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USC, NOTRE DAME MASSIVE FAVORITES IN WEEK 0
Welcome back college football, where being a favorite in Week 0 easily equates to a double-digit point spread.
No. 13 Notre Dame is the first team out of the gate with a 2:31 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday in Dublin, Ireland. The Fighting Irish roll into the matchup with Navy as 20.5-point favorites and won the last meeting in Ireland by 40 points.
Southern Cal is favored by 30.5 points over San Jose State in the lone Week 0 nightcap involving a Top 25 team. That’s the biggest number to cover on the board Saturday.
UTEP vs. Jacksonville State is the tightest spread available at BetMGM among Week 0 games on the board with the Aztecs favored by 2.5 points.
Navy has a new coach, but the same pesky — archaic might apply — offensive scheme. The triple-option can be prone to long drives, less points and fewer possessions. But that’s only when it works.
The Irish have speed and depth on defense that shouldn’t be overlooked even facing an unconventional scheme. With months and weeks to prepare, Notre Dame shouldn’t be surprised or undisciplined, the undoing of teams who rarely overlap with the option attack.
Skill-position talent and offensive line play are major Notre Dame advantages.
If the Fighting Irish pull away early, Notre Dame’s playmakers in the secondary might become the story.
–Notre Dame vs. Navy
By the book (FanDuel)
Spread: Navy +20.5
Over-under: 50.5 total points
Money line: Navy +800; Notre Dame -1400
Noteworthy TD scorer props:
Notre Dame RB Audric Estime -270
Notre Dame RB Chris Tyree -125
Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman -105
Notre Dame WR Tobias Merriweather +100
Notre Dame TE Mitchell Evans +110
Notre Dame WR Jayden Thomas +120
Navy QB Tai Lavatai +175
Notre Dame defense +420
ANALYSIS: THE EMPIRES STRIKE BACK: ALABAMA, OHIO ST, CLEMSON, OKLAHOMA REGAIN THEIR SWAGGER IN ’23
During the final season of the College Football Playoff’s four-team format, the empires will strike back.
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma have made more CFP appearances than any other schools through the nine years of the postseason system, but only two combined in the past two seasons. The Crimson Tide, Tigers, Buckeyes and Sooners are no longer the safe bets to win their conferences like they were through a good chunk of the last decade.
No. 1 Georgia has bullied its way past fourth-ranked ‘Bama to the top of the Southeastern Conference and the sport.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 9 Clemson has gone two seasons without making the playoff and now faces a legitimate threat in No. 8 Florida State.
No. 2 Michigan has displaced No. 3 Ohio Stat e atop the Big Ten.
No. 20 Oklahoma is coming off its worst season in more than two decades, slipping into the crowded pack of Big 12 hopefuls after being a clear favorite for years.
In this last season before the playoff expands from four to 12 teams, Georgia is an overwhelming favorite to win a third straight national title, according FanDuel Sportsbook and AP Top 25 voters.
To predict a national championship for anyone other than the Bulldogs, who have both the best roster and an accommodating schedule, feels like just trying to be different. That said, no team has ever won three straight national championships and still with only four teams making the CFP, the margin for error in the regular season (including conference title games) is thin.
This column has always taken the position that it’s more fun to be different than right. And besides, how often do you get the chance to take Alabama and have it be a bold choice?
And is it, really?
Reminder: The Crimson Tide has not gone more than two seasons without a national title since Nick Saban took over in 2007.
Three teams that start the season ranked but will finish unranked:
— No. 14 Utah. The Utes start the season with uncertainty at quarterback as Cam Rising recovers from knee surgery with his backup also ailing. Not an ideal way to head into a September schedule that features Florida, Baylor, UCLA and Oregon State.
— No. 16 Kansas State. In 2021, Baylor beat Oklahoma State in a thrilling Big 12 title game between two surprising participants. Both started 2022 ranked. Neither finished that way. Can TCU and K-State avoid similar regression after being last season’s surprising success stories? Pencil the Wildcats in for a big step back.
— No. 21 North Carolina. QB Drake Maye won’t be able to cover the Tar Heels’ deficiencies as well as he did last season.
Three teams that start the season unranked but will finish ranked:
— UCLA. Five-star freshman quarterback Dante Moore behind a good offensive line in a Chip Kelly offense: Promising.
