Danny Shimon
NFP Fresh Voices


With the recent news that the Washington Redskins named Kirk Cousins the starting quarterback for the 2015 season, the RGIII era in the nation’s capital may have finally been put to rest. Although head coach Jay Gruden refused to acknowledge it publicly, insisting that Griffin still had a future with the team, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. For Gruden to go back to Griffin now (assuming there are no injuries) could be viewed as a second-year coach yielding to the owners demands. This could lead players to question Gruden’s authority, and eventually cause him to lose the locker room.

The fall from grace for Griffin, who was the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has been well documented. After a terrific rookie season, in which he helped lead the Redskins to a 9-7 record, the NFC East Division crown, and the playoffs; injuries and ineffective play have been a significant part of his downfall in Washington.

Instead of looking back, we want to look ahead as to what might become of Griffin’s career and where might he have a chance to revive it. There are a number of opinions out there about where Griffin needs to go and who might be able to reach him and bring out his best. Suggestions that he needs to be with a quarterback friendly coach like Andy Reid in Kansas City, Chip Kelly with the Eagles, or Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are some of the popular options. On the other hand, some are openly questioning whether or not Griffin can ever become the player many projected when he was drafted second overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

My belief is that if placed on the right team RGIII can still have a productive career albeit maybe not an All-Pro one, but one where he can contribute to the success of a franchise. The situation in Washington has become too toxic for him to even attempt to rectify, instead Griffin and his representatives need to get him out of there as soon as possible. Griffin has done himself no favors by alienating many of his teammates in the locker room. It would appear Griffin will need to do some soul searching and determine what went wrong in Washington, and see how he can learn from the mistakes he made there. On the field, Griffin needs to go to a franchise where there is a dire need for a quarterback, one that already has someone who is the “face of the franchise”, and where he can blend in and not be the center of attention. My ideal situation for Griffin would be the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills have been trying to clean up their own mess at quarterback since Jim Kelly retired. The list of various quarterbacks who have taken snaps from center for the Bills includes the likes of Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Kyle Orton, and E.J. Manuel. On Monday head Coach Rex Ryan added another name to that prestigious list by naming Tyrod Taylor the starter for this season. The Bills may not be top of mind when it comes to possible future homes for Griffin, but in my opinion they might just be the perfect match.

In Head Coach Rex Ryan, RGIII would be playing for a defensive-minded coach for the first time in his career. What Ryan would lack in offensive prowess he more than makes up in charisma, personality, and charm. How this helps Griffin is that Ryan has already taken Buffalo by storm, and has essentially turned the Bills into “His” team. Griffin would not have to deal with the media glare and pressure of being the franchise savior, he would not have to be wary of saying something to the media that could be construed as being controversial or self-promoting. Instead Ryan’s presence and penchant to make bold and sometimes brash statements would help Griffin blend into the background and be – something he has never been before – just another player on the team.

In Buffalo Griffin would be surrounded with playmakers at the skill positons such as Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, Charles Clay, and a strong running game led by LeSean McCoy. In Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, Griffin would have a coach who is familiar with coordinating an offense structured around a mobile quarterback. Before joining Ryan in Buffalo, Roman helped develop Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. With that past experience in mind, Roman might be best suited to help Griffin get back to the form he showed his rookie year. With designed rollouts, quick slip screens, and a return to some read option plays, Roman would help limit the need for him to make reads while sitting in the pocket. Some of Griffin’s struggles as a pro, have been reading coverages and decision making while in the pocket. After his injuries the brain trust in Washington wanted to turn him into more of a pocket passer and limit him from having to run out and take unnecessary hits. Instead this hampered him as they went away from Griffin’s strengths, ones he displayed while playing for Art Briles at Baylor, which were utilizing his athleticism and the ability to make plays with his feet. Griffin has a very strong arm and has shown ability to throw on the run and deep with accuracy. With the Bills, Roman would once again have RGIII go back to playing more to his strengths as opposed to his weaknesses.

With the defensive unit the Bills are expected to have, the pressure for him to carry the load would no longer be there. Coupled with the strong running game the Bills should have, it would be asking RGIII to do less with more.

A divorce in Washington between Griffin and the Redskins is a necessity, no longer can the team and the player coexist. A glaring need at the quarterback position for a franchise looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 might just be the way to make everyone happy.

Although not the sexy or obvious choice, the Buffalo Bills might be THE best choice for Robert Griffin III to help resuscitate a once promising career.

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

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


In the spring of 2012, there were some media analysts and even some NFL personnel who were predicting that RGIII was a better prospect than Andrew Luck. The fact is RGIII was never a better prospect than Luck. Andrew Luck is a once-in-every-10-year type quarterback, in other words a generational player. Since he has come into the NFL he has proven that over and over.

