Chargers, Phillips River farewell to San Diego

SAN DIEGO — Wiping sweat off his forehead with a towel, Philip Rivers fittingly was one of the last players to wander off the practice field at Chargers Park.

After practice, Rivers competed in a throwing competition with the rest of quarterbacks. And of course, the 13-year veteran who spent his entire career in San Diego won the final competition on the field in his last time practicing at the facility.

Fans wait for players as a moving truck leaves the Chargers' facility Thursday. The minicamp was the last Chargers' event to be held in San Diego before the team moves to Los Angeles.
Six months after the team’s announcement of plans to relocate to Los Angeles, the Chargers held their final practice at the facility on Murphy Canyon Road, officially signaling the transition to a new facility two hours north in Costa Mesa, California.

“I had sweaty hands and I was nervous before practice, and I was like, ‘What is wrong with me?’” Rivers said. “Going into the last minicamp in Year 14 and here I am nervous before going out there is a little ridiculous. But it was because of the fact that I’m not walking out that door with a helmet in my hand again.”

All but one of Rivers’ eight children was born in San Diego. Rivers reminisced about his young kids riding their bikes around the track at the facility on off days, drawing pictures on the whiteboard in the quarterback room and playing catch with them out on the field after training camp practices.

“It’s just not my memories professionally and as a teammate in this organization, but my children have memories of us coming up here,” he said. “It’s definitely a special place. It’s been special, but all things, shoot, come to an end at some point.”

Along with Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates is the most-tenured player on the team, entering his 15th season with the Chargers. The future Hall of Fame tight end said he embraced his time spent on the practice field over the years and the memories created with teammates like LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees, but looks forward to the challenges ahead in Los Angeles.

“It’s a bittersweet moment because obviously the memories are still here, and they will forever be here for myself and guys that have been around,” Gates said. “It’s just one of those things where we need to take time out to say thank you to San Diego, and the fans that have been here to support us.

“But at the same time I’m excited to move to L.A. I’m excited about the new change. And hopefully they’ll welcome us with open arms and embrace us. And we can win some games, and win a championship.”

Former players who stopped by for the occasion included Hall of Famer receiver James Lofton, former longtime center Nick Hardwick and former defensive lineman Jacques Cesaire.

Special teams standout Darrell Stuckey said the team’s legacy will remain in San Diego, and the Chargers are just creating a new one north in Los Angeles.

“At the end of the day, yes, our branches are expanding a little bit — 88 miles if you want to be exact,” Stuckey said. “But our roots will still run deep here. We’re not abandoning anything historically that happened here. We’re just carrying that strength with us, because no tree is stronger than its roots.”

Browns top pick Myles Garrett injures foot during practice

BEREA, Ohio — Defensive end Myles Garrett, the draft’s first overall pick, went to the ground in pain after a pass rush during team drills in the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp practice on Wednesday.

Coach Hue Jackson spoke to the media immediately after practice and could not assess if the injury was serious.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett went to the ground in pain after a pass rush during team drills.
“That’s part of the game,” Jackson said. “Obviously I don’t want to get any of our players nicked, hurt, any of that. But hopefully things will be fine. We don’t want to lose any player, especially not one of our really good players.

“But hopefully things will be OK, and I think they will be. I don’t know that for sure but we’ll find out as I go inside.”

Garrett was working with the backup defense during a two-minute drill. He got off the line quickly and beat the right tackle as he rushed quarterback Brock Osweiler. The play was whistled for a sack, but Garrett landed on his left foot after he had extended toward Osweiler.

He immediately went to the ground, kneeling with his head on the ground. Trainers checked him and he limped to the sidelines, where he again had his left foot checked without his shoe.

He did not leave the sidelines, something Jackson said he took as a “good sign.” When the siren sounded for a lightning warning, Garrett limped into the field house with teammates.

“I’ll know more once we get inside, but I think it’s his foot,” Jackson said. “So we’ll see. I don’t know how it happened. Those things happen. Hopefully everything’s OK.”

Garrett had missed some practice time in offseason work for an undisclosed issue that was not believed to be serious. Jackson would not and could not say if the problem in minicamp was the same one that had been bothering him.

“Glad it’s toward the end (of offseason work),” Jackson said. “He did some good things today and we’ll see where we are.”