— Kentucky. If the Wildcats’ rebuilt offensive line can protect North Carolina State transfer Devin Leary, this could be the second-best team in the SEC East.
— Boise State. The Broncos have a brutal early schedule (at No. 10 Washington, UCF, at San Diego State, at Memphis), which presents both a challenge and opportunity to assert themselves as the best team outside the Power Five.
CONFERENCE CHAMPION PREDICTIONS
American Athletic Conferenc e — SMU over UTSA. The Mustangs win their first league title since 1984 in the Southwest Conference.
Atlantic Coast Conference — Clemson over Florida State. New coordinator Garrett Riley brings the juice back to the Tigers’ offense and sends Clemson back to the CFP.
Big 12 — Oklahoma over Texas. Will the Big 12 even paint the logo on the field for a title game with their SEC-bound heavyweights?
Big Ten — Ohio State over Iowa. The Buckeyes fix their Michigan problem and then dispatch the Hawkeyes in the final East vs. West Big Ten title game.
Conference USA — Western Kentucky over Liberty. WKU QB Austin Reed passed on opportunities to transfer to bigger schools to stay and lead the Hilltoppers to a title.
Mid-American Conference — Ohio over Eastern Michigan. If in doubt, pick the team with the best quarterback. In the MAC, that’s Kurtis Rourke.
Mountain West — Boise State over Air Force. Broncos win their first league championship since 2019.
Pac-12 — USC over Oregon. Nothing sums up the Pac-12’s recent fortunes better than USC finally getting its act together in football after it triggers the demise of the conference.
Southeastern Conference — Alabama over Georgia. In a stunning upset, the Crimson Tide snaps its one-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.
Sun Belt — Marshall over South Alabama. Thundering Herd’s Charles Huff could be the next Sun Belt coach to make a big jump.
Early firings were all the rage last season. The hot spot that could pop before October this year is in West Virginia. Neal Brown drew a bad September schedule (No. 7 Penn State, Pitt, Texas Tech, No. 17 TCU) for a coach in need of a fast start.
Who could replace Brown? As mentioned, maybe Charles Huff of Marshall. James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti and North Carolina State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, a former DC at WVU, could also get a look, depending on how 2023 plays out.
NEW YEAR’S SIX BOWL PICKS
Just can’t quit the Aggies.
Cotton Bowl — Texas vs. USC.
Orange Bowl — Florida State vs. Penn State.
Fiesta Bowl — Oklahoma vs. Boise State.
Peach Bowl — Texas A&M vs. Michigan.
Rose Bowl — Ohio State vs. Georgia.
Sugar Bowl — Alabama vs. Clemson.
Alabama over Ohio State.
CHASING GEORGIA: ALABAMA, LSU NOW TRYING TO CATCH UP TO 2-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPS
LSU coach Brian Kelly summed up the challenge confronting college football’s top programs these days: Catching up with Georgia.
The two-time defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Bulldogs are Alabama’s successor as the annual “team to beat” overall and in a powerful Southeastern Conference that has three teams opening in the top five. The Crimson Tide checks in at No. 4 heading into what amounts to a potential rebound season for Nick Saban’s team.
Then there’s LSU one spot back and very much in the mix after Kelly’s promising debut season and progress in rebuilding the talent level. Is the roster on par with Georgia? Not yet, he says.
“But if we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re going to have a roster that can compete against Georgia, and then it’s just a matter of getting it done on the playing field so everybody then can assess they’ve closed the gap,” Kelly said.
Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are aiming at the first national three-peat of the Associated Press poll era dating to 1936. They will be without quarterback Stetson Bennett and three first-round NFL draft picks, among others. Smart has picked Bennett’s backup, Carson Beck, as the starter going into the season.
“The threat for us is complacency,” said Smart, a former Saban disciple who has built his own powerhouse. “The first thing you have to do is acknowledge that it’s a threat. Like if you acknowledge the complacency is a threat, it’s the first step toward stomping it out.”
Alabama, which has won six national titles since 2009, must replace No. 1 NFL draft pick Bryce Young at quarterback, along with linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (the third pick).
No. 12 Tennessee, a resurgent former power like LSU, turns to Joe Milton to replace its own star passer, Hendon Hooker. Jayden Daniels, who helped lead LSU’s resurgent offense after transferring from Arizona State, returns for an encore.
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia: Perhaps the nation’s top tight end, Bowers has 119 catches for 1,824 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Last season, he was a finalist for the Lombardi Award given to the nation’s top lineman.