Robert Griffin III, on the other hand, was an extremely gifted athlete who was still trying to learn how to play quarterback. Part of the problem was that the system he played in college was not conducive to developing NFL quarterbacks.

Art Briles is a great college coach, but his offensive system that was used when RGIII was at Baylor was based on speed an athleticism. The strategy was to spread the field out and let the best athlete on the field make plays. The scheme was actually fairly simple, it allowed Baylor to recruit top athletes and let them use their athleticism to outplay their opponents.

Because of the athleticism that Griffin III and the other skill position players had, they were able to put a lot of points on the board and basically just outscore their opponent each week. RGIII had little knowledge of reading defenses and playing within the confines of a structured and complex NFL offense.

RGIII had the basic skill set to become a very good NFL quarterback, but he needed time to develop. As a rookie, the Washington coaching staff kept things simple for Griffin and let him play within himself. The result was a rookie year that was sensational. He completed better than 65% of his throws for over 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. He looked like he would have a great future, but that hasn’t happened. He has regressed every year since. It is entirely possible that in the near future Griffin III may be a former Washington Redskin.

How can this happen? How can a player with that much talent not continue to improve and grow? Some may say it’s coaching, but that isn’t the answer. The answer is simple: RGIII lacks any kind of football character.

For most to succeed in the NFL they must have excellent football character. Don’t be confused, football character is not personal character, they really don’t have much to do with each other.

Football character is about the desire each player has to become great. It includes his work ethic, leadership, passion for the game and ability to be coached. Most players fail or bust because they lack a degree of football character. RGIII has great talent, but he lacks football character.

Going back to a comparison with Andrew Luck, Luck has superb football character. He loves the game and does everything he can to become the best player he can be. He has endeared himself to his teammates and is a strong leader. He is well liked and respected by both his teammates and coaches. That isn’t the case with RGIII. He is not the most liked person in the locker room and by all accounts he has very questionable work habits. He can’t improve if he doesn’t work at it.

When RGIII was growing up and in college everything came easy to him.  He was a very smart kid and the best athlete on campus.  When a player gets to the NFL, every player on every team is a great athlete, the best of the best. If a player wants to improve he has to work at it. Once RGIII got to the NFL he had never been in that kind of environment before. Things no longer came easy. He had to work and he didn’t know how.

Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady didn’t become as good as they are because they lacked worked ethic. They are who they are because they put countless time and energy into becoming great. That is something RGIII doesn’t know how to do.

Can a change of scenery help Griffin III to develop? Maybe, but in reality the only person who can help Robert Griffin III become the player he has the talent to be is himself. He has to change his whole attitude about the game. That can be/is very difficult to do. I don’t know of many players who have been able to do that.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Dr. David Chao
The Training Room


Season-ending injuries have spurred more discussion of limiting preseason games. Are there really more preseason injuries? It certainly feels that way, but that may be the illusion created by increased media coverage of injuries. Nowadays, an ACL tear to the 3rd stringer that won’t make the team still makes news.

The NFL and the NFLPA rarely agree, but they both say there is nothing new or unusual and state injuries are not up overall. The aggregate numbers may not be statistically increased but I do believe there is a worrisome trend. Last week I indicated the highest number of preseason ACL tears in the last decade was 27 in 2013. We are now at 25 with a week of preseason to go.

A detailed look may explain our feeling of more injuries as more starters are injured in the era of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). By my count, the ten years prior (2001-2010) there was an average of 6.2 starters league-wide on injured reserve (Football Outsiders) at the start of the season. Since the new CBA (2011-2014), there were 10 starters per year who began Week 1 on IR. Of course, IR numbers are not in for this year, but with Raiders starting right tackle Menelik Watson’s Achilles rupture last night, it looks to surely exceed the average of 10. This represents a greater than 50% increase in starters being injured in the era of the current CBA.

I always have said that one season-ending injury to a key star and the feel is that of a “bad” injury year. Meanwhile, multiple injuries to those outside the projected 53 and the feel is that of a “healthy” preseason. By counting injured starters, I think we can account for our collective feeling of more injuries.

How do we prevent more starters being injured? Eliminating preseason games would be a knee-jerk reaction. First, most starters play sparingly in the preseason and that trend has not changed. Second, the vast majority of season ending injuries like ACLs, occur in practice. Jordy Nelson was a high profile exception, but Kelvin Benjamin, Orlando Scandrick, Dante Fowler, Jr,, and others all tore their ACL during practice.