Sam Bradford and the Viking attack took “more ownership”

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said last week he didn’t expect the muscle tightness that limited Sam Bradford during the final week of OTAs to keep the quarterback out of the team’s mandatory minicamp. The Vikings certainly will hope to have a full slate of work from their starter during the most important week of their offseason program.
Now that he's had a year in the Vikings' offense, Sam Bradford is ready to take on an even bigger role.
Even after throwing for a career-high 3,877 yards and setting a NFL single-season record for completion percentage last season, Bradford finds himself at the controls of an offense that’s still trying to find its foundation. The Vikings have a deeper and more versatile set of weapons than they did last year, having replaced Adrian Peterson with two running backs (Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook) who should be better receivers. The team is hoping for a downfield presence from wide receiver Michael Floyd, some consistency from Laquon Treadwell and, perhaps most vitally, a sturdy offensive line after the additions of Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers and third-round pick Pat Elflein.

Much remains to be settled for an offense that ranked 28th in total yards last season, and after last September’s trade from Philadelphia put Bradford in hyperdrive in 2016, he’s had an offseason to put his stamp on the Vikings’ offense.

“It has been huge,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “It is crazy because during the season, it was almost like he had been there all offseason, so for us now to have an offseason on top of that, what we did last year, it is great. Obviously him talking to us, telling us how he likes things done, how we like things done, kind of getting on the same page. That is what this is all about. I think we have gotten off to a great start.”

Zimmer said Bradford has taken on “more of an ownership role” in the offense this offseason, which seems natural after a season in which the quarterback was trying to acclimate himself to a new city, coaching staff, locker room and offense in a matter of weeks. Bradford’s contract status remains unresolved beyond this season, and Teddy Bridgewater’s comeback has loomed in the background of the Vikings’ offseason program. But the 2017 Vikings offense will be Bradford’s, and this week’s minicamp provides his last chance to help mold things before the team reconvenes in Mankato, Minnesota, for training camp in late July.

Here are four other things to watch at the Vikings’ minicamp, which runs Tuesday through Thursday:

Opportunities for young corners — The Vikings have given 38-year-old Terence Newman plenty of work as their top nickel cornerback this offseason as they look to replace Captain Munnerlyn, but second-year corner Mackensie Alexander will get his chances to earn the full-time job. And with Newman moving inside, 2015 first-rounder Trae Waynes is getting an opportunity to prove he can become the team’s permanent left cornerback in his third season. If Waynes can develop in 2017, the Vikings would have quite the foundation for their secondary between him, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.

Floyd gets up to speed — Even though he’s been able to work out with the team only since the start of OTAs, Floyd has earned plaudits from teammates for how quickly he’s picked up the offense. Treadwell has received more opportunities this spring, but Floyd could provide more of a vertical threat than the second-year receiver (or possibly anyone else on the roster, for that matter). He could miss the start of the season if the NFL hands down a suspension following his December arrest for DUI, but Floyd’s best chance to secure a significant role in the offense is between now and the end of the preseason.

Who replaces Greenway? — Edmond Robinson is getting his chances at weak-side linebacker as the Vikings look to fill the spot vacated by the retired Chad Greenway. Emmanuel Lamur will have an opportunity to win the job, too, though Zimmer has sounded pleased with Robinson’s development in his third year. Neither player figures to be on the field for more than a fraction of the Vikings’ snaps, given how much time the team will spend in the nickel package with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks on the field, but a linebacker who holds up well in pass coverage could give the Vikings some additional flexibility to stay in their base defense more often.

Moving pieces on the O-line — While Nick Easton has received plenty of first-team snaps to this point, Elflein could push him for the starting center spot. Joe Berger could be back at center, too, if the Vikings feel comfortable enough with their options at guard to play the 35-year-old where he started last season. Center and right guard are the two spots the Vikings need to figure out between now and the start of the season, and while they’ll know more once padded practices start at training camp, it’s worth watching how they set the line at the end of their offseason program since that configuration could be the one they use to begin camp in July.

Le’Veon Bell may skip the Steelers Mini – because he can

PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell is recovering from groin surgery and is not under contract.

Those two reasons — particularly the second — could keep Bell out of Pittsburgh Steelers minicamp, which begins Tuesday.

He has the option to be with his team, and no doubt the Steelers wouldn’t mind having him around. But NFLPA records confirm Bell has not signed his franchise tender. That’s not unusual for players looking for long-term deals before the July 15 deadline for franchised players. It also absolves him from attending. He can’t be fined since he’s not technically a member of the Steelers.

