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.

AFC East Q & A: How does Patriot deal with Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract?

 

Today’s question: Expectations and excitement surrounding the New England Patriots’ 2017 season are as high as they’ve ever been during Bill Belichick’s 18-year coaching tenure. Tom Brady, who turns 40 on Aug. 3, is still playing at a high level. Top backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who has flashed signs of potentially being a franchise quarterback, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

What should the Patriots do?

Rich Cimini, New York Jets reporter: This is the most fascinating personnel decision looming in the NFL. This is a tough one, but sometimes the tough ones work themselves out organically. Personally, I’d move on from Brady if he suffers a serious injury or experiences a decline in his play. After all, he will be 40 years old in August. In that case, I’d hand the 2018 job to Garoppolo and sign him to a new contract. If Brady maintains his current level of play … wow, that’s a tough one. The popular school of thought is to use the franchise tag on Garoppolo for 2018, but I don’t think it’s fiscally prudent to pay $21 million (probably more) for a backup. Besides, it’s not the Patriot way. Heck, they don’t like to pay anyone that much, let alone a backup with limited experience. I’d try to sign Garoppolo to a two-year deal, pushing a big guarantee into 2019 and promising him he’ll be the starter by then. It’s not ideal for any of the sides, but it’s the best way to stabilize the position for the long term. Some teams would let Brady play until he says “Uncle,” but the Patriots are cold and ruthless when it comes to personnel decisions, and I can’t see them letting sentimentality get in the way — not even for Brady.
James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter: It seems to me the Patriots have made their decision to let Garoppolo walk in 2018. They’ve had numerous offseasons — including this year — to trade Garoppolo while his value was high, and the Patriots determined it was best to keep the quarterback insurance. That’s fine. What would not be wise is for New England to use the one-year franchise tag, reportedly worth $25 million, to keep him next year as a backup. That would be terribly shortsighted and un-Patriot like. The only way I see Garoppolo in a Patriots uniform next year is if Brady suffers a season-ending or career-threatening injury this season. Otherwise, they got four years out of Garoppolo as a second-round pick. Let someone else pay huge money for him next season.

Mike Rodak, Buffalo Bills reporter: This is, as owner Robert Kraft likes to say, a “high class” problem for the Patriots. Whether New England trades Garoppolo or keeps him around, I don’t think the team can go wrong. The Bills would sure like to have Garoppolo, who was available in the second round of the 2014 draft when they instead chose offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (who was released in May) at No. 44 overall. With quarterback-needy teams such as Buffalo ready to pounce if Garoppolo hits the open market, I don’t see the Patriots letting Garoppolo walk as a free agent for nothing. I think the most logical solution is to assign Garoppolo the franchise tag. If a team wants to trade for him, I am sure the Patriots will listen to any offers. If New England holds onto him, they could attempt to renegotiate his deal to smooth out his sizable salary-cap hit over multiple seasons. While the price tag is going to get significantly higher, I think it makes sense for the Patriots to hold serve with Garoppolo, particularly as Brady enters mostly uncharted territory as a 40-year-old starting quarterback.

How much longer will Jimmy Garoppolo be looking over Tom Brady's shoulder

How much longer will Jimmy Garoppolo be looking over Tom Brady’s shoulder

Cam Newton: I’m just missing the Super Bowl Champion

It wouldn’t come as a surprise if this has been an offseason of self-reflection for Cam Newton.

A year after dominating the NFL en route to MVP honors and a Super Bowl appearance (albeit one that ended in devastating fashion), the Panthers quarterback must look back on the most disappointing campaigns of his professional career.

Newton’s struggles in 2016 have been well-documented. He saw his completion percentage dip to a career-worst 52.9 percent and passing TDs fall from 35 to 19 as he took a weekly beating from opposing defenses overpowering a beleaguered offensive line.

Gone was his trademark smile. Instead were confessions that the game was becoming less fun amid a belief he wasn’t afforded the protection from suspect hits other marquee quarterbacks received. And then offseason shoulder surgery kept him from throwing in OTAs and minicamp.

With all of that in his rear view, however, Newton is refocusing on the one thing that eluded him back when he was on top of the NFL.

“I’m looking at my life right now and I’m saying, ‘I’m missing one thing: I want a Super Bowl,’” Newton told campers Saturday at his annual 7-on-7 passing tournament, per the Charlotte Observer. “Yeah, but it’s really certain things that you have to really fine-tune and say, ‘Am I deserving to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? How can I push myself to be a better me?’”

The Panthers believe they know how Newton can do just that.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera emphasized at the end of the 2016 season his offense needed to evolve away from the zone-read and find better ways to protect his franchise QB. The team’s offseason moves reinforce that philosophy. The Panthers invested in the offensive line by signing Matt Kalil to a $55 million deal in March (time will tell if this was wise) and drafting Taylor Moton in the second-round. More importantly, they diversified their skill positions with a pair of rookie dynamos in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to rejuvenate their attack.

We’re a long way off from knowing if these moves will lead to the evolution Rivera seeks, but if Newton plans to be a better Cam in 2017, he has the tools at his disposal to do it.

Odell Beckham: Never prepared for the season

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could tell he was ready for the season even while hosting his second annual football camp. In fact, he claimed to have never felt quite this good.

“I don’t think so,” he said at the Citi Odell Beckham Jr. Football ProCamp at Kean University, which attracted close to 600 campers. “I think this might be the most [I've been ready] in my lifetime. In every which way, I just feel it there. … I’ve really been training, and to have these next six weeks to get another opportunity to train, it’s going to be great.

 

Odell Beckham Jr. is the only player in NFL history to top 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first three professional seasons.
“Just like you said — mentally, physically, spiritually, everything. I don’t think I’ve been as ready as I am now.

Beckham elected to skip voluntary OTAs this year. He remained in Los Angeles and worked with his trainer, Jamal Liggin. The Giants were extremely complimentary of the receiver’s conditioning at minicamp this past week.

Even when Beckham was racing campers in a 40-yard dash on Saturday, his mother, Heather Van Norman, a former track star and coach, noted he was running well. Beckham said she was impressed with the way he was driving and in “drive phase” for 40 yards, even though he said he wasn’t really running.

How will this translate to the season after three record-breaking Pro Bowl efforts?

“I guess you have to wait and see,” said Beckham, who is the only player in NFL history to top 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first three professional seasons. “Words can only do so much — you have to wait to see what happens.”

Beckham spent almost seven hours Saturday putting smiles on kids’ faces at his camp before heading back to Los Angeles. The camp is something he started last year and plans on continuing, and possibly even expanding. There are thoughts of potentially doing something with his close friends and former LSU teammates Jeremy Hill and Jarvis Landry in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Beckham matched up against children in grades one through eight on offense and defense on Saturday in New Jersey, and despite him being in prime shape, he admitted he got shook once. More often than not, though, he got the better of the 1-on-1 matchups, just as he does on Sundays.

It was a gratifying experience no matter the result.

“It’s just so much fun being out here,” he said. “Each one of them has a smile on their face. Just out here having fun. This is what it’s about. It kind of reminds you why you do it. The same love and joy that they have is what got me to where I’m at.”

Beckham’s at the point in his career where he is an established player trying to take his game to the next level. His 2016 season ended with a disappointing performance during a playoff loss in Green Bay.

But the bouncing back is part of the message he was hoping to pass along to the kids. It’s what he tried to show them on the field Saturday and plans to put on display in the fall.

“Just show them [to] come out and play and give it your best every single time — win, lose or draw,” he said. “Teach them how to come back after losing. Teach them not how to accept losing but how to get better from it. Just always keep continuing to grow, and most importantly, have fun.”