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How Panthers owner David Tepper has been a ‘force of nature’ – Carolina Panthers Blog



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On any given day you might see a somewhat nondescript man wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and baseball cap walking down Mint Street toward Bank of America Stadium. He easily could be one of the plethora of people hired to keep the stadium grounds immaculate or just an average Joe out for a morning stroll.

You’d never guess David Tepper was worth $11.6 billion and the owner of the Carolina Panthers.

“He has no detail around him,” Charlotte city councilman James Mitchell said. “No bodyguards. He feels the vibe. He gets it. I call him the action man. He’s all about action.”

Until the sale of the Panthers was finalized a year ago on July 9 — for an NFL-record $2.275 billion — the organization had had one owner, founder Jerry Richardson. There was some apprehension about what to expect from Tepper, a now 61-year-old Pittsburgh native, beginning with whether he would keep the team in Charlotte.

Mitchell was among those who were apprehensive. But it didn’t take long for him to realize Tepper was not only was the right person to take over an organization embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct by Richardson, but to be an agent of change and progress in North and South Carolina.

“It’s been like a breath of fresh air,” Mitchell said.

Local real estate developer Brian Leary, who last month led a question-and-answer session with Tepper at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s inter-city trip in Pittsburgh, agreed.

“David Tepper is a force of nature, while at the same time the most down-to-earth billionaire you’d probably ever meet,” Leary said as he recalled the session at Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper’s alma mater. “Force of nature can come in many forms, whether it’s the wind, the sea or the sun.

“When [Dave] comes into a room, when he shares his idea, you can’t ignore it. It’s just like the weather.”

Tepper has plenty of ideas, and he’s been quick to implement many in his first year at Carolina. He built an indoor practice facility adjacent to the stadium coach Ron Rivera and others have wanted since the Panthers’ first season in 1995.

  • He struck a deal for a $115 million tax break with South Carolina lawmakers to build the team headquarters, including a state-of-the-art practice facility and other world-class amenities, in nearby Rock Hill by 2022.

  • He hired women to head some of the most powerful positions in the organization and an in-house mental health clinician that NFL officials call a “game-changer.”

  • He’s made it clear the stadium will be a hub of activity from football, to concerts, to one day hosting an MLS team. He even holding a beerfest there.

  • Tepper also allowed Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney to sign controversial talent such as safety Eric Reid, the first player to join then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

“David identified his priorities early on and that was winning on the field and in the community,” said team president Tom Glick, who prior to being hired by Tepper was the chief operating officer for the English Premier League’s Manchester City Football Club.

“He’s done an outstanding job of doing his homework, listening to fans and making the right adjustments to help our organization find competitive advantages.”

Tepper has been active in the community, from passing out book bags and school supplies to children to funding the West Charlotte High School basketball team’s trip to Raleigh, North Carolina for the state championship.

He’s done most of it quietly, so as not to direct attention to himself. He chose not to be interviewed for this article.

“In the one year David Tepper has owned the Panthers,” Leary said, “I believe [North and South Carolina] have gotten to know him in a way they never knew the previous owner … in a very personal and passionate way about what’s important to him, the community and the organization.”

‘Very authentic’

Last May, the night before being unanimously approved by league owners to purchase the Panthers, Tepper sat in a hotel bar outside of Atlanta and ate a hamburger with reporters swarming the area as they typically do at an owner’s meeting.

This wasn’t trying to stand apart from the mostly buttoned-up owners. Tepper blends in as a regular guy because that’s what he was growing up as the son of an accountant and teacher. He leaves the business suits and fancy attire in his closet except for must-wear situations.

During a May visit to West Charlotte High to be honored for his generosity to the basketball team, Tepper arrived wearing sneakers, jeans, an untucked polo shirt and a Panthers cap.

“He was so unassuming,” said school principal Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones. “I would never have guessed he was who he was. He put on one of our jerseys. A very easy-going guy, very authentic in who he is in an unassuming way. He didn’t want to have the spotlight on him.”

That Tepper without hesitation put on the jersey, which was at least a size to small, showed he was in tune with the moment more than his personal appearance.

He even led a school chant, shouting “Dub C” to which the student body responded quickly, “You know!”

“He nailed it,” Mitchell said. “He just wanted to be able to relate to them, and to say the West Charlotte slogan helped very quickly.'”

Tepper called Mitchell about a week before the playoff trip and told the council member to stop trying to raise money for the tournament and focus on raising money for the city.

“He came at the right time,” Mitchell said of Tepper. “When you talk about what type of vision we need in Charlotte, he has the right vision.”

A fan at heart

Tepper doesn’t just sign checks. He’s heavily involved in team and league decisions. He’s not as heavy-handed and outspoken as Dallas owner Jerry Jones, but when it comes to personnel and other matters that will influence the perception and performance of the organization he has the last say.

“He likes talking ball,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said with a smile. “He’s just a guy that enjoys the game. … That’s the thing you notice the most. He wants to come in, have fun, but he also wants to win.”

And Tepper is willing to give the football side everything it takes to win, beginning with the indoor practice facility after a 2018 season in which rain and sometimes heat impeded the team’s weekly preparation.

“There’s a lot of things, and you don’t have to look very far, to see progress and transition and his ideas at play,’’ said tight end Greg Olsen, looking at the bubble going up during a June minicamp.

Tepper also played a part in the thought process that led Rivera to take over the defensive playcalling late last season, something that will continue in 2019. In his words: When you have a great defensive mind, take advantage of it.

“David is just getting started,’’ said Mark Hart, the team’s vice president and chief operating officer. “This first year he has done a lot of listening and research so now we have a much better feel for what is really needed.”

