Joe Messineo
NFP Fresh Voices

Up until last year’s Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this. Stop the run on first down, putting the Panthers in second and long. Bring everybody up on second down and stuff the run or the short pass. Then put pressure on Newton on third down, not letting him scramble out of the pocket.


The Broncos defense had another component as well. They went conservative on offense and played the field position game. Denver did not try to stay with the Panthers, score for score. They did not try to take chances on offense. They were quite to punt, put the Panthers back deep in their own territory, play great defense and dare Cam to drive the Panthers down the field. A taunt that ended up working out very well, they just could not do it.


Last year, the Panthers formula for winning was to cause turnovers and turn the ball over to Cam and the offense with a short field. Denver made sure that did not happen, even if it meant handing the ball off on third and long.


To pull this off, a team needs a stout defense and a good amount of patience. If your defense can’t stuff the Panthers run game, then third won’t work. If the Panthers can keep the defense guessing on whether they will run or pass, then they won’t be able to sell out on the pass rush or they will be susceptible to the screen pass, draw, or Cam taking off on a run.  But if there are teams who feel they can stop the Panthers run game on first down, then the Panthers will have to come up with something to combat this.


Having Kelvin Benjamin back for this season will surely be a big help. Somehow Newton managed to throw 3,837 yards and 35 TD’s without the physically gifted deep threat last year, as he was out all season with an ACL injury suffered early in the preseason; nonetheless, having him back is surely a huge benefit.  If Cam can hit him on some big passes, this might make the Denver blueprint a little bit tougher to follow. It’s tough to load the box if you can’t cover Benjamin one on one.


What Denver did show the rest of the league in last year’s Super Bowl is that Cam is not Superman. He is just like every other quarterback in the game. If you put pressure on him and keep him from getting outside the pocket, he will be pretty useless.


The defense will also have a little bit tougher time giving Cam a short field this year without one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent in the offseason. In his time with the Panthers Norman was able to shut down the opposition’s top wide receivers, leaving the safeties free to ball hunt. Now those safeties may have to help try to cover the number ones on the other side which means they can’t sit back and play center field, picking off passes and running them back into their territory.


All this adds up to the Panthers having a bit tougher time this season. Does this mean they are not a serious Super Bowl contender again? No. Does this mean they will not go 15-1 again this year. Yes, it almost certainly does.   

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Danny Shimon
NFP Fresh Voices

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC South

Houston Texans – KJ Dillion, S West Virginia 5th rd. 22nd pick (#159 overall)

Houston added speed, athleticism, and length to their defensive secondary with the selection of KJ Dillon. Although his Mountaineer teammate, and Raiders first-round pick, Karl Joseph received most of the attention at West Virginia, Dillon proved that he too was a safety to keep an eye on.
Dillon possesses good cover skills for a safety and should be able to cover tight ends downfield. He is scheme versatile and can play in either a zone or man-to-man base system.
He displays awareness and good closing speed in zone coverage, and is able to quickly close in on anything thrown in front of him.
Dillion came on strong in his final two seasons in Morgantown combining for 111 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 14 passes defensed. Improving in his anticipation and ability to make a play on the ball.
Dillon will need to get stronger in order to be better equipped to compete at the point-of-contact, when defending the run, and will also need to shore up his tackling ability if he wants to see regular snaps on defense for the Texans.
However, with his coverage skills and athleticism, Dillon is an intriguing prospect who has a chance to develop into a quality starter for Houston down the road.

Indianapolis Colts – Austin Blythe, C Iowa 7th rd. 27th pick (#248 overall)

The Colts made it clear to their players and their fans that they were not happy with the amount of punishment quarterback Andrew Luck had been receiving in the last couple of seasons. So they set out to rebuild their offensive line using the draft to help replenish the talent level, and drafted four offensive linemen which is something they had never done before in team history.
Blythe is another in the long line of well-coached, intelligent Kirk Ferentz offensive lineman. A four-year starter, and former wrestler who won three state titles Blythe was a team captain for the Hawkeyes, and has started multiple games at each interior offensive line position. Besides being smart, and versatile Blythe was also a durable performer for Iowa as he finished out his collegiate career making 45 straight starts.
Blythe has terrific feet and initial quickness at the snap of the ball. He is able to set up quickly in pass protection and will plant his hands inside the chest of the defensive lineman. What I love most about Blythe is that he plays the game hard and with some nastiness as he is always looking to finish off his blocks.
At the recent Colts rookie minicamp Blythe saw extensive action lined up at guard next to first-round pick Ryan Kelly.
Initially, look for Blythe to make the team as a backup interior lineman, but if given the opportunity to start he will make it very difficult for the coaches to put him back on the bench.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana 6th rd. 6th pick (#181 overall)

