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.

Forget Brett Favre: Mark Murphy’s question is now Ted Thompson

GREEN BAY, Wis. — For Mark Murphy, the Brett Favre questions have been replaced by the Ted Thompson questions.

Retirement seemed a possibility for Packers GM Ted Thompson before he signed his contract extension in 2014.

Retirement seemed a possibility for Packers GM Ted Thompson before he signed his contract extension in 2014.

For years, the Green Bay Packers president couldn’t do an interview without being asked about the team’s relationship with its former quarterback. But the once-strained relationship has been fixed and Favre was welcomed back to Lambeau Field the past two seasons — in 2015 to have his number retired and last year to receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ring. Murphy spoke Wednesday in a group media session and in an interview with ESPN, and Favre’s name never came up.

The same could not be said about his general manager.
Thompson turned 64 in January, and when the Packers struggled at the beginning of last season, questions about his future increased. But after Green Bay rallied to reach the NFC Championship Game, Murphy indicated that Thompson’s job was never in jeopardy nor was Thompson on the verge of retirement — a point the team president reiterated this week during an interview after the release Wednesday of the Packers’ annual financial statement.

“As long as he wants to continue to work and he’s still doing a good job — and I think he still does a great job for us — I want him to continue to be our general manager,” Murphy said of Thompson.

As Murphy said after the season, he does not have a hand-picked successor in mind.

Since then, however, a potential top candidate became available when the Kansas City Chiefs last month parted ways with general manager John Dorsey, who was a longtime Packers scout. Murphy wouldn’t say whether the Packers planned to bring back Dorsey in any capacity; that would fall under Thompson’s purview. But Dorsey is part of a lengthy list of potential replacements for Thompson, who is under contract through at least the 2018 season and possibly through the 2019 draft, although Murphy hasn’t clarified that.

Retirement seemed a possibility for Thompson even before he signed his most recent contract extension in 2014. The former NFL linebacker and special-teams standout has undergone hip replacement surgery and thus has reduced the number of scouting trips he takes.

Murphy has never hired an NFL general manager; he inherited Thompson when he became president in 2008 but signed him to the extension nearly three years ago. Thompson, who hired coach Mike McCarthy in 2006, is set to begin his 13th season in charge of the Packers’ roster.

At some point, perhaps Murphy should become concerned that he’ll lose out on possible candidates — whether former Packers scouts who have gone elsewhere to become GMs such as Dorsey, John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks) and Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) or current employees such as Eliot Wolf, Brian Gutekunst, Alonzo Highsmith and Russ Ball (who could leave for GM jobs).

Wolf and Gutekunst interviewed for multiple GM jobs this offseason before both signed new contracts with the Packers. However, there’s no indication that either one has been promised anything beyond their current positions. Wolf is director of football operations, and Gutekunst is direction of player personnel.

“I can’t tell you now who we would hire because you don’t know when that would be,” Murphy said. “But we would have a process in place when that would happen.”

AFC East Q&A:Who is the best newer?

When asked the question “Who is the best newcomer in the division?” ESPN.com’s AFC East reporters were all in agreement: The New England Patriots made the best move with the addition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Mike Rodak, Buffalo Bills reporter: Patriots WR Brandin Cooks. Acquiring Cooks, who has the eighth-most receiving yards in the NFL since 2015, was the source of further frustration for fans of New England’s opponents in the AFC East. How do the rich keep getting richer? In this case, the Patriots broke their habit of stockpiling draft picks by trading their first-round pick for Cooks and making further moves that left them with only four total selections in 2017. An argument can be made that the Patriots might get hurt down the road by not taking advantage of what was considered a deep draft, but it cannot be debated that Cooks is the best player to join the division. He solidifies the Patriots’ status as favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks (14) can be described as a younger, faster version of Julian Edelman (11).

Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks (14) can be described as a younger, faster version of Julian Edelman (11).

James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter: The Patriots acquiring Cooks was a smart move on so many levels. Cooks brings a speed element and big-play threat at receiver that New England hasn’t had since Randy Moss. Add in the healthy return of tight end Rob Gronkowski and this could be one of the best offenses Tom Brady has led in his Hall of Fame career. Even financially, this is a steal for New England. Cooks will be its fourth-highest-paid receiver this year at $1.563 million. Cooks makes less than Danny Amendola ($1.7 million) and Chris Hogan ($3 million) but could post better numbers than both of his teammates combined.

