Trey Lance has signed his rookie contract with the San Francisco 49ers, leaving New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson as the last unsigned first-round pick.

The agency representing Lance, CAA, confirmed on Wednesday that Lance had signed his deal prior to the first training camp practice for the Niners.

His contract is a four-year, $34.1million deal with a fifth-year option that is included for all first-round picks.

San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up to the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and select Lance as their quarterback of the future.

However, head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Tuesday that Lance enters camp as the number two quarterback, declaring there is no competition, at present, between him and starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

"There's no open competition right now," Shanahan said. "Jimmy is coming in as the one and Trey is coming in as the two."

While the 49ers can focus on developing Lance, the Jets began camp without second overall pick Wilson, who arguably needs the practice time more as he approaches his rookie season as the unquestioned starter.

The sticking point between the two sides is offset language. A common stumbling block when signing high draft picks, the Jets and most of the NFL include offsets in their contracts, providing financial protection should a player be released before the end of the contract.

An offset effectively ensures a player cannot collect two salaries from his old team and his new team if released.

New Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who was hired following a successful spell as the 49ers' defensive coordinator, did not sound overly concerned when asked about the stand-off on Tuesday.

"This is business, [general manager] Joe's [Douglas] got a great handle on everything and when it gets done it gets done," said Saleh.

"From a rookie standpoint you need as many reps as you can, it's something he'll have to navigate through and I've got a lot of faith in Zach, too. He's incredibly intelligent, he's got tremendous drive, so when he does get here I know that somehow, some way he'll make up for it."

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard has requested a trade, saying he does not feel "valued or respected" by the team.

Two-time Pro Bowler Howard reported to training camp on Tuesday but is unhappy that his contract has not been reworked.

The 28-year-old is just two years into the five-year, $75million extension that he signed in 2019. 

At the time that made him the highest-paid NFL corner but he is due a salary of $12m this year, $2m less than his fellow Miami corner Byron Jones.

Jones was signed in a big free agent deal last year, agreeing terms on a five-year, $82.5m pact to lure him from the Dallas Cowboys.

Howard does not feel the difference is fair after his recent performances which included a fine 2020 season.

Last year he was named a first-team All-Pro after recording 10 interceptions for the improving Dolphins, who finished 10-6 for their joint-best record since they last won the AFC East in 2008.

While Howard is not seeking a new deal, he has requested changes to the existing contract that he says have not been agreed by Miami.

"I don't feel valued, or respected, by the Dolphins," Howard, who has recently changed agents, said in a statement. 

"I've played on that deal for two seasons and didn't complain, but everyone knows I completely outperformed that deal.

"I'm one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the tape backs up that claim. Yet, I'm the second highest paid cornerback on my own team, and it's not even close.

"We wanted to work things out with the Dolphins and brought solutions to the table – like guaranteeing more money – that we felt were win-wins for both sides.

"But the Dolphins refused everything we proposed.

"Just like they can take a business-first approach, so can I. That's why I want to make it clear I'm not happy and have requested a trade.

"Until that trade happens I am just here so I don't get fined, and will handle myself like professionals do."

Howard has spent his whole career with Miami since being drafted in the second round back in 2016.

He was a second-team All Pro in 2018, which was a year where – like in 2020 – he led the NFL in interceptions and made the Pro Bowl.

A memorable season

With 10 interceptions and 20 passes defended, Howard recorded two career highs in those headline statistics.

Per Stats Perform advanced data, Howard's adjusted open percentage – which measures how frequently an opponent got open against a defender's coverage, adjusted for position – was 25.19, almost a full percentage point better than that of Jones (26.16) in 2020.

When it comes to burns – when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable – Howard also had a significant edge in burn yards per target.

Though Howard was not exactly impressive in that category either, giving up an average of 11.12 while playing on the outside, that number is likely more reflective of how often the Dolphins left him in single coverage.

Indeed, Howard's average depth of target of 14.5 yards speaks to the frequency with which he was given the task of staying in tight coverage with a receiver downfield.

The Dolphins are not flush with cap room but, in a year where the team will be expected to make a year-three leap under head coach Brian Flores, Howard was expected to be key.

With a league-leading 18 interceptions over the past three seasons, Howard is a playmaker the Dolphins need on the field and motivated if they are to challenge in the AFC, so the team's response will be closely watched.

Aaron Rodgers has reported to training camp after reaching an agreement with the Green Bay Packers to ensure he will play at least one more season with the team.

Rodgers' future with the Packers had been in significant doubt following a report back in April that he had told some within the organisation that he did not wish to return to Green Bay.

The subsequent staring contest between the two parties cast a shadow over the Packers' offseason.

However, Rodgers and the Packers finally found common ground this week, with an agreement that seemingly gives the reigning NFL MVP the opportunity to decide where he wants to play in 2022.