Looking to improve on their 29th ranked pass defense and increase the overall team sack numbers (36) from last season General Manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley loaded up on pass rushers and defensive playmakers in the 2016 draft.
With Tyrone Holmes they have an undersized college defensive end who they will convert to outside linebacker. Holmes, who was the FCS Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, put together a sensational final season at Montana finishing with 21.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
Holmes can supply speed off the edge with a quick-twitched first step, and long strides. He displays good lateral agility and can chase plays down the line of scrimmage. At Montana’s pro day he ran a 4.58 forty, with a 1.65 10-yard split, and demonstrated some lower body explosiveness with a 37.5 vertical jump.
At only 6’2” and 253 pounds Holmes is not stout at the point-of-contact which is why Jacksonville will convert him to outside linebacker, and has him learning the LEO position which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. The Jaguars will initially look to use Holmes as a situational pass rusher off the edge in hopes of taking advantage of his speed and quickness to help generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Tennessee Titans – Tajae Sharpe, WR Massachusetts 5th rd. 1st pick (#140 overall)

The Titans are continuing to add playmakers to their offensive unit in order to help surround Marcus Mariotta with enough weapons to be successful.
With Sharpe they added a smooth athlete who was a four-year starter at UMass. Sharpe led the nation in receptions last season, with 111, playing in Mark Whipple’s pro-style system.
Sharpe was a first team All-MAC selection in 2015 and finished his collegiate career 277 receptions, 3,386 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
Sharpe is a good route runner who can get in and out of his cuts quickly. He has soft hands and is able to hold on to the ball through contact. While not a speed demon Sharpe is quick enough to get by defenders and has decent build-up speed to get open downfield.
Sharpe, who has impressed the Titans coaching staff so far this offseason, was running with the first team offense in the recently completed Titans minicamp.
Look for Sharpe to compete with fellow receivers Justin Hunter and Tre McBride for a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

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Dr. David Chao
Latest NFL News

Lesson number one in medical school is history is the most important part of a physical examination. Before touching the patient a detailed history is required. History for a traumatic injury is a description of the mechanism. What better description is there than actual video of the injury? Every day, I have at least one patient that shows me how they were hurt by showing me team, cellphone or GoPro video.

This is the basis of my video injury analysis which was honed with 17 years of Monday morning visits to the video department to reverse engineer injuries I saw and examined from the day before.

When I ran onto the field to tend to a player, my assistant physicians were trained to watch the video board for replays to see the mechanism of injury. Late in my career, sideline injury video was introduced for concussion but found to be more helpful for other injuries as it is difficult to judge head injuries by video.

The English Premiere League has now introduced video to the field. Liverpool medical staff now have the injured player on the pitch in front of them, yet still rely on video. This further validates my use of video to assess injuries. ipaddr

Of course, I would be more accurate examining a player than just looking at video. Although I am flattered by some who say I never miss, that is hardly the case. During the 2015 season, I publicly documented 94.3% accuracy. Ten times my video assessment was not accurate, but it was correct on 165 occasions. Some injuries had inadequate visual evidence and I could not opine at all.

When Jaylon Smith injured his knee on New Year’s Day, I tweeted my immediate worry about nerve injury. Later, video Smith posted of himself walking confirmed the peroneal nerve injury despite the player’s denials. In the offseason there is limited video so I rely on other methods of deduction. A recent photo had Smith still with an ankle foot orthosis (AFO), indicating his nerve is still not functional. ClfYaxdWYAAJWRM

I am not diagnosing players on twitter. If I had any role in treatment or access to X-rays or MRIs, I would not be able to comment due to HIPAA privacy laws. I deal in insider knowledge, not insider information. I know the vast majority of medical personnel in the NFL but I never contact them for information, nor would they violate player’s privacy and tell me.

When I am treating or have treated a player, I skip commenting specifically. For example, I did not comment on Drew Brees’ shoulder issue last year. On occasions when a team physician colleague discusses an injury with me, I no longer voice a public opinion. I also examined some players in preparation for the Combine and of course I did not comment on their collegiate injuries since I had the insider information. When I do speak about a player that I have treated, I have permission from the athlete or limit my discussion to publicly available knowledge.

There is no substitute for an examination, but there is growing use of video on the field to help with diagnosis. The use of video in injury assessments is here to stay.