Mike Reiss, New England Patriots reporter: On the second day of Patriots mandatory minicamp, I watched Cooks run a crossing route from right to left, catch a pass from Brady, and then accelerate up the left sideline and just keep running. Watching him pull away from undrafted rookie defensive back Kenny Moore and others in pursuit, Cooks reminded me of a thoroughbred horse coming down the homestretch with the end zone representing the finish line. He can fly, giving the Patriots a home run threat they haven’t previously had on the roster. Cooks arrived in New England in March as a top-caliber talent, having posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, so choosing him as best newcomer is a slam dunk. One question is how he’ll fare in some poor weather conditions, which are inevitable in New England, after having played more than half of his games in comfy domes from 2014 through 2016.

Rich Cimini, New York Jets reporter: In my opinion, this is a no-brainer — Cooks. He’s an ideal wide receiver for the Patriots’ offense — undersized but explosive, capable of turning a short crossing route into a 30-yard gain. Basically he’s a younger, faster version of Julian Edelman, and he will be a tough cover for any team. Tom Brady & Co. will be difficult to defend when they’re in a three-receiver look, and they’ll be tough to defend when it’s a two-tight end package. Get the picture? I could easily see Cooks with 80 catches and 1,100 yards this season. Cooks will be only 24 in September, so he has a lot of good football ahead of him. The only downside for the Patriots is that he has only two years left on his contract, counting the fifth-year option.

San Jose’s Matheus Silva appeared after a swim accident from a coma

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes say Matheus Silva has emerged from a coma, two days after the Brazilian defender was rescued from Lake Tahoe.

San Jose's Matheus Silva has emerged from a coma and is speaking after a swimming accident in Lake Tahoe.

San Jose’s Matheus Silva has emerged from a coma and is speaking after a swimming accident in Lake Tahoe.

Silva, who was playing this season for Reno 1868 FC, struggled while swimming at a Fourth of July gathering. He was pulled from the water by teammates and bystanders but was unresponsive and did not have a pulse.
The 20-year-old was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe before he was airlifted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, where he was joined by members of his family and Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli.

Silva emerged from the coma Thursday morning. He was responsive and able to speak but will undergo additional testing.

“The entire Earthquakes organization is grateful for the invaluable effort by the doctors, players and staff at Reno 1868 FC and bystanders on the beach that contributed to Matheus being alive and well today,” Fioranelli said.

What is the impact of Adrian Peterson on NFC South?

The buzz surrounding Adrian Peterson grew even more deafening around New Orleans Saints camp this spring with each powerful step the 32-year-old running back took on the practice field.

Will NFC South teams have to plan for games differently now that Adrian Peterson is on the Saints?

Will NFC South teams have to plan for games differently now that Adrian Peterson is on the Saints?

“I’m amazed, honestly. Seeing him just take off his first few steps are as explosive as I’ve ever seen by a human being,” said Saints left tackle Terron Armstead, echoing the awe that could be heard throughout the locker room.

Of course, some of that is springtime hype, and some of that is the reverence so many players have for one of the NFL’s all-time greats. In truth, Peterson remains a bit of an unknown after playing in just three games last year because of a torn meniscus in his knee, which is why he had to settle for an incentive-laden two-year contract with the Saints that included only $3.5 million in guarantees.

So the question I posed to the rest of ESPN’s NFC South reporters was: What do you (or better yet your teams) expect from Peterson this year? A curiosity? A reason to fear the Saints or plan for games against them differently? Or not much different than the Mark Ingram/Tim Hightower duo the Saints featured the past two years?

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: I spoke with a league executive about this topic immediately after Peterson signed, and that person made some interesting points. The executive said to expect Peterson to show up in the big games, like the Sept. 11 opener against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and any meaningful NFC South clash. “You don’t want to run that guy out there for 16 games,” the executive said. “Then you risk him getting hurt again.” Opposing coaches certainly respect Peterson and his potential to break off big runs like the Peterson of old. Peterson’s second-highest single-game rushing effort during the past three seasons, 158 yards, came in a win over Atlanta in 2015. You can bet the Falcons won’t take him for granted. Is Peterson a guy you have to devise your entire defensive game plan around to stop? Not anymore. But any defensive coordinator would be foolish to underestimate a player who overcame a serious left knee injury to become the league’s MVP in 2012. Having Ingram simply gives the Saints the ability to pick and choose the best times to use Peterson, even if that means both are on the field together.

