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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Lucky Whitehead’s strange summer took an unfortunate turn on Tuesday, when it was announced by the New York Jets that he will be out indefinitely with a broken left foot.

Whitehead, the team’s most experienced punt and kickoff returner, was injured Monday. He was spotted on crutches, wearing a walking boot Tuesday. Coach Todd Bowles said it’s unclear whether Whitehead will require surgery.

Lucky Whitehead returned a kickoff for 23 yards and two punts for 10 yards in the Jets' preseason opener.

Lucky Whitehead returned a kickoff for 23 yards and two punts for 10 yards in the Jets’ preseason opener.

“I don’t know if he’s out for the year, but I know he’s out for a little while,” Bowles said.

It has been an eventful few weeks for Whitehead, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys on July 24 after Virginia police announced it had issued an arrest warrant for a shoplifting charge.
Whitehead called it a case of mistaken identity, a claim that was backed up the following day, when police admitted they had made a mistake.

A week earlier, Whitehead announced on Instagram that his dog had been stolen and was being held for a ransom. It was returned the next day.

The Jets, desperate for wide-receiver help and an experienced returner, claimed Whitehead on waivers after his ouster in Dallas. “I’m just happy to get an opportunity to start over and clean my slate,” he said at the start of training camp.

In the preseason opener, Whitehead returned two punts for 10 yards and one kickoff for 23 yards. He didn’t catch any passes.

This was the second significant injury to the receiving corps in camp. Previously, the Jets lost Quincy Enunwa to a season-ending neck injury.

NFL preseason’s biggest injury in the first week

 

The Dolphins had big plans for rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan, but he will miss the entire 2017 campaign after tearing his ACL in the club's first preseason game.

The Dolphins had big plans for rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan, but he will miss the entire 2017 campaign after tearing his ACL in the club’s first preseason game.

NFL teams enter the preseason with their fingers crossed, knowing that nothing is more important than emerging from their practice games with minimal injuries. They are, however, inevitable. We’ll spend the summer tracking the major ailments to arise during the games themselves. To be clear, this list won’t include injuries that are suffered in practice.

Here are the most notable from Week 1 of the 2017 preseason:

LB Raekwon McMillan, Miami Dolphins

Injury: torn right ACL

Prognosis: McMillan will miss the season. A second-round draft choice, McMillan was expected to be the Dolphins’ starting middle linebacker. But he suffered the injury Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons while covering a punt — and before he took a single defensive snap.

CB Damarious Randall, Green Bay Packers
Injury: concussion
Prognosis: The NFL concussion protocol is different for each player, so there is no way to estimate how much time Randall will miss. But it was an unfortunate start for a player who missed six games last season because of a groin injury. Penciled in as a starter for 2017, Randall will be replaced in the meantime by rookie Kevin King. The injury occurred Thursday night, when Philadelphia Eagles receiver Bryce Treggs delivered a blow to his head.

LB Trent Murphy, Washington Redskins

Injury: torn left ACL/MCL

Prognosis: Murphy, who notched a career-high nine sacks in 2016, will miss the season. Of course, he already was suspended for the first four games because he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. By league rules, Murphy can serve the suspension while on injured reserve, so he will be clear to return for Week 1 of the 2018 season. That’s assuming he is healthy and has signed with a team; Murphy is a pending free agent.

S Su’a Cravens, Washington Redskins

Injury: sore knee

Prognosis: Cravens, expected to start at strong safety, will miss two or three weeks after the knee forced him from Thursday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Cravens has a history of knee issues.

DL Billy Winn, Denver Broncos

Injury: torn right ACL

Prognosis: Winn will miss the season. He was expected to play a key role in the Broncos’ defensive rotation after re-signing in the offseason, but he suffered the injury Thursday night in the first quarter of the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.

RB Bishop Sankey, Minnesota Vikings

Injury: torn ACL

Prognosis: Sankey will miss the season and has been waived/injured. He had been working as the Vikings’ No. 2 running back behind Dalvin Cook, in part because of Latavius Murray’s offseason ankle surgery, but had a decent chance to make the team.