The current CBA mandates less practice time, eliminates two-a-days and reduces the amount of player contact. Why would preseason/practice ACL injuries increase (or even stay the same) when they should go down due to the new protections started in 2011? The leading two season-ending injuries are ACL and Achilles tears and both predominately occur without contact. Limiting contact/padded practices doesn’t change the rate of these tears.

The current practice rules may also have unintended consequences. Some say there is too much rest and players are not in shape. I don’t buy that as we don’t see an early season injury spike and a later season drop in ACL tears as players “get into shape”. My theory is that limited practice time and contact has created the new mantra of tempo. There is a league-wide focus on practice speed/intensity, using multiple fields and maximizing plays with game urgency. Walk thru practice is now a run thru event. Another unintended consequence of limiting practice time is the starters will get their reps, but the third stringers get cheated with limited time. Ask veterans if camp is any easier for them now. My informal survey says “no”. These factors may contribute to the 61% increase in starters on IR for Week 1.

The NFL and NFLPA may be right that total preseason injuries are not up; however, the data seems to show there are more starters injured. Next week, I plan to discuss “sports science” and how analytics can or can’t help prevent injuries.

MMMD 1: Unusual happenings in Washington

In almost two decades working in the NFL, I don’t recall not being on the same page with the head coach. I am not aware of conflicting information between a doctor and coach with other teams either, at least not publically. In Washington, we have our third public misunderstanding in the last three seasons involving the same player.

I am not inside Washington’s team walls and I make no judgments as to fault. I have not spoken to anyone involved, nor am I an investigative reporter. I am not making any criticism of their medical care. As a former NFL team physician, I simply make the observation that this mixed messaging is not something typically seen.

Late in the 2012 season, a team doctor publically disputed head coach’s assertion that Robert Griffin III was cleared to go back in after a knee injury. At the beginning of 2013 season, the same head coach referenced a doctor’s concerns on RG3’s knee but the doctor publically denied that he had any. Now, we have a different head coach and a different doctor at odds on whether RG3 was cleared to play from concussion. This time Washington put out a public statement from the independent neurological doctor that contradicted the coach saying RG3 was cleared.

Perhaps this repeated doctor/coach misunderstanding is indicative of a larger team dysfunction as I wrote about previously. A report now surfaced about the Redskins brass being at odds over the RG3 era ending.

MMMD 2: All 1,184 players released this week need to be healthy

480 players will be cut by Tuesday and an additional 704 players by Saturday. All players need to be healthy to be released. A team can’t cut an injured player. If unable to play football, injured reserve classification is used or injury settlements much be reached. If a team cuts an injured player, he is entitled to file an injury grievance. Five players who are released can be signed back to the practice squad.

This is why I always said my goal as head team physician was to get everyone healthy, from the star player to the 90th player on the roster. I used to tell management I didn’t want to know if a player was about to be cut, my job was to get players healthy either way.

MMMD 3: Three things that don’t surprise me.

Having the fortune of being a medical insider, these three things may come as a surprise to some but not to me.

Manning’s triceps

Peyton Manning’s fingertips being numb is not surprising to me. Feeling is affected before muscles get weak. His triceps atrophy/weakness has been well documented. With his triceps affected, I would expect good feeling in the thumb and index finger but loss of feeling in the long and possibly ring/pinkie fingers.

Todd Gurley was only recently cleared to practice fully, but still is not likely a Week 1 starter. I don’t doubt his health or ability, but it is enough to ask any player to return the following season to his same level after ACL surgery. However, Gurley is being asked to do two things: return from surgery and play at a higher NFL level.

Geno Smith throwing at practice nine days from surgery is not surprising. As soon it was discovered that his jaw was not wired shut, I felt he would beat the initial 6-10 week recovery timeline. His practicing in a red jersey is a good medical sign. Of course, there may be other reasons he doesn’t play Week 1.

MMMD 4: Russell Wilson’s nanobubbles debunked

The Seahawks quarterback is an investor in special water and claimed the nanobubbles helped prevent a recent concussion. There is no scientific evidence to support that claim.

There is more we don’t know about concussion than what we do know. We do not know of any true preventative measures that work, other than avoid the blows to the head.

MMMD 5: Why narcotic pain meds are needed

For decades, sports team physicians from the Olympics to the NFL have routinely travelled with a limited quantity of pain medication. After all, if you could get your doctor to make a house call, do you want him/her to show up with medication or empty-handed. The Drug Enforcement Agency has made it clear over the last several years that travelling with even a single pill not already prescribed may be medically indicated but is not proper per federal laws.