On games days, though, you won’t see Tepper hovering on the sideline or interfering with staff. He spends most of his time as a fan. You might see him drinking a cold beer at a random tailgate party.

“He is a snappy dresser,’’ Rivera said jokingly of Tepper’s style. “He can make anything go with jeans.’’

Tepper doesn’t want to draw attention to himself for his lack of style as quarterback Cam Newton does with his flamboyant outfits. He wants to draw attention to the organization for winning titles, as the Pittsburgh Steelers — the team of he rooted for — did when he was a kid.

He understands that’s what he’ll ultimately be judged on as an owner.

“We have the mantra we’re trying to get in the organization,” Tepper told a crowd in Rock Hill during the official signing of the tax bill. “It’s a mantra of excellence and a mantra of winning.”

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NFL preseason Week 3 takeaways



The Houston Texans lost starting running back Lamar Miller to what is feared to be a torn ACL in Saturday’s Week 3 game at Dallas.

Elsewhere, the Indianapolis Colts endured a postgame surprise as their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, announced his retirement. And earlier in the day, 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray displayed arm strength and accuracy in his best showing of the preseason thus far.

We have all of that and more in the biggest takeaways and fantasy football nuggets of the preseason’s third week from NFL Nation:

Jump to a matchup:

Saturday’s games

The Texans fear running back Lamar Miller tore his ACL, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Miller was carted off the field in the first quarter after he was hit just above the knee when he was tackled by Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins. Losing Miller for the season would be a big blow to the Texans’ offense. According to Pro Football Focus, since 2016, Miller has accounted for 51.2% of Houston’s rushing yardage. The Texans might add another running back, but right now, new addition Duke Johnson Jr. is the lead back. Behind Miller and Johnson on the depth chart are Damarea Crockett, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones, Josh Ferguson and Karan Higdon. — Sarah Barshop

The Cowboys will need to have Dak Prescott at his best to truly succeed in 2019. The quarterback shrugged off a defender to throw a touchdown pass to Michael Gallup in the first quarter Saturday against Houston, but it was the work of backup Cooper Rush that answered some questions. Playing with the first team for a drive, Rush directed the Cowboys to a field goal after a touchdown pass was wiped out by a dubious penalty. He was not perfect, but he finished the first half completing 15 of 25 passes for 173 yards. While the Cowboys hope not to experience life without Prescott in the regular season, Rush has clearly outplayed Mike White to be the No. 2 quarterback. — Todd Archer



Dak Prescott uses his feet to create space then finds Michael Gallup in the end zone for a score on the QB’s only drive.

The Seahawks have enough trust in quarterback Russell Wilson to avoid hits and not get hurt that they allowed him to run three times (for 31 yards) in a preseason game. That stood out on a night in which Andrew Luck stunned the NFL by announcing his retirement at age 29, citing how numerous injuries have taken an emotional toll. Wilson has never missed a regular season or playoff game since he and Luck were drafted together in 2012, and his 112 consecutive starts is the fourth-longest active streak among quarterbacks. The only two practices he has missed (offseason, training camp or during the season) were to attend funerals. The surprising end of Luck’s career is a reminder that Wilson’s durability shouldn’t be taken for granted. As much intrigue as there is in the Seahawks’ backup QB battle between Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch, there’s a good chance the winner might not see a meaningful snap in 2019 — Brady Henderson

The Chargers had four headline defensive players watching from the sideline in Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Brandon Mebane and Thomas Davis. Not to mention All-Pro safety Derwin James won’t be back anytime soon after having foot surgery this week. Still, coordinator Gus Bradley had to be scratching his head over the way the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks offense ran roughshod over his defense. The Los Angeles D allowed 185 rushing yards. If the Chargers truly want to reach their potential and develop into one of the best units in the league, they have to get more physical against the run. — Eric D. Williams

Four games into their five-game marathon of a preseason and two things are clear on offense for the Broncos — they have been choppy at best with just four touchdowns in four games (none against the Los Angeles Rams), and they will almost certainly be scouring the list of players who have been cut league-wide a week from now for a potential backup quarterback. The fact Kevin Hogan, who coach Vic Fangio had said would get the majority of the playing time against the Rams Saturday night, was removed from the lineup before halftime shows he has not made the most of his opportunity. And Brett Rypien, who had a fairly good showing in a two-minute drill before halftime, showed in extended work he is a rookie with some potential, but also with plenty of developmental work to do. It all means this team will have to lean on its defense plenty in the early season and that Drew Lock‘s right thumb injury will have a significant ripple effect on how the roster looks in Week 1. And the team’s backup quarterback and, after another shaky special-teams outing, punt returner, might not be on the roster yet. — Jeff Legwold

Rams coach Sean McVay took his most conservative preseason approach yet against the Broncos, as he kept backup quarterback Blake Bortles, various starters and key reserves on the sideline for Saturday’s game. However, receiver Mike Thomas, who was sidelined last season after suffering a groin injury in Week 1, continued his comeback bid. Thomas caught three passes for 76 yards, including a 51-yard reception on the second play of the game. His performance should solidify him as the fifth receiver in a group that includes Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. — Lindsey Thiry



Brandon Allen connects with Mike Thomas with a deep pass along the sideline for a 51-yard reception against the Broncos.

