Freddie Kitchens Says John Harbaugh Is Setting Browns Up
If yesterday is any indication, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens' press conferences are going to be must-see. He's already introduced a new phrase into the lexicon, although the spelling of said phrase apparently is up for debate.
Meanwhile, in a conversation with Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Kitchens alluded to recent comments from Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, who last week at the NFL Owners meetings referred to the Browns as "the most talented team in the [AFC North]."
"There's a coach in the league that mentioned something, said we have the best talent in the division," Kitchens said, laughing. "Hell, that's just trying to set you up for failure. We understand the games that are played. We understand that people want to put you up so they can knock you down. It's a hell of a lot more fun seeing somebody fall when the expectations are high. Everybody knows that. I'm from Alabama and I know that."
There's been a ton of chatter this offseason about the dramatic changes in the AFC North, and the Browns have come out on top as the Vegas favorites to win the division next year after the Ravens were "Kings of the North" in 2018.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon was asked about the Browns' additions in an appearance yesterday on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."
"We have to play them twice a year, and that's good for us," Judon said. "If that's the team to beat and we go out there and do it twice, then who's the team to beat?
"They did a good job in the offseason, but that don't have nothing to do with us. When we play them we have to study them, we have to know what they like to do, and we have to beat them that week."
TMZ Implies a Quarterback Controversy Brewing in Baltimore
A headline on TMZ.com yesterday read: "Robert Griffin III Gunnin' To Be Ravens' Starter/'Never Content Being A Backup.'"
The unnamed author of the article wrote: "RGIII tells us he's got MUCH bigger plans than just holding a clipboard for Lamar [Jackson] in 2019 ... he says he's straight-up coming for LJ's starting job!!!"
That was "much" in ALL CAPS and three exclamation points!!! And, no, this was not one of those April Fools' Day prank articles either (more on that later).
However, it would be foolish to believe there's anything controversial about Griffin's comments.
In typical TMZ fashion, the person shooting video and asking questions did so while Griffin had the door open to his vehicle and was about to step inside.
When asked if he was content being a backup, Griffin replied: "Anybody that signs in the league is never content being a backup, so this is just part of the rebuilding process for me. It started last year. I moved from QB3 to QB2 ... but by no means am I content with where I'm at. I still want to keep going."
Wait, where was the part where Griffin indicated he's "straight-up coming for Jackson's starting job?"
Yeah, he never said anything like that. In fact, he talked about "helping this franchise in any way they need me."
At 29 years old, of course Griffin isn't "content" being a backup. What true competitor would be? But he clearly understands what his role is with the Ravens, and obviously the organization got to know him last year and wouldn't have re-signed him if they believed he was going to be anything but a team player.
After Griffin officially re-signed with the Ravens last week, he appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show," where he was asked about being a competitor while still having to get Jackson "prepared to go into battle as opposed to somebody doing that for you."
"The thing that makes the most sense for me is I have to make sure I'm ready to go," Griffin told Patrick. "I think that in the process of doing that, I'll be able to support L.J. If I show up and I'm a pro, if I show up and I study the way I'm supposed to study, and I work the way I'm supposed to work to insure that I'm ready to play anytime I'm called upon, that has an effect on L.J. and will have him study the way he's supposed to study, work how he's supposed to work and be ready to play.
"I told the organization and talked with Lamar, and they know I'm going to be 100 percent supportive of him and I want him to be the future here in Baltimore. And at the same time, I continue to work extremely hard, be a competitor and try to make him better every single day. And at the same time, it'll make me better and give me an opportunity to go out and get back to where I want to be at."
If I were to write a headline to summarize Griffin's appearance on Patrick's show it would be something like this: "Robert Griffin III Wants To Set Good Example For Lamar Jackson/'100 Percent Supportive of Him.'"
Something tells me that wouldn't get as many clicks at TMZ's headline probably did.
Oh, and also check out what Griffin told "The Lounge" podcast for further proof that he fully understands his backup role.
Haloti Ngata Signs With Pro Rugby Team?
Former Ravens star Haloti Ngata, who announced his retirement from the NFL a couple weeks ago after 13 seasons, also announced on Twitter yesterday that he signed a contract to play rugby for the Utah Warriors of Major League Rugby.
Wait, what was yesterday's date again?
Apparently, not everyone remembered that it was April 1. Several outlets reported Ngata's signing as real news (as opposed to fake news). Ngata's prank was so convincing that even those who knew it was April Fools' Day were duped.
"The former NFL All-Pro announced that he's signed a contract with the Utah Warriors and this is no April Fools joke," NBC Philadelphia.com’s Dave Zangaro wrote.
John Newby of 247 Sports wrote: "Obviously, the proximity of this announcement in regard to April Fools' Day caused some speculation about the veracity, but Warriors Rugby also officially announced the move."
Yes, the rugby team was in on the joke and even put a news release about Ngata's signing on its website.
Last night, Ngata – who actually did play rugby as a teenager for the Highland Rugby Club in Salt Lake City – came clean on Twitter.
Well done, Haloti, but you have to wake up pretty early to fool me. Wait, what's this I just read? OMG, Tom Brady is retiring!
One Pundit Gives Ravens a D+ Free Agency Grade
The Ravens have received a lot of high marks for their work in free agency, despite some tough losses, but Fansided's Joe Soriano is one harsh grader.
Scoriano gave out grades for every team in regard to how they fared in free agency, and he gave the Ravens a D+.
"While Earl Thomas is technically an upgrade over Eric Weddle, who remains one of the NFL's most effective safeties, it's hard to come away complimentary of the Baltimore Ravens' offseason," Soriano wrote. "Parting ways with Joe Flacco was necessary, but the hits the Ravens took to their front seven are hard to overlook."
On the other end of the spectrum, Soriano gave the Browns an A++.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the Cleveland Browns were the biggest winners in free agency this year, as they legitimately added three stars at critical positions in a pass-happy league," Soriano wrote. " … Odell Beckham Jr. is the true game-changer here. He'll make everyone in that offense that much better, and the league could witness a new level of greatness at the wide receiver position with Beckham catching passes from the highly impressive Baker Mayfield.
"Beckham has no weaknesses in his game as a receiver, and his athletic ability is only surpassed by his addition to detail. In Beckham and Mayfield, the Browns have two of the hungriest players in the league ready to get on the same page for a Super Bowl run."
As I have previously noted, handing out grades is fun, and that's why I like to get in on the fun and grade the grader.
Soriano makes a valid point about the players the Ravens lost on defense, but anytime you gain players as talented as Thomas and running back Mark Ingram, you have to get a passing grade at the very least.
And, yes, Beckham is a dynamic playmaker and the Browns made some really good additions to an already talented roster, but I have never seen a greater example of hyperbole in my life (see what I did there?) than what Soriano wrote about Cleveland's moves.
Seriously, an A++? (Who does Soriano think he is, Miss Shields from "A Christmas Story?") That seems excessive. Almost as bad as three exclamation points.