Russell Wilson once again performed at the Seahawks

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is having an impressive week.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is having an impressive week.

RENTON, Wash. — After a day off, the Seattle Seahawks were back on the practice field Wednesday. Here’s what stood out.

Russell Wilson was on fire — again.

Wilson has put together a tremendous stretch of practices. He’s spreading the ball around to all his weapons and demonstrating pinpoint accuracy. Early on, off play-action, Doug Baldwin got behind Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and Wilson hit him for a 60-yard touchdown.

Later, Wilson fielded a high snap, gathered himself and lofted a ball down the right sideline for Tyler Lockett. Lockett, who was participating in team drills for the first time, beat Neiko Thorpe on a go route, and the pass landed perfectly in his hands for a big gain.

Wilson and Jimmy Graham have consistently been working on the fade in the red zone. They connected again today, with Graham beating Thorpe for a touchdown and emphatically spiking the ball afterwards.

During 11-on-11s, Wilson scrambled to his right and launched a pass 60 yards in the air downfield to Thomas Rawls for a touchdown.

On another play, wide receiver David Moore had a defender draped on his back in the end zone near the pylon, and Wilson gunned a ball where only Moore could catch it for another score.

Wilson has had an impressive week of practices.

Shaquill Griffin flashed his play-making ability.

Griffin jumped an out route near the left sideline and intercepted Wilson for a pick-six. Griffin is getting all the reps at right cornerback with Jeremy Lane sidelined, and he’s developing nicely.

“We have never had a guy that runs this fast that is this big,” Pete Carroll said earlier this week. “So right now it is all about technique, and he has no problem with it.”

Griffin’s 4.38 speed was on full display as he raced towards the end zone after the pick. He figures to see plenty of work in the preseason and has a chance to carve out a role for himself as a rookie.

Bobby Wagner shows off his athleticism.

On one Wilson scramble, Wagner found himself downfield on the left sideline matched up with Baldwin. Wagner stayed with the wide receiver and knocked down Wilson’s throw for a pass breakup.

Wagner doesn’t get as much attention as his teammates, but he’s been as good as usual this camp. During blitz pickup drills, no running back can handle him.

The Seahawks credited Wagner with 18 quarterback hurries last year, fourth-most on the team behind Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark. He gets everyone lined up, is tremendous against the run, good in coverage and an outstanding pass-rusher.

Wagner is in line for another monster season.

Extra points.

Germain Ifedi and Frank Clark both returned to practice. Ifedi is competing for the starting right tackle job with Ethan Pocic, Carroll said. … Carroll pretty much declared after practice that undrafted free agent offensive lineman Jordan Roos is going to be on the 53-man roster. … With Malik McDowell sidelined, the Seahawks will look for different players to provide interior pass-rush. Rookie Nazair Jones batted down a pass today, and Quinton Jefferson will compete for playing time in that role as well. … Eddie Lacy seemed to have one of his better days of practice, breaking a couple long runs.

Brandon Albert changed the idea of retirement and wanted to return to the Jaguar

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Offensive tackle Branden Albert has changed his mind about retiring.

After a one-week retirement, Albert has told the Jacksonville Jaguars that he wants to return to the team, but a league source said the Jags are unlikely to allow him to do so.

The Jaguars are currently in Foxborough, Massachusetts, for two days of joint practices with the New England Patriots, and a team spokesman said the Jaguars would not comment on the situation.

SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan first reported the news of Albert’s plan to return.
Albert abruptly retired on July 31 just three days into training camp, releasing a statement through the team in which he wished the organization luck and said he looked forward to returning home to Miami to pursue his business interests. He notified the Jaguars on Monday that he wanted to come back.

The Jaguars traded their 2018 seventh-round draft pick to Miami in March for the 32-year-old, two-time Pro Bowler. The Dolphins gave Albert an $8.5 million signing bonus in 2014, and when he retired the Jaguars had the option of pursuing $3.4 million of that pro-rated bonus money even though they had not paid him because they inherited his contract, a league source said.

Albert had two years remaining on the five-year contract he signed with Miami in 2014. He was due a base salary of $8.875 million in 2017 and $9.575 million in 2018, though none of that money was guaranteed.