Having the luxury of staying away is the only negotiating ploy a franchise player has. Players who sign the tender might give the team less incentive to work out a long-term deal, which the Steelers have made efforts to do.

This isn’t a mini-holdout situation. ESPN reported in May that Bell visited the team facility to meet with officials, and the consensus was Bell looked good coming off the groin injury that worsened in the AFC title game and eventually required surgery.

It’s more a natural course of business for franchise-tagged players. The Steelers don’t need to see Bell on the field until training camp. They just need to see him healthy.

Bell is on record that he’d play on the $12.1 million franchise tag if necessary. Neither side wants that, even if a long-term deal worth $12 million per year is hefty for a running back.

Bell, despite his suspensions, is worth well above LeSean McCoy’s $8 million per year. His ability as a rusher and receiver very well might get him above $10 million annually over four to five years.

Five others to watch during minicamp:

Alejandro Villanueva: He’s also without a contract after opting not to sign his exclusive rights tender. He’s looking for a long-term deal. Will he show up?

T.J. Watt: He looked athletic in OTAs. Now let’s see how he does with pads on.

Sammie Coates: Finally healthy, expect Coates to come with an edge in camp. He must. The receiver room is too crowded.

Coty Sensabaugh: Can the free-agent acquisition provide much-needed depth at corner?

Vince Williams: New starting inside linebacker can take command of the position.

Myles Garrett (Myles Garrett) in the mini-advertising: “I must prove myself”

BEREA, Ohio — Myles Garrett said he will participate fully in the Cleveland Browns’ three-day minicamp, but in the time he’s been practicing, the 2017 first overall draft pick has been with the second and third teams.
Even though he was the first pick in the NFL draft, Myles Garrett wants to earn his way into the starting lineup.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Garrett said Tuesday before the Browns practiced. “I got to prove myself. I haven’t shown any kind of resume or what I can do on the NFL level, so they have to see. Go from level to level, from spot to spot and show that I can be successful.”

Garrett missed some of the OTAs due to an unspecified injury; the Browns don’t detail every offseason injury if they are not long term. But when he did practice, he caught coach Hue Jackson’s eye. After one of the practices open to the media, Jackson mentioned a play when Garrett was quick off the ball.

“He doesn’t talk to me like that,” Garrett said. “He tells me to keep on working. That’s what I want to hear. It’s nice that he sings praises to me through the media, but I’m never satisfied and he’s going to keep pushing me to be better every single day.”

The same is true for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

“If I have five sacks, he’s like, ‘Why didn’t you have seven?,’” Garrett said. “If you have three, it’s, ‘Why didn’t you have four?’”

It’s all part of Garrett assimilating to NFL life. As the No. 1 pick, he has a certain amount of celebrity, but Garrett downplays that side of his life. Yet the former Texas A&M standout has quickly become part of the Cleveland fabric.

Prior to Game 5 of the NBA Finals, he had what could have been the best Browns tweet about the Cavs’ unsuccessful championship push.

Before his interview, Garrett said he was sort of joking but sort of not. He then mused about being able to bring Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Larry Bird together for the sequel.

“[Cleveland's] a sports town, just like College Station, really,” Garrett said of his new football home and his old one at Texas A&M. “Everybody embraces sports figures and each other, really. It’s a whole big old family, and I’m just enjoying it.”

When linebacker Demario Davis was traded to the Jets, he told his former Browns teammates via an Instagram post to keep working to “shock the world.”

Garrett won’t go there. He said players really won’t learn about each other until training camp when they practice against each other in pads.

“We’re just trying to get better each day,” he said. “If shocking the world is part of that, then we’ll have fun with it.”

Eagles LT Jason Peters wants the team to rejoin

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles left tackle Jason Peters is looking for more security by the way of a re-worked contract.

Speaking with reporters at the start of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Peters acknowledged that his decision to skip voluntary OTAs was partly contract-related.

“I don’t want to be year-to-year doubting, are they going to release me? Are they going to do this? Taking pay cuts and all that. I just want to make sure that I got the reassurance that I’m going to retire here, don’t have to worry about it, show up and show out.”
Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, who has two years left on his current contract, says a re-worked deal would provide him with the reassurance he is hoping for.
The 35-year-old Peters has two years remaining on his current deal and is scheduled to make a base salary of around $10 million in each of the next two seasons.

