If I sound tired today, it's because I stayed up all night, which is my own fault, because that's what you get when you make a bet with yourself that you can't count every diamond in the Buccaneers' new Super Bowl ring.
If you haven't seen the rings, let me just say this: There are a lot of diamonds.
As a matter of fact, there are so many diamonds that I'm pretty sure each ring is worth more than a small house. Of course, the upside of staying up all night is that it means I was also able to watch the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. However, this isn't an Olympics newsletter, so I'm not going to bore you with details of that because we have way too much NFL stuff to talk about today.
Not only did the Buccaneers get their Super bowl rings, but Michael Thomas might miss the first few weeks of the season. We'll be covering both of those things plus more in today's newsletter, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Burning training camp questions for the NFC East
The NFC East was definitely the worst division in football last season so if there's any good news for the division heading into 2021, it's that I don't think there's any possible way it can be worse than it was last year.
On paper, every team seems to have gotten better: The Cowboys will be getting back Dak Prescott, Washington and the Eagles will both have new Week 1 starting quarterbacks while the Giants added a bunch of offensive weapons for Daniel Jones.
Basically, there's a lot to talk about with the NFC East so we thought we would use Friday's episode of the Pick Six Podcast to answer one burning question for each team in that division.
We'll cover our biggest question for the Cowboys here, but if you want to hear the rest of our questions, you'll have to listen to the podcast (You can also read the questions by clicking here).
Can Dan Quinn fix the Cowboys defense?
The return of Prescott is the big news in Dallas, but even if he plays like an MVP this year, it might not matter if the Cowboys can't fix their defense. I mean, just look at what happened last year: Prescott was healthy for four full games and even though he was putting up huge numbers, the Cowboys still went 1-3 in those games because their defense gave up an average of 36.5 points in those four games.
The Cowboys know the defense has to get better which is a big reason why they used their FIRST SIX PICKS on defensive players in the 2021 NFL Draft (and eight of 11 overall). Now, it's going to be up to Quinn to make the unit better.
Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks' Legion of Boom defense in 2013 and 2014, so if anyone can turn things around, it's him. The biggest upside for Quinn is that he doesn't have to make the defense great; if he can just get them up to average, that should be enough to help the Cowboys win games thanks to the strength of their offense.
By the way, the best part of today's episode is that it featured ME -- plus Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson. Not only did we talk about the Cowboys, but we also spent plenty of time talking about the Giants, Eagles and Washington, so if you're a fan of the NFC East, you're definitely going to want to check it out.
To listen to today's episode -- and to follow the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. Buccaneers unveil Super Bowl rings
When you're handing out a Super Bowl ring, it's not easy to impress someone who has already won six of them in his career, but that's exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did with Tom Brady on Thursday night.
The Buccaneers' new Super Bowl ring was so absurdly amazing that even Brady was wowed by it.
"I think this is by far the most incredible ring that's ever been made," Brady said.
The ring, which looks like it weights more than a small cat, has some wild features on it.
- Tons of diamonds. The ring consists of 319 diamonds, which includes 15 karats of white diamonds and 14 karats of yellow diamonds. The 319 wasn't a random number either; the Buccaneers picked it to commemorate their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Lots of gold. The rings consist of more than 140 grams of gold with the gold being both yellow gold and white gold.
- The top comes off. The Buccaneers wanted to commemorate the fact that they were the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium, so the ring was created with a removable top that shows Raymond James Stadium underneath it. If you want to see a picture of the removable top or if you're just wondering how it works, be sure to click here.
- Buccaneers buck tradition. Most teams go to Jostens (a company that created 36 of the first 54 Super Bowl rings) or Tiffany (a company that has created seven of 54), but the Buccaneers decided to do things differently. To make the ring, the Buccaneers eschewed tradition and went to Jason of Beverly Hills.
If you want to read more about the ring plus see a bunch of pictures, then you're definitely going to want to click here. Brady now has seven rings in his collection and if you want to see what all of those look like, be sure to click here.
3. NFL forfeits could actually happen this year
The NFL sent out a memo to teams on Thursday that outlines some new COVID-related policies for the 2021 season and the new policies include some potentially harsh punishments for teams with unvaccinated players.
- Forfeits could happen this year. If a game has to be canceled due to a COVID outbreak among unvaccinated players, then the team with the outbreak will be forced to forfeit and credited with a loss. The forfeiting team would also be required to pay for all the expenses incurred by their opponent along with any shortfall in the league's revenue-sharing pool (If a game is postponed by vaccinated players, the NFL likely won't call for a forfeit and teams won't face a financial penalty). Five games were postponed last year and at least two of them (Ravens-Steelers, Titans-Bills) might have been subject to a cancellation under this new policy.
