While Major League Baseball is grabbing plenty of headlines, rumors and Twitter space, the NFL is slowly kicking off the 2015 season in training camp this week. All 32 teams are reporting to their respective camps as you read this, and with it, renewed excitement comes with the dawn of a new season.
The 2015 NFL season begins with plenty of headlines that are sure to soak up all the summer sunlight as two-a-days and pre-season games get closer. Let's look at some of the major topics.
1) Tom Brady vs. the NFL: In what has to be the biggest example of "dragging your feet," the NFL, Players Association and Brady's representatives have been talking about a potential settlement on the quarterback's appeal of a four-game ban for deflating footballs in last winter's AFC Championship game with little to no success. There are a lot of moving pieces in this case, from Commissioner Roger Goodell hearing the appeal in spite of backlash from the NFLPA and a few NFL folks that he had a conflict of interest, to the fear that Brady will take "Deflate-Gate" to Federal Court.
If Brady does take this to Federal Court it could open up the possibility that the quarterback plays opening night against the Steelers, while a Federal Judge reviews the case. If a judge were to uphold the suspension, Brady would have to serve that suspension at some point this season.
2) New Deflate-Gate Rule: In lite of this ongoing legal battle between the Patriots quarterback and the NFL, the league released a new rules regarding the inflation of footballs.
"According to FOX Sports’ Mike Pereira — a former NFL vice president of officiating — some of the rule changes include two officials designated “to conduct a pregame inspection to make sure all footballs meet the required specifications,” number all 24 balls, and take and record a PSI measurement of every ball. The legal range of pressure in NFL footballs is 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI." (NESN). If there are any footballs below the specifications, they are to be inflated to 13 PSI. In addition, officials appointed by the referee will inspect 48 football (24 for each team) more than two hours before kickoff.
Just before kickoff a member of each officiating crew and a security official will take 24 of those balls (12 from each team) and bring them to the field. The remaining 24 balls will be left in the officials locker room, and used in the second half.
3) JPP and his missing finger: In what had to be the most bizarre story of the offseason, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul had his index finger amputated after an accident with a fire cracker on the Fourth of July. As a result, the Giants pulled a $60 million contract offer from the table that would have been offered had JPP played by the rules before teams signed franchise tagged players to contracts. When the deadline for signing players who are franchised passed on July 15, without any traction in negotiations it signaled the nearing of the end of Pierre-Paul and the Giants. The only way he gets a long term deal is if he plays this season and gets a deal after the 2015 season ends.
The Giants are still waiting for JPP to sign a $14.83 million franchise tender. Without that signature, he's not on the roster. Not to mention that before he had his finger amputated, JPP refused to meet with Giants medical staff and ex-Giant linebacker Jessie Armstead. The Giants clearly don't trust him anymore -- why should they. The guy is a total moron. Linemen need to have full strength in their hands in order to make plays, and without an index finger a person could lose up to 35% of their strength.
It remains to be seen when and how this issue will resolve itself as camp begins.
4) Rex Ryan's big mouth: Nothing new here, in fact Rex and his big mouth are an annual headline. But what makes this one unique is that the bombastic head coach is now in Buffalo instead of New York City. Ryan will coach the Bills this year after a messy ending with the Jets. He has already vowed that the Bills will go to the playoffs, and has launched a public tirade against Jets tight end Jace Amaro. Oh, and he still won't kiss Bill Belichick's rings. Should be interesting to see how quickly Buffalo gets tired of this act. The Bills play the Colts and Patriots in the first two weeks of the season.
5) To start Geno Smith or not start Geno Smith: While the Jets went through an entire face-lift this offseason they are still stuck with the same question: move forward and start troubled quarterback Geno Smith or move on without him. The Jets new regime of Todd Bowles and Mike McCagnan plan on giving Smith the keys to the car, but if he screws up look for more heated debate about Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty. It is fair to say that the one thing that may hold the Jets back this year from being even a wild card contender this year is the fact that Smith will be the teams quarterback in 2015.
6) Can the 49ers have success in the Post-Harbaugh era? It was a wild offseason for the 49ers. Out is Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan. Out is Greg Roman, now the Offensive Coordinator in Buffalo. Out is Patrick Willis who retired. Out is Justin Smith who also retired. It appears that the Harbaugh era took its tool on the Niners who are retooling with a new head coach in Jim Tomsula and several new pieces on defense. It remains to be seen how this group buys into Tomsula, and whether or not Colin Kaepernick can resurrect his once promising career at quarterback.
7) Last of Peyton Manning? Until Manning decides to hang it up officially, we will be asking this question all season long. Manning was pretty close to making the BIG move after last years' disheartening loss to the Colts in the playoffs. With a new coach in Gary Kubiak, a lot of people thought it was certain would call it a career. Instead, number 18 will return for the 2015 season. Is this Manning's last go-round in the NFL? We will see.
8) Los Angeles. The city of LA is getting ready to be the home to a potential NFL franchise, possibly as soon as 2016. There has been a lot of rumors and traction that either the Rams, Raiders or Chargers, or any combination of the three would move to Los Angeles. The Rams have a proposed $400 million stadium in Southern Cal. in the works, but the city of St. Louis is going to put up a fight to keep an NFL franchise this time around. Missouri's governor has proposed a $985 million stadium for the Rams to stay in the Show Me State. Meanwhile the Chargers and Raiders are still in talks of joining together to host a stadium in Carson, California, which would mean either team would jump to the NFC.