Daniels, QB, LSU: The Arizona State transfer proved one of the league’s most important transfer pickups. He passed for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns against just three interceptions while also setting LSU rushing records for a quarterback with 885 yards and 11 scores.
KJ Jefferson, QB, Arkansas: The dual-threat veteran has started 24 games the last two seasons. Being able to hand off to Raheim Sanders certainly doesn’t hurt.
Quinshon Judkins, RB, Mississippi: Set school records as a freshman with 1,567 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. A preseason AP All-American, Judkins was SEC newcomer of the year.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB/RS, Alabama: The Tide’s latest shutdown corner and highly rated NFL prospect. McKinstry, a preseason AP All-American, had 16 pass deflections last season and also averaged nearly 16 yards per punt return.
LBs Harold Perkins Jr., LSU; Dallas Turner, Alabama, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Georgia: All three are rising stars trying to replace Anderson as the league’s top linebacker. Perkins and Dumas-Johnson, a Butkus Award finalist last season, are preseason first-team AP All-Americans and Turner is a second-teamer.
Sedrick Van Pran, C, Georgia: The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder, another preseason All-American, has started 30 consecutive games since his redshirt season,
Mississippi State has a new coach in Zach Arnett, promoted from defensive coordinator after the death last December of offensive guru Mike Leach. Auburn brought Hugh Freeze back to the SEC to revive a stagnant program. … There’s plenty of other new but familiar quarterbacks arriving as transfers. The biggest names are Kentucky’s Devin Leary (North Carolina State) and Mississippi’s Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State) but ex-Notre Dame starter Tyler Buchner is a candidate to start for Alabama and Michigan State’s Payton Thorne is set to start the opener for Auburn.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has $77 million worth of protection since that would be his buyout if fired after this season. But the Aggies are desperate for positive signs after a 5-7 season.
“We live under pressure every day,” Fisher said. “We put more pressure on ourselves than anybody out there ever puts on us, so there’s no added pressure because what good does that do? Does worrying make you any better? No.”
Eliah Drinkwitz’s seat could be warming up with a 17-19 record entering his fourth season at Missouri.
GAMES TO WATCH
Sept. 3, No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State in Orlando; Sept. 9, No. 11 Texas at No. 4 Alabama; Sept. 30, No. 5 LSU at No. 22 Mississippi; Oct. 28, No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville; Nov. 4, No. 5 LSU at No. 4 Alabama; Nov. 18, No. 1 Georgia at No. 12 Tennessee.
East: Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt
West: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State
FORMER USC STAR REGGIE BUSH PLANS DEFAMATION LAWSUIT AGAINST NCAA
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Southern California running back Reggie Bush plans to file a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA over a statement made by college sports’ governing body about the reasoning for its decision not to restore the Heisman Trophy winner’s records.
Bush announced his plan Wednesday through his attorneys at McCathern PLLC.
Bush objects to a statement issued in July 2021 calling the star’s playing career at USC a “pay-for-play” arrangement. That standard was cited as the reason the NCAA wouldn’t restore Bush’s records, a decision that led to Bush returning his Heisman Trophy.
“The NCAA’s statement is completely false and highly offensive,” the statement from Bush’s lawyers read. “The NCAA knew Mr. Bush was never even accused of, involved in, much less sanctioned for any ‘pay–for–play arrangement’ which never occurred.”
Two years ago after NCAA athletes were given the right to profit off their name, image and likeness rights, the Heisman Trust issued a statement saying it would look “forward to welcoming (Bush) back to the Heisman family” if the NCAA formally restored its recognition of Bush’s accomplishments.
Bush returned his Heisman Trophy in 2010 after a lengthy NCAA investigation determined he had received improper benefits during his USC career. The NCAA hit USC with hefty sanctions including a two-year bowl ban, 14 vacated victories and severe scholarship restrictions.
Bush also was required to “disassociate” from USC for 10 years. That ban ended in 2020, and USC welcomed back one of the greatest running backs in school history. Bush has never specified what extra benefits he received.
“Pay-for-play” typically refers to a different type of improper benefit arrangement than the one which resulted in USC’s sanctions and the loss of Bush’s Heisman. That seems to be the reasoning behind Bush’s decision to file the lawsuit.