You can’t ask for much better in a first (and final) dress rehearsal for the complete starting offense. Drew Brees played just one series this entire preseason, and it ended with a 19-yard TD pass to well-covered WR Michael Thomas. Brees completed two passes to Thomas for 39 yards and two to Alvin Kamara for 29 yards before they and Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead called it an early night. As long as that quartet stays healthy, the Saints will be among the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders. New Orleans’ starting defense was also strong, led by cornerback Marshon Lattimore‘s forced fumble. And undrafted rookie punt returner Deonte Harris made his strongest case yet for a roster spot with a 78-yard TD in the fourth quarter. — Mike Triplett

It was a spotty night for the Sam Darnold-led offense, which managed only seven points in five possessions — and the Jets’ touchdown came against the Saints’ backups. Darnold made a couple of big-time throws to cap a sharp preseason (he won’t play next week), but that doesn’t mean everything is A-OK with the offense. They have line issues. Center Ryan Kalil, who was expected to make his Jets debut, was a late scratch. Not ready, they said. This means their three interior starters will go into the season having played a combined total of 14 snaps — Brian Winters (seven), Kelechi Osemele (seven) and Kalil (zero). They haven’t even practiced together. — Rich Cimini



Drew Brees finds Michael Thomas for a 19-yard touchdown throw on the first drive of the game.

Don’t rule out Deon Bush starting at safety opposite Eddie Jackson sometime in the distant future. Bush’s 91-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Colts capped off a terrific preseason for the 2016 fourth-round pick out of Miami. Veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is essentially a one-year rental. The Bears are pleased with Clinton-Dix’s attitude and performance thus far, but Bush, whose original rookie contract expires after the season, is a strong candidate to be re-signed next offseason. Without question, Bush has played the best football of his young career over the summer. The Bears have taken notice. — Jeff Dickerson

Saturday night’s preseason game was overshadowed by the news that Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is retiring from the NFL. Read more. — Mike Wells



Andrew Luck calls his retirement from the NFL the hardest decision of his life, but also the right decision for him.

Less than a week after throwing for 0 yards and posting a 0.0 passer rating against the Broncos, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo bounced back with a strong performance, finishing 14-of-20 for 188 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 116.2. Just as perspective was needed after that poor outing in Denver, it’s important to keep it here as well. The numbers don’t matter as much as the chance for Garoppolo to get much-needed reps and find a rhythm as he returns from a torn left ACL. He and the first-team offense did that Saturday night, playing 37 snaps and the entire first half. — Nick Wagoner

It might be time to worry about the Chiefs’ defense. All starters played most of the first half, but the defense had a tough time against Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ previously struggling quarterback. Rookie safety Juan Thornhill, who had been a bright spot in training camp and the first two games, had problems in coverage and showed why the Chiefs have been reluctant to give him a starting spot. The Chiefs changed their defensive coaching staff, their base system and brought in many new players during the offseason and have been racing the clock to get their defense ready for the regular season. Based on what they showed against the 49ers, it looks like they won’t have things the way they want when the regular season begins. — Adam Teicher



Jimmy Garoppolo lofts a pass into the end zone for Matt Breida, who lays out to make the pretty 20-yard touchdown grab.

The longer Kyler Murray plays, the better he is, apparently. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick had his best showing of the preseason on Saturday, when he played nearly the entire first half, a span of 35 plays over five possessions. He had more bright spots than bad plays against the Minnesota Vikings, showing off his arm strength and accuracy on a variety of nicely-placed passes. But Murray overthrew two end zone plays by a few yards and had two passes knocked down, one of which he threw right into the defender’s arms. But Murray showed he can move the Cardinals down the field and command an NFL offense a couple of weeks before the games start counting. — Josh Weinfuss

The Vikings’ kicking situation is more cloudy than ever. Kaare Vedvik, who did all the place-kicking in Minnesota’s win on Saturday, had multiple chances to solidify his role on the 53-man roster. Instead, Vedvik missed his two field goal attempts from 43 and 54 yards, which sailed wide left and wide right, respectively. The most realistic role for Vedvik, after he was traded to Minnesota from Baltimore in exchange for a fifth-round pick, appeared to be as the specialist who handled kickoffs, punting and long field goals. Putting all kicking and punting duties on someone who is essentially still a rookie felt like a stretch to begin with. Now, Minnesota faces more questions at the position after Matt Wile handled all six punts (averaged 47.3 yards per punt, put two inside the 20). The fourth preseason game could decide this competition for good. While kicker Dan Bailey remained on the sideline throughout the third preseason game, coach Mike Zimmer opted to go for two after a fourth-quarter Mike Boone touchdown made the game, 13-9. It’s possible Zimmer was trying to be strategic with the score, although it still would have been a one-possession game even with a made 2-point conversion. Zimmer also might have been sending Vedvik a message by not letting him attempt the extra point. — Courtney Cronin



Kyler Murray turns in a decent performance vs. the Vikings as he goes 14-of-21 with 137 yards passing with no interceptions.

Friday’s games

Despite a team that features Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens maintains that the strength of his squad is actually along the defensive line. That was on full display in Tampa, as the Browns starting front sacked Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston five times while pitching a shutout in the first half before giving way to the reserves. With Mayfield and OBJ, among others, Cleveland figures to have the offensive firepower to score with anyone in the league. If its defensive front dominates the way it did Friday, too, look out. — Jake Trotter

The Bucs had protection issues in Week 2, but this was a nightmare, with the first-team offensive line surrendering five sacks of Jameis Winston in the first half. Last week’s issues were more a function of busted protections and failing to account for extra rushers, but this week, the group was physically overpowered. “They got their asses kicked, one-on-one. Simple,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We haven’t been like that all year, so hopefully it’s correctable.” This was one of the worst games in recent memory for both starting tackles Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith, and Alex Cappa did not live up to the praise the coaching staff and front office bestowed on him in camp. Last week, it looked as if the issue was depth. Now it’s clear this whole group, with the exception of Ali Marpet, is struggling. Granted, they might not face a front seven as good as this one in the regular season, but it’s becoming more and more clear this will be their Achilles’ heel. — Jenna Laine



Baker Mayfield says he’s not happy with some of his throws and admits he’s frustrated with his performance.

