NFL notebook: Packers, Rodgers close to extension

By The Sports Xchange  |  July 1, 2018 at 3:48 AM
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The Green Bay Packers have been working on a new contract for superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers and it may not be long before it's done.

"He's healthy. We hope to soon have a contract extension," Packers president Mark Murphy told a Milwaukee radio station earlier this week.

Rodgers is expected to receive a deal that will make him the league's highest-paid player. He signed a five-year extension worth $110 million in 2013.

The two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and six-time Pro Bowl selection is scheduled to make $20.9 million in 2018 and $21.1 million in 2019.

However, those numbers pale in comparison with the contract recently signed by Atlanta's Matt Ryan -- a five-year, $150 million deal with $100 million guaranteed. Indeed, Rodgers' salary now ranks 10th among quarterbacks.

--It's somewhat of a moot point now that Jameis Winston has been suspended, but an eyewitness to the incident that led to punishment for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback had a memory lapse.

Winston on Thursday was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season for violating the league's violating personal conduct policy.

The NFL handed down the suspension after a lengthy investigation into allegations that Winston groped a female Uber driver in March 2016 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Winston apologized to the Uber driver for his actions, even though he staunchly denied the accusations when they first came to light in November 2017.

Ronald Darby, a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles and former teammate of Winston at Florida State, also maintains nothing happened, releasing a statement in November that he was with the quarterback in the back seat of the car.

However, Darby's account was deemed inaccurate after league investigators discovered he was not in the vehicle the entire time.

--Odell Beckham Jr. prides himself on being a home run threat for the New York Giants.

The mercurial wide receiver showed his talents are not limited to wide receiver, though proving he can be a deep threat in another sport Friday night.

Beckham stopped by Yankee Stadium on Friday night to take batting practice before a game between the New York Yankees and bitter rival Boston.

The three-time Pro Bowler, batting right-handed, did not look out of place in the Bronx Bombers' lineup, cranking a shot into the left-field seats.

It was the second time Beckham hit a homer during batting practice. He also cleared the fences at Angels Stadium in May.

--Officiating NFL games will be even more challenging this season.

So says Fox Sports' Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating.

Four referees -- Ed Hochuli, Terry McAulay, Gene Steratore and Jeff Triplette -- retired from the NFL this offseason, meaning the league will introduce four new game officials this year.

There are 17 referees employed by the NFL.

"I've never been involved in a season where you went with four new referees, and four referees that really haven't been around the league that long," Pereira told the Boston Globe on Saturday. "And first-year referees aren't eligible for playoffs, so you're going to dig deeper into the remaining stash of referees. That could create a problem, too."

McAulay will serve as an on-air rules analyst for games on NBC Sunday Night Football. He will also work Notre Dame games for NBC. Steratore will join CBS as a rules analyst for the NFL and college basketball.

The Globe also reported that four other referees -- Walt Anderson, Walt Coleman, Tony Corrente and Pete Morelli -- could also be on their way out in the next two seasons.

--Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett wants running back Leonard Fournette to run "smarter" in an effort to reduce contact.

"I think as a young player getting to this level and then he really ran hard and did a really good job," Hackett told the Florida Times-Union on Friday. "But I think he almost took too many hits. I just want him to be able to understand the system more so he can run even smarter, but still never lose that aggressiveness."

Jacksonville's offense will far from begin and end with Fournette.

"We have always talked about wanting to be as versatile as possible," Hackett said. "If you put three tight ends out there and then a fullback out there and then all tight ends and all wide receivers and just always continue to mix it up, I think that is always something that you can really utilize to your advantage."

--New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick called the shooting deaths of five journalists at the Capital Gazette a "terrible and senseless tragedy."

Belichick, who grew up near Annapolis, Md., said the Capital Gazette was his hometown newspaper.

"My family and I have enjoyed special relationships with many great people who have worked for the newspaper," Belichick said in a statement released by the Patriots on Friday night. "My heart goes out to the victims, their families and the entire Annapolis community for this terrible and senseless tragedy."

Capital Gazette employees Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters were killed inside the newspaper's newsroom Thursday by a gunman who has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

--Los Angeles Rams linebacker Mark Barron said he is on schedule in his rehab from two offseason surgeries.

Barron, working his way back from procedures to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and bone spurs in both heels, is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp July 26.

Barron told the Los Angeles Times this week that his physical condition continues to improve, although he acknowledged there are "up and down some days" with his heels.

The Rams have not specified a target date for Barron's return, but the belief among team officials is the 28-year-old will be on the field "somewhere in the middle" of training camp.

"I'm on track with where I'm supposed to be," Barron told the newspaper.

--Percy Harvin walked away from football for good in March 2017, leaving behind a legacy of a spectacular talent that was unable to stay on the field.

Unfortunately for Harvin, the most lasting memory of his eight-year tenure in the NFL was a string of debilitating migraine headaches that never allowed him to match the lofty expectations.

A former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 (No. 22 overall), Harvin detailed his ongoing ordeal of migraines in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.

"Take a hammer and beat it on the side of your head nonstop," Harvin said in describing the sensation. "If you're trying to relax, if someone's trying to talk to you, that hammer is still going off. You're trying to eat, still going off."

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