Minicamp Noise: Mind the Gushing and Glorification, Pledges and Praise 

With NFL minicamps wrapped up, hope now echoes for six weeks into the most silent time in the NFL calendar. Hope born largely from quarterbacks throwing to receivers, covered with no contact by defensive backs, with no one in pads.

Still, our thirst for our favorite sport must be quenched, and our guard consistently slips and we buy some of what we see and hear. I’m guilty of it too, even in my 27th summer as close party to it.

Each time I catch myself I am compelled to remind others: This is fluff.

Seven to nine of the 22 guys on the field in team drills – the linemen — can’t even do anything that would win or lose them a job during the spring and early summer work that just concluded. No contact line play is not football.

But many don’t care as they hear how someone is in the best shape of his life, mastering the scheme, primed for a breakout year.

The NFL perfectly packages the hope, which can be broken down into some simple, convenient and very predictable categories which even good reporters sometimes fall into.

Be on the lookout for more of these.

Unfinished business: Clifton Brown of the Baltimore Ravens website.  

“I want to be a champion,” Calais Campbell said. “And I think that’s a big reason why I feel like Baltimore brought me back. I think we have unfinished business. This team and where we’re at, I think we were so close, even though we didn’t make the playoffs last year. But if you really watch this team and see how we fought and how we competed, this team is on the cusp of something great, and I just can’t wait to go back to battle with my guys.”

Review: The Ravens are a good franchise. But they absolutely were not on the cusp of anything last season. They were 8-9, minus-5 in net points, and 1-5 in their division. While injury-riddled, I absolutely abide by the Bill Parcells bromide: You are what your record says you are. Last year their record said they were the last place team in the AFC Central and only four teams were worse in the conference. 

Potential: SNY video of Jets coach Robert Saleh on Mekhi Becton.

“We’re all aware of the talent that he possesses,” Saleh said of the offensive tackle, who’s struggled through two seasons since he was the 11th overall pick. “The size, the athleticism, the physicality. All of it. And he’s really smart. So, yeah, he’s important. If he takes care of his business like we know he can, he can be transcendent.”

Review: How long does hope spring eternal? If you were a high first-rounder and you’re 6-foot-7 and 363 pounds as a tackle, into your third year for sure. How about he gets to be consistently competent before he’s transcendent?

Glorification and gushing: Zak Keefer at The Athletic on Matt Ryan.

“He could basically run this offense and this team by himself,” said rookie wideout Alec Pierce.

“I knew he was good, but his accuracy is insane,” said coach Frank Reich.

“With Matt, the ball is out,” added tight end Mop Alie-Cox. “Like, you turn your head and the ball is gonna be on point.”

And the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, new wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne, with perhaps the most eye-popping quote of the spring: “Man, it makes me almost want to throw up because he reminds me of Peyton so much. He’s the epitome of a leader.”

“Welcome to the Matt Ryan era in Indianapolis. The transition has been stunningly seamless. Ryan, the 14-year veteran, has quickly earned the respect of teammates and coaches, absorbed Reich’s offense and offered glimpses of just how different it might look in 2022.”

Review: I kept waiting. Surely the disclaimer was coming in this story. The mandatory disclaimer.

But it’s just minicamp. But the receivers can’t be pressed or hit. But the immobile Ryan faced no pass rush.

Still waiting.

Pledges: Nate Taylor of The Athletic on Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill.

“Thornhill, 26, believes he is ready to re-energize his career and that the reincarnation of his play has already begun this week during the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp.”

“I’m planning on playing my best football by far, playing at the top of my game,” Thornhill said of his expectations for this upcoming season. “I’m expecting an All-Pro season. I’m all the way back. I’m not thinking about the knee at all. My confidence is on a high, and I feel I can run and compete with anybody on the field.

“I’m going to have an All-Pro season. I’m committed to doing that.”

Review: A second-round pick out of Virginia in 2019, Thornhill’s knee didn’t cost him a game in 2021 and he’s played in every game of his career, starting 73 percent of them. Admirable goals, sure. But we could easily hear this from 75 percent of highly drafted contract-year players, right?

Motivation: Derrick Henry in his first conversation with the Titans’ press since the team’s playoff loss to Cincinnati.

“I get motivated by anything,” Henry said. “Someone could motivate me and wouldn’t even know it. …The doubters, whatever they want to be, I am definitely motivated and ready to go. We’re going to see.”

Review: And we need to see. The guy’s been absolutely incredible. But wear and tear catches up to even backs who seem superhuman. The Jones fracture to his right foot that cost him nine games last year is a stress fracture, and a stress fracture is about usage. There is a metal plate and screws in his right foot now. He needs to show he’s back to the old guy and the Titans need him badly post A.J. Brown. The doubts may motivate him, but they are not unreasonable.

It’s not the last injury that concerns me so much as the next one.

Hearsay: Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay during Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay after a shot of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson in the crowd.

“Supposedly having a very good minicamp.”

Review: Who isn’t?

Paul Kuharsky hosts OutKick360. Read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com and follow him @PaulKuharskyNFL

Written by Paul Kuharsky

Paul Kuharsky is an award-winning writer who has covered the NFL for over 22 years in California, Texas, and Tennessee, and also is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. PK came to join the longest running trio in Nashville Sports Talk in 2012.

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