On a reported "list of concessions" made by Green Bay is the Packers' agreement "to review Rodgers' situation at the end of this season".

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported "the biggest concession" was "the freedom to decide where he wants to play in 2022".

The Packers can save over $22million against the cap next offseason by moving on from Rodgers, making a trade and a passing of the torch at quarterback to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love potentially much more palatable than it was this year.

Green Bay will hope that it will be a case of third time lucky for the Packers, who have lost in the NFC Championship Game in each of the last two seasons.

Rodgers produced one of the finest seasons of his Hall of Fame career in 2020, flourishing in his second year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense by racking up 4,299 passing yards, a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Per Stats Perform data, he was third in the NFL in well-thrown percentage, delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of his pass attempts.

He was third in pickable pass percentage. Rodgers threw an interceptable ball on only 2.23 per cent of his passes.

Rodgers and the Packers will begin a 2021 campaign in which Green Bay will be expected to challenge for a place in Super Bowl LVI when they face the New Orleans Saints on September 12.

Aaron Rodgers seems set to remain with Green Bay but only for his 'Last Dance'.

After an offseason dominated by Rodgers' desire to leave the Packers – his only team – Monday brought widespread reports of an imminent agreement between the two parties.

But a deal is likely to be structured in a way that would allow veteran quarterback Rodgers to depart in 2022 if he remains unhappy.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said the deal "is not done but it is close", reported a new agreement would set up a move for the end of the coming season.

On a "list of concessions" is the Packers' agreement "to review Rodgers' situation at the end of this season".

Schefter added "the biggest concession" was "the freedom to decide where he wants to play in 2022".

Crucially, that may still be enough to keep Davante Adams on board, with discussions with the disgruntled wide receiver to continue.

Rodgers and Adams last week posted the same image of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on their Instagram stories, apparently hinting at a 'Last Dance'.

The pair continued to excel in 2020, with Rodgers targeting Adams with 147 of his 526 throws in an MVP campaign.

Rodgers put up career highs in passing touchdowns (48) and passing yards (4,299) and ranked third in both well-thrown percentage (82.4) and pickable pass percentage (2.23). No rival QB beat Rodgers in both categories.

Meanwhile, Adams' 18 receiving TDs led the league, with his 115 catches and 1,374 receiving yards ranking second and fifth.

He made the most of Rodgers' elite passing by winning 70.1 per cent of his match-ups with defenders and getting open on 81.0 per cent of targets, with only two dropped catches.

A long-awaited breakthrough in talks with Rodgers, who appeared set to skip training camp, was hinted at in the Packers' annual shareholders meeting earlier on Monday.

"He's our leader and we're looking forward to winning another Super Bowl," said president Mark Murphy.

General manager Brian Gutekunst added: "We have been working tirelessly with Aaron and his representatives to resolve the issues [Rodgers has raised], and we are hopeful for a positive resolution."

Discussions reportedly took place over the weekend to reach a point where a deal was close as the team's front office faced the media.

As well as reviewing Rodgers' situation, the agreement will see the last year of his contract – 2023 – voided, with no tags allowed in future.

"Mechanisms will be put in place to address Rodgers' issues with the team," Schefter added, with Rodgers insisting earlier in the offseason his problems were deeper rooted than last year's selection of heir apparent Jordan Love with a first-round pick.

An extended stay for Adams – currently a year out from unrestricted free agency – would be accommodated by the adjustment of Rodgers' contract "with no loss of income to give the Packers more cap room now".

Aaron Rodgers reportedly plans to play for the Green Bay Packers this season.

Rodgers' future with Green Bay has been in doubt since April, when, a year on from the Packers trading up to select his heir apparent Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, it was reported he had grown so disgruntled that he had told some within the organisation he did not wish to return to the team.

The reigning NFL MVP was not present for any of the Packers' offseason practices, skipping their mandatory minicamp, but NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that Rodgers had indicated his desire to play for Green Bay this year to people close to him.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Packers' annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field, president Mark Murphy said of Rodgers: "We want him back, we're committed to him for 2021 and beyond. He's our leader and we're looking forward to winning another Super Bowl."

General manager Brian Gutekunst explained: "We have been working tirelessly with Aaron and his representatives to resolve the issues [Rodgers has raised], and we are hopeful for a positive resolution."

Should Rodgers return for 2021, the Packers will be among the favourites to reach the Super Bowl, having progressed to the NFC Championship in each of the previous two seasons, losing to the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 Rodgers produced one of the finest seasons of his Hall of Fame career in 2020, flourishing in his second year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense to the tune of 4,299 passing yards, a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Per Stats Perform data, he was third in the NFL in well-thrown percentage, delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of his pass attempts.

