NFL Preseason Week 2 quick hits

–Baltimore’s preseason streak is finally over. The Ravens record string of 24 consecutive preseason victories was finally ended Monday night by Washington on a late 49 yard field goal by Joey Slye. Even though Washington guard Sam Cosmi called it a stupid streak before the game, the Commanders celebrated like they had just won a playoff game. Meanwhile,Baltimore   coach John Harbaugh lauded his players for playing so well during the streak. “They respect what it takes to play the game,’’ he said. And despite the streak being on the line, Harbaugh didn’t play Lamar Jackson so he treated it like another preseason game. Very few preseason games are memorable. This one was. 

–The NFL keeps trying to keep the game safer but they got another reminder last week that the players are still often at risk. Two players were strapped on a stretcher Saturday and carted off the field and hospitalized after suffering head and neck injuries. Fortunately, neither seems to have suffered a serious injury and both were released from the hospital. New England cornerback Isaiah Bolden collided with a teammate in the fourth quarter of the Patriot-Green Bay game and the rest of the game was called off. The Patriots also called off two practices with the Titans this week. Tampa Bay quarterback John Wolford suffered a neck injury when he was sacked by the Jets. The two teams finished the game. 

–The NFL went ahead and played the Chargers-Saints game in Los Angeles despite the hurricane and earthquake that hit the area. Since the field is covered, the game went off without a hitch despite the small crowd. But it made no sense for the league to expect the fans to attend a preseason game in those conditions.

–Kenny Pickett of the Steelers has put three touchdowns on the board in three games. So the AFC North is loaded in quarterback with Pickett, Joe burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. At least one wild card figures to come out of this division with the Bengals the team to beat.

–San Francisco’s Brock Purdy made his debut after being injured in the playoffs last year as he completed 4 of 5 passes for 65 yards and directed 10 play 69 yard drive against Denver and the 49ers went on to win 21-20. If he picks up where he left off before the injury, the 49ers figure to be a contender.

Starting Richardson a big gamble for Colts

When the Colts drafted Anthony Richardson with the fourth pick in the draft, it was taken for granted he would be the team’s quarterback of the future.

But even Richardson said he was shocked when the Colts named him the starting quarterback after one preseason game in which he had a typical up and down performance against the Bills.

The question now is whether he will be ready to play or is he being thrown into the fire too soon.

After all, he started only 13 games at Florida.

The Colts signed veteran journeyman Gardner Minshew in the offseason to compete in camp but decided not to wait to go with Richardson.

Coach Shane Steichen said Richardson’s playmaking ability tipped the scales in his favor.

Minshew will be a reliable backup and said he understands the move because Richardson is now the franchise.

The worst thing that could happen is that Richardson could have a 3-13 season like Peyton Manning did as a rookie. But that worked out just fine for the Colts.

NFL Preseason Week 1 quick takes

—The Baltimore Ravens reached a milestone when they won their 24th consecutive preseason game with a 20-19 win over the Eagles. The old record was 23 in a row by the Vince Lombardi Packers although they did lose a game to the College All-Stars during the streak. It is not surprising the Packers had a streak like that since they were the team of the 1960, but the Ravens haven’t been a dominant team and there seems to be no logical explanation for their preseason dominance. Does coach John Harbaugh put a special emphasis on them? Who knows?

–The feel good story of the weekend was the fact that Damar Hamlin played 24 snaps and had three tackles in the Bills 23-19 win over the Colts in his first game since he suffered cardiac arrest on the field last year. Coach Sean McDermott called his comeback remarkable. 

–New owner Josh Harris didn’t watch his first game as Washington owner from an owner’s box. He was in the first row behind the bench in the rain at Cleveland as Washington beat the Browns 17-15 and he got the game ball. But this past week, Harris learned the team still faces a lot of problems. Some players complained about new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy being too tough on them. Then coach Ron Rivera admitted he put his foot in his mouth when he suggested he and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had more experience in dealing with issues because they were both two-time head coaches. Harris has to decide if Rivera is the long-term answer.

–It is not unusual for the quarterback selected with the first pick to struggle in his debut. So it is not surprising that Carolina’s Bryce Young completed only 4 of 6 passes in 11 snaps in a 27-0 loss to the Jets. But the more alarming thing is that he was sacked once and took some other hard hits. It raises questions whether the Carolina offensive line is good enough to protect him. Young said he felt fine after the game but he needs better protection. 

