EDMONTON, Alberta — Terrell Owens was released from the Edmonton Eskimos’ negotiation list Friday, leaving the 44-year-old former NFL receiver free to sign with any other Canadian Football League team.
Earlier, Owens activated a 10-day window to receive a contract offer from the Eskimos by Tuesday. Edmonton placed Owens, who last played in the NFL in 2010, on its 45-man negotiation list June 19, shortly after he posted a video of himself running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash.
Jason Staroszik, the Edmonton-based agent handling Owens’ CFL negotiations, said the Eskimos’ decision won’t dampen the receiver’s enthusiasm about resuming his football career in Canada.
“It’s definitely not over,” Staroszik said. “Terrell could still sign as a free agent with any team that’s interested. We might see another team put him on their negotiation list. Hopefully there’s another team with an interest. I feel there is, so we’ll see what happens.”
According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, there is no known interest among NFL teams in Owens, who last played with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010. He played briefly in 2012 for the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League and then went to training camp with the Seattle Seahawks that summer. The Seahawks released him Aug. 26, 2012.
Owens will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month in Canton, Ohio, but declined an invitation to the enshrinement ceremony. Instead, Owens will deliver his Hall of Fame speech at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, his alma mater.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
INDIANAPOLIS — A Guatemalan man who Indiana State Police say was living illegally in the U.S. has pleaded guilty to driving drunk when he killed Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and his Uber driver.
WRTV reports Manuel Orrego-Savala pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .15 or more, causing death.
Orrego-Savala had a BAC of 0.19 percent when his truck crashed into Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe’s vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 70 on Feb. 4. Jackson was a passenger.
Orrego-Savala is due to be sentenced Sept. 14 and faces a possible maximum sentence of 16 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $20,000.
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop two counts of failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. has been suspended for the first game of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced Friday.
Fowler will miss the Jags’ Week 1 game against the New York Giants, but is eligible to participate in all preseason games and practices.
While the league did not specify what triggered the suspension, Fowler has had several off-field issues. In March, he pleaded no contest to charges of battery, criminal mischief and petit theft stemming from an arrest last July in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Fowler was sentenced to a year of probation and 75 hours of community service and was fined $925, according to court records.
That was Fowler’s third off-field incident in 17 months. He also was arrested in Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with assault against a police officer/EMT and resisting arrest without violence. The misdemeanor charges were dropped in December 2016 after he completed a pretrial intervention program.
A month before that, a video surfaced on TMZ.com of Fowler apparently refereeing a fight between his girlfriend and the mother of his child. The NFL investigated the matter, but Fowler was not disciplined by the league and he released a statement apologizing for his actions.
Fowler had a career-high 8.0 sacks during the 2017 regular season and two in an AFC Championship Game loss to New England, but the Jaguars elected not to pick up his fifth-year option.
He missed his rookie season with a torn left ACL and had 4.0 sacks in 2016. He has started just one game in his career, though he’s a major part of the pass-rush rotation.
Information from ESPN’s Michael DiRocco was used in this report.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) is good to go for the start of training camp with no limitations on what he can do, but general manager Chris Ballard said Luck will not throw seven days a week during camp.
“He needs to play. … but it is a fine line,” said Ballard, who reiterated that Luck will take normal starting quarterback reps when he’s practicing during training camp.
Lucks had surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017. He missed all of the team’s offseason workouts, all of training camp and eventually the entire 2017 season after experiencing soreness that couldn’t be calmed by a cortisone shot once he started practicing in the middle of October. Luck also spent about six weeks in the Netherlands rehabbing his shoulder in late 2017.
Veterans report for the Colts on Wednesday.
In other Colts news, S Clayton Geathers (knee) will most likely start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Safety Malik Hooker (knee) will start camp on PUP. Those two are projected to be the team’s starters.
Information from ESPN’s Mike Wells was used in this report.
