Dr. David Chao
The Training Room


Emergency room personnel see it every July 4th. Hand surgeons have told me they hate being on call during Independence Day for this reason. Unfortunately, the New York Giants star defensive end fell victim to a fireworks hand injury on Saturday.

Initial information seemed ominous and included the possibility of Pierre-Paul losing his hand. Later reports indicated the prognosis was not terrible and not career threatening.

JPP apparently suffered burns on his hand/fingers and there is concern of nerve damage. Fireworks injuries typically involve the thumb, index and middle fingers.

Loss of digits does not appear to be an issue here, but the Pierre-Paul injury remains worrisome. Skin is considered the largest organ of our body. It serves a vital function to protect underlying structures from infection. I don’t know the extent of damage here but exposed nerve, tendon, or bone can put one at extreme risk. Often, skin grafting or flap type procedures are necessary, and sometimes multiple procedures are required.

Not saying it will be the case here, but recall the story of Ronnie Lott who had part of his pinkie finger amputated to avoid multiple surgeries.

The injury was severe enough for an immediate trip to the hospital but not by ambulance. If reports that Pierre-Paul was still in the hospital at 5pm on July 5th are accurate, that might be a sign of extensive skin damage requiring intravenous antibiotics and/or wound care.

At this point, loss of digits does not seem to be the case. Loss of finger function from contracture is a worry. Grip and hands are vital for a defensive end. Fortunately, power grip is usually provided primarily by the ring and pinkie fingers, which are likely sparred.

Pierre-Paul has not signed his one-year Giants tender for $14.8 million. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, this injury will have on his contract status.

It is too early to speculate whether any laws were broken or if Pierre-Paul might face league discipline. Fireworks, other than sparklers, are not legal in Florida. Self-inflicted injury doesn’t exempt one from facing penalties as fellow Giant Plaxico Burress learned. Since deleted pictures indicated JPP had boxes of fireworks in a U-Haul van.

The first worry is infection. The next biggest issue after a burn injury is contractures and loss of function from nerve/tendon damage. Although the early reports are good, JPP and Giants’ fans are not in the clear yet.

Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc

Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.

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Jeff Fedotin
Guest Stars


After a 7-9 finish last year, the Minnesota Vikings are a trendy pick to make the playoffs in 2015 — and for good reason.

Although the young talent on the defense may represent the biggest reason for the Vikings’ ascension, much of the optimism centers on returning star, RB Adrian Peterson, and the new offensive face of the franchise, QB Teddy Bridgewater.

The excitement over Bridgewater is understandable, considering the Vikings went 31-48-1 from 2010-14 when the team’s major problem was a void at quarterback.

Now they have their best young passer since Daunte Culpepper. (Brett Favre starred in his first season in Minnesota in 2009, but at 40 years old, he was not a long-term answer at the position.)

Bridgewater enters his second season after going 6-6 in his 12 starts as a rookie. Most encouraging is how his play improved as the season wore on. During four of his last five games, he posted a QB rating of 90.2 or better. He threw eight touchdowns and five interceptions during that stretch while completing at least 68 percent of his passes in each game.

He put up those promising numbers despite being without one of the best running backs in NFL history. Peterson played in just one game in 2014 after being placed on an exempt list due to child abuse charges.

Look for Peterson, who rushed for 1,266 and 2,097 yards in the two previous seasons, to play with added motivation in 2015. The last time he had a chip on his shoulder — after coming back from an ACL injury — he finished with an MVP season.

Though he’s a physical marvel, Peterson has turned 30, the age when most running backs begin showing slippage. But the Vikings finally have a player who can spell Peterson in Jerick McKinnon, who averaged 4.8 yards per carry as a rookie last season.

They are not the only offensive playmakers who will help out the 22-year-old Bridgewater. He now has a deep threat after the Vikings traded a fifth-round pick for wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Even though the speedster didn’t live up to the expectations of his lofty contract with the Miami Dolphins, he still had 862 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and a change of scenery could provide a career boost.

His receiving mate, the versatile Cordarrelle Patterson, showed great promise as a rushing/receiving/special teams threat while scoring nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, though his play regressed last season.

To resuscitate Wallace’s career and advance Patterson’s, the Vikings have the right man in offensive coordinator Norv Turner, an excellent playcaller and QB guru.

