Peter King’s 2019 NFL Draft headlines: Tyreek Hill must go, Steelers find new Shazier, more

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My 2019 draft-coverage gameplan: in a word, weird. Thursday, Denver. I just thought John Elway might do something out of the ordinary, and he did, sort of, dealing down for a tight end/security blanket for Joe Flacco (Noah Fant) and falling into Drew Lock, which he never expected to do, with the 42nd pick … Friday, Oakland, playing catch-up with a chock-full Raider draft and the Gruden-Mayock dynamic. “The confidence I have [in the GM] is better than I’ve ever had,” Gruden told me. “The guy is sick. He’s a maniacal worker. I love him.” … Saturday, Tempe. Kyler Murray and Josh Rosen, oh my. Good chunks on all of those stops coming.But first, headlines from the weekend:

• Tyreek Hill has to go. Audio surfaced in Kansas City on Thursday, in connection with injuries suffered by Hill’s 3-year-old son, with the son saying, “Daddy did it.” Further, when the boy’s mom told Hill the son was terrified of him, Hill said to her, “You need to be terrified of me too, bitch.” The Chiefs barred their all-pro wide receiver, Hill, from team activities after hearing the tape, and now must take the next step: cutting Hill, who already was walking a thin line after punching the woman in question in the stomach when she was pregnant. The second-round choice of Georgia sprinter Mecole Hardman (4.33 speed) telegraphed the end for Hill in Kansas City.• The Giants, controversially, find Eli’s heir. All those who had Daniel Jones going sixth overall—nine spots ahead of Dwayne Haskins, 36 ahead of Drew Lock—well, you’re clearly in the head of GM Dave Gettleman. The Giants did not want to take a scintilla of risk by picking pass-rusher Josh Allen at six and taking Jones with their second pick at 17 (and he almost certainly would have been there then). On Sunday, Gettleman told me: “I agonized over that. Agonized.” Washington finally gets a long-term quarterback. After the failed RG III experiment in 2012, Washington has stumbled from passer to passer. Now owner Dan Snyder hopes Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (who prepped at the Bullis School in Bethesda) will be the franchise quarterback Griffin never was.• GM of the Draft: An unknown one—Miami’s Chris Grier, who, with two trades in the span of an hour Friday night, turned the 48th overall pick into Josh Rosen, a sixth-round pick and a second-round pick in 2020. The Dolphins now have a year to see if the 10th pick in the 2018 draft, Rosen, can be the QB of the future … and if not, Grier will have five extra picks (as of now) in 2020 to find that franchise passer in a richer crop of prospects next April. “I know some people say we’re tanking,” Grier said from Florida on Saturday night. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth. It’s gathering draft capital, plus we’ve now got a quarterback to come in and compete for us.”• The Steelers finally find a Shazier replacement. Mike Tomlin has been jonesing for a sideline-to-sideline playmaker and defensive captain-type since Ryan Shazier was lost with a spinal injury in December 2017. GM Kevin Colbert did something very uncharacteristic to help: He traded up in the first round for the first time in 16 years to get Michigan speed linebacker Devin Bush, who paid homage to his predecessor. Shazier is still trying to return to play football. “I know he has the heart and the will,” Bush said.

• Doug Baldwin might be done. The Seattle wideout and team conscience has had three off-season surgeries, is 30, and GM John Schneider acknowledged Baldwin could retire. “Whatever happens, Doug will go down as one of the great players in the history of this program,” coach Pete Carroll said. Undrafted out of Stanford, the slight Baldwin used guile and extreme competitiveness to catch 551 balls and score 55 touchdowns in eight seasons. He will be missed, in so many ways, if he’s gone.

• A strange pick in Carolina. “This has nothing to do with Cam Newton,” GM Marty Hurney said after the Panthers used a third-round choice on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. Nothing? I am not buying what Hurney’s selling. In the last two years, Newton has had rotator-cuff surgery (2017) and arthroscopic shoulder surgery (2019), both on his throwing shoulder. Cam turns 30 in two weeks. It’s okay to say, “We need some insurance at the most important position in sports.” Because that’s what this is.