Let’s start with the positives. The Bills gave LeSean McCoy (six carries, 37 yards) and Frank Gore (eight carries, 57 yards) plenty of run in the first preseason game in which both backs were active. Isaiah McKenzie and Duke Williams each scored and have separated themselves as the final two receivers worth 53-man roster consideration. But you can’t ignore the negatives. Tre’Davious White and Quinton Spain both left the game because of quad and ankle injuries, respectively, the Bills’ defense allowed the first starting quarterback it has faced this season to complete 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Allen turned in his worst game of the preseason — highlighted by an across-his-body interception graciously negated by a defensive penalty. The final roster is all but set, with difficult decisions coming at offensive line, linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Matthew Stafford looked sharp in what probably will be his lone appearance this preseason (12-19-0-137, 1 TD), but any relief over how he played is overshadowed by what the Lions might have lost. Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis was carted off the field with what appeared to be a right foot/ankle injury and will have an MRI on Saturday, according to a source. Center Frank Ragnow appeared to injure his right knee and went straight to the locker room. The pair of former first-round picks were the anchors of the team’s linebacking corps and offensive line — two of the shakier groups Detroit has. If either one misses significant time, it could cause problems for the entire unit because of their individual roles. Detroit will have to adjust — and fast — if either injury ends up being one that keep the players out to start the regular season. — Michael Rothstein

Thursday’s games

Daniel Jones keeps checking boxes. The rookie showed physical toughness and moxie in his first road preseason game. He lost a fumble on a sack, but followed it up by making some tough throws on a touchdown drive. The rookie took over the offense after one Eli Manning series. Manning went 4-of-8 passing for 41 yards, which resulted in a field goal. Jones one-upped him. He was 9-of-11 passing for 141 yards. He has completed an impressive 25 of 30 passes for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions through three preseason games. — Dianna Russini

It was a strong night for a few notable members of the Bengals’ draft class. Quarterback Ryan Finley (fourth round) completed 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards. Rodney Anderson (sixth round) starred in his Bengals debut. He caught all four of his targets for 51 yards. And Michael Jordan (fourth round) started at left guard and appears to be the front-runner to hold that spot when the regular season starts. Even though first-round pick Jonah Williams will likely be out for the season because of a shoulder injury, Thursday showed reasons to be optimistic about this year’s draft class. — Ben Baby

The Redskins’ offense received a boost from second-year back Derrius Guice and the defense looked strong again. But the first three preseason games have not engendered a lot of confidence in the quarterback position. The Redskins just don’t feel rookie Dwayne Haskins is close; he looks sharp on some throws — and the long-range potential is obvious — but they want him to master more of the offense and the nuances of the position. That’s fine. The problem is, Case Keenum hasn’t looked sharp. At times he moves the offense, but he sometimes forces plays that lead to mistakes. If Colt McCoy returns to full health, he’d likely get the job. But nobody knows when that will happen. Keenum needs to prove he’s a worthy starter. — John Keim

The Falcons appear to have a kicking problem. Giorgio Tavecchio, whom the team turned the kicking duties over to after saying goodbye to reliable Matt Bryant, missed a 39-yarder on his first attempt against the Redskins on Thursday night. It might not have been a concern had Tavecchio not missed two from 52 yards against the New York Jets last week, one of which was blocked and the other which sailed wide left. Tavecchio, who also missed a 54-yarder short in the Hall of Fame game against Denver, took ownership for the misses against the Jets and vowed to correct the problem. It’s fair to wonder if it’s worth bringing the 44-year-old Bryant back for one last run after he made 20 of 21 field goals last season, including a season-long 57-yarder. Tavecchio is due to make $645,000 this season. Bryant made $3.5 million total last season with a base salary of $1.1 million. Folks around the league expect Bryant to be on some team’s roster after Week 1, since the veteran’s salary in Week 1 would be fully guaranteed. Maybe the Falcons will revisit after the season opener at Minnesota, if it’s not addressed now. Update: The Falcons signed one-time Pro Bowl kicker Blair Walsh on Saturday and didn’t immediately release Tavecchio. — Vaughn McClure

This starts and ends with quarterback Cam Newton‘s left foot. Yes, a lot went wrong for the Panthers in Thursday’s loss to New England. The line gave up three first-half sacks, generated two first downs and 29 yards in the first half and 63 yards after three quarters. Rookie tackle Greg Little left in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. Some things went right too, namely first-round pick Brian Burns picking up his third and fourth sacks of the exhibition season. But Newton leaving after a sack at the end of the first quarter of his preseason debut with a foot injury is the headline. Backup quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier are inexperienced. The success of the Panthers depends on Newton, only now add a foot injury to the concern over whether his surgically repaired right shoulder will hold up. The injury didn’t appear serious, but the 2015 NFL MVP didn’t return to the field after leaving under his own power. He has a history with his left ankle, which he had surgically repaired in 2014. Is Newton becoming fragile at 30? Are the 1,221 hits he has taken since 2011, more than any quarterback during that span, starting to take their toll? Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week he’d be holding his breath if Newton got hit. He has to be holding his breath hoping that Newton is all right. — David Newton