Pain medicine is needed in the NFL for humanitarian reasons, not just playing to pain. Patriots’ fullback James Develin broke his tibia in Charlotte and stayed behind for immediate surgery. If he had access to pain medicine, would he have been able to fly home with the team in a splint instead of being left behind and hospitalized? He certainly deserved immediate pain medication at the stadium, which his team doctors are no longer able to have on hand.

This season, the league is instituting a visiting team medical liason (VTML). In the past the host team physician would assist the visitors. The VTML may be able to assist in obtaining medications, but my guess is the home team orthopedic surgeon still helped the visiting Patriots out with the tibial rodding surgery. Team doctors do not have privileges to perform surgery or admit players to the hospital outside their home state.

Taste at the Cove

MMMD 6: Taste at the Cove thank you

One of my passions is helping kids without access to medical care, obtain the care they need. 14 years ago we started the San Diego Sports Medicine Foundation and it has provided over $1.5 million in free surgeries and medical care. Our annual fundraiser was held this past Thursday. Thanks to all who attended or bid online.

Special thanks to honoree LaDainian Tomlinson and emcee Nick Hardwick as well as the countless teammates who came out to support. Extra thanks to Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and James Lofton for coming.

Some former teammates at Taste of the Cove

MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard

Last week, I had my first miss for 2015 resulting in a 17-1 overall record. This week I tried to make amends to Packers fans as their other star wide receiver, Randall Cobb, was injured. The video indicated AC joint separation (shoulder sprain), which was later confirmed.

I believe Cobb is likely to return to play for Week 1. This injury does not truly healing, but is a matter of controlling swelling and pain. Any elevation of the end of the clavicle stays up and never comes back down, but functionally is not an issue.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick was injured in practice but we were lucky enough to still have injury video courtesy of local news. Unfortunately, he did suffer an ACL and MCL tear from accidental contact from a teammate.

Patriots FB James Develin had a rotational injury similar to UFC’s Anderson Sliva and predictably suffered a tibia fracture that required surgery. An initial report indicated a “clean break” and hope of a 6-8 week return but I think it is much more likely a season-ending injury.

When Giants safety Nat Berhe injured his calf a month ago, I tweeted the opener was in doubt as calf injuries tend to linger. Now the entire season is in doubt after calf surgery to remove a blood clot.

I will count the above four as correct but I will hold off on counting the predictions of Arian Foster, Zach Ertz and Chris Hogan. Foster and Ertz had similar surgeries and Foster is following my prediction of quicker than indicated return and is doing modified running. Ertz original target of Week 1 was optimistic and it now looks like he will miss the opener. Chris Hogan’s injury is pegged at 2-4 weeks and consistent with PCL but I have yet to hear the specific diagnosis, so that can’t be counted.

I never saw any video on Leonard Williams and Bryan Bulaga video was very limited so I took a pass on these two.

That leaves the record at 21-1 so far for 2015.

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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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


As most of you who have read my work here know, I was critical of the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Blake Bortles with the third overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. It’s not that I felt Bortles wasn’t worthy of being a first round pick, I felt that neither he nor any other quarterback in the 2014 class was worthy of being drafted in the top 10. The better strategy would have been trading down and then selecting Bortles.

Based on how Bortles played as a rookie last year I felt justified. His stats were average and his play regressed as the season wore on. For the season, Bortles completed 280 of 475 passes for 2,908 yards, 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. In the stat that counts the most, the Jags won only three games. Bortles did not look like a quick-reacting, instinctive quarterback.

During the offseason, the Jags did everything they could to revamp the offense. Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch was replaced by Greg Olson, who I feel is one of the most underappreciated offensive minds in the NFL. Olson did a remarkable job last year working with rookie Derek Carr in Oakland. Kelly Skipper was also hired as the new running backs coach, Doug Marrone as the offensive line coach, and Nathaniel Hackett as the quarterbacks coach.

General Manager David Caldwell also brought in some new veteran players to help out Bortles. The biggest new name was tight end Julius Thomas from Denver whose presence will help young wide receivers Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.

I have been able to watch the Jaguars twice so far this preseason and the improvement in Bortles play is remarkable. Friday night, in his most extensive action in the preseason, Bortles completed 20 of 29 throws for 245 yards, and a touchdown. For the preseason he is 39 of 60 for 461 yards and a touchdown.

Bortles is playing with more confidence, reacting quicker, making better decisions and getting the ball out of his hand quickly. He is doing a very good job going through his progressions and finding the open man. Most importantly, is he is not forcing throws into coverage and throwing interceptions. He does not have a turnover so far in the preseason.