–With Jonathan Taylor on the PUP list and demanding to be traded, the Colts running game could be a problem. In the opener against the Bills, five running backs rushed for 79 yards on 27 carries, an average of 2.9 a carry. With a likely rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson and an uncertain running game, Colts may get off to a slow start. That could be good news for the defending AFC South division champion Jaguars, who play them twice in the first six games.

Numbers a bit deceiving in new big-money QB deals

When Justin Herbert recently signed a five year extension worth $263 million, it was hailed as the best quarterback contract ever.

But it was the best only in new money. The extension doesn’t kick in until 2025 after he plays out the final year of his rookie contract this year and the Chargers have a fifth year option in 2024.

So he actually has a seven-year deal for $296 million, or an average of $42 million

By contrast, Lamar Jackson signed as a free agent for for five $260 million or an average of $51 million a year.

And Jalen Hurts signed a five-year deal for $255 million plus $10 million in the final year of his rookie deal so his average will be about $43 million for six years.

So far, Herbert, Jackson and Hurts are the only quarterbacks to get over $250 million in new money in a five-year deal. But that is about to change.

Joe Burrow this year and Trevor Lawrence next year will likely both top Herbert’s $262.5 million in new month.

Like Herbert, Burrow knows he will get a seven-year deal because the Bengals have already picked up his fifth year option although is calf injury could slow down the negotiations.

And Lawrence figures to get a seven-year deal because the Jaguars are likely to pick up his fifth year option before they sign him to an extension.

Now the question is how much more than Herbert will they get. I assume Burrow gets between $265 million and $275 million and Lawrence tops whatever Burrow gets.

When they sign, they will both be announced as getting more than an average of $50 million a year. But remember this those will be the new money figures.

Overall neither one will average $50 million because Burrow will get a seven-year deal and Lawrence is likely to get one too.

They will get generational wealth but don’t expect either will have over $50 million in new money.


Lujack’s faded Notre Dame legacy deserves another look

In the pantheon of Notre Dame legends, Knute Rockne, the Gipper, the Four Horseman and Johnny Lujack head the list.

Of the four, Lujack, who recently died at age 98, has faded more into obscurity than the first three, but he should not be forgotten.

The late Beano Cook once said, “The two greatest winners of the 1940s were FDR and Johnny Lujack. But even Roosevelt won only two elections in the 1940s, while Lujack won three national titles.”

Cook also claimed that Notre Dame’s legendary PR man Charley Callahan once told his wife he always loved her and she replied, but not as much as Lujack.

He won the Heisman Trophy in 1947 and was voted the male athlete of the year by the AP and made the cover of Life Magazine.

He was an 18-year old sophomore on the 1943 team that was 6-0 when Angelo Bertelli was called up to the Marines. Lujack quarterbacked the team to victory in the last three games to complete a 9-0 season. The Irish lost to Great Lakes Naval Training Center in the finale but were voted the national champions after beating five of the eight top teams that year.

Lujack and several teammates then spent the 1944-45 seasons in the military during WWII . While they were gone, Army went undefeated in 1944-45 with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and routed Notre Dame both years.

Lujack and several other players returned in 1946 to set the stage for maybe the most hyped college game ever. It was played at Yankee Stadium.

The rivalry was so intense that it even surpassed the Catholics vs. Convicts rivalry the Irish had with Miami after the Hurricanes routed the Irish in Gerry Faust’s last game. Although there were no T-shirts for the Army game, Notre Dame fans resented the fact Army had all of its players in 1944-45. The Irish had to deal with the anti-Catholicism of the day. It is interesting the Irish stopped playing both Army and Miami for a time because the schools felt the rivalries were getting out of hand.

Both Lujack and Blanchard played injured and the game ended in a 0-0 tie. “It was like two Joe Louises standing face to face for sixty minutes,” wrote legendary Red Smith.

According to the Washington Post, Smith also wrote, “Lujack threw every Notre Dame pass, kicked every Notre Dame punt, ran the ball with speed and malevolence and tackled with hideous violence.”

A defensive back on defense, he also made a tie saving tackle when Blanchard broke loose and it was often referred to as the only time he was taken down with a one on one tackle.

Notre Dame went unbeaten in both 1946 and 1947 and won the national titles both years. Lujack finished with a 21-1-1 record as a starter. After he left, Notre Dame tied USC in 1948 and then won the national title again in 1949, going 36-0-2 in the four years after WWII.

Lujack then spent four years with the Bears, replacing Luckman in 1949 and made the Pro Bowl in each of the next two seasons. He then retired after suffering several injuries and had contract issues with George Halas and became an assistant coach to Frank Leahy for two years before going into business with his father-n-law in Iowa.

He left a legacy behind that will always be a part of college football. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960.