This was really a series of moves that included trading wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams last August for a 2018 second-round pick, then trading left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals this offseason to move into the first round. In his first draft at the helm, general manager Brandon Beane maneuvered Buffalo from No. 21 overall to No. 7, where he made Allen the highest-selected quarterback in franchise history. Beane couldn’t move up high enough for either Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold, and there was debate among Bills fans about whether Josh Rosen would’ve been the better selection, but Buffalo is taking its biggest swing at quarterback in decades with Allen. — Mike Rodak
Not drafting a quarterback
The Dolphins made multiple free-agent signings and trades this offseason, including acquiring former Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, but nothing seems more important to the franchise’s future over the next five seasons than their decision not to draft a quarterback. There had been pre-draft speculation Miami could be in the market, but after four QBs were taken in the top 10, the Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick at 11. Instead of trading up for a QB or selecting one later, they’ll enter the season with David Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty competing for a role behind Ryan Tannehill. That is a huge vote of confidence in Tannehill, but one that could leave Miami in a hole at the position in future seasons if Tannehill proves not to be the franchise cornerstone. — Mike Rodak
Whether the Patriots actually would’ve done it is unclear, but the idea that they at least considered it has merit because Gronkowski didn’t take part in voluntary workouts for the first time in his nine-year career and hadn’t made it clear to the club about his plans to play in 2018 after saying that he was considering retirement after Super Bowl LII. Once the Patriots had more certainty about Gronkowski’s plans — which came after he visited Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium two days after a bizarre Supercross news conference — it was clear that they were moving ahead with Gronkowski in 2018. Given his standing as the NFL’s top tight end, it was a critical development. — Mike Reiss
The St. Patrick’s Day trade up from the No. 6 to No. 3 draft pick
The Jets wouldn’t have landed the draft’s consensus No. 1 quarterback, Sam Darnold, if they hadn’t traded up three spots. It was costly — they sent three second-round picks to the Colts — but it will be well worth it if Darnold fulfills his potential. They still might have been able to trade up during the draft, but the price would’ve been higher. The Jets took the proactive approach to obtain one of the prime spots in the draft. — Rich Cimini
This was the first move in revamping the wide receiver group. This offseason, Baltimore added Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead while parting ways with Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Campanaro. This is definitely a step up for a passing attack that ranked 29th in the NFL last season. How much of an upgrade? That remains to be seen. There’s plenty of pressure on Joe Flacco and the offense after missing the playoffs the past three seasons. –– Jamison Hensley
Trading for LT Cordy Glenn
The Bengals essentially admitted they made a mistake by allowing Andrew Whitworth to walk away in free agency after the 2016 season, and made a move to correct it after seeing poor results at tackle last season. The offense needs an overhaul after finishing at the bottom of the league last year, so getting a left tackle who can improve the offensive line play is a huge step. — Katherine Terrell
The Browns badly needed stability at the most important position on the field, and they badly need to not force first overall pick Baker Mayfield on the field before he’s ready. Taylor gives them a veteran presence who can hold the position for as long as he’s successful. He allows the Browns to rely on someone with experience to man the position. — Pat McManamon
Choosing not to meet Le’Veon Bell‘s demands on a contract extension hurts the Steelers’ long-term outlook, but the star back is still in the lineup for 2018. The absence of Bryant, who was moved to the Raiders for a third-round pick on Day 1 of the draft, forces the Steelers to recalibrate the passing game behind Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger must develop rapport with a new No. 2 receiver, which should be JuJu Smith-Schuster, but Bryant’s length and speed helped keep safeties off Brown. Replacing that presence could prove an arduous task. — Jeremy Fowler
Signing Bill O’Brien to a four-year contract extension
By giving O’Brien an extension in January — with a year left on his previous deal — the Texans showed they were all-in on giving him the chance to show he could build around Deshaun Watson and lead Houston back to the playoffs, despite coming off a 4-12 season. The Texans doubled down on their trust in O’Brien by putting him on the committee to find a new general manager and eventually hiring Brian Gaine. Now O’Brien has his quarterback and has had a heavy hand in personnel decisions this offseason, and team owner Bob McNair hopes his faith in O’Brien will pay off. — Sarah Barshop