Tom Brady made his preseason debut, and though he finished 8-of-12 for 75 yards in three series of work, the highlight actually came with his legs. Brady joked this offseason about his slow speed rating in the Madden video game, and how he was faster than he has been in the past, then showed it (kind of) by lumbering to convert a third-and-3 with a 3-yard rush to move the sticks. That was a big play to extend what turned into a 15-play touchdown drive, culminating in fullback James Develin‘s 1-yard TD dive. Brady wasn’t throwing to his full arsenal of receivers, as Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon (non-football injury list) didn’t play, but he was efficient, as usual, leading the attack. The next time Brady takes the field will likely be the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the visiting Steelers. — Mike Reiss

Thursday night made it clear — the Ravens will rely on rookie receivers this season. First-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown caught three passes for 17 yards, but this performance went beyond the numbers. Brown, who was making his debut after being brought back slowly from offseason foot surgery, showed the ability to get consistently open and great quickness in getting in and out of cuts. Miles Boykin, a third-round selection, continued a strong summer with a 44-yard catch. He used his size to break a tackle and his speed to burst up the sideline for extra yards. Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson was held out the third preseason game, but he got an up-close look at his playmaking targets. The Ravens’ top three wide receivers on the roster are Boykin, Brown and Willie Snead. — Jamison Hensley

Five days out of retirement, 40-year-old quarterback Josh McCown got the bulk of the snaps against Baltimore in a weather-shortened game and lit it up. He finished 17-of-24 for 192 yards with two touchdowns, including a beauty of a pass down the right sideline for rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside that resulted in a 20-yard score. Injuries to Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler this preseason prompted the Eagles to lure McCown out of retirement to, at least temporarily, back up Carson Wentz. Thursday’s performance suggests he’s up to the task.— Tim McManus

First-year coach Matt LaFleur called an audible and yanked his starters over field conditions in Winnipeg, where the game was played on an adjusted 80-yard field because of bad spots in the end zones where the CFL goalposts are normally anchored. So any hope of seeing Aaron Rodgers in action went by the wayside. There’s a good chance Rodgers will go into the Sept. 5 regular-season opener without any preseason action. On the plus side, he should be healthy as long as the back tightness that kept him out of last week’s game doesn’t flare up. The star of the night was WR/KR Trevor Davis, who made his preseason debut and did it all with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, an 18-yard run on an end-around and a 17-yard punt return. Also, Tim Boyle made a solid bid for the No. 2 quarterback job with a pair of touchdown passes. — Rob Demovsky

Good luck to Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock & Co. in getting something useful out of this tape. Besides leaving 24 players back in Oakland, the Raiders who did play did so on a short field. Yeah, divots in the middle of each end zone, where the CFL goalposts are positioned, made the field unsafe. The playing surface was limited to 80 yards, with each 10-yard line serving as the reconfigured goal lines. Maybe it’s good tape for the Arena League, but the Raiders have some hard decisions to make with their final cuts. At least Keith Smith, who missed most of camp recovering from a torn meniscus in his knee, scored a touchdown on a 15-yard catch and run, serving notice to undrafted rookie Alec Ingold to slow his roll. And for what it’s worth, Nathan Peterman got the majority of work at quarterback after Mike Glennon started and played the first quarter. — Paul Gutierrez

Rookie defensive end Josh Allen overshadowed QB Nick Foles‘ first game snaps in a Jaguars uniform with a dominating performance. He led the Jaguars with four tackles (two for loss) and also had two QB hits. During the first half he pressured Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick into a bad throw, beat veteran tight end Dwayne Allen for a tackle for loss, hammered Fitzpatrick as he threw the ball to force an incompletion, forced Fitzpatrick out of the pocket into a sack by Dawuane Smoot and dropped into coverage in the flat and tackled running back Kalen Ballage for a loss. He was the main reason the Dolphins’ offense managed less than 50 yards in the first half. Though Allen played at the same time as defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue early in the game, he didn’t have those guys on the field with him in the second quarter and still made plays. If he’s able to play close to this level in the regular season the Jaguars’ defensive front could be as good or better than it was in 2017, when Campbell, Ngakoue, Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. combined for 26.5 sacks. — Mike DiRocco

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the leader in the clubhouse for the Dolphins’ quarterback battle all offseason, but Josh Rosen gave fans some reason for hope. He piloted a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second half in which he showed off his pocket presence, mobility, arm talent and decision-making. The biggest thing for Rosen is he’s continuing to improve. Fitzpatrick had some struggles early but led a touchdown drive of his own. Fitzpatrick might end up the Week 1 starter, but Rosen looks like he will be ready sooner than later. That’s good news for Dolphins fans. — Cameron Wolfe

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Luck retires, calls decision ‘hardest of my life’



INDIANAPOLIS — In a shocking development Saturday night, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the NFL, saying constant injuries have taken away his love for the game.

Luck, who turns 30 on Sept. 12, had met with Colts owner Jim Irsay earlier to tell him of the decision.

The Colts played their third preseason game Saturday night in Indianapolis against the Chicago Bears. Luck already had been ruled out of the game due to an ankle injury, but he was seen on the sideline, laughing and conversing with teammates.

After the game, Luck announced the retirement decision during an impromptu, 25-minute news conference. He said an official announcement wasn’t planned until Sunday afternoon, but he changed course once news broke during the preseason game.

“I’ve been stuck in this process,” Luck said, stopping several times to gather his emotions. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game … the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.

“This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”

Luck’s early retirement ends what started as a promising career for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, chosen to replace Peyton Manning. Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, including back-to-back AFC South titles and the AFC Championship Game in 2014.

But his career took a bad turn when he suffered a shoulder injury in Week 3 of the 2015 season. He ended up missing 26 games — including the entire 2017 season — due to shoulder, kidney and rib injuries. It was during the 2017 season while out that Luck questioned whether he would be able to continue his career.