Albert skipped all of the Jaguars’ offseason conditioning program and organized team activities because he wanted a new contract, but general manager Dave Caldwell said in April the team was not reworking Albert’s deal. Albert did participate in the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June and reported with the rest of Jacksonville’s veterans on July 26.

Albert was competing to be the starting left tackle with rookie Cam Robinson, whom the Jaguars drafted with the 34th overall pick. Albert worked with the first-team offense on the first day of camp but Robinson took reps there in the next two practices. Albert was working out in the team facility on the players’ day off on July 30, and tight end Marcedes Lewis said he spoke with Albert that day and they talked about the upcoming season.

The veteran lineman returned to the facility the next morning and told head coach Doug Marrone he was retiring.

Albert hasn’t played a full season since 2011 when he was with Kansas City, who drafted him 15th overall in 2008. Albert has missed 20 games over the past five seasons, including four last season with the Dolphins.

Von Miller: The season is the key to the first month of 30 packs

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — He’s not saying it would be easy, but Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has done the math, and he believes that one of the league’s elite pass-rushers could hit 30 sacks in one season.

“I think it is doable,” Miller said after Wednesday’s practice.

Von Miller, who had 13.5 sacks last season, says he believes 30 sacks in a season is an achievable goal.

Von Miller, who had 13.5 sacks last season, says he believes 30 sacks in a season is an achievable goal.

That is the tallest of orders for any player, even one of Miller’s ability, especially because no player has reached more than 22.5 sacks in a season since it became an official league statistic in 1982.
Hall of Famer Michael Strahan set the record with 22.5 sacks in 2001.

Miller’s best season thus far has been 18.5 sacks in 2012, his second in the league. Last season, when Miller saw an almost constant stream of double- and triple-teams, he finished with 13.5 sacks and was held without a sack over the last four games of the regular season. He has 73.5 sacks in his career.

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said this week that Khalil Mack had set his goal at 30 sacks in a season. Mack won the league Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016 by one vote over Miller, with 11.

“That’s the number I shoot for, but I didn’t want him to tell everybody else,” Mack said Saturday. “But at the same time, DC, he knows how hard we work, what kind of work we put in, and he knows what I want. But at the same time, realistically, we just want to get the record, at least.”
Mack was one of several of the league’s best pass-rushers who attended a pass-rush summit that Miller hosted in California this offseason. Miller said he hopes to expand the program every year.

In the big picture, Miller said the first month of the season would be key in any pursuit of 30 sacks.

“You’ve got to come out, you’ve got to get 10 in that first month,” Miller said. “You’ve got to get 10 in that first month, which is doable. You get two and a half, two and a half the next game and two and a half the next game after that. Then you might miss one game, and then you get two and a half, then you’ve got 10 in five games right there. Then if you go three, two, three, it’s definitely doable.”

Miller said any pass-rusher who piled up some sacks early in the season would then have to deal with the added attention as the weeks went by.

Last season Miller had five sacks in the Broncos’ first three games of the season, including a three-sack effort in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts.

He went as far as to say such a record pursuit could come down to how a player did, or did not, make the most of limited opportunities.

“Teams are going to chip you, that’s definite, that’s just the gospel right there,” Miller said. “But you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. If you get five open rushes, you’ve got to win all five of those rushes. Out of five you might get two or three sacks out of those, that’s the math that I have,” Miller said. “Out of all the rushes in the game, all of the plays in the game, out of those five plays, you’ve got to get home on those plays. It’s definitely doable.”

Mike McCarthy was not interested in the conversation, just improved from Packers’ D

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Don’t get Mike McCarthy wrong, he loves Mike Daniels and the passion he brings to the Green Bay Packers.

But McCarthy didn’t sound all that interested in any talk of the defense trying to be more like the Seattle Seahawks in terms of their attitude — something Daniels suggested might help the Packers.

“Attitude, confidence, obviously approach — every unit of football needs that,” McCarthy said Monday. “We don’t need to be like any other team; we need to focus on the best Green Bay Packers defense with the proper attitude, energy, focus and so forth. You know comparables, I’m not into.