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: Jameis Winston raved about his time training with Peterson this offseason. He and several receivers went to Houston to work out at his facility. “Just for them to be able to see what greatness is, it helps us. It helps build us, it helps motivate us,” Winston said. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter also called Peterson “one of the best running backs to ever play.” So no one at One Buc Place is taking him lightly. The Bucs made it a point to bolster their run defense this offseason, re-signing their best run-stopping defensive end in William Gholston, whose presence they sorely missed in Week 16 last year against the Saints, when they lost 31-24 and missed the playoffs. The Bucs also re-signed Sealver Siliga, who gives them a lot of mass up the middle, and drafted Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who gives them great size along the interior. A healthy Peterson doesn’t just strain the defensive line, because he is so successful at getting to the second level and is so shifty, it places extra emphasis on linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. From an actual game-planning standpoint, I don’t think it changes how the Bucs line up at all. Of the 67 defensive snaps the Bucs took against the Saints in Week 16 last year, they spent only 15 of them in nickel, the fewest times they used nickel personnel and the most they lined up in their base defense all season. They used a heavy dose of their base defense in Week 14, as well, which shows how much they already respect the Saints’ ability to run the ball.

David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: The Panthers will say all the right things to build Peterson’s impact up to be politically correct. I don’t have that filter. Sorry, but my expectations aren’t high. In part, that’s because Peterson never has been great against the Panthers, and in part, that’s because Peterson is 32 years old learning a new offense. Oh, and the Saints have a guy named Drew Brees who likes to throw for nearly 5,000 yards every season. I just don’t see the Saints committing to the run game to make Peterson or any back that isn’t a dual-threat extremely dangerous. Not to say Peterson hasn’t been a dual-threat in the past. I just don’t see him at his age doing what he has done in the past. He may prove me wrong. The Saints may prove me wrong and become more dedicated to the run. But with that defense, they’ll likely be playing catch-up a lot or be involved in a shootout. Neither promotes being dedicated to the running game. No offense to Peterson, who like Brees will wind up in the Hall of Fame, but this isn’t an offseason acquisition I see leading New Orleans back to the promised land.

Gabriel Jackson agreed to Raiders for five years, up to $ 56 million in transactions

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders have agreed to a five-year contract extension with right guard Gabe Jackson, sources told ESPN’s Josina Anderson and Adam Schefter.

Guard Gabe Jackson helped the Raiders give up only 18 sacks last season, fewest in the NFL.

Guard Gabe Jackson helped the Raiders give up only 18 sacks last season, fewest in the NFL.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said last week Jackson was next in line on the Raiders for a new deal.
A third-round draft pick in 2014 out of Mississippi State, Jackson had one year remaining on his rookie contract. The extension takes him through the 2022 season. The Raiders plan on moving to Las Vegas by 2020.

Jackson’s extension is worth up to $56 million and includes $26 million in guaranteed money, sources told Anderson and Schefter.

The Raiders had more than $33.3 million in salary cap space before last week’s $125 million extension for quarterback Derek Carr, and his salary cap number for 2017 was expected to be $15 million, which would bring the team’s cap number down to about $18 million.
Jackson’s cap number is not yet known, and the Raiders have yet to sign any of their top three draft picks, including first-rounder Gareon Conley, who has yet to hear if he will face charges after being accused of sexual assault before the draft.

In Jackson, the Raiders locked up a key part of their oft-dominant offensive line, which last season was a top-five unit in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. It also includes Pro Bowlers in left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele (also an All-Pro) and center Rodney Hudson.

The Raiders had the highest cap value on their offensive line last season ($37 million) and gave up an NFL-low 18 sacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

After two seasons at left guard, the 25-year-old Jackson switched to right guard in 2017 with the arrival of Osemele, and he did not appear to miss a beat.

Up next for the Raiders is defensive player of the year Khalil Mack, though the All-Pro edge rusher already had his fifth-year option, as a first-round pick in 2014, picked up by Oakland earlier this offseason, tying him to the team through at least 2018.

Sources told Schefter that Mack would have to wait until 2018 to get his extension because his deal is expected to be too big to fit under the cap this season.

No extension is expected to be in line for him until next offseason, when Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper will also be eligible for an extension.

But as a first-round pick in 2015, Cooper could also potentially be in line for a fifth-year option.