But Luck returned in a big way last season.

He threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year and lead the Colts back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season, showing he remained one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

But injury hit Luck again earlier this year when he suffered a calf strain that kept him out of the team’s offseason activities and minicamp. Luck took part in only three days of training camp — none as a full participant — before it was announced that he was shutting it down because he had difficulty moving in the pocket.

“I’m in pain; I’m still in pain,” he said. “It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle. It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better.”

Luck told reporters Saturday night that he first started thinking about retirement two weeks ago, and general manager Chris Ballard said the sides started discussing the potential decision early last week.

“It was Monday,” Ballard said. “We all sat down and had a talk and continued through the week. Emotional talks on our parts. Not any negative emotional talks. Just some real honest talks. But did not get a sense. I watched Andrew go through the shoulder, his routine and how he rehabbed and worked through things. He was going through the same process all the way from when he walked in the building. He came in Monday and started working through this.”

It’s stunning news for a Colts team that went to the second round of the playoffs last season and that, in the eyes of many, had a Super Bowl-caliber roster in 2019.

“It’s very difficult,” Luck said. “I love this team, I love my teammates.”

Luck finishes his career with 2,000 completions, 3,290 attempts, 23,671 yards, 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions. But some Colts fans seemed to forget those numbers, instead booing him as he walked off the field following Saturday’s game.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it,” Luck said of the boos. “Yeah, it hurt.”



Colts fans react with a wide range of emotions after Andrew Luck’s retirement becomes public, including boos for Luck as he leaves the field.

Now, the Colts will turn to Jacoby Brissett, the 26-year-old quarterback acquired from the New England Patriots in 2017.

With Luck dealing with a variety of injuries in 2017, Brissett started 15 games for Indy, throwing for 3,098 yards, with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Colts posted a 4-11 record in Brissett’s 15 starts, and he ranked 27th out of 30 qualified quarterbacks with a 43.3 Total QBR and 30th out of 32 qualified QBs with a 58.8% completion percentage.

But Luck, Ballard, Irsay and coach Frank Reich all threw their support behind Brissett with the regular season two weeks away.

“We’ve got a good football team. This is a good football team,” Ballard said. “We are young. We are good on both fronts. We have some good skill players. And a good young quarterback. We are not going to ask Jacoby Brissett to be Andrew Luck. Andrew Luck was a unique, unique player. But Jacoby Brissett is a winning football player in this league and, I think you heard what Andrew said, Jacoby Brissett is a rare, rare leader. He is. He’s a rare human being, man. That locker room loves Jacoby Brissett.”

Sportsbooks reacted quickly to the Luck news, taking the point spread on the Colts’ Week 1 road game at the Chargers off the board and lengthening Indianapolis’ odds to win the Super Bowl, the AFC and the AFC South.

The Colts had been four-point underdogs to the Chargers. Caesars Sportsbook moved Indianapolis’ Super Bowl odds from 12-1 to 30-1, its AFC odds from 7-1 to 15-1, and its AFC South odds from -135 to +210.

But that mattered little to the Colts on a franchise-changing night.

“We have nothing but gratitude and thankfulness for the blood, sweat and tears he spilled as No. 12,” Irsay said. “Part of our heart is broken tonight. We know we must go forward.”

Information from ESPN’s David Purdum and Adam Schefter was used in this report.

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The NFL-altering Andrew Luck retirement, and what comes next



It’s not hyperbole: Andrew Luck‘s stunning decision to move on from the NFL is the most shocking retirement American pro sports has seen since Michael Jordan left the NBA in 1993. The circumstances are obviously different, and we’ve seen players like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson leave the game earlier than anybody would have expected, but 29-year-old quarterbacks in the prime of their careers just don’t get up and leave. This isn’t a franchise-altering decision. It alters the entire complexion of the NFL.

To put this in context, by Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, there have been two players in NFL history who have posted a better season in their final NFL campaign than the Indianapolis Colts quarterback and then retired by choice before turning 30. One is former Vikings running back Robert Smith, who ran for 1,521 yards at age 28 before moving on. The other is Jim Brown. No quarterback has made the Pro Bowl in a season during his 20s and then immediately retired since Johnny Lujack, and if that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because Lujack retired in 1952.

There are players who retired before turning 30 after serious injuries, and perhaps it’s unfair to leave Luck out of that group. He played through a shoulder injury in 2015 and 2016 before missing all of the 2017 season after undergoing surgery, and while Luck was excellent upon his return in 2018, he has struggled with a calf injury all offseason. In both cases, the organization expected him to return in a matter of weeks. In both cases, again, Luck’s body didn’t respond the way either he or the team expected. He was facing down another uncertain rehabilitation of an injury that seemed to linger months after it should have gone away. Some players have bodies that tell them it’s time to give up the game in their mid-30s. Luck’s body gave way years earlier.

Even given the prospect of Luck missing regular-season action with an injury that had seemed to transform into a high-ankle sprain, the Colts couldn’t have expected that he would decide to leave the sport. Luck had talked about being scared of his future in football while recovering from that shoulder surgery in 2017, and every player deals with both mental and physical exhaustion from playing in the NFL, but few have the privilege and power to leave on their own terms. Luck had both and is moving on. The Colts now have to deal with the repercussions.