Mike McCarthy wants his defense to have attitude, energy and tenacity.

Mike McCarthy wants his defense to have attitude, energy and tenacity.

“Seattle has an excellent defense, and they’ve played great defense in this league for quite some time. So we need to take a big step in that area.”

Daniels, the sixth-year pro, has become one of the Packers’ leaders on defense. It’s a role he has embraced as his career has progressed, and McCarthy said he loves the energy he brings.

“Oh yeah absolutely; how could you not?” McCarthy said. “Absolutely, Mike’s got incredible energy, incredible passion for the game of football. He’s not only into the game, he’s into his teammates, so he dives into the team concept. He’s exactly what you’re looking for.”

Still, McCarthy seems more interested in what has happened on the field than what has been said in the locker room or on social media. It has been a spirited start to camp so far. There already have been a few scuffles and a few hard hits, and the pads have been on for only two practices.

“I was more focused on the guy that wasn’t saying anything,” McCarthy said. “I think when guys do say something, how they say it, when they say it, there’s a place for verbal interaction or excitement or energy, definitely it’s part of it.

“But that’s not going to make you a good defense. I mean we jump up and down, scream and yell and say a bunch of bad words, I mean it’s really what goes into it. They can scream and yell, they can not say anything, but when they cross the line it needs to show in our action and the tenacity in what they’re doing to the other guy.”

For Aaron Rogers, the desire to expand his career comes from football’s “love affair”

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers has fallen in love again.

No, we’re not talking about the once fiercely private Green Bay Packers quarterback’s personal life, which remains fodder for entertainment magazines and gossip sites. This “love affair” — his phrase — is more of a rekindling of a passion that has been inside him since he was an eighth-grader playing for the Chico Jaguars in his native Northern California.

To be clear, the two-time NFL MVP never lost his zest for the game. Those who watched him up close during last season’s run-the-table, eight-game win streak — or have been on the receiving end of one of his stern admonishments after a mental mistake — can tell you his intensity hasn’t waned.

Aaron Rodgers is entering his 13th NFL season and 10th as the Packers' starting quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers is entering his 13th NFL season and 10th as the Packers’ starting quarterback.

But as the Packers kick off training camp Thursday morning — Rodgers’ 13th in the NFL and 10th as the team’s starting quarterback — Rodgers does so with a greater appreciation for the journey that is about to begin anew.

“I think it’s a change, a slight change that happened the last few years, where it really has become just a love affair,” Rodgers said in an offseason interview on Wilde & Tausch on ESPN Wisconsin. “From [being] a game I always enjoyed playing and enjoyed competing and am hyper-competitive [in] to just really loving the process even more — the practice, the preparation, just enjoying those moments even more.”
The result? The guy who used to say he wouldn’t be an NFL lifer, who didn’t see himself playing football beyond 36 or 37 years old, now has designs on playing into his 40s. He’ll turn 34 in December, and inspired by his friend Tom Brady, the seemingly ageless New England Patriots quarterback, Rodgers thinks himself capable of playing for another decade. Brady, who has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl titles, turns 40 next week.

“[That feeling] has kind of given me the idea that this is what I want to do. I love football, and I want to keep playing as long as possible,” Rodgers said. “And when you have that kind of slight shift in your thinking, then you start going to, ‘How can I do that?’ And the way you can do that, in my opinion, is taking care of yourself at a hyper-sensitive level to all the areas that that entails — the rehab area, the eating area, the workout/focus area. And all those combined have kind of given me the idea that I’d like to keep playing at a high level, as fun as it is right now.”

You are what you eat

To that end, Rodgers intensified his offseason workouts and made some adjustments to his regimen, alterations he wouldn’t specifically discuss but ones intended to increase his durability and longevity. (Although Rodgers missed seven games in 2013 with a broken collarbone, he has missed just one other game due to injury as a starter.)

He has also become borderline obsessive about his diet, and though he hasn’t authored a cookbook or created his own home meal delivery service like Brady, he is religiously following Packers director of performance nutrition Adam Korzun’s dietary advice — beyond his attention-grabbing decision to give up dairy awhile back.

