corner too quickly and bumped into him.

Brady has looked strong in minicamp practices. On Wednesday, during a red zone drill, he connected with tight end Cameron Brate on two leaping grabs in the end zone and on a back-shoulder fade, and then on a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who made the catch with a defender draped on him. He also pump-faked a defender to hook up with wide receiver Cyril Grayson — his third read — on a touchdown, and found running back Leonard Fournette in the end zone on a short pass.

But the highlight of Brady’s day was the two-minute drill. After converting a fourth-down pass to Chris Godwin, Brady found receiver Scotty Miller on a 40-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown that was reminiscent of last season’s NFC Championship Game.

“Yeah, that was a little déjà vu,” Arians said.

“I feel like I’m there,” Brady said. “From this point to the beginning of training camp, I feel like I can work hard on football improvement as opposed to getting back to a rehab place where you’re more baseline.”

Brady’s only struggles of the day came in red zone 7-on-7s, in which he was intercepted by safety Curtis Riley. Another pass sailed too high and bounced out of receiver Mike Evans‘ hands, while another intended for Godwin was deflected by cornerback Carlton Davis. Brady also was forced to throw the ball away.

“Just continue to see different coverages, different situations,” Arians said when asked what more he wanted to see from his 43-year-old quarterback to close out the Bucs’ three-day minicamp. “That wasn’t his best red zone period. He was pretty solid. But our defense is doing some things that I don’t think anyone else in the league is doing right now, so it’s gonna be good training for us.

“I can hardly get out of bed myself. … I ain’t that much older,” the 68-year-old Arians said jokingly. “But yeah, he’s an amazing guy, the way he takes care of himself and trains and makes sure. He has so much fun out of there. You can trick your brain into feeling good.”

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Montez Sweat ‘not a fan’ of COVID-19 vaccine despite Washington Football Team bringing in expert to address players

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ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Football Team defensive end Montez Sweat said Wednesday he wasn’t persuaded to take the COVID-19 vaccine after listening to an expert discuss the matter with him and his teammates, highlighting a battle that remains not only in the NFL but in society as well.

Washington coach Ron Rivera had an immunologist who is a leading coronavirus vaccine researcher speak to the team Tuesday. Kizzmekia Corbett answered questions and provided information about the vaccine via video conference call, hoping to lessen fears.

Rivera said his players are approaching a 50 percent vaccination rate, while his staff and the rest of the employees in the building have all been vaccinated. Rivera has also met privately with players, trying to present information or have a conversation about their concerns.

“I’m not a fan of it,” Sweat said Wednesday of the vaccine. “I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff. I’m not a fan of it at all. I haven’t caught COVID yet so I don’t see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID.”

The NFL has loosened restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, allowing them to go without masks and to not be tested daily for COVID-19.

Unvaccinated players are still subject to all this, as well as contact-tracing quarantine policies. They also will be unable to interact with other players when traveling, or with family and friends on the road. They can’t eat in the cafeteria and must adhere to capacity limits in the weight room.

“Obviously they want everybody to be vaccinated to move freely around the facility and with traveling,” Sweat said. “But everybody has their own beliefs and they’re entitled to their own decision.”

Sweat said the players have a “constant conversation” about this topic. Rivera called it a choice for players, one that he’d like them to make in favor of the vaccine — but he doesn’t want to force it upon them.

“The big thing is we’ve got to be able to facilitate the opportunity for these guys to understand,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot of messaging that’s out there, they get it off of Twitter and some of it is good, some of it is bad. I’m not sure if these guys watch the news as much as I do and try to gather enough information but we are really trying to help them because if we can get to that herd immunity we can really cut it loose and really be able to spend time with each other.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID tracker, 63.8 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a vaccination; 42.3 percent have been fully vaccinated.

“I know myself and all these other guys were exposed to what you might call fake news or just rumors on social media about the vaccines, and maybe conspiracies and stuff like that,” Washington rookie wide receiver Dax Milne said. “Some guys are obviously for it — getting the vaccine — some guys still have a little bit of hesitancy. But personally, it was good to hear the real facts, and I plan on seeing a lot more people getting the vaccine on the team.”

Milne said he had heard about deaths from vaccines and other side effects. But, he said, Corbett told them there were a lot of fake articles that peddled misinformation.

Milne said she also told them, “that when it gets down to the real facts and the actual studies that they’ve done, with real information, there’s been no deaths from it.”

“I don’t want to speak out of turn,” he said, “but it sounded a lot more safe than we all thought it was. I think we’re feeling a lot more comfortable with it now.”

Offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles said, “Learning new stuff like that — I learned plenty of stuff yesterday about the vaccine that I had never heard, so it was good to hear.”

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