The post-Luck Colts

In the short term, the Colts are devastated by this decision. Even if you assumed Luck was going to miss the beginning of the regular season, Indy was still the favorite to win the AFC South and compete for a Super Bowl. After Luck’s announcement, the Caesars sportsbook moved Indianapolis’ odds of winning the Super Bowl from 12-1 to 30-1. The Colts have gone from favorites to win the AFC South at -135 (a 57.5% implied chance of winning the division) to underdogs at +210 (32.3%). Every likely AFC playoff contender and the three other teams in the AFC South benefit.

The Colts held out quarterback Jacoby Brissett from their preseason game against the Bears on Saturday night, and while it seemed like they were just protecting their potential Week 1 starter, the significance of his role with the team has become clear. Indy will move forward with the former backup to Tom Brady as the starting quarterback and either Chad Kelly or Phillip Walker as the backup. There is a paucity of veteran options available on the free-agent market, especially after Josh McCown unretired to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles.

The Colts could attempt to sign someone like Matt Cassel to back up Brissett. If they’re unsure about Brissett or want to add another option, they could head to the trade market for someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum or Nick Mullens, but their hopes for the season realistically now rest upon a quarterback who threw all of four passes behind Luck in 2018.

The Colts acquired the former third-round pick Brissett in a swap of likely cuts with the Patriots just before the 2017 season, sending Phillip Dorsett to New England in return. He quickly moved into the starting lineup for a Colts team that was realistically going nowhere in Chuck Pagano’s final season at the helm and played the way you might expect a backup passer to perform. Brissett was surprisingly effective on deep passes, but given a porous offensive line and middling receivers, he completed just 58.8% of his passes and averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, both figures comfortably below league-average.

Brissett threw just seven interceptions and added some value as a runner, but when you factor in his 10% sack rate and the generous game situations he usually worked under, the North Carolina State product posted a Total QBR of just 43.3 in 2017. That ranked 27th among 30 qualifying passers and placed him squarely between Jay Cutler and DeShone Kizer, neither of whom kept his starting job in 2018. Brissett performed admirably given that he was thrust under center for an NFL team eight days after being acquired — and Indy reportedly refused to consider offseason trade talks for Brissett even when they had Luck back on the roster — but Brissett’s 2017 season offers the Colts more hope than proof.

There are reasons to think he will be better in his second go-around as the starter. For one, he won’t be switching teams at the end of training camp and learning a new playbook on the fly. Brissett spent all of 2018 working underneath debuting head coach Frank Reich, who molded his scheme to take advantage of Luck’s strengths. Indy wasn’t quite able to do that for Brissett under Pagano. The Colts’ new starter should have better coaching with Reich at the helm, and they still have a little over two weeks before their Week 1 trip to face the Chargers. Reich was unquestionably thinking and beginning to prepare for what his offense might look like with Brissett as the starter, at least to begin the season. Now, those preparations will be permanent.

Indianapolis also has a much more effective offensive line than the one that struggled to protect Brissett in 2017, although it’s also fair to pin some of the blame for those sacks on Brissett himself. In two starts and 55 pass attempts with the Patriots, Brissett was sacked on 9.8% of his dropbacks, a rate far higher than that of Brady (3.4%) and Jimmy Garoppolo (4.5%) over the same time frame. Reich will need to focus on getting the ball out of Brissett’s hands quicker than in years past.

Independent of what happens in 2019, general manager Chris Ballard now unexpectedly faces the most important offseason of his career. Brissett will be a free agent. The Colts are in excellent cap shape, but they’ll owe a total of $18.8 million in dead money for Luck, with $12.4 million due in 2019 and the remaining $6.4 million on their cap in 2020. In what was a surprise to some, Ballard didn’t use the more than $100 million the Colts had in cap space this offseason to go on a spending spree, preferring to focus on the team’s culture while staying selective with his signings. There’s no way Ballard could have known what was going to happen next, obviously, but the Colts might have found it easier to attract top-level talent with Luck as their quarterback than they will with Brissett — or someone else — as their signal-caller.

The prospects of any team finding a quarterback in free agency are always slim. The pool theoretically includes Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, but it would be a true shock if any of those passers ever played a down for another organization. Both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are projected to be free agents, although they’ll be retained via the franchise tag or an extension if they impress this season. The third tier includes passers with various red flags, including Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Eli Manning.

Indy might also look toward the trade market. The Vikings will have one year left on Kirk Cousins‘ deal, and if they don’t make the playoffs with their wildly expensive free-agent addition, Minnesota might prefer to keep the core of its team together by trading Cousins and drafting a quarterback. Likewise, if the 49ers are more impressed by Nick Mullens than Jimmy Garoppolo this season, they could choose to ship their own expensive passer off to Indianapolis.

If the Colts do struggle under Brissett, they may find an alternative path to a quarterback. No franchise has enjoyed the quarterback fruits of the draft for a longer, uninterrupted stretch of time than the Colts, who managed to come away with two franchise passers by timing their bad seasons impeccably.

After the 1996 season, Peyton Manning surprised the Jets by choosing to stay at Tennessee for his senior season. The Colts, who were a wild-card team in 1996, fell to 3-13 in 1997 and subsequently drafted Manning with the first overall pick in 1998. Likewise, despite the chances that the Panthers would have taken him with the first pick in the 2011 draft, Luck decided to pass on his draft eligibility and spend another year at Stanford. A 10-6 Colts team would have had no shot at Luck, but after Manning went down injured and Indy went 2-14, the team fell in prime position to draft Luck with the first pick of the 2012 draft.

I’m not suggesting that the Colts should tank — I’m not sure it’s a viable plan for any NFL team — but the Colts just suffered a massive downgrade at quarterback and rode an antiquated Tampa 2 defense last season. With the emotional impact of the Luck injury, it’s not crazy to imagine them falling into the top five of the 2020 draft and having a shot at someone like Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who also passed up a chance to enter the draft and instead chose to return to school for his senior season. (Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t have quite the poetry of the Herbert story for the Colts, but he’s also draft-eligible for the first time in 2020.)