“The lawsuit is based on the NCAA maliciously attacking his character through a completely false and highly offensive statement that was widely reported in the media and substantially and irreparably damaged his reputation,” the statement from Bush’s lawyers reads.
IOWA DT NOAH SHANNON SUSPENDED FOR SEASON IN GAMBLING PROBE
Iowa is appealing the NCAA’s gambling-related, full-season suspension for defensive tackle Noah Shannon, head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday.
Ferentz told the Des Moines Register that Shannon wagered on another sports team at Iowa — not football.
“In Noah’s case, he has not committed a crime at all, nothing criminal,” Ferentz said. “I just feel like it’s a little bit harsh. … I’m hopeful that they’ll reconsider his case.”
Ferentz said Shannon, a 6-foot, 295-pound fifth-year senior from Aurora, Ill., will be allowed to practice with the Hawkeyes during his appeals process.
Shannon has not been charged in the state’s ongoing criminal investigation into illegal sports wagering by college athletes.
Shannon has started 28 games since arriving in Iowa City in 2018. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2022 and was listed as a starter heading into the 2023 season. Shannon has recorded 107 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
“One big thing for me is I’ve been telling myself: I’m not going to let this define me in any way, shape or form,” Shannon said at Iowa’s media day earlier this month. “Life goes on. So whenever — I don’t know when the NCAA will come out with the ruling, but I’ll be ready.”
The university announced Tuesday that 11 football and wrestling athletes will have their eligibility impacted as a result of the investigation. Iowa kicker Aaron Blom and wide receiver Jack Johnson have been charged with tampering with records in the case, as have two former players.
The Hawkeyes open the season at home against Utah State on Sept. 2.
GEORGIA RB BRANSON ROBINSON (KNEE) OUT FOR SEASON
Georgia running back Branson Robinson will miss the upcoming season with a ruptured patellar tendon, coach Kirby Smart announced Wednesday.
Robinson sustained the injury in a non-contact drill at practice on Tuesday.
Robinson had 68 carries for 330 yards with three touchdowns in 12 games during his freshman season in 2022. He also scored twice as the Bulldogs breezed to a 65-7 victory over TCU in the national championship game on Jan. 9.
“It won’t affect our run-pass ratio,” Smart said of Robinson’s injury. “We have capable backs. He was one of our better backs. When healthy last year, we think he was kind of coming into his own. He was learning how to pass protect. He had a really good spring while he was going, so we were really excited about where he was headed. He was explosive, twitchy, could do some things in pass pro and running the ball that maybe some of the other guys couldn’t do.”
Georgia is expected to lean on Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton, although the latter is nursing a tight hamstring.
Edwards rushed for 769 yards and seven touchdowns last season, while Milton had 592 yards and eight scores.
CALEB WILLIAMS, NO. 6 USC SET SIGHTS ON SAN JOSE STATE
Heisman Trophy in hand, USC quarterback Caleb Williams feels like he has unfinished business as the 2023 season kicks off.
Determined to add a national championship to his resume, Williams begins that quest Saturday when the sixth-ranked Trojans take on San Jose State in Los Angeles.
Williams more than measured up to expectations in his first season with the Trojans.
Aside from setting USC single-season records for total offense (4,919 combined yards) and touchdowns (52), Williams was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year and was the seventh Trojan to win the Heisman.
Now among favorites to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams insists his focus is anywhere but individual accolades.
“We’ve got a lot to go get this year,” Williams said. “Everyone has the same goal and mindset this year. A whatever-it-takes kind of mindset to get all of what we want. It’s going to be a good year. Can’t wait.”
In addition to seeing how Williams will follow up his Heisman season, USC coach Lincoln Riley has other reasons to be excited, as he feels like his team is extremely deep heading into the season opener.
“Little more competition across the board. There was probably less position battles at this point (last year), or you kind of knew who was gonna play,” Riley said. “But there’s still a lot of youth on this team.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, we got a lot of growing. We’ll have to grow some during these early games.”
Riley, also entering his second season in LA, led the Trojans to an 11-3 record in 2022.
The Spartans have lost all five of their all-time meetings with USC, but San Jose State coach Brent Brennan believes this year’s group has what it takes to end the losing streak.
“It’s been a great training camp, our players have worked extremely hard,” Brennan said. “I feel really good about our coaching staff and the teaching and just the vibe and the culture of this team I think is really healthy. As you look at our schedule, we’re gonna need it. We’re opening with an incredible opponent with USC.”