“Tom takes really, really good care of his body and has for a long time. He understands what it takes to get that longevity,” said Rodgers, who reported to the offseason program in April in the best shape of his career. “I try to work out at least five times a week during the offseason, but really the key as you get older is your diet.

“I’m getting older, [so] you have to be smarter about what you’re eating. So for me, there’s a greater awareness about what you’re eating and then how the things you’re eating affect your energy and your ability to burn fat and just kind of your daily quality of life when it comes to your health.”

That has meant giving up some of his favorites, including Girl Scout cookies.

“I love ‘em. C’mon. Give me the red box, the green box … the Samoas,” Rodgers said with a laugh. “But [eating them was something] I could do when I was younger, when your metabolism is a little higher and you’re able to bounce back quicker. But when you get older and you’ve started a lot of football games and taken a lot of hits, for me, I just feel better when I’m eating a more plant-based, natural diet — stuff that’s grown in the ground. I just feel healthier.”

Mind over matter

For Rodgers, though, what he’s eating is only part of the equation. The more important shift, he says, has been in his thinking, something his predecessor remembers struggling with as well.

“The biggest challenge to me — and I hate to say ‘drudgery’ — was just the everyday grind,” Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, whose 16 seasons in Green Bay included three with Rodgers as his backup (2005 through 2007), recalled in an interview earlier this month. “It wasn’t a physical grind. For [guys] who had to put on pads and had to bang every day, it would wear on you. For a quarterback, especially the starter — and Aaron probably is going through this in his mind — it’s a [mental] grind.

Robert Griffin III works for the charger; the first chance with a team this offseason

Free-agent quarterback Robert Griffin III is scheduled to work out Tuesday for the Los Angeles Chargers, a league source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Griffin has been training in Florida with former Cleveland Browns assistant Pep Hamilton.

Tuesday’s workout with the Chargers will be Griffin’s first team visit this offseason. He had another visit lined up but canceled it.

Robert Griffin III was released by the Browns in March after Cleveland acquired Brock Osweiler.

Robert Griffin III was released by the Browns in March after Cleveland acquired Brock Osweiler.

Griffin, 27, was released by the Browns on March 10 after Cleveland acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler in a trade with the Texans.

The Browns gave Griffin a chance to revive his career after he was released by the Redskins following the 2015 season. Cleveland named him the Week 1 starter in 2016, and he struggled in a loss to the Eagles.
Late in that game, Griffin broke his left collarbone, an injury that sidelined him for 11 games. Although he played better in four games at the end of the season, he admitted that his injury had not fully healed.

In five games with the Browns, Griffin completed 87 of 147 passes for 886 yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 72.5. He led the Browns to their only win of the season over the Chargers on Christmas Eve.

He spent four seasons in Washington but lost his job to Kirk Cousins and did not play a down in 2015. Griffin guided the Redskins to the playoffs as a rookie but played with a knee injury and tore his ACL in the wild-card round. He was back for the start of the 2013 season but incurred a serious ankle injury.

He has thrown for 8,983 yards, 42 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his career.

The Washington Redskins’ 2017 camp may be the last of the Kirk Cousins

The Redskins failed to reach a long-term deal with QB Kirk Cousins, which opens up the possibility that he'll become a free agent next year.

The Redskins failed to reach a long-term deal with QB Kirk Cousins, which opens up the possibility that he’ll become a free agent next year.

The Washington Redskins open training camp on July 27 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Virginia. Here’s a closer look at the Redskins’ camp:

Top storyline: It’s quarterback Kirk Cousins and whether this will be his last season in Washington. The Redskins failed to reach a long-term deal with Cousins by the July 17 deadline, so now there’s a chance he will be a free agent in the 2018 offseason. He can aid himself by helping the Redskins maintain a strong passing attack despite the loss of receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Make no mistake: Washington has firepower, but it also has two receivers with no experience (Terrelle Pryor) or very little (Josh Doctson) playing with Cousins. No excuses, though. If Cousins wants the (really, really) big bucks, he must deliver.