MMMD 1: “Wide receiver” fracture revisited

With all the prominent pass catchers who have suffered a Jones fifth metatarsal fracture, I proposed to rename the injury. Bears WR Marquess Wilson re-broke his foot and was announced to likely start on PUP.

A second surgery is needed up to 20% of the time as has happened to Dez Bryant and Julian Edelman recently. Bryant has been recently cleared as his second procedure was in January. Edelman’s timeline is tight as his second screw insertion was reported in May. Sammy Watkins had April first-time surgery and may not be ready until the first game.

Remember, this fracture happens due to a “watershed area” in the bone where there is limited blood supply. This fact also makes healing more tricky.

MMMD 2: ACL mental hurdle

Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction presents physical and mental hurdles. I wrote about this in my MMMD extra: ACL surgery series weekly during the 2014 offseason as I chronicled what the recovery for Von Miller and Rob Gronkowski might be like.

Joe Flacco’s admits his biggest remaining hurdle is mental. Until a player gets hit on the knee and momentarily thinks he re-tore the ACL, but gets up to realize his knee is ok, he will always have doubt.

Despite many early returns to sport, the mental hurdle to feel the knee is 100% as well as the biology of ACL graft incorporation makes the second year back the better year. The scary thought is that Todd Gurley should be even better this season.

MMMD 3: Doctors held to higher standard than lawyers

Johnny Manziel’s attorney mistakenly texted an AP reporter violating attorney/client privilege. If a medical professional breached doctor/patient confidentiality, there would be stiff potential penalties. Even if the medical information was leaked accidentally and inadvertently, there are HIPAA penalties up to 50k per single occurrence. Although just as damaging to Manziel, there are no such fines for a legal transgression of this type like there would be for medical leaks of information. In both cases the aggrieved party can take their own legal action, but only medical has built-in penalties.

MMMD 4: Offseason program over, injuries still coming

Players and coaches are essentially off for a month before training camp begins. The medical work continues as well as the injury announcements. This year just under half of teams lost a significant player to injury this offseason. Add Saints CB Kyle Wilson to the list who has been placed on Injured Reserve with a shoulder labral injury.

MMMD 5: Cautionary tale for stem cells

All stem cell treatment is not the same. Most stem cell treatments are illegal in the United States due to safety concerns. Unregulated stem cell treatments can have disastrous consequences including developing tumors in your body.

Only one’s own un-manipulated stem cells are legal in the US. Any other form is either not truly stem cells or is being performed illegally. There are some legitimate cutting edge clinics outside the US, but many more are dangerous shams than the real deal.

MMMD 6: Be true to yourself

One of the lucky things from my almost two decades in the NFL is to have met many great people and worked for many great coaches. What I learned is that one needs to be true to one’s self to be successful. I worked under hard line leaders and nice guy players’ coaches. Both styles work if you are real, as players will see thru any false pretenses.

Mike Riley was a genuinely nice guy and the players loved him for it. Riley recently made news when he met up with a rape victim who harbored hatred for the coach and instead became a “friend and ally” by genuinely caring.

Riley is just a really good human being. Being genuine and true to yourself is the key. Hip hip hooray! (Those who have played for Riley will know what I am referring to.)

MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard

When Calvin Johnson posted gruesome pictures of finger surgery, speculation arose of his potentially coming out of retirement. I wrote last week that having the procedure meant the absolute end of Megatron’s football career. Contrary to the thoughts, that type of finger surgery is only done when a player retires due to the long recovery. Johnson indeed has now emphatically confirmed that he is not coming back.

The previous 2016 record of 8-0 now increases to 9-0. I will continue to publicly keep track of right and wrong analysis this entire season.

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Dr. David Chao
Latest NFL News

There have been a series of female firsts in the NFL this past year. First a woman was named an official, then the first training camp coach, followed by full-time coach. Now a woman is head team physician for the first time.

Sarah Thomas was named the first female official last season and she performed well. Jen Welter was hired by the Cardinals as the first female coach when Bruce Arians appointed her to coach inside linebackers during the preseason. The Bills then made history by hiring Kathryn Smith as the first female full-time coach as Rex Ryan made her a special teams quality control coach.

Now the Redskins have hired Dr. Robin West as the NFL’s first female head team physician. She certainly deserves the position as I know her as a top quality orthopedist from her time as an assistant team physician for the Steelers.

It comes as no surprise that women can do any of these NFL jobs. Amy Trask was the CEO of the Raiders for 16 years.  The Ravens have had Dr. Leigh Ann Curl as their lead orthopedist for over a decade. I know both to be well respected across the league circles.