The guaranteed money, however, has all but run out. Asked if more guaranteed money would provide the assurance he is seeking, Peters responded, “Yeah, that’s reassurance. You get guaranteed or you get years, I guess.”

He added that executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and his agent are talking, and he’ll “know something soon.”

Despite the fluid situation, Peters plans to attend training camp, he said.

His absence this spring wasn’t solely business related. Entering his 14th season, he wanted to rest in the name of extending his career as long as possible.

Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler, has anchored the Eagles’ offensive line since 2009 when he was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. He bounced back to have a strong season in 2016 after being slowed by injuries the year prior.

Right tackle Lane Johnson is being groomed to take over at left tackle when Peters does decide to call it a career. Peters didn’t offer thoughts as to exactly when that will be, choosing to stay in year-to-year mode, but clearly he doesn’t want to spend the twilight of his potential Hall-of-Fame career looking over his shoulder.

As for the season at hand, Peters is impressed by what he sees out on the field now that he has rejoined the team.

“Ten-plus wins,” Peters predicts. “I watched them today: Carson [Wentz] throwing it, receivers catching it, running backs cutting, and the offensive line, we’re going to take care of our business.”

Giants Odell Beckham Jr .: contract issue “I do not discuss”

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was back on the field Tuesday for mandatory minicamp and flip-flopped on questions about whether his absence from voluntary OTAs had to do with his contract.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported through sources that Beckham’s contract was part of the reason he remained away from the Giants’ workouts over the past three weeks. Beckham is set to make $1.8 million this season.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. says contract questions are not for him to discuss.
“You probably have to ask the people who do the contracts,” Beckham said when asked the first time whether the contract factored into his decision to skip OTAs. “I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

When asked later in the 11:30 a.m. interview session with reporters, his first since the season ended in January with a dud in Green Bay, about whether he wanted a new deal before his fourth season, Beckham again deferred to others.

“I couldn’t really tell you. Like I said, when the time comes … Any contract question is not for me to discuss,” he said. “I haven’t really talked to anyone about contracts. So it’s not something that has been in the air. It was kind of something that was brought up amongst other people. It was never really in my discussion. Take it a day at a time, and when it comes, it will come.”

When pressed a third time at the end of the interview whether Beckham missed OTAs to prove a point, his answer was markedly different.

“No,” he said. “I was just out in Los Angeles training. I’ve seen the whole holdout stuff and I’ve never really seen it work, so it was never in my mind that I’m not going to go to OTAs to get a new contract. I don’t think that really proves a point, in my opinion. I was out there really taking time for myself to reflect on life and value what is really, really important. And like I said, to grow and mature in life. You should be growing each and every year, each and every day.”

General manager Jerry Reese said at the end of last season that Beckham needed to take a look in the mirror and grow up this offseason. Beckham finished with over 90 catches, 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns for the third consecutive season. He made another Pro Bowl, but performed poorly in his first career playoff game after a boat trip in Miami earlier in the week. Beckham punched a hole in the wall in the bowels of Lambeau Field after that loss.

After the way last season ended, Beckham’s absence from voluntary OTAs garnered plenty of attention. But quarterback Eli Manning didn’t seem to think Beckham missed a ton.

“Not much,” said Manning, who remained in touch with Beckham over the past few months. “He’ll be fine.”

Beckham described the time spent in Los Angeles training as somewhat cathartic. He worked with his trainer Jamal Liggin four to five times per week, and sometimes twice a day.

“I was really just taking the time to train, make sure I get proper training, really grow and mature in yourself,” Beckham said. “You just have time to be able to reflect on life and learn new things. It was a great process for me. I definitely enjoyed it.”

The Giants seemed to ease Beckham back into team drills on Tuesday. He only sporadically worked with the first-team offense. He took just seven reps in team drills, even though coach Ben McAdoo thought he came back in good shape.

Beckham also said his relationship with Reese is the same. Nothing there had changed.

Although the Giants haven’t discussed with Beckham’s team about a new contract, co-owner John Mara said at a Giants Town Hall event that they wanted Beckham as a Giant for life.

“I think we’re on the same page there,” Beckham said. “I think this is one of the best organizations in the league, and I would love to be here for the rest of my life.”