QB depth chart: The Redskins have a solid starter in Cousins and a smart backup in Colt McCoy. Cousins has started the past two seasons, setting franchise records in passing yards each season. McCoy has big fans in the organization. It’s arm strength that separates the two quarterbacks. Second-year QB Nate Sudfeld, a 2016 sixth-round pick, struggled in training camp last summer. He must show this summer whether he is on track to develop into a future starter or just a backup.

Bubble watch: Receiver Brian Quick. The former Ram, coming off his best season (41 catches, 564 yards), didn’t look great in the spring, and it’s hard to imagine him cracking the Redskins’ top four. If he’s a back-end roster guy, special teams will come into play. Regardless, he’ll need a strong camp to earn a roster spot.

That rookie could start: The obvious one is first-round pick Jonathan Allen at defensive end, considering many would have picked him in the top five, had there been no concerns about his shoulders. Allen worked with the second and third units in the spring, but his talent suggests that he will be an early starter. Fourth-round running back Samaje Perine is another to watch.

Vet to watch: Linebacker Junior Galette. He missed the past two seasons with Achilles injuries, so despite being with Washington since the summer of 2015, he has yet to appear in a game. He shed 15 pounds in hopes it will help him maintain his explosion off the line despite the injuries. If he regains his form, Galette, who posted a combined 22 sacks in 2013 and ’14 with New Orleans, could have a solid impact on the pass rush.

Key battle: Inside linebacker. The Redskins signed Zach Brown in the offseason, making him their highest paid inside linebacker. If he starts, he could be one of a possible seven new starters on defense. In the spring, Brown worked mostly with the second defense, though he and Mason Foster split time with the starters in minicamp. Brown’s speed and athleticism will get him on the field; he can help in their nickel package if nothing else. But who starts out of these three: Brown, Foster and Will Compton? Also, third-year Martrell Spaight will sneak into this race if he stays healthy. Coaches like him.

For daily updates at camp, check out the Washington Redskins clubhouse page.

Why in July opened the NFL general manager?

There is a reason most NFL teams go shopping for general managers in January, and it’s not simply a case of Doing Things the Way They’ve Always Been Done.

The “busy season” for an NFL general manager ranges from February through June, the time of year when rosters are built via free agency and the draft. It’s also the period when many scouting contracts expire, allowing the new hire to tweak, add and subtract as necessary before the start of training camp. When summer practice begins, most general managers slip into the background and begin the less visible work of managing college scouting in preparation for the following spring’s draft.

So when a team steps outside this structure, as the Carolina Panthers did Monday in firing Dave Gettleman, it minimizes any short-term impact the move might otherwise bring. Gettleman’s successor can’t have much impact on the Panthers’ 2017 fortunes. Neither will Brett Veach, whom the Kansas City Chiefs elevated earlier this month to replace the fired John Dorsey. These moves must be considered with an extra-long-range lens in mind.
At best, the new general managers in Kansas City and Carolina will get a six-month head start on next offseason. They’ll also have more time to develop a long-range plan for the franchise than if they were hired in January. But in both cases, the front-office work for the 2017 season is all but complete.

This is not to say that teams should limit themselves to the traditional January window in all instances. Summer is a time of relative serenity in the NFL. If a strong-minded owner has soured so deeply on a front-office leader at this time of year, there is a good chance those feelings aren’t going to change as the emotions of the regular season approach and consume. There is no rule requiring the team to wait another six months before making the inevitable move.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether Gettleman deserved to be fired, much less at a time when his imprint is indelibly stamped on a team that opens training camp in less than two weeks. It’s also fair to scrutinize Panthers owner Jerry Richardson or the Chiefs’ Clark Hunt, both of whom authorized a man to build his team and then fired him before the results could begin to be measured.

NFL decision-making is dominated so thoroughly by habitual thinking that it’s natural to be shocked by a midsummer general manager firing. But these moves are sensible if considered in an appropriate and (very) long-term context.

Neither the Panthers nor the Chiefs will benefit in a tangible way this season after replacing their GMs over the summer. They will, however, avoid a festering of disagreement that already was percolating.