After such a historically crazy Week 3 in the NFL, the rumor mill is in full swing once again.
The replacement officials—and the planet’s complaints about the entire situation—have taken all the headlines. But if you’re looking for some focus on the players for a change, you’ve come to the right place.
There are plenty of big names getting attention right now around the league. Some for good reasons, others not so much.
Here, the biggest storylines are reserved for the biggest stars. Read on to find out which players are involved in which rumors and whether those rumors are fact or fiction.
It’s been quite a season so far for New England Patriots wideout Wes Welker. A messy contract situation in the offseason has now seemingly spilled into the regular season, as Welker’s role in the offense has been unusually sporadic considering his immense production over the years with Tom Brady.
But a different opinion comes from NFL Insider Mike Freeman, who pondered the possibility of the Pats shopping Welker on the trade block in a recent CBS Sports article.
New England dipped its foot into similar trade waters in 2009 when it decided to move star defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick. Similar to Welker now, Seymour was also in the final year of his contract and was set to turn 30 (Welker is 31).
The 5’9” wideout probably won’t fetch as high of a return as the decorated lineman, but it’s not implausible that the team could get a second- or third-rounder for him from a receiver-needy team like, say, Miami. The Dolphins just picked up an extra second-round pick and a late conditional pick in next year’s draft in the Vontae Davis trade with Indianapolis.
But ultimately, if the Pats want any chance of making a run at a title this year, Welker likely isn’t going anywhere. Star tight end Aaron Hernandez is out at least three more weeks with a low ankle sprain, and receiver Julian Edelman is now battling a hand injury.
After Welker exploded for eight catches and 142 yards against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football, New England would be taking a huge risk by parting ways with its most productive receiver at a point when it is already vulnerable.
Eagles writer Geoff Mosher had this to say via Twitter: “Interesting that Reid said ‘right now we're with Michael. We'll evaluate it as we go’ when asked if he's considering a QB change.”
A day later, Reid changed his stance. Jeff McClane, who is an Eagles beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported the news via Twitter as well: “Asked to clarify his earlier comment about QB change, Andy Reid said on his radio show that Vick was his starter, period.”
So which is it, Mr. Reid?
Clearly, Vick is an enigmatic quarterback. His athletic ability is undeniable, but so too is his proneness to injury. He’s also already turned the ball over nine times this season and hasn’t looked like the 2010 version of himself despite the team’s 2-1 record.
Meanwhile, 2012 third-round pick Nick Foles had a dynamite preseason and appeared to be in complete control in game action. With poise and command, Foles completed 40-of-63 passes for 553 yards, six touchdowns and two picks in preseason play.
Could it be possible that he’s a better fit than Vick in Philly’s offense?
Foles is a big pocket-passer at 6’5”, 243 pounds, and he’s already made great strides since joining the Birds as a rookie. If Vick continues turning the ball over at the rate that he is, there’s no question Reid could turn to Foles as a potential spark to the offense at some point this season.
It didn’t take long for the first drippings of drama to leak from the media faucet regarding Randy Moss and the San Francisco 49ers.
During the fourth quarter of an upset loss to Moss’ former team, the Vikings, on the road, the future Hall of Fame wideout was benched. 1500ESPN.com senior editor Tom Pelissero noted via Twitter that Moss was “sitting alone on the opposite side of the 50-yard line from the rest of the #49ers offense.”
Then, after the game, Moss was terse and uninviting to reporters. Via another Peliserro tweet: “Appears Randy Moss answered 3 questions after game. One was about his playing time. Answer? ‘Next question.’”
The Niners knew what they were getting into when they went after Moss this offseason. Throughout his impressive career, he has received his share of criticism for things like being a distraction, not being a team player, being selfish and disrupting team chemistry.
No doubt, signing a player with Moss’ reputation comes with risk, especially because he entered an already tight-knit team with an identity coming off a fantastic and magical season.
And Moss surely had to have known what he was getting into, too, before joining the 49ers. They wanted someone to take the top off defenses and pose as a deep threat.
It all probably sounded just fine to Moss considering he is 35 years old and has yet to win a Super Bowl. After not even playing last year, what more could an aging vet ask for?
But the real challenge—which has always been a challenge for Moss—is how he responds when times get tough. And he just failed his first test by coming off as disgruntled for seemingly personal reasons following a team loss.
Cam Newton proved a lot of people wrong with his performance last year—and he proved some people very, very right.
As a rookie with a thin college resume faced with the NFL lockout, Newton burst onto the biggest and brightest scene with incredible numbers. We all know the stats by now, but there’s no harm in revisiting them.
He completed 310-of-517 passes (60 percent) for 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on 126 attempts (5.6 average).
After such an amazing rookie year, the whispers of seeing Newton’s numbers drop in 2012 didn’t sound crazy. Teams were expected to be better prepared for him, and quite frankly, those 2011 numbers are amazing—for a rookie or otherwise.
Naturally, the term “sophomore slump” started buzzing.
Many felt Newton would be immune to the drop in production because of his rare athleticism and dynamic playmaking ability. But through three games this year, his performance has been rather pedestrian.
He looked terrible against the Giants last week, tossing three interceptions and finishing with a QBR of 15.6, per ESPN. However, Carolina’s game plan felt altogether off, as the Panthers toyed with some option looks that never quite worked and stalled the rhythm.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday Countdown that the Panthers are "privately concerned" about the mental makeup of Cam Newton.
Newton is just 23 years old and has already proven he can compete in this league. While he may be going through some struggles right now, he should be able to bounce back and see his numbers rise the rest of the year. He just has to with that kind of talent, right?
While Peyton Manning can still deliver a gem of a commercial, he’s having a much harder time delivering tight, laser-rocket throws like he’s done throughout his storied career.
And that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
Manning is a 36-year-old quarterback with a lot of tosses on his arm. More importantly, he’s had four neck surgeries and missed all of last season.
Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk reported Ron Jaworski’s thoughts on the Broncos quarterback:
The only thing that really bothers me about Peyton right now, is the ball is not spinning out of his hand ala an Aaron Rodgers, a Matthew Stafford, the guys who really spin it. So I think that eventually will come when he gets healthy. But he made some mistakes in his progressions and reads, which is unusual for Peyton Manning. But in due time, all these misreads will be corrected.
Certainly, Manning is still not at 100 percent. The more important question is, will he ever be?
Manning will never be the same quarterback he once was. That’s just the way life works. His velocity is down and he’s looked understandably rusty. But both can improve.
Outside of his comfort zone now, the audible master is with a new organization with new coaches and new teammates. Through three games, he’s been inconsistent and streaky, and he’s been most effective in the hurry-up offense, unsurprisingly.
But Manning’s unparalleled intelligence and grasp of the game will help him overcome his weakening arm strength in Denver. It’s still going to take him some time to fully get comfortable in his new offense, but when he does, he will prove that he is still a top passer in this league.
Manning will forever be heralded as one the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and rightly so. And though his time is running out in the league, it’s not quite near just yet.