To me, the hiring of Dr. West is really a non-story, as women have held prominent places in medicine forever. The bigger sign of changing times in the NFL is not that a female was named to be a head team physician but that there was a news conference to make the announcement.

Back when I was named head team physician, there wasn’t even an announcement despite being the youngest ever and younger than some players. Recently, it became common for teams to issue a press release to announce physician staff changes. A press conference is unprecedented and a sign of things to come with the increasing roles of team physicians. In my 17 years in the NFL, I am glad I never had to hold a press conference.

Times are a changing in many ways for the NFL. Congrats to all the female trailblazers.

MMMD 1: #1 priority of minicamp

I wrote a month ago how the main priority was to get out of the offseason healthy. Typically, 50% of teams lose a significant player by end of minicamp.

The Chargers ended minicamp practice early and even skipped the final day after and injury scare to Danny Woodhead. An ankle injury to the third down specialist in 2014 sent the previously playoff bound Bolts into a tailspin. Fortunately, injury was avoided, but the team also ended practice early.

This follows the trend where the Jaguars changed their practice regimen this year after losing their first-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr. to an ACL tear last offseason. Expect the offseason safety trend to continue next year.

MMMD 2: New “Injury” described

After almost two decades as a NFL team physician, I thought I had seen every injury imaginable. This week, I learned about a new “injury”.

The Bills held Karlos Williams out of minicamp practice because he was overweight. The Buffalo RB self-described it as an “injury of pregnancy” where he gained sympathetic weight with his expectant fiancée.

Just when I thought I had seen it all…

MMMD 3: Every club has a team dentist

The Redskins announced Josh Doctson missed practice to get a tooth pulled.  It is common to have dental issues and players get quick access.

Players get top medical care and that includes dentistry. Every team has a team dentist that will take part in physicals with a dental check station. Also players don’t wait weeks to get in to see the dentist. The appointments are usually streamlined by a call from the team athletic trainer and often planned to not miss practice time.

MMMD 4: Maurkice Pouncey had seven surgeries

When the Steelers center was first injured, I knew he would need surgery and his season was in jeopardy. What I didn’t know is that Pouncey’s ankle would become infected and that he would require seven surgeries and a skin graft.

Infections are nasty and can happen with any surgery as in this case when the wound does not heal properly. This revelation explains why Mike Tomlin was mum about Pouncey’s potential return during last season and why the Steelers wasted their only IR/dfr designation on Pouncey,

MMMD 5: Concussion politics continue

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the significant politics of concussions. This week, competing concussion researchers were at it again.

Boston University was to present its highest public health award to the primary subject of the Concussion movie. Instead the award was rescinded and the former honoree claimed there was a “vendetta”.

I don’t know who is right or wrong (or if both are wrong) in this situation, but this is another example of unbecoming behavior for researchers and universities. Certainly it would have been interesting to see the university of one competing concussion research group honor a hated competitor. However, once the honor was set to be bestowed, I am not sure what forces come to play to make a university change its mind. I also don’t know why the researcher would claim a “vendetta” against him. Last time I checked, it was a privilege, not a right, to receive an award.

The bottom line is that in science, researchers collaborate and share information. This is true unless you are talking about concussion researchers and that needs to change. It is about finding a solution and not claiming credit or assigning blame.

MMMD 6: 10 person practice squad renewed

Practice squads are traditionally fixed at eight players. Two years ago the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a two-year experiment to expand to 10. That has expired but word comes that new rule has been extended. This certainly makes sense as the NFL no longer has a developmental league with NFL Europe’s demise.

MMMD 7: Dolphins bullying scandal fallout

Almost three years later, three of the four major figures in “bullygate” are still out of the NFL. The target, Jonathan Martin, has retired from the NFL. The two fired Miami staffers have not found jobs in the league. The main accused bully, Richie Incognito, missed 2014 but has been with the Bills since 2015.

Offensive line coach Jim Turner has not found another NFL job and is with Texas A&M. Head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neil was made a scapegoat and despite being called “the best I ever worked with” by Jimmy Johnson, could not land another job until now. Only this week, O’Neil has found a job as athletic trainer at Florida International University.

Congrats and I hope he can put the false accusations behind him as there is always more to the story.