Not only has Bortles completed a high percentage of his throws (65%), but his ball placement has been very good. Ball placement is what it’s all about. If a quarterback has good ball placement skills, the receivers have a chance to make plays after the catch and it greatly reduces the amount of turnovers a team has.

While I attribute much of Bortles improvement to Olson, a lot of credit has to go to Bortles also. He has done the work necessary to improve his game and that work should pay off in the success of the Jags.

While it may be too early to say that Jacksonville will challenge for a playoff spot, I will say that the Jaguars will find their way out of the AFC South cellar and could finish as high as second in the division. Bortles just may be a little better than I gave him credit for when he was coming out. If that turns out to be the case, give the credit to Greg Olson.

 

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Erik Oehler
Guest Stars


Hi, Rex. It’s me, Erik. Great win Saturday!

I mean it, you guys looked great!

Yeah, I know! EJ looked good! I saw both of his touchdowns.

Yeah…that’s kinda what I’m calling about. Listen, I know you’re getting it from all sides right now. You’ve got guys in your ear, in the locker room, maybe even in the front office, and they’re telling you things. Things that don’t sound so bad right now. Things that, after yesterday, you might be thinking about.

Well, things like the Earth is flat, dinosaurs didn’t exist, EJ is the guy…but yeah, mainly EJ is the guy.

No, I know. I know. I’m not saying he didn’t play really well Saturday. He did! Absolutely! But Rex, I’ve been here a while. I’ve watched a LOT of bad quarterbacks. And I’ve watched a lot of new coaches try to work with those bad quarterbacks. It’s not pretty, Rex. But, I’ve got good news for you. You don’t have to do that! You went out there. You got not one, but TWO solid guys in Matt Cassell and FROM VIRIGINIA TECH, WEARING NUMBER 5, YOUR STARTING QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE, TYROOOOOOOOOOOOOD TAYYYYYYYLOR-AYLOR-LOR!!!!!!

No, I don’t really have a favorite.

I mean, yeah, if you’re asking me, Tyrod played pretty well…Great, even! And then there’s Matt right behind him. And then EJ.

Yeah, so actually it’s just like Tyrod and then Matt…yeah.

So basically, Tyrod.

Tyrod.

Tyrod.

NOOOOOO! REX! No, Rex don’t do this! Don’t do this Rex. Rex, I want to tell you a story. A story about wasted years and lessons learned. It’s a story about a guy named “Dick”. Dick got a head coaching gig, right around here actually, and inherited the previous guy’s quarterback: a first round pick. We’ll call him “JP”. Dick liked what he saw of JP in camp and in the preseason, and couldn’t believe what they were hearing about him from the year before.

Oh, just things like, “He’s a bust”, and “We should draft another quarterback”, and “We benched him for Kelly Holcomb”.

Yeah, THAT Kelly Holcomb.

Well, if you really want to know, they were 7-9, Rex.

SEVEN and NINE. Oh, no, he wasn’t benched after that year. Oh no! You see, he had played JUST well enough to start again the NEXT year, even over the guy they drafted. He got injured shortly into the season, and they switched to another in a long line of sub-par QB’s…

But that’s nothing like this situation, no, not at all…except…

Well, except, you didn’t draft EJ, right?

Yeah, you didn’t draft him, and, oh wait, this is weird…but, he did get benched last year, pretty quickly for Kyle Orton, right? Kinda like JP did, right?

And they were both first round picks weren’t they?

At least their names aren’t similar or anything. JP. EJ. Losman. Manual. Man. J. J. Man.

Yeah, not similar at all…

Oh, Dick’s second year? 7-9.

Third was 7-9, too.

Fourth was 3-6 and they fired him.

Yeah, I’m not sure how he lasted that long either. But you know, new owners now. Team with playoff potential. Shorter leash, if you know what I mean.

What do you mean what do I mean? I just mean that maybe you should go with your gut back before this game. Let’s pretend this game didn’t happen. Wipe it out. I mean, it wasn’t exactly Revis and Cromartie out there. So, go back. And what was your gut saying?

Yeah? Mine too. Mine too, Rex.

Why should we forget how that felt just because we feel another way now? And why should we start JP, I MEAN EJ, when we’ve got someone you “hand-picked“, that you knew back when you were with the Jets was something special.

Do the right thing, Rex. We’re ready for something exciting in Buffalo. Someone who takes off forward when the pocket collapses, not someone who runs for their life. We want someone with a non-acronym first name, even if it makes people who don’t follow football think you’re talking about a car repair at first. We want someone with a visor, dammit.

That’s right Rex. It’s Tyrod time.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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