Sports news everywhere has been slow but luckily for the NFL, these months are the slow months anyway.
News around the NFC East has petered out following the completion of the 2020 NFL Draft and the signing of undrafted free agents. Eli Manning joining Twitter has been some of the biggest news around the division in the past month.
But football does not stop, even during a pandemic. The Eagles lost guard Brandon Brooks to an Achilles injury that will sideline him for the entire 2020 season and weaken the Eagles offensive line. Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus amongst other players on the team.
And beyond the daily in’s and out’s of football, teams have staged virtual Town Halls, donated money, and protested to help raise awareness for social injustice. The Washington Redskins will close their offices on Friday for Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery. Coach Ron Rivera encouraged his players to “take the day to reflect on our discussions this past week and really dive in and do some research to come up with additional ideas that we can implement to improve our community.”
Though football has not been influenced as much as other sports league by the coronavirus pandemic, rumors still began to circulate this week about changes to the preseason schedule. There have been talks about players reporting to camp earlier to allow more time to participate in training and actual games. But some think that players will not want to report to camp early, leading to the discussion of a shortened preseason. This would allow a longer ramp-up period to happen without changing the regular season schedule and it would give the league’s medical experts more time to develop a health and safety plan for the virus.
Though the circumstances that might have led to a shorter preseason are far from ideal, the notion of a shorter preseason should go over favorably amongst players and fans who have long wanted to eliminate games that do not matter.
Let’s dive into the news around the NFC East this week.
Despite not taking the field at all this offseason, the Eagles somehow managed to lose Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks due to an Achilles injury he suffered earlier this week. He said that he was doing 60-yard shuttles and on the seventh one, he went to touch the line, pushed off and heard a “pop.”
In Brandon Brooks' four years in Philadelphia, the Eagles are 41-23 when he plays at least 50 percent of the offensive snaps. They're 0-6 when he's out or plays fewer than 50 percent of the offensive snaps.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) June 16, 2020
Pro Football Focus graded Brooks first overall amongst NFL guards in 2019. The Eagles will still have a talented offensive line but it will not be the same without Brooks.
The attention now shifts to what Brooks will look like as an athlete when he is healthy again. He was already recovering from a dislocated shoulder injury that that ended his 2019 season in Week 17 and he tore his other Achilles during the Eagles’ 2019 divisional round playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Brooks turns 31 in August.
Now the Eagles must focus on how to replace Brooks. Here is what our colleagues at Bleeding Green Nation are considering as possibilities:
“It remains to be seen how the Eagles plan to replace Brooks. Larry Warford is on the market and has starting experience. The team could look to internal options like Matt Pryor (who filled in for Brooks late last season) or Sua Opeta or Nate Herbig or Jack Driscoll. We’ll see.”
Brooks has four years left on his contract following the 2020 season. Only time will tell if he remains in Pro Bowl form but until then, the Eagles have to try to patch up the loss.
In unrelated but notable news, the Eagles have also been considered one of the most logical landing spots for Colin Kaepernick. Philly established itself as a “quarterback factory” this offseason when it drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round. Owner Jeffrey Lurie is known as a progressive amongst the league on social justice issues and the Eagles were among a handful of NFL teams to attend Kaepernick’s workout last November. Something to keep an eye on...
The Cowboys learned firsthand that the virus does not exclude its players.
Several #Cowboys players & several #Texans players have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, sources tell me & @TomPelissero. None of the players are believed to have been in their team facilities. The teams followed proper health protocols.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 15, 2020
It was later confirmed by Elliott’s agent that the star running back did test positive for the virus. He is one amongst other nameless players from the Cowboys and Houston Texans who have reportedly tested positive. Luckily, none of the players have reportedly been inside team facilities.
In the backdrop of the coronavirus concerns remains Dak Prescott’s contract. Dallas used its franchise tag on the quarterback to secure him for another year, but a long-term deal has yet to be reached. Despite rumors that a holdout could happen, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that both sides should reach an agreement before that happens. But that agreement might not come until the final hour.
“A source close to Prescott did tell me they genuinely believe the Cowboys have faith in Prescott, they value him and they can get a deal done,” Werder said on ESPN’s Get Up.
The Cowboys have never franchise-tagged a quarterback in their history and are therefore in uncharted territory.
We have to expect that an agreement will be made before the July 15 deadline but for now, the drama around Prescott’s contract continues.
In the wake of the protests sweeping the nation in response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the Redskins in particular have faced backlash in their attempt to raise support for the Black Lives Matter movement. When the Redskins Twitter account tweeted a black square on Blackout Tuesday, it was met with instant criticism.
Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name. https://t.co/XTlIJrfNx4— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 2, 2020
The San Francisco 49ers faced similar backlash. The name debate has plagued Washington for years.
In the meantime, head coach Ron Rivera has listened to and learned from his players and staff in recent weeks. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had the following to say about his head coach:
“Coach Rivera called a couple meetings just to get our perspective on what’s going on and how we wanted to address it as a team and as an organization. I really applaud him for that and his confidence being able to stand with us. He definitely wants to make a change as well, he wants to continue to work on being a united team and trying to be a difference in our community having played for the Washington Redskins and being in D.C. So, he definitely took that as something that was very important to address and we’re working on trying to be a difference in the community.”
Stars on the Redskins have also spoken out personally. Adrian Peterson told the Houston Chronicle that he will “without a doubt” kneel during the national anthem next season. Haskins himself protested in D.C. and defensive end Chase Young participated in a player-coordinated call to action video.