The Colts spent Andrew Luck‘s first six seasons — and last season with Jacoby Brissett — watching their quarterbacks get sacked and hit countless times. They gave up an NFL-high 56 sacks last season. Since Week 3 of the 2015 season, Luck has battled a right shoulder injury that also caused him to miss all of last season. Enter Nelson. He was rated by some experts as the top overall player in this year’s draft. His technique, ability to quickly grasp the system and strength was evident throughout offseason workouts and minicamp. He’s joining left tackle Anthony Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly as centerpieces to the offensive line the Colts are trying to put together. — Mike Wells
The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, but production tailed off late in the year, seeing a dip of more than 50 yards per game over the final six weeks. Norwell was an All-Pro in 2017 and the best lineman available. He slides in at left guard and gives the Jaguars a stout left side with left tackle Cam Robinson and center Brandon Linder. They built their offense around the running game and Leonard Fournette and Norwell should make it significantly better — Mike DiRocco
Hiring head coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur
General manager Jon Robinson made the bold move to revamp the coaching staff — hiring Vrabel, LaFleur and Dean Pees to replace Mike Mularkey, Terry Robiskie and Dick LeBeau — after back-to-back 9-7 seasons and a playoff win. Players already love Vrabel’s honesty, refreshing change of energy and willingness to mix it up with them in practice. LaFleur has started to build a growing relationship with Marcus Mariota as the offensive coordinator tries to unlock his superstar potential and help correct his mechanical flaws. These two additions will be bigger than any player Tennessee added this offseason, but both will have to succeed early on. — Cameron Wolfe
The Broncos rotated through three starting quarterbacks — from Trevor Siemian to Brock Osweiler to Paxton Lynch … twice — on the way to a dismal 5-11 season. They combined to throw 22 interceptions; only the winless Browns had more (28). Keenum was the Broncos’ top target in the offseason and they believe he was the best fit for their offense among free-agent quarterbacks. John Elway even went as far as to say Keenum had a better 2017 season than Kirk Cousins. They also believe Keenum’s best career season last year with the Vikings (3,547 passing yards and 22 touchdowns) is a sign of more to come and not a one-time affair. — Jeff Legwold
The Chiefs traded the longtime stability provided by a consistent player in Smith for the upside but inexperience of the talented Mahomes. The quality of play from the most important position might not be such a smooth ride for the Chiefs anymore. But they also might be better equipped to win in the playoffs with Mahomes than they were with Smith. — Adam Teicher
The Chargers barely missed the playoffs last season and likely were a consistent kicker away from reaching the postseason in 2017. Enter Sturgis, whom the Chargers signed this offseason. He still needs to beat out Roberto Aguayo for the starting job and played just one game last season for the Eagles because of a hip injury. But if the 28-year-old Florida native can stay healthy and stabilize the Chargers’ kicking game, the Bolts should challenge to win the AFC West. “He’s an excellent kicker,” special teams coordinator George Stewart said about Sturgis. “We’re looking forward to having a chance to see him kick once we get to training camp.” — Eric D. Williams
Hiring Jon Gruden to be the next head coach
For better or worse, the Raiders are hitched with the erstwhile “Chucky” for the next decade. Gruden, who was the Raiders coach from 1998 through 2001 before being traded to Tampa Bay and coaching the Buccaneers through 2008, had been in the booth for ESPN’s Monday Night Football for the past nine seasons. He has retooled the roster with veterans and hungry newcomers in his image, if you will, with a bevy of Gruden Grinders. “He’s got a database that is beyond comprehension, of just football,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said after hiring Gruden. “And I used to live with somebody that did the same thing … I see a lot of my dad in him. The passion for the game.” — Paul Gutierrez
Hiring defensive backs coach Kris Richard
The Cowboys did not want to lose Matt Eberflus, but he could not turn down the chance to become the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis. In steps Richard, who was let go as the Seahawks’ coordinator, to be the Cowboys’ passing game coordinator. He comes with the legacy of the Legion of Boom and will be responsible for the back-seven of the defense with Rod Marinelli handling the fronts. If the offseason work was any indication, the Cowboys will play with more aggression in the secondary under Richard, which they hope translates to the full defense. They didn’t make any splashy additions to their personnel, cut Dez Bryant and saw Jason Witten retire. They will need more from their defense in 2018, which makes the addition of Richard so important. — Todd Archer
This cemented the Giants’ all-in approach on 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning. It also put the pressure on them to win, and win now, before the window shuts on Manning and early in Barkley’s career. Almost everything the Giants did over the past nine months — from firing Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese to hiring Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman to recommitting to Manning to signing Nate Solder — was validated by the selection of Barkley. It’s clear now what the Giants are trying to accomplish. Only question is: Will it work? — John Keim
Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham is still recovering from ankle surgery and the Eagles’ other starting defensive end from 2017, Vinny Curry, is now with Tampa Bay. Fortunately, coordinator Jim Schwartz has Bennett, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks, to help carry the load. The front office was determined not to rest on its laurels following a championship campaign. Bennett provides an infusion of talent and personality that could provide a shot in the arm for a team gearing up for a repeat. — Tim McManus
Trading for QB Alex Smith
It signaled the end of the Kirk Cousins’ franchise tag era and allowed the Redskins to move on with a quality quarterback. The Redskins, of course, had used the tag two years in a row on Cousins and there was uncertainty about their intentions before the move for Smith in late January. The organization wisely did not want another year of questions and stories about Cousins playing on another one-year deal and wondering about his desire to stick around long term. Cousins was clearly prepared to move on, too. Smith has not been as prolific as Cousins, but takes better care of the ball and, just as important, is being paid commensurate to his talent level for the next five years. Now he just has to maintain a certain level of play over that time. — John Keim
Hiring Matt Nagy to be the next head coach
The Bears’ success begins and ends with Mitchell Trubisky, and they needed a creative offensive mind to help the second-year quarterback realize his potential. That doesn’t mean Nagy (or Trubisky) will pan out, but Nagy’s skill set and fresh approach should go a long way in improving an offense that ranked 30th last season. However, challenges await the first-time head coach, including balancing his playcalling duties with all of his other responsibilities. — Jeff Dickerson
Hiring Matt Patricia as the next head coach
The Lions got the coach they were looking for — arguably the most sought-after candidate on the market. With Bob Quinn as general manager, the two are trying to turn around a decadeslong string of mediocrity for a franchise with one playoff win in the Super Bowl era and no divisional titles for a quarter-century. Patricia already has shown a different style of practice — faster and with more running — and a new, multifaceted defense. — Michael Rothstein
The hiring of GM Brian Gutekunst
The Packers have a new general manager for the first time since 2005 and, along with it, a new power structure consisting of Gutekunst, coach Mike McCarthy and executive vice president Russ Ball, who all report to team president Mark Murphy. What followed was an unusually aggressive approach to free agency (for the Packers) with the signing of a prime new target for Aaron Rodgers in Jimmy Graham and an anchor on the defensive line in Muhammad Wilkerson. — Rob Demovsky
Signing two Pro Bowlers in two days
Super Bowl windows in the NFL are often short. In hopes of building on the success of last year, the Vikings made a big splash by signing Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson on back-to-back days. The quarterback market commanded Minnesota to pay Cousins a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed salary or he was likely going elsewhere. Since money talks, it’s evident ownership felt that the QB position is the missing piece between this franchise and a Super Bowl. The signing of Richardson holds the same concept. His one-year “prove-it” deal could be win-win for both sides. If the defensive tackle is able to bolster this star-studded line on the league’s No. 1 defense and help win a championship, the Vikings get their title and Richardson has a chance to earn his next big payday, in Minnesota or elsewhere. — Courtney Cronin
The Falcons might not ever admit it publicly, but landing a potentially great playmaker in Ridley provides insurance just in case the Julio Jones contract situation goes south. The hope is for Jones and Ridley to work in unison this season, regardless if Jones receives a revised contract immediately or not. Ridley certainly impressed during the offseason in shorts but needs to do the same in pads against veteran cornerbacks. — Vaughn McClure
This spoke volumes on two fronts. It showed the dedication management had to improving Cam Newton‘s wide receiver corps, which lacked a veteran presence last season and in general was a collection of misfits. Then it was followed by using a first-round pick on D.J. Moore. The move also spoke to the lack of confidence in Worley and the need to upgrade at that position. Beyond free-agent moves there, the Panthers selected LSU cornerback Donte Jackson in the second round of the draft. Not only does coach Ron Rivera like Jackson’s cover ability, but he admitted Jackson has that swagger that hasn’t been in the secondary since the team moved on from Josh Norman after the 2015 season. — David Newton
Technically, the most important move the Saints made was re-signing free-agent QB Drew Brees, but that was widely expected. On the flip side, their bold trade to acquire Davenport was a stunner. They traded away next year’s first-round pick to move up from 27 to 13. New Orleans doesn’t necessarily need or expect Davenport to be an instant star, since he’s still a raw, developmental talent from Texas-San Antonio. But the move showed just how important it is for them to add a dynamic edge rusher across from Cameron Jordan — and how hard those types of players are to acquire. — Mike Triplett
Overhauling the defensive line