He was also third in pickable pass percentage. Rodgers threw an interceptable ball on only 2.23 per cent of his passes.

While the Packers will be expected to be an NFC powerhouse again with Rodgers under center, his return could prove to be just a case of delaying the inevitable. Green Bay can save over $22million against the cap next offseason by moving on from Rodgers, making a trade potentially much more palatable.

With or without Rodgers, the Packers will begin their 2021 campaign on September 12 against the New Orleans Saints.

Deshaun Watson's future remains unclear, but it is looking increasingly likely he will not be a member of the Houston Texans long term.

Watson requested a trade from the Texans back in January, with the team seemingly steadfast in their desire to retain the services of the 2020 season's passing yards leader.

Yet any trade talk was overshadowed in March by the emergence of sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Watson, who is the subject of investigations from the police and the NFL and faces 22 civil lawsuits.

He reported to the Texans' training camp on Sunday despite a lack of desire to continue playing for the team, who now appear to have had a change of heart.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Monday that the Texans are willing to listen to offers for Watson, though their asking price will be at least three first-round picks.

His off-field troubles may impact the willingness of potential suitors to give up such capital but, in terms of on-field production, there is no doubt he is worthy of that level of compensation.

Topping 4,000 yards for the second time in his career as he racked up 4,823 to lead the league, Watson threw for 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

Fifth in the NFL in air yards per attempt (9.27), according to Stats Perform data, Watson did an excellent job of balancing his aggressiveness with smart decision-making.

Indeed, he threw a pickable pass on just 2.28 per cent of his attempts, the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL.

Yet the Texans still limped to a 4-12 record and frustration at his lack of involvement in the search for a new general manager and head coach led to Watson requesting a trade.

The Texans start their 2021 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 12, but it would be a surprise to see Watson facing off against number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

For Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, reminders of their blowout Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been everywhere. 

From Tom Brady's trophy toss during the Bucs' boat parade to Thursday's unveiling of Tampa Bay's massive Super Bowl rings, the champs have stayed in the spotlight throughout the off-season. 

With training camp finally set to begin next week, though, the Chiefs are ready to clear the slate and move on.

"I think the best thing about getting to training camp is it all starts over," Mahomes said at a news conference Friday as the team's quarterbacks and rookies reported to camp.

"No matter how you ended the year before, you have to go in with the mindset of starting from scratch. We’re excited to do that and try and make another run at it.”

The Chiefs have made it to the final game two years in a row, with Mahomes taking MVP honors in their Super Bowl LIV triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. 

To Mahomes, the path back to the Super Bowl starts immediately, not in the September 12 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. 

"I think we’ve learned that if we put in the work now, that we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season," he said.

"It’s about putting in the work right now, day by day, getting better and better so that at the end of the year you have no regrets about what you did in the season.”

Mahomes had surgery to repair a turf toe issue immediately following the Super Bowl but will be ready to go for training camp. 

Head coach Andy Reid said his 25-year-old quarterback, already among the best in the league, has spent the off-season working to be even better and he expects more of the same in camp. 

"He’s always looking for that next thing that makes him even better than what he is now, and that’s the part you love about him," Reid said. "He has that type of personality. He wants to be the best, and he’s not just talk."

The Chiefs are one of a handful of NFL teams who spend training camp away from their team headquarters, setting up shop at Missouri Western State University about 60 miles north of Kansas City. 

Reid said the more secluded location helps eliminate distractions and he looks forward to watching his team bond along the way. 

"We come up, it’s a time for camaraderie and bringing things together as a team. It’s hard work. There are no shortcuts obviously," he said. 

"We’re going to try to make sure we cover everything we possibly can, but there’s this concentration of football that you take in here.

"You’re sleeping in a dorm, you’re eating over in the dorm and you’re doing all of that. You’re here and it’s football kind of 24/7 right now.”

After months spent rehashing what went wrong in Tampa Bay, that probably is the best thing possible for the Chiefs. 

The New Orleans Saints have long since enjoyed the benefit of continuity on offense in Sean Payton era, but in 2021 they will have to contend with some significant changes.

For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Saints will begin a season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees as their starter.

Brees' retirement was regarded by some as overdue but, if his decision to ride off into the sunset was not viewed as a damaging one for New Orleans, the loss of the receiver with whom he had built a devastating rapport certainly is a significant blow.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season having undergone ankle ligament surgery in June.

Thomas was limited to just seven games last year because of persistent ankle injuries and the procedure to fix those problems will, at least in the opening weeks, rob the Saints' 2021 starting quarterback of a two-time first-team All-Pro who has blossomed from 2016 second-round pick into one of the most dependable wideouts in the NFL.

Renowned for his route-running and his proficiency in making contested catches, Thomas produced at a historic level in 2019.