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Danny Shimon
NFP Fresh Voices

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

NFC North

Chicago Bears – Jordan Howard, RB Indiana 5th rd. 11th pick (#150 overall)

After not resigning veteran Matt Forte the Bears were looking to add both depth and talent to the running back position. By selecting Howard in the fifth round the Bears added a bruising north south downhill runner who will be a perfect complement to last year’s fourth round selection Jeremy Langford.

Howard, who played only one season for the Hoosiers after Alabama-Birmingham shutdown their football program, rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. Late in the season on consecutive weeks Howard rushed for 174 yards versus Iowa and followed that up with 238 yards against Michigan’s eighth ranked (nationally) defense the following week. The 238 yards were the second most an opponent has ever gained against a wolverine defense.

Howard is a big back who runs behinds his pads and who can deliver jarring hits on opposing defenders. Howard has good vision and balance. Easily running through arm tackles, and requiring multiple defenders to bring him down.

Look for Chicago to throw him in the mix at running back early on in the season complimenting Langford’s quickness and shiftiness with Howard’s power and physical style giving the Bears a capable one two punch.

With head coach John Fox’s affinity for big powerful runners it would also not surprise me if Howard ended up starting for the Bears next season.

Detroit Lions – Anthony Zettel, DT Penn State 6th rd. 27th pick (#202 overall)

Armed with three sixth-round picks the Lions used the second of those picks on Michigan native (West Branch) and former Penn State Nittany Lion Anthony Zettel. An All-Big Ten performer in 2015 Zettel finished his career at Penn State among the programs top-15 for career sacks and tackles for loss. In four seasons Zettel netted 38 tackles for loss and 20 sacks.

Zettel has good instincts and can quickly locate the football. He possesses good lateral agility and will chase down the line of scrimmage hustling on every snap. He is tough and physical, playing with high energy and a non-stop motor.

If Zettel was twenty-pounds heavier with longer arms he may have been a second-round pick. He is a better athlete than given credit for, and comes with high football character.

Detroit plans on using him to backup both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions as Zettel is quick and athletic enough to pressure off the edge. While strong and tough inside to compete at defensive tackle in sub-packages.

Green Bay Packers – Trevor Davis, WR, California 5th rd. 26th pick (#163 overall)

When the Packers lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season not only did they lose a starting wide out they also lost the element of speed, that Nelson possesses, which restricted a lot of what Green Bay likes to do on offense. Which is one of the reasons why General Manager Ted Thompson invested a fifth round pick on California receiver Trevor Davis.

At 6’1” 188 pounds Davis was one of the fastest timed receivers at the combine running a 4.42 forty-yard dash to go along with a 38.5 inch vertical, and a 6.60 seconds in the three-cone drill. Davis times were tops among the entire wide receiver group invited to the combine.

Davis, who transferred to California after playing two seasons for the University of Hawaii, has terrific straight-line speed to go along with his ability to track down the deep ball and reel it in with his big hands (10 inch). He is also a weapon on special teams averaging 32.6 and 21.4 the last two seasons respectively, with two touchdowns.

Although Davis is still not a polished receiver, he has already impressed Packer coaches with his ability on special teams. Look for Davis to initially make a name for himself on kick-off returns with the Packers, before rounding into form as a receiver and supplying Green Bay with another weapon who can threaten to take the top off a defense.

Minnesota Vikings – Kentrell Brothers, OLB Missouri 5th rd. 23th pick (#160 overall)

With Anthony Barr, Eric Kendrick’s, and a resigned Chad Greenway it would appear that the Vikings are set at linebacker for 2016. However, that didn’t stop Minnesota from drafting Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round.
Brothers is a tackling machine having led the NCAA and SEC conference in tackles with 152 in 2015. The first team All-SEC linebacker finished his collegiate career with seven straight games with ten or more tackles to finish with 357 in four seasons.

Brothers has terrific instincts for the position, and is able to make up for some of his physical shortcomings by simply knowing where to go and getting a jump on his opponents in getting there. He is a very good run defender able to quickly locate the ball while also capable of taking on blockers and being able to shed them in order to make the tackle.

Brothers is also a very good special team’s player as he blocked three kicks last season for the Tigers.

Although he played outside linebacker (Will) at Missouri Brothers projects better inside at middle linebacker in the NFL. Playing on the inside would help mask some of his coverage issues as he would be asked to cover less ground playing in the middle.

With 2016 likely being Chad Greenway’s final season with the Vikings, Brothers could take over the middle linebacker spot from Kendrick’s, pushing the 2015 second-round pick outside to the weak-side position helping to replace Greenway. In the meantime, expect to see Brothers make his presence felt on special teams, as a rookie next season, for Mike Zimmer’s team.

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