• So long, SeaBass. The last kicker to be drafted in the first round, Sebastian Janikowski, retired Sunday after a 19-year career, with the record for most field goals of 50 yards or longer (58) in a career. In 2000, Al Davis drafted him 17th overall. That’s one slot ahead of Chad Pennington, 125 slots ahead of Shane Lechler, 182 slots ahead of Tom Brady. That’s quite a run.

• The Road Draft is one of the best ideas the NFL ever had. Chicago was better than New York, Philadelphia was better than Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth was very good, and Nashville, even sopping wet Thursday night, was as good as Dallas-Fort Worth. Next year: Las Vegas. Lunacy alert.

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Former Chargers center Nick Hardwick taking proactive approach to post-NFL brain health

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Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Nick Hardwick, former Chargers center and current San Diego radio analyst.

This has been anything but a typical NFL offseason for me. If you follow me on either Instagram or Twitter, you know I recently undertook an intensive, six-week brain treatment protocol at the Brain Treatment Center where I live in San Diego. It’s an affiliate of the USC Center for Neurorestoration, a progressive brain health clinic focusing on the intersection of physics and neuroscience.

Upon retiring in February 2015 after 11 seasons as an NFL center, all of them spent with the Chargers, I did my best to follow the counsel I received from coaches, the players union, and former teammates who had smoothly transitioned into the next phase of their post-playing lives.

For starters, I almost immediately lost a good chunk of my playing weight. It wasn’t necessary to carry 295 pounds on my 6-4 frame, because I no longer was tasked with routinely fighting some of the baddest humans on the planet for three hours-plus. I dropped the weight fast and got down as low as 208 pounds at one point, but my wife, Jayme, didn’t really favor that version. So I regained some muscle and currently weigh a very comfortable 230 pounds or so.

To keep busy and stay close to the game, I went to work almost immediately on the radio in San Diego, including at iHeart Radio, where I’ve hosted my own show since 2016. As part of the gig, I got to serve as the Chargers radio sideline reporter in 2015, and I spent the following two seasons in the booth as the team’s radio color analyst.

Those roles kept me engaged, and helped me challenge myself mentally. I felt as healthy as I had ever been since my freshman year of college, the year before I walked on and made the football team at Purdue. But I still felt I had more cognitive ability left untapped, because my brain wasn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders.

Fortunately I was able to function because over the years I had hard-wired my mentality to continue to persevere through pain, discomfort, less than ideal situations and, to be honest, some states of depression I now recognize. I knew a certain amount of mental endurance was required after playing the game so long.

But I also realized toughness alone wasn’t the answer. I came to realize and accept my fate that as a former football player, I had accumulated somewhere around 25,000-plus head hits over the course of my playing career, all at least equivalent to boxing jabs, with the occasional straight punch and uppercut thrown in for good measure.

How did I get to that 25,000-plus estimate? I played 11 NFL seasons, for about 1,000 game snaps per year. Add in another 1,000 snaps during training camps, not counting our offseason practices. And don’t forget the three years of college football I played, with similar snap totals, but rougher practices.

It’s easy to see the hits accumulate quickly at the position I played. I was diagnosed with six verified concussions in the NFL, but I still never missed a game due to one of them, a gut-it-out approach I would not recommend to kids or anyone else. During the 2008 season in Kansas City, I was knocked out cold on the field for about 12 minutes, waking up on the X-ray table at Arrowhead Stadium with the technician asking me to turn on my right side for reasons I didn’t understand.

“What?!’’ I thought for a moment I had broke my neck, but it turned out I had caught a hip to the head, delivered courtesy of Chiefs linebacker Rocky Boiman, whom I was blocking on a screen pass to Chargers fullback Jacob Hester.