Unlike most well-regarded offensive coordinators, Turner emphasizes the running game over the passing game, though he mixes in the deep ball, a result of his Air Coryell roots.

With Turner in charge of the offense, it allows second-year head coach Mike Zimmer to devote his time to his specialty — the defense, a 4-3 unit that features press coverage in the secondary.

The D — with players like Jared Allen, the Williams Wall, Antoine Winfield and co. — used to be the hallmark of Minnesota’s success, but as that group grew old, the Vikings fell apart.

The Vikings have just one defensive starter from their last NFC Championship Game appearance — Chad Greenway, the linebacker who has started 123 games.

Minnesota has remade their defense alongside Greenway with a slew of young defensive stars, which it acquired through the draft.

One reason the Vikings felt comfortable parting with Allen before the 2014 season was the emergence of their other pass rushers. Everson Griffen and veteran Brian Robison combined for 32 sacks the last two years, though a pectoral injury could limit the latter during training camp.

Aside from Greenway and Robison, it’s a young corps.

Before a knee injury ended his 2014 season, linebacker Anthony Barr was in contention for Rookie of the Year voting. A multi-talented player, he had 55 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and a touchdown through 12 weeks last year.

Projected as a 2015 first-round pick, Eric Kendricks slipped to the Vikings in the second round (45th overall). The best middle linebacker of the draft has special instincts and intelligence while also possessing great lateral agility and a 38-inch vertical leap.

With the 11th overall pick, the Vikings selected cornerback Trae Waynes, a perfect fit for Zimmer’s man-press scheme. The 6-1, 183-pounder has the blend of size and speed to handle NFC North receivers.

His 4.23 speed at the NFL Combine was the fastest among all defensive backs, and he also had the fastest 20-yard split (2.40 seconds) among all participants.

What was once a source of weakness — the defensive backfield — may soon become a strength for the Vikings. They can pair Waynes with ballhawking safety Harrison Smith, who has three touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his three-year career, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick in 2013.

Beyond the young talent aboard, the future looks bright in Minnesota. The Vikings’ new stadium, Minnesota Stadium, will open in 2016. And in 2018, it will host the Super Bowl.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @JFedotin

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Dave Miller
College Football Report


The Opening begins its weeklong event at Nike Headquarters on Sunday in Beaverton, OR.

One hundred sixty-six of the top high school football prospects across the nation (the standout 2016 recruits and select 2017 headliners) will gather for various activities, including combine testing, 7-on-7 work, individual drills, coaching and more at the fifth edition of the nation’s top high school football event, which will take place from July 5-10.

Here are some of the things to keep an eye on throughout the week:

Elite 11

Over the past few months, some of the most coveted high school quarterbacks across the nation have competed for a chance to be one of the 18 prospects invited to the Elite 11 finals. The signal-callers will compete in arguably The Opening’s showcase competition this week to make the final Elite 11. The QBs will have to prove their mental and physical worth by learning a playbook, working hard in the classroom and competing in drills on the field. After individual drills, 7-on-7 play and much more, players will be selected for the final Elite 11 at the end of the week. This is a good chance for college football fans to get a glimpse at the prospective future star quarterbacks, including Malik Henry and Jacob Eason. While they aren’t in real game situations, these players will be competing against their peers, who are prospective college stars themselves. So consistency and poise will be crucial for these QBs.

7-on-7

The players invited to The Opening are placed on six teams before the event gets started. While this does not matter for drills such as one-on-ones and SPARQ testing, these teams will compete against each other starting July 9 for the 7-on-7 tournament. Each team has three quarterbacks, and we are guaranteed to see all three on each team play during the games on the first day. The names of the squads this year are Hypercool, Superbad, Mach Speed, Lunarbeast, Fly Rush and Alpha Pro. After pool play, as each team will play four games to determine seeding for the finals on the second day. Each winning team advances until a champ is determined.

The SPARQ National Championship

This showcases the event’s top athletes against each other in the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, shuttle run and a kneeling power ball toss. Each player’s scores are cumulated, and whoever finishes with the highest score is determined to be the champion. This was the event in which Texas A&M receiver Speedy Noil had his 45.3-inch vertical leap. Last year, running back Kirk Merritt (who signed with Oregon) posted a final score of 148.83 for the win.