Chevan Cordeiro, who was named Mountain West Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, returns as the starting quarterback for SJSU.
Cordeiro spent four seasons at Hawaii before joining the Spartans last season. He tallied 3,251 yards passing with 23 TDs and six interceptions.
Brennan is preparing for Cordeiro’s counterpart, and knows that slowing down Williams will be a tall task.
“We’re playing against the best player in America, right? And so that presents a whole different kind of challenge,” Brennan said. “He’s very strong, it’s hard to get him down, and his ability to make every throw — whether he’s in the pocket or on the move — makes him incredibly hard to defend.
“So that’s gonna be a big challenge for our team.”
San Jose State safety Tre Jenkins will look to help disrupt the Trojans’ passing attack. A three-time All-Mountain West honorable mention, Jenkins tied a career high with two interceptions last season to go along with a career-best seven pass breakups.
REPORTS: LSU DT MAASON SMITH SUSPENDED BY NCAA, TO SIT VS. FSU
LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith’s return to the field will be delayed one more game, multiple media outlets reported Wednesday.
Smith, one of the top-ranked defensive prospects eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft, will serve a one-game NCAA suspension from accepting an improper benefit and will miss the Labor Day weekend showdown with Florida State.
Smith, a five-star recruit, has been salivating to return since sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the opener against the Seminoles in 2022. Coach Brian Kelly said last week that Smith dealt with a mild ankle sprain in camp.
“He’s been out for a year and everything hurts a little bit more after coming back into it,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to be careful with him. He had an ankle sprain, nothing that we were really too concerned with. But we’re concerned with everything when you have a player of his caliber, so we’re going to be careful with him.”
The meeting between No. 5 LSU and No. 8 Florida State on Sept. 3 in Orlando is the lone top-10 matchup on opening weekend of college football.
A first-team preseason All-SEC defensive tackle, Smith also made multiple preseason All-America lists and awards watch lists.
Smith played in nine games in 2021 and recorded four sacks, then was lost for the 2022 season on the first defensive series of the showdown with Florida State.
PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME NAMES THREE SENIOR FINALISTS
Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell are one step closer to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Seniors Committee selected the three former players as finalists for the Class of 2024 on Tuesday.
Each would need at least 80 percent approval when the full 50-person selection committee meets early next year in order to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
They were selected from a group of 12 candidates.
“Every one of the individual presentations for the 12 candidates by the members of the Seniors Committee participating Tuesday was outstanding, truly creating the possibility that each one could have reached the position of finalist,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a news release Wednesday.
“I applaud the committee for the thorough discussion and consideration for all 12. The depth of the Seniors pool came on full display once again.”
Gradishar, 71, played his entire 10-year career with the Denver Broncos (1974-83). The seven-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro linebacker was a first-round pick in 1974 and the Defensive Player of the Year in 1978, anchoring Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense.
McMichael, 63, played defensive tackle for 15 seasons with the New England Patriots (1980), Chicago Bears (1981-93) and Green Bay Packers (1994). The two-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro selection won Super Bowl XX with the fabled 1985 Bears.
Powell, who died in 2015 at age 78, played in the CFL and entered the NFL as a defensive back before thriving as a receiver with the AFL’s New York Titans (1960-62) and Oakland Raiders (1963-66). He racked up 8,046 receiving yards and 81 TDs in 117 games.
The other seniors who were under consideration were Ken Anderson, Maxie Baughan, Roger Craig, Joe Jacoby, Albert Lewis, Eddie Meador, Sterling Sharpe, Otis Taylor and Al Wistert.
COWBOYS DE SAM WILLIAMS FACES DRUG, WEAPON CHARGES
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Sam Williams is facing drug and weapons charges after a weekend arrest.
Police arrested him on Sunday in Frisco, Texas, where the Cowboys have their team headquarters.
Williams, 24, was charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful carrying of a weapon, according to Frisco police.
The team told ESPN it is aware of the situation but declined to comment. Williams practiced on Tuesday.
Williams was a second-round pick by Dallas in the 2022 NFL Draft. He played in 15 games as a rookie, logging 22 tackles, four sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Last December, Williams was cited for reckless driving after totaling his car near the team’s practice facility.