- Players will lose money. If a forfeit happens, players won't get paid for that week, which is a harsh punishment because vaccinated players definitely aren't going to be happy if they lose a pay check because of an unvaccinated player.
- Some players unhappy with new policy. After the new policy was announced, several players complained on Twitter, including DeAndre Hopkins. The Cardinals star sent out a tweet implying that he might not be in the NFL much longer, but then later deleted that tweet. You can check out other player reactions by clicking here.
- Vaccination rates are up. According to ESPN.com, there are a total of 16 teams that have at least 85% of their players vaccinated. That's the target number for each team because if you hit the 85% mark with vaccinations, your team will have relaxed COVID protocols.
The NFL isn't technically requiring players to get vaccinated this year, but this new policy is basically telling players that they need to be vaccinated.
4. Saints star Michael Thomas likely to miss the beginning of the season
The Saints offense could sputter out of the gate this year and that's because there's a good chance Michael Thomas isn't going to be on the field.
According to NFL.com, Thomas underwent ankle surgery in June and he's expected to be sidelined for up to four months. If he sticks to that recovery timeline, that would put him out until October, which means he could end up missing the first three or four games of the season. Even if Thomas makes a miraculous recovery, he'd probably still miss at least two games.
Here's what the Saints' early season schedule looks like:
Not having Thomas would be a huge loss, especially when you consider that the Saints will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. That new quarterback -- whether it's Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill -- isn't going to have a lot of good receiving options. Winston throwing to Tre'Quan Smith isn't exactly a combo that's going to intimidate opposing defenses.
As for Thomas, the ankle that was operated on was the same ankle that was bothering him last year. The Saints receiver missed nine games in 2020 due to his ankle. Before last season, Thomas had only missed one game over the first four seasons of his career (2016-2019).
5. Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp tragically dies
Long-time NFL assistant coach Greg Knapp tragically died on Thursday. The 58-year-old's death was caused by injuries he suffered after being hit by a car in California while biking on July 17. Knapp was taken to the hospital on July 17, but never regained consciousness, his family said in a statement.
Knapp, who was beloved by his players, was headed into his 27th season as an NFL assistant when he passed away.
"Those of us who were so blessed to have known him, know that he would have wanted even this moment to be a teachable one," the family said in a statement. "So this is it...'Live every day as if it's your last, and love those around you like it won't last!'"
Over the course of his long career, Knapp coached multiple NFL legends.
- Knapp's first NFL job came in San Francisco with the 49ers. After quickly moving up in the organization, he eventually became Steve Young's quarterback coach. Knapp was the QB coach for three seasons (1998-2000) before being promoted to offensive coordinator (2001-03).
- After leaving San Francisco, Knapp made his way to Atlanta, where he served as the offensive coordinator for a Falcons team that featured Michael Vick. This was while Vick was in his prime and during Knapp's time there (2004-06), the Falcons had one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL.
- In 2013, Knapp was hired as the Broncos quarterback coach. During his time in Denver, he went to two Super Bowls while working with Peyton Manning for three seasons.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Davante Adams cuts off extension talks with Packers. Aaron Rodgers isn't the only problem for the Packers right now. Adams, who only has one year left on his deal, has broken off all talks with the Packers, according to NFL.com. Apparently, the problem is that the Packers aren't willing to give Adams a deal that would make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, even though he probably deserves a deal that would make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.
- Dolphins add Shaquem Griffin. The former Seahawks linebacker has a new home in Miami. According to NFL.com, Griffin has agreed to a one-year deal with the Dolphins. The linebacker, who had his left-hand amputated at a young age, spent the first three years of his career in Seattle.
- Stephon Gilmore reports to training camp. Although there had been some speculation that Stephon Gilmore might hold out of training camp, he actually ended up reporting this week (The team isn't required to report until July 27, but injured players can show up early). Gilmore will start camp on the physically unable to perform list, which means he can sit on the sideline while his agent tries to hash out a new deal with the Patriots.
- Mychal Kendricks sentenced. Three years after pleading guilty to a charge of insider trading, the NFL linebacker has finally been sentenced. Kendricks was sentenced to one day in jail along with three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. This will likely come as a relief to Kendricks, who at one point was potentially looking at 30 to 37 months in prison. Kendricks has played for three NFL teams since 2012 and will likely soon sign a free agent deal now that he's put his legal issues behind him.
- Big Ben's daughter helped him learn the Steelers' new offense. With a new offensive coordinator this year, Ben Roethlisberger has a new offense to learn, so he's enlisted his daughter to help him, "My daughter makes flash cards for me," Roethlisberger said. "We've done that, we've made them together and there have been some quizzes at home. It's become as much of a mental offseason as it has physical in terms of learning new things."