The Colts looked incredibly well-prepared for the future after making the playoffs in 2018 with Ballard, Reich and Luck as the core of their operations on and off the field. Two of those three pieces are still in place. From an organizational perspective, though, the Colts had the most important position in sports filled by a superstar with years left in his prime, and he’s gone. I have more confidence in Ballard and Reich than I would in most coach-GM combinations, but the Colts have had a no-doubt solution at quarterback for 20 straight years. Now, there’s just doubt.



Drew Brees, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt share their thoughts on Andrew Luck and his decision to retire.

The post-Luck NFL

Whenever a player retires prematurely in the NFL, given what we know about the dangers of playing football, there’s understandably a conversation about whether it represents a trend. Given that there really aren’t many comparables for Luck’s decision historically, it’s difficult to place his decision in line with the choices made by backs like Robert Smith and Barry Sanders or more recent decisions made by Calvin Johnson or Chris Borland.

I think Luck is a unique player in many ways. Few players would brag about their Settlers of Catan skills, start a book club, or splurge with the money from their contract extension to buy a robot ping-pong machine. When Luck missed the 2017 season, he rehabbed in the Netherlands for months. He spent chunks of his childhood growing up in London and Frankfurt. We know more about quarterbacks and their habits than we do about players at other positions, but it’s also clear that Luck has thought about his life outside of football during his career. He has every right to pursue those interests while still young.

The idea that Luck is somehow slacking off or taking the way easy out by giving up on his dream is low-rent talking-head trash, and it’s not worth your time. If you feel that way, read about what Luck played through during the 2016 season or check what actual NFL ex-players have said about Luck’s decision. The idea that he shouldn’t be upset about his choice because he made just over $100 million as a pro quarterback should be ridiculous for obvious reasons — Luck just devoted a decade of his life to a sport he no longer feels physically capable of playing — but it does afford him the choice of avoiding another grueling rehabilitation period.

It’s fair to mention that Luck is operating from a position of privilege in making this decision, although using that to imply his decision was easy is naive or disingenuous. It’s easy to think about what the stars of the game make, but there are countless players every year on the fringes of rosters who play through pain and undergo surgeries to try to eke one more year out of their careers for far less money than Luck would have earned in 2019. Some of those players would likely choose to retire if they had Luck’s career earnings to fall back upon. I bring that up not to imply that Luck’s decision was tough, but instead to suggest that other players aren’t likely to follow in his footsteps unless they have a similar nest egg. In a league which has repeatedly placed an importance on keeping quarterbacks healthy, that goes even further for signal-callers like Luck.

I hope Luck is at peace with a difficult decision. Selfishly, of course, I wish he was sticking around. I’ll never forget the comeback Luck led against the Chiefs in the 2013 playoffs, leading a team that was down 38-10 in the third quarter to a 45-44 victory, with Luck throwing for 443 yards, four touchdowns, and even recovering a fumble for a 5-yard score. Luck was so good in close games that he seemed to break accepted conventions of analytics and managed to run three straight mediocre Colts teams to the playoffs to start his career. He was saddled for years with a general manager who failed on virtually every one of his major trades and draft picks after acquiring Luck and then blamed Luck’s contract extension for his inability to improve the defense. I would have liked to have seen Luck behind his 2018 offensive line and with Reich and Ballard in charge from the first moment he joined the Colts.

If this is really it for Luck, the comparison that comes to mind isn’t a football player. It’s Mark Prior, the Cubs pitcher who was regarded to have perfect mechanics as he entered professional baseball. Prior shot through the minors in months, was up with the Cubs a year after being drafted, and was an instant star. The Cubs showed little concern with Prior, running him out for five 130-plus-pitch outings over his first two seasons in a sport that wasn’t yet hyper-focused on pitch counts. He was on the mound for the Cubs during the fateful Steve Bartman moment in 2002, five outs away from the World Series, a 22-year-old seemingly in the first chapters of what would be a legendary career.



Andrew Luck calls his retirement from the NFL the hardest decision of his life, but also the right decision for him.

Instead, it was the peak. The Cubs lost the game and the series. Prior was never right again, as the “perfect mechanics” weren’t enough to overcome his workload. (Prior himself will say his mechanics were never perfect.) His pitching declined and he missed time with injuries in both 2003 and 2004. After 43 dismal innings in 2006, a 25-year-old Prior hit the disabled list and never returned to the majors. He spent the next four years without pitching in organized baseball before returning to the minors and then retiring in 2013.

Likewise, if any quarterback was predestined to succeed, it seemed to be Andrew Luck. He grew up the son of a quarterback and played at Stanford for Jim Harbaugh. By the end of his redshirt freshman season at Stanford, there was chatter that Luck was a future first overall pick. When Luck finally did leave school two years later, he was the best quarterback prospect of his generation. There were no holes you could realistically poke in his profile. He had prototypical size and athleticism. He played in a pro scheme. He had elite arm strength and accuracy. There were no intangible concerns.

Luck was an immediate success, but for everything we knew and projected and hoped would come true, his body just couldn’t hold up to the stress. Without a competent offensive line for years, he took too many hits early in his career and faced the repercussions earlier than most. In his hastily arranged farewell news conference Saturday night, Luck said that he had promised he wouldn’t put himself through the strain of his 2017 rehab again if he was faced with a similar sort of inexplicably lingering injury. I’m happy he was able to live up to his promise.

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