REPORT: DARNOLD NAMED 49ERS’ BACKUP QB OVER LANCE
The San Francisco 49ers named Sam Darnold their backup quarterback over Trey Lance, report Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
San Francisco signed Darnold to a one-year contract this year. He joined a quarterback depth chart headlined by 2022 seventh-round pick Brock Purdy, who took over as QB1 midway through last season. Purdy underwent elbow surgery during the offseason but is expected to play Week 1.
The 49ers’ decision leaves Lance’s future uncertain, as he’s failed to meet the high expectations since entering the NFL as the third overall pick in 2021. The 49ers traded up to select Lance that year in a deal that involved three of their first-round picks.
Lance started only two games as a rookie while backing up Jimmy Garoppolo for most of the campaign. The team named him starter for 2022, but an ankle injury in Week 2 ended his season prematurely. He started the preseason opener this year.
The 23-year-old wasn’t on the field Wednesday to start practice for the club’s final preseason game, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. Brandon Allen was San Francisco’s other option under center during practice.
The 49ers received inquiries about a potential trade involving Lance in April, but general manager John Lynch said at the time that they weren’t shopping the signal-caller. San Francisco will now explore its options ahead of the 2023 season, according to Rapoport.
Injuries ravaged the Niners’ quarterback room last year. Garoppolo – who replaced Lance after Week 2 – suffered a season-ending ailment of his own later on the season. Purdy took over but then sustained an elbow injury in the first quarter of the NFC title game, which ended with the Philadelphia Eagles claiming a 31-7 victory to advance to the Super Bowl.
Darnold, the 2018 No. 3 pick, spent the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He started six games in 2022, passing for seven touchdowns against three interceptions while completing 58.6% of his passes. The 26-year-old joined Carolina following a disappointing three-year stint with the New York Jets.
JETS’ DAVIS ‘STEPPING AWAY’ AFTER 6 SEASONS
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis will step away from the NFL after six seasons, he announced on Instagram on Wednesday.
“This decision has not been easy. Although I am a deep person, I am a man of few words. I’ve been searching my heart for what to do, and I feel that stepping away from the game is the best path for me at this time. I have more blessings than I could have ever imagined,” Davis said.
The 28-year-old had been away from the team on personal leave since Aug. 16. Head coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday morning that Davis can take “however long he needs” to return to the squad, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.
Davis was in the final season of a three-year, $37.5-million deal he signed with the Jets in 2021. He’s scheduled to have an $11.1-million cap hit in 2023 with no guaranteed salary, according to Over The Cap.
Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Irvin Charles, and Jason Brownlee remain on the Jets’ wide receiver depth chart.
The Tennesee Titans selected Davis fifth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. After a slow start to his career, he racked up 65 catches on 92 targets for 984 yards and five touchdowns in 2020. Davis signed a long-term deal with the Jets in 2021.
The Western Michigan product has 273 catches for 3,879 yards and 17 touchdowns in 78 career games.
JETS OFFENSIVE TACKLE DUANE BROWN ACTIVATED FROM PUP LIST AFTER OFFSEASON SHOULDER SURGERY
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets left tackle Duane Brown was activated from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday and will practice this week for the first time in training camp.
Coach Robert Saleh announced that Brown was medically cleared after having his surgically repaired left shoulder evaluated by doctors in Houston on Tuesday.
Saleh said Brown would go through “an acclimation process” Wednesday and hopefully return to practice Thursday. He won’t play in the preseason finale against the Giants on Saturday night. Saleh said Billy Turner or Max Mitchell would start at left tackle in that game, which will be quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ preseason debut with the Jets.
Brown is expected to be ready to play in the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11.
His return will help settle the Jets’ offensive line, which has struggled throughout camp with inconsistency and injuries.
“He’s another guy that brings stability, a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of experience,” Saleh said. “He knows how to play the game of football, knows how to prepare week in and week out, so there’s always a benefit to guys like him.”
Brown, who turns 38 next week, played through a torn rotator cuff most of last season after injuring his shoulder before the opening game. He impressed his coaches and teammates by playing well despite the injury, and the Jets’ first Selfless Warrior award — voted on by the coaches — was created last season to recognize Brown.
“Shoot, people won’t even get out of bed for the stuff he went through and he was playing football games — NFL football games,” Saleh said. “And he didn’t have to because his money was already guaranteed. So when you have guys that just love the game so much … he played damn near the whole season basically with one arm and played pretty darn well.”