The Bucs cut Chris Baker because he was loafing, and Robert Ayers, who was due to make $6 million this year. They signed Beau Allen, Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein in free agency. They then traded for Jason Pierre-Paul and drafted Vita Vea in the first round. With the uncertainty surrounding Noah Spence‘s shoulder, Will Gholston’s lack of production last season and Gerald McCoy getting older, the Bucs couldn’t afford to go another year without a pass rush. Look for them to have three new starters to pair with McCoy in September. — Jenna Laine
Drafting QB Josh Rosen at No. 10
For years, the Cardinals needed to find their quarterback of the future. And by trading up from 15th to 10th in the first round of this year’s draft, the Cardinals finally secured him. With Rosen waiting in the wings, the Cardinals have a plan this season — and beyond — if Sam Bradford goes down. Rosen isn’t just the most important move the team made this offseason, he’s one of the most important moves the franchise has made in years. — Josh Weinfuss
By the time the Rams traded Ogletree — who last season signed a four-year, $42 million extension — they already had sent veteran outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Dolphins and traded for cornerback Marcus Peters. But the Ogletree move made it apparent that the Rams were serious about finding the best personnel fits for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme and shedding salary-cap space for the handful of young stars — including Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Peters and Jared Goff — who have big paydays coming. — Lindsey Thiry
The Niners made some other big moves this offseason, but nothing mattered more than nailing down their franchise quarterback for the long haul. Not only did the 49ers hand Garoppolo a five-year, $137.5 million contract, but they did it in February, assuring that there was no need to play the franchise tag game and providing themselves with defined costs at the game’s most important position. That cost certainty allowed San Francisco to add the likes of cornerback Richard Sherman, running back Jerick McKinnon and center Weston Richburg in free agency while still maintaining plenty of cap flexibility for future offseason roster moves. — Nick Wagoner
Releasing CB Richard Sherman
The move saved the Seahawks $11 million in 2018 cap space, and while those savings weren’t necessarily earmarked for any specific moves, the 2018 cap charges for arguably the team’s four most significant defensive signings totaled just under $11 million: safety Bradley McDougald ($3.33 million), nickelback Justin Coleman ($2.914 million), strongside linebacker/pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo ($2.5 million) and defensive end Dion Jordan ($1.907 million). Time will tell if the Seahawks made the right decision in releasing Sherman — they figured that his $11 million would be better spent elsewhere with Sherman coming off an Achilles injury — but at the very least the move afforded them a great deal of financial flexibility as they retooled their defense. — Brady Henderson
PITTSBURGH – After rooming with T.J. Watt for two years at Wisconsin, Alec James realized the Watt football blueprint applies to all hours and all menus.
“His idea of a cheat day meal was Chipotle,” said James, a former Badgers defensive end who will be in Arizona Cardinals training camp. “He’s always disciplined, always working when no one’s working.”
Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp July 25, but Watt already is approaching sizable sophomore expectations as if camp started weeks ago.
Watt has spent the past month back home in Pewaukee, Wis. for a rigorous schedule with trainer Brad Arnett at NX Level, pounding two gallons of water a day and helping the family collect wood for post-movie night fires in the backyard.
Watching his brother J.J. win three Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Houston Texans and grace multiple Sports Illustrated covers has inspired Watt. But he’s not seeking such fame right now.
“I’ve got a boring lifestyle. I’m not about any of that (other) stuff,” said Watt, 23. “I work out, I go home, I grill burgers and hang out by myself or hang out with a few of the guys on the team. I’m not here for anything else but football.”
The Steelers don’t doubt that mindset. Watt was the only NFL linebacker with at least 50 tackles, five sacks, five passes defended and an interception last season. He led all rookie linebackers with seven sacks.
Watt put those numbers to bed months ago, telling himself more splash is needed.
“No stats matter. It’s at zero,” Watt said.
Each summer, the Watt brothers rely on Arnett to set the plan in motion with a five-day-a-week schedule that accounts for every minute, just how they like it.
“They understand the importance of the little things,” Arnett said. “Very consistent with always doing things the right way, the same way, all the time.”
J.J.’s rehab from a left tibial plateau fracture has affected his schedule, but T.J. and older brother Derek, a Los Angeles Chargers fullback, start each NX Level session with soft tissue exercises, loosening muscles with a lacrosse ball and a series of jump exercises.
Arnett fires off buzz phrases such as “ground base activity” and “T-spine rotations” and “snatch variation” Olympic lifting when describing the workout. Then there’s plyometric and de-acceleration work. All the moving parts coalesce to put the 2018 goal into focus: Be more explosive.
“It’s a new season. It’s a clean slate. I’ve got everything to prove,” Watt said. “I’ll go out there and try to provide as much splash.”