Don’t overlook the linemen

While we always tend to set our sights on the skill-position players at these kinds of events, the offensive and defensive linemen will have a chance to shine a bit as well. The linemen will compete in a relay race and a tug of war, and we will also see the two sides throw on their shoulder pads and helmets and battle in one-on-one drills. The offensive linemen will be trying to prevent the opposing defensive linemen from reaching a dummy QB. Can the O-Line beat the D-Line in the tug of war after being defeated last year?

CLICK HERE for the official team rosters for The Opening Finals 2015

Notes:

— LSU will have seven commitments competing in this event, which is the most of any other program.

— An event like this offers another chance for commits to do a little pitching and recruiting of their own in an effort to sway other recruits to consider the schools they are respectively committed to attending.

— Four four-star players are expected to make their college decisions during the event. Cornerback Jared Mayden, safety C.J. Pollard and linebackers Camilo Eifler and LaMar Winston are all expected to pick a school.

Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


This was a tough topic to write about. In the last few years, so many excellent receivers have come into the NFL and been productive. Is it fair to rank them among the best in the game when they have only produced for a couple of years, if that? Take Odell Beckham Jr. for example. As a rookie in 2014, he had 91 receptions for 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he still hasn’t developed the route running skills that would make him among the top five or six receivers.

Like any list, the rankings are subjective, and there will many who disagree, but then, what else is there to do while we wait for training camps to open in the next three to four weeks?

Calvin Johnson – Detroit

I don’t think there is a receiver in the game who worries defensive coordinators more than “Megatron”. While injuries have taken their toll and he may not be quite what he used to be, he is still extremely dangerous and can control a game.

He has a combination of size, speed, and power that is second to none. He also possesses great hands and outstanding ability to adjust to the ball and make the circus catch. After the catch, he is like a powerful running back in that he is strong and instinctive and can make defenders miss in space. If you had to pick a receiver to add to your team, I feel the odds-on favorite would be Johnson.

Dez Bryant – Dallas

Bryant has a combination of size, speed and power that is rare. While listed as being 6’2 – 220, he plays bigger because of his length and strength. Guys like Johnson and Bryant are so good, they are open even when they are covered closely.

Bryant has been very consistent the last three seasons, averaging better than 90 receptions and 1300 yards in each of those years. To go along with that production, he has also scored 41 times.

What I like about Bryant on the field is his competitive nature. He wants the ball, he wants to make big plays, and when he gets the opportunity, he produces. Like Johnson, he uses his size to his advantage, and he’s very difficult to cover one-on-one.

A.J. Green – Cincinnati

As productive as Green has been in his four years in the league, if it weren’t for injuries, he would have even better numbers. In his four seasons, he has had 329 receptions for 4874 yards and 35 touchdowns. He has also missed an average of one game per year.

Green is tall, long, fast, and very graceful. He is very smooth and makes things look easy. He is a superb route runner with exceptional hands and ability to adjust to the ball. After the catch, he is a good, but not a great runner, but he absolutely gets more than is just there.

With his size, hands, and route running ability, he has to be accounted for by defenses and is difficult to cover one-on-one. Being that he will only be 27 years old when the season starts, he will still get better with added experience. That’s scary!

Julio Jones – Atlanta

Back in January of 2011 while I was flying home from the Senior Bowl, I wrote an article comparing Julio Jones to A.J. Green. At that time, I figured they both would be top 10 receivers in the 2011 draft (they were) and both would be excellent NFL receivers. I also said that if I had to pick between the two, I would take Jones first, because he was a more physical type player. That is just my preference when scouting receivers.

Four years later, the two are still neck and neck in my rankings, and both are just scratching the surface as to how good they will become.

Because of injury, Jones hasn’t put up the numbers that the others have had, but he still has damn good production. Despite missing 11 games in 2013 and three games as a rookie in 2011, Jones has 278 receptions for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Like Green, Jones has only scratched the surface of how good he will eventually become. Having a quarterback like Matt Ryan doesn’t hurt things either. Early in his career, Jones had to play second fiddle to Roddy White, but that is no longer the case. While White is still in Atlanta, Jones is clearly the number one target.

Demaryius Thomas – Denver

For this final spot on my top five, I got down to Thomas and Green Bay receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson keeps getting better and is Aaron Rodgers’s go-to guy, but I just don’t think he has the natural talent of Thomas.

