Regular-season football is back. The Seahawks have that look again, the NFL's justice system also has that look again and Rams fans will have to look for any and all quarters hiding in their couch cushions.
1. Seahawks Defense Has That Super Look Again
If there was one personnel move that seemed to get the league talking more than any other in recent months, it was Seattle's recent trade for former Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
"That defense is going to destroy people yet again," one AFC assistant coach said.
Like others, he agreed with what one longtime scout told me: "Seattle's defense will win them the Super Bowl."
So much hyperbole. So much overlooking the offensive line problems that still exist in Seattle. And that's to say nothing of the intense competition found in the upper echelon of the league where the Seahawks reside, along with the Super Bowl champion Patriots and teams like the Packers, Cowboys and Falcons.
To understand why so many in football believe the Seahawks' elite defense got even better, you have to understand what the league thinks about Richardson.
The now-former Jet is considered a massive difference-maker on defense. To some teams, he is a top-five talent. Not just on defense, but in the entire league.
His locker room issues with the Jets are cast aside as little more than typical Jets drama. Now that he's in perhaps the NFL's best locker room, many think Richardson will go back to being the force he was as a rookie in 2013, when he won Rookie of the Year.
Some assistant coaches tell me the Seahawks' addition of Richardson is like a team with great offensive talent adding Tom Brady at quarterback.
Is that a little over the top? Sure it is. But that's how highly some teams think of Richardson. It's also evidence of how strongly they feel adding him to an already fierce defensive line is destiny-changing.
2. Don't 'Stick to Sports'
Watt's outreach was staggering. Plenty of other athletes and teams from all across sports donated money as well. It was one of the greatest don't-stick-to-sports moments in memory.
"We are proud of what this football team has done for this community," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien told reporters this week. "It's incredible. No words to describe what J.J. has done."
This is why athletes always chafe when they're told to stay in their lane. They have as much power as any group of celebrities. They can rally people as much as anyone. And while you may not agree with their cause or how they publicize those causes at times, they are quickly learning how to use their power more.
And they are becoming increasingly fearless about using that power.
3. Absolute Power
Sports litigator Daniel Moskowitz recently joined Bobby Belt on SB Nation's CowboysCast to offer one of the crispest legal breakdowns of the Ezekiel Elliott case yet.
One of the key points, according to Moskowitz, is that "...at the end of the day, Roger Goodell can basically do whatever Roger Goodell wants to do. And people can decry it and say this is ridiculous, but they also have to keep in mind that it was the NFLPA, the players union, who agreed to this. They freely bargained for this in the CBA negotiations."
4. If It Looks Unfair…
Related to the issue of Goodell's almost unchecked authority is a man named Harold Henderson, one of the arbitrators the commissioner uses in discipline cases and the individual overseeing the Elliott decision.
I've known Henderson for almost 30 years. He is, without question, one of the most decent people I've ever met. He is incredibly bright and is a dedicated father and husband.
The problem, however, remains the appearance. Goodell appointed Henderson in this case after he served as the league's chief legal counsel for decades. That doesn't scream neutrality. No matter how fair I think Henderson is, the appearance that he is one of the league's guys is corrosive to the process of trusting the independence of the appeal system.
The process cannot be trusted so long as Goodell is judge and jury and appoints the arbitrators. That's just a fact, no matter how honest and decent—and Henderson is both—a man may be.
5. The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
When asked what it's like to tell a player that he made the 53-man roster, Bill Belichick offered a clear-eyed dose of reality, as Hayden Bird of Boston.com relayed:
"Yeah, as much as you want to say, 'Nice job. You made the team,' they're not a permanent fixture on the team. They're here until as long as they're doing their job and they're dependable, and reliable, and consistent and improving. Once that curve starts to head the other way, I would say it probably isn't going to last too long. If they can't figure that out, then they're probably going to suffer the consequences.
"Look, that's the NFL. That's the way it is here, and really that's the way it is on every team I've been on. I imagine it is that way on every team in the league. I know what you're saying—it's a good moment, but it's a castle in the sand. It could be gone very, very quickly. I hope none of our players, young players, guys who this is the first time they've been on this team, take that attitude. I think that would be a big mistake on their part. Hopefully, they won't do that."
6. Is That Really the Best They Could Do?
Take a look at some of the likely quarterback duels we have in store for Week 1:
And then there are those special one-man shows like Josh McCown opening for the Jets and Trevor Sieman with the Broncos.
This is a good time to mention a player whose name rhymes with Wolin Waepernick remains on the free-agent market.
7. As If Tom Brady's Life Isn't Good Enough Already
Darren Rovell @darrenrovell
25 Years Ago Today: Tommy Brady, 15, plays his first ever game at QB for Junipero Serra HS junior varsity team. https://t.co/gnrd0y1RSS2017-9-4 13:57:00
Just look at the hair, as ESPN's Darren Rovell found.
It is the greatest hair of all time.
That is all. Enjoy.
8. The Patriots Are Enough to Make Any Player Rethink Retirement
Anquan Boldin, who retired from the NFL less than a month ago, is reportedly intrigued by the possibility of returning to play for the Pats, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. I mean, if you were him, wouldn't you want to play with Tom Brady?
Still, the possibility remains slim. The Bills still retain Boldin's rights, and they'd have to give them up or trade him. The Bills likely don't want to help make the Patriots better.
But if this somehow worked out, it would be one of the best free-agent moves the Patriots ever pulled off. As he proved last year in Detroit, Boldin can still play at a high level.
9. Angelenos Will Have to Dig Deep to See Those Rams
Nathan Fenno and Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times recently detailed the staggering prices of some of the personal seat licenses at the team's new $2.6 billion stadium. The most expensive licenses could range from $175,000 to $225,000 per seat.
That money will be refundable after 50 years.
It's hard to believe a large number of people would pay that kind of money for a Rams game. But that's why the NFL is back in L.A. anyway, right?
10. Humans, Not Robots
Another regular season is here. Like many of you, this sport is one of my great loves, up there with cookies and Star Trek. And like some of you, I also watch the sport somewhat differently now. More than anything, I try to remember these are human beings playing. They are wealthy, sure, but they are still people.
I was reminded of this after I received a synopsis of a study conducted by Dr. Benjamin Domb, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. Domb examined relatively young retired NFL players to assess the level of damage done to their bodies.
His study, published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at whole-person impairment (WPI) percentages of 65 retired NFL players whose ages range from 27 to 42. The results of the study include:
- The average WPI percentage was 37 percent. (That means more than one-third of the body is permanently impaired, leading to pain all day, trouble working and focusing and waking up at night due to intense pain.)
- Players participating in more than 30 games had a higher mean WPI percentage than those playing in fewer than 30 games.
- Players who spent more than five seasons in the NFL were 2.4 times more likely to have a WPI of at least 37 percent.
- The most common joints that players reported as symptomatic were lumbar (97 percent) and cervical spine (89 percent).
So remember what you will be watching this week. Not robots made of circuits. But people made of flesh and blood.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.