The Watts spend Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday in the facility and do something active for themselves on Wednesdays: Fishing or bike riding, for example. “One day a week for them,” Arnett said.
Even more intense is the diet regimen, which Arnett says requires about 7,000 to 8,000 calories and two gallons of water a day for Watt, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds.
Watt targets three balanced meals and three hearty snacks a day, along with pre- and post-workout supplementation.
Breakfast staples include egg whites with yolks, turkey bacon or sausage, potatoes, fruit and granola. Beef jerky, sandwiches with avocado or tossed salad and Fairlife milk sources are good snacks options (no nuts — Watt has an allergy).
Dinners with lean proteins should accompany vegetables and potatoes with color, typically orange or purple.
But having fun is allowed, too.
“I don’t want these guys to feel like they aren’t living,” Arnett said. “Nothing wrong with a piece of pie or burritos or having a couple of beers. It’s all life.”
The simple life
The Watts spend many summer evenings in the backyard, where T.J. plays an essential, but modest, role.
“I’m the wood collector,” Watt said. “My dad’s a firefighter, so he’s always the one who likes to start the fire. I trust him more. Whenever he’s not there, I do the gas fire to be safe.”
Watt might not be spending countless hours in the log cabin that J.J. popularized, but the lumber-man mentality is very much in place when back home.
Movies and video games are cool but utilized in moderation. The family’s idea of a hobby is going on annual cruises to various beach spots, laughing at jokes inside cabins and stuffing faces with buffet fare.
When it comes to football, James sees the same person who used to slip into the Badgers facility on Sunday afternoons for sprints and film work by himself.
“He was never the one to make wrong decisions,” said James, who also trains at NX Level. “He knows what he wants to accomplish, and he won’t let anything get in the way of that.”
That means creating a football identity apart from J.J., while utilizing the wisdom he’s imparted. T.J. learned the art of being a pro from J.J., who stressed hand usage at the line of scrimmage to unlock NFL potential.
If production keeps climbing, so will T.J.’s fame. He’s got the look — and the name — of a marketable star.
But T.J. feels too unproven to even entertain those thoughts.
“I see J.J. and it’s a whole other level. I’m as humble as it gets with that stuff because this can all be taken away so quickly,” Watt said. “So I have my older brothers to lean on when it comes to that stuff. Until that time comes, I’m just going to ball.”
The new look
Pittsburgh drafts first-rounders with the intention to play them early, but the way Watt snatched the starting outside linebacker job from stalwart James Harrison early in 2017 training camp made an impression.
For Watt’s sophomore campaign, the Steelers have a new challenge – moving him from right to left outside linebacker. Coaches believe Bud Dupree, who’s explosive but often overshot quarterbacks in the pocket last season, is best suited for the blind side. Technique and hands, Watt’s specialty, are crucial for the left.
As a result, Watt and Arnett spent considerable time working on right foot starts from two-point or three-point starts, utilizing hoop/cone drills and metabolics to add quickness.
“He’s got strength, strong hands, long arms,” Arnett said. “It will be hard to get in on him, and he understands how to use them.”
Back in Pittsburgh, coaches will make sure to humble Watt when necessary.
Joey Porter, once an imposing and unpredictable Steeler who is now Mike Tomlin’s outside linebackers coach, is not about to praise Watt’s coverage skills just because he locked up Jordy Nelson one time last year.
Watt got beat for a touchdown on the same play against Cleveland, Porter noted.
“I don’t just remember certain plays. I remember every play,” Porter said. “It’s all a work in progress.”
Porter is hard on every player when he shows cut-ups of the 2017 season, but he knows Watt will take it. And what Porter likes is Watt rarely makes the same mistakes twice.
“I know he’s going to work, I know he’s going to be in shape and doing the right things,” said Porter of Watt. “With him, make sure I get them to camp healthy and out of camp healthy.”
Back in May, Watt already had his sight set on next year. After an uncomfortably hot Steelers OTA session, Watt took to the tackling sled for about 10 minutes of one-on-ones, then lamented his need to make tackles in space in 2018, securing the first tackle so teammates don’t have to bail him out.
Despite playing 900-plus snaps as a rookie, Watt feels well-rested and ready to mold his masterpiece season.
“Chisel away at what’s going to be a finished product,” Watt said. “We’ve got a big ice block right now and we’re carving into it and making our sculpture.”