When Thomas came out of Georgia Tech, he was very raw. He did not play in a passing offense, and his route running was average. He had rare traits that needed to be developed. It’s a credit to Thomas that he has the football character that he does and worked hard to become a top receiver in the league. Over the last three seasons, he has become special.

In the last three seasons, Thomas has 297 receptions for 4483 yards and 35 touchdowns. He is a dangerous deep threat, and like the others, he knows how to use his size, strength, and power to his advantage.

At 27 years of age, Thomas still will get much better, and in another year or two, he may top this list. He may have more raw talent than any other receiver on this list other than Megatron.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Austin Morris
NFP Fresh Voices


Last year, the Wolfpack had an excellent start, going 4-0 to open their season. Then, the reality of conference play set in, and they went on a four game losing skid, all to ACC opponents. They did finish the season strong, winning four out of their last five games. The proudest moment of the season was their victory against UNC at Chapel Hill. Ask any NC State fan, and they will tell you it doesn’t matter how poorly they play the whole season, as long as they beat UNC, they are happy. Last year was a great year for NC State; let’s see how 2015 is shaping up for them.

2015 Schedule:

  1. Sept. 5th—Troy
  2. Sept.12th—Eastern Kentucky
  3. Sept. 19th—at Old Dominion
  4. Sept. 26th—at South Alabama
  5. Oct. 3rd—Louisville
  6. Oct. 9th—at Virginia Tech (Friday)
  7. BYE
  8. Oct. 24th—at Wake Forest
  9. Oct. 31st—Clemson
  10. Nov. 7th—at Boston College
  11. Nov. 14th—at Florida State
  12. Nov. 21st—Syracuse
  13. Nov. 28th—North Carolina

Offense:

The offense for the Wolfpack is led by QB Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was a transfer player from Florida. In his junior year, Brissett did excellent work throwing for over 2,500 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. The only bad part for Brissett is that his two top receivers transferred at the end of the season. The departure of two great pass catchers leaves the Wolfpack receiving corps looking rather thin heading into 2015. The rushing game for NC State was rather impressive last season with the Pack averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game. The running back that was responsible for the majority of those yards was Shadrach Thornton. Thornton rushed for almost a thousand yards last season and rushed for 9 TDs. Having such a great ground game kept their turnovers down to only 15 the whole season. Thornton is heading into his senior season this year and is looking to increase his draft stock. This season, the O-line is bringing back three starters who will hope to open plenty of holes. The line will also hope to protect their QB a lot better, seeing as they allowed over thirty sacks.

Defense:

The rushing defense for the Wolfpack last season was average at best, allowing around 168 rush yards per game. The last five games of the season, the run protection became stouter by not allowing more than 85 yards in four out of five games. Sadly, for NC State, they lost three starters on their defensive line. This will be hard to replace, but there is some young talent to fill their shoes. The anchor of the line will likely be DT B.J. Hill, who had 40 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss last season. The pass defense for the Pack did an excellent job last season of preventing a lot of air travel. They allowed, on average, 204.7 pass yards per game, which ranked 30th in the nation. The secondary still has all of its members on the team and are looking to fly under a lot of their opponents radars and surprise them.

2015 Outlook:

Strength of Schedule: 5 out of 10

The schedule for the Wolfpack is extremely soft through the first four non-conference games (Troy, East Kentucky, Old Dominion, and South Alabama). However, it soon gets harder for them as they have to face Virginia Tech, Florida State, and an up and coming Boston College team, all on the road. The schedule does swing in their favor some as they do have Clemson and Louisville at home. The biggest highlight of the season for NC State will be their home finale, when their rivals, the UNC Tar Heels, come to Raleigh. I feel the offense for NC State is pretty set up, besides the receiving situation. The defense is full of guys who are young and underrated who hope to step up and make a difference this year. I expect the Wolfpack to be able to make it to their fifth bowl game in the past six years.

2016 NFL Draft Prospects:

#12 Jacoby Brissett, QB, Senior—6’4”, 231 lbs

#10 Shadrach Thornton, RB, Senior—6’1”, 206 lbs

#20 Hakim Jones, FS, Senior—6’2”, 205 lbs

Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’sIntroduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached atamorris3585@scc.stanly.edu

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