While I accepted the damage that came with playing football for a living as part of the price paid, something hit home and came to a head for me at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta this past winter. I was there covering the weeklong event for my radio station, XTRA 1360, and despite being at the NFL’s glamor event, surrounded by the league’s football community, I found myself in one of those emotional troughs that occasionally came.

I knew then that I had a decision to make and some sort of action to take. While there was no erasing the time I had spent banging heads and colliding with defenders—and I wouldn’t take it back if I could any how, because it was the time of my life with so many lessons learned—it wasn’t enough just to plow through the low ebbs in life.

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Sunday Night Football’s executive producer reveals how show is created each week

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Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Fred Gaudelli, the executive producer of NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast.

By Fred Gaudelli

One thing I appreciate about being the executive producer of NBC’s Sunday Night Football team is that we’re a lot like a football team. The very good NFL teams enter the next season thinking, What can we do to get better? This isn’t corny, and I don’t want it to seem chest-puffing. We’ve been the highest-rated and most-watched prime-time show for eight straight years—a network TV record—but we’ve got that same feeling about improving this offseason that we have every year.

One of the things we’ve been discussing: expanding the use of the Skycam in live play-by-play situations during games. We might add a second Skycam to give viewers a totally different look this year. When NBC did the Notre Dame Blue and Gold Spring Game this year, the Skycam was moved from down the middle of the field to the sideline view, which is the view almost every play is now covered from. We wanted to see the impact of having the play-by-play camera on the line of scrimmage, from the sideline, via Skycam for every snap. We’ve studied the tape at length and hope to try this on our second preseason game in August, Pittsburgh at Tennessee. We’ll actually have two Skycams: the normal one that shoots from behind the offense in the middle of the field, and this new one, positioned on the line of scrimmage, on the sideline.

My initial reaction is this will make all fourth-and-one attempts better viewing experiences for the fans. But we’ll see how it works in Nashville in August for that game. If we like it, we’ll probably use it on live plays on fourth-and-short (and maybe others) in the first game of the NFL’s 100th season, Green Bay at Chicago, on NBC on Sept. 5. It’s new and fun—and it could make the viewing experience much more interesting.

That’s the techie in me, trying to get better. But in 30 years of producing games at the network level, one of the most important things I’ve learned—from John Madden—is so incredibly basic, as old as the game itself.

Watch pre-game warmups.

We have a team of 175 in front of and mostly behind the cameras that puts on the Sunday games, and we have every technical and modern convenience any TV crew could ask. But you’d be surprised how often we use something we learned just watching pregame warmups, the same way the fans in the stands do. Either Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth might use something on the telecast, or maybe director Drew Esocoff or I will see something and have a graphic built for use during the game. Maybe we’ll use it, maybe not. John taught Drew and me that intently watching warmups is really the final piece of game preparation. So much information is gleaned by rituals and warmups. Madden was the first to do this and the best ever at it. I love this part of the process.

Perfect example: Three years ago, before a Chiefs-Broncos game in Denver, linebacker Justin Houston came out before the game wearing an altitude training mask; he had a coach with him, with what looked like two extra-large catcher’s mitts. The coach set up some pylons and wore the two big mitts. Houston then began working his hands in all kinds of different pass rush moves much like a boxer would work before a title bout. Houston systematically went through his entire repertoire of moves. So, halfway through the second quarter, Houston was wrecking the game. He had three sacks and Denver tackle Ty Sambrailo had no answer for the quickness of his hands. We ran a package of the three sacks and ended it with video from the pre-game ritual, showing the hand movements in pregame that were used on the sacks. The Chiefs won the game, and Houston’s impact on the game was a huge reason.

So the modern technology like the sideline Skycam is great, and I mean that. I think it’ll make us better this year. But there is something crucial about the simple human element too—in this case watching pre-game warmups for an hour. If you watch our games and see really cool images and really great story-telling, I think we’ve done our job.

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