$.01--I’ve tried to stay out of the sociopolitical hot potato that is Colin Kaepernick. But when the Seattle Seahawks signed Austin Davis instead of the deposed former star, I hit my breaking point.
The Seahawks had openly met with Kaepernick and discussed signing their former nemesis to back up Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll spoke warmly about Kaepernick’s potential, calling him “a starter in this league.” He plays a similar style as Wilson, good at extending plays with the legs and throwing on the move while also providing a running threat. Kaepernick has even learned to protect the ball better, one of the bigger legitimate knocks on his game even in his San Francisco heyday.
Instead, the Seahawks passed…and signed Austin Davis. If you’re looking for the polar opposite of Russell Wilson, there aren’t many better current QB choices than Austin Davis. He’s almost completely immobile but also fairly oblivious to the pass rush. Witness his nearly 10 percent career sack rate. He doesn’t have an accurate arm and is slow to read defenses.
There is no rational football argument for making this move. Just as there was none for a host of other inferior QBs to get decent paydays this offseason ahead of Kaepernick. He’s clearly being blackballed.
Many will say he deserves it for his objectionable decision to kneel for the national anthem and speak out against police. In our hypercharged political climate, Kaepernick is a lightning rod. I perfectly understand why NFL teams would choose to avoid the PR headache, and there absolutely would be one. Look at comment sections on public forums on articles on Kaepernick and you’ll see the very real vitriolic ultimatums from fans vehemently opposed to him ever playing anywhere again, let alone for their favorite team.
I get that. If that’s your particular argument with Kaepernick, it’s a perfectly reasonable and defensible one. He pulled a controversial act deliberately intended to create strife, and this is a consequence. But when I see completely inferior scrubs like Austin Davis and Kellen Clemens getting hired for the same jobs, don’t try and tell me the reason Kaepernick still isn’t employed has anything to do with football.
$.02--One of the biggest goals of OTAs is to avoid injury. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Ravens suffered a serious one when tight end Dennis Pitta went down last week. Pitta reinjured his right hip in a noncontact drill on Friday. It’s the third major hip injury for Pitta in five years, and early indications are this one is a career-ender.
He missed all of 2015 with the last injury, but returned triumphantly for a Ravens team in desperate need of receiving help. His 86 receptions last year is a Ravens record for tight ends, and they were counting on the veteran to once again rank near the top in TE receptions, as well as to help mentor a precocious receiving corps.
It’s a huge loss, and it’s not Baltimore’s only major casualty. Starting slot corner Tavon Young injured his knee earlier in the week and is also out for the season. The Ravens are already down two starters before training camp even begins for one of the thinnest benches in the league.
$.03--The New Orleans Saints are also losing a key starter, but it’s not due to injury. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has reportedly been diagnosed with a heart ailment that is threatening his football career. He has not been present at Saints’ OTAs and there is no official confirmation yet, but it doesn’t sound good.
Fairley has been an enigmatic talent for years. I covered him up close in Detroit, where he spent the first four years of his career. He had his most consistent season last year in New Orleans, doing a better job of avoiding the mental lapses which have always pockmarked his playing days. On sheer physical ability alone, Fairley is one of the top 5 defensive tackles in the league. Unfortunately he doesn’t always play at that level, and frequently doesn’t even come close to it.
The heart issue strikes close to home for me. I’m not even a week past the second anniversary of my own open heart surgery. It’s a scary situation for an athlete to be starkly confronted with not only the inability to play anymore, but also the potential for facing his own mortality. Fairley is a fun-loving guy and I hope his jovial nature carries him through what could be a very unexpected and difficult situation.
$.04--The Kansas City Chiefs shook up the NFL news cycle by releasing top wideout Jeremy Maclin. The move was a complete surprise, one which hasn’t been successfully explained yet other than a meek offering about salary cap relief.
It’s not often a contending team releases its No. 1 wide receiver in early June. For the Chiefs, who lack any semblance of a veteran presence on the WR corps any longer, it’s downright ponderous. Maclin dominated the WR targets in the games he played in Kansas City. He had 200 in his two seasons despite missing 6 games. Albert Wilson had 107 and Chris Coley saw 100 in those same two years.
Chiefs fans point to Tyreek Hill, who actually led the team in targets last season with 83 to Maclin’s 76. However, Hill’s target totals spiked in the four games Maclin missed. The rookie dynamo racked up 34 targets in those 4 games, while getting 19 in the four games surrounding Maclin’s absence.
Now they will expect TE Travis Kelce to lead the inexperienced group. Kelce is fantastic and probably should be the top fantasy TE not named Gronk this year, but can Conley or Wilson really be expected to adequately replace Maclin? It’s hard to see Alex Smith being as successful without one of the game’s better wideouts.
$.05--Frequent readers know that even though I have covered football for the last 14 years, my deepest sports passion is Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. I’ve been a Cavs fanatic since the days of Paul Mokeski in his giant knee braces launching 15-foot baseline hook shots. Last year’s NBA Finals win is in the top-5 moments of my life, no exaggeration. I wept tears of joy for days.
Right now the rubber match with the Golden State Warriors isn’t going too well for my Cavs. The first two games have been lopsided Warrior wins, and the addition of Kevin Durant has given Golden State a new aura of invincibility. With Durant playing as awesome as he has in the first two games and the Cavs getting so little from the likes of J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, it’s difficult to see the Cavs winning four of the next five games.
I refuse to give up hope, in part because this is exactly where the Finals stood a year ago. LeBron, Kyrie and company made the impossible happen a year ago, and I’m certainly not putting it past them to do it again. But this Warriors team is different, and it’s led to the argument against “Super Teams.”
I don’t have a huge issue when superstars collude to form great teams. They’re not obligated to take the maximum amount of money, nor are they required to show loyalty when teams are so quick to dump them the second they’re no longer worth their contracts. I think we as fans too often forget the first part of the term “free agent”; they’re free to make their own choices.
Kevin Durant chose to chase a ring by joining an already loaded roster. I’m not going to fault him for that decision and in the same breath criticize players like Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose for never winning anything despite huge contracts. I’ve never liked the concept, going back to when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in Boston for the sole purpose of winning titles. LeBron and Chris Bosh did the same with Dwyane Wade in Miami. I don’t like it, but the reality of the modern NBA goes back to an elementary concept: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.