Brown signed a two-year deal worth $22 million with the Jets in August 2022 after Mekhi Becton was injured and lost for the season. He injured his shoulder in camp last summer and spent the first four regular-season games on injured reserve before returning in Week 5.
He was a first-round pick of Houston in 2008 and spent his first 10 seasons with the Texans before playing five years in Seattle.
“Still got plenty left,” Brown said in June. “I still feel like I played a high level. I want to get as healthy as possible. Obviously, last year I was playing at way less than 100%, so I want to get healthy and be able to play at the level I’m accustomed to and with the team we have, this is a great shot to win.”
CHIEFS’ ANDY REID: ‘NO COMMUNICATION’ WITH ALL-PRO DEFENSIVE TACKLE CHRIS JONES AMID HOLDOUT
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday there has been no communication with Chris Jones, one day after the All-Pro defensive tackle indicated on social media that his contract holdout could stretch well into the regular season.
Jones is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million deal. The Chiefs had been talking with his representatives about a long-term contract, but those negotiations have seemingly grown more contentious as the sides dig in, and with their Super Bowl title defense beginning in a little more than two weeks against the Lions.
“There’s been no communication so I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Reid said after the last practice open to reporters before the Chiefs’ preseason finale Saturday against the Browns. “The game goes on. That’s how it works.”
Jones posted a photograph of a chalkboard on social media Tuesday with the message, “If it’s out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind also.” That led to a back-and-forth with fans, and when one asked how long he was willing to stay away from the team, Jones replied that he could make an appearance around Week 8 — nearly halfway through the season.
Jones has been piling up daily fines of $50,000 for missing a mandatory minicamp over the summer along with all of training camp, and he has proven his willingness to forfeit his game check of about $1.1 million for each game he is absent.
When one fan brought up the hefty bill, Jones replied: “I can afford it.”
Jones has not stated publicly what he is demanding, but the assumption is that he wants to be the second-highest paid defensive tackle in the league behind the Rams’ Aaron Donald, who is working on a three-year, $95 million deal.
The price of defensive tackles has skyrocketed since the end of last season. The Giants’ Dexter Lawrence and the Commanders’ Daron Payne each signed four-year, $90 million extensions, the Titans’ Jeffrey Simmons signed a four-year, $94 million deal, and the Jets signed Quinnen Williams to a four-year, $96 million extension.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he’s been in touch with Jones, but that his contract situation is rarely discussed.
“I don’t think anyone expected him to not be here now,” Mahomes said, “but that’s part of the negotiations. I’m not looking down on him for that. He has some stuff he’s trying to get done and that he feels like he needs to get done right now.”
The 29-year-old Jones is coming off the best season of his seven-year career. He matched a career best with 15 1/2 sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one while starting every game. And Jones might have been even better in the playoffs, especially the AFC title game against the Bengals, when he hit quarterback Joe Burrow five times and had his first two postseason sacks.
“We stay in contact with him all the time. He’s in good spirits,” Mahomes said. “He’s a guy that loves football, loves playing for the Chiefs. It’s a hard time for all players whenever this stuff comes up. You want to play. You want to be out there. But at the same time, you want to take care of your family.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs are treating Jones’ absence as if he was injured, rotating several defensive tackles into his spot during practice. They got some help when Turk Wharton returned to practice after dealing with some swelling in the knee, and veterans Derrick Nnadi and Danny Shelton along with sixth-round pick Keondre Coburn have been in the mix.
But none of them has the pass rushing impact of Jones, whose 65 sacks are fifth most in franchise history, and that puts the Chiefs in a bind. They released Frank Clark in the offseason to free up salary cap space, but his replacement, Charles Omenihu, is suspended for the first six games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
That means the Chiefs’ pass rush must lean even more heavily on second-year defensive end George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah, their first-round pick out of Kansas State, who missed most of the offseason because of thumb surgery.
“You have to have depth everywhere. You have to have guys that step up when their number is called,” Mahomes said. “Yeah, you want to have great players like Chris, but you have to be ready to step up.”
Asked whether the holdout would affect Jones’ standing in the locker room, where he is one of the longest-tenured Chiefs and a leading voice on the defense, Mahomes replied: “It doesn’t hurt his relationship with any of us.”
“When he comes back,” Mahomes said, “we’ll welcome him with open arms.”
Even if that doesn’t happen until Week 8.