He broke the single-season receptions record with 149, racking up a career-high 1,725 receiving yards at an average of 107.8 per game.

Per Stats Perform data, Thomas registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the ball is catchable, on 76.1 per cent of his 184 targets.

That was the fourth-highest rate among wide receivers in the NFL. Only one player who finished above him, Corey Davis (69), had even 50 targets.

Thomas was tied for the second-most burn yards per route, trailing only Stefon Diggs (3.9) with an average of 3.6.

He got open on 83.2 per cent of his targets, though he did so with an average depth of target of 8.1 yards, illustrating the Saints' dependence on shorter passes in the latter stages of Brees' career.

Thomas will now miss out on the chance to quickly develop an even better understanding with the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, vying to be Brees' successor.

The frustration of that for the Saints will be two-fold. Winston's aggressiveness -- he was second in the NFL in air yards per attempt (10.7) in his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 -- could unlock Thomas' potential as a downfield receiver to a greater extent than Brees did.

Meanwhile, Thomas' dependability would be a significant aid to an interception-prone quarterback or to a passer in Hill whose only four pro starts came last season.

Instead of enjoying those possible benefits, with Thomas on the sideline, Payton and the Saints have the imposing challenge of maintaining their offensive consistency without a Hall of Fame quarterback and without their All-Pro wide receiver.

The Saints are used to life among the NFL's offensive elite, but with the two most important parts of the equation on that side of the ball out of the picture, at least for the start of 2021, they face being removed from the top table.

NFL players, as a rule, tend to be rather large men. Even taking that into consideration, the rings the Tampa Bay Buccaneers received Thursday for winning Super Bowl LV were something to behold. 

The rings, which were presented in a private ceremony, feature 319 diamonds as a nod to the 31-9 final score of the Bucs' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. 

The top of each ring twists off to reveal a rendering of Raymond James Stadium, where Tampa Bay became the first team to win a Super Bowl on their home field, and engraved scores from all of the Bucs' playoff games. 

Beyond that first-of-its-kind feature, the rings are striking for their sheer size, dwarfing the fingers of the Super Bowl champs. 

"They're not so much rings, they're more like trophies that you wear on your finger," Brady said in a video released by the team. "This is by far the most incredible ring that’s ever been made."

That's saying something for a man who now has seven of them.

Brady and other Bucs players had an input in the rings' design, with the final result a collaborative product that packs as much symbolism as possible into a piece of jewelry. 

"You accomplish something of that magnitude, you want to be able to show for it," said linebacker Devin White. 

 

The NFL is set to take a harder line on teams' coronavirus-related roster issues in 2021 than it did last season. 

According to an NFL Network report, the league sent a memo to teams Thursday laying out a series of potential consequences should teams not be able to play a scheduled game - including possible forfeits. 

While the NFL, like other sports entities, juggled its schedule last season to ensure all games could be played, Thursday's memo shifts the impetus to the teams to ensure they have enough players to proceed with each of their 17 games in the newly expanded regular season schedule, saying "games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group". 

"Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place," the league noted. "A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game. Postponements will only occur if required by government authorities, medical experts, or at the Commissioner's discretion."

These new "operating principles" threaten harsh penalties for a COVID-19 outbreak involving non-vaccinated individuals, saying the financial "burden of the cancellation or delay" will fall on that team while the league works to "minimise" the burden on the other team. 

However, "if a club cannot play due to a COVID spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimise the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams". 

The financial impact of a forfeited game would not be felt solely by team owners either. 

The memo says any game that is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the 18 weeks allotted for the regular season will lead to weekly salary payments being withheld from players on both teams.

After news of the memo broke Thursday, the NFL Players' Association sent an email to its members saying the "same basic rules applied last year," but the stiff penalties never came to the forefront because all of the games were played. 

"The only difference this year is the NFL's decision to impose additional penalties on clubs which are responsbile for the outbreak and the availability of proven vaccines," the email said in part.

"The protocols we jointly agreed to helped get us through a full season last year without missing game checks and are effective when followed," the NFLPA added. 

Asked about the memo during a scheduled news conference at Dallas Cowboys training camp, running back Ezekiel Elliott called it a "touchy subject." 

"I got the vaccine just because I wanted to put myself in the best situation to be out there for my team, week-in and week-out," Elliott told reporters. 

"Not everyone feels that strongly or maybe other people still have their view of vaccines. You can't force someone to do something they don't want to do with their body."

Longtime NFL assistant coach Greg Knapp died on Thursday from injuries suffered five days earlier, when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle near his California home.

Knapp, 58, had joined the New York Jets as a passing game specialist in January after spending years as a quarterback guru and play-caller around the league. 

He previously was a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator for an NFL team every year except one between 1998 and 2020, working for the 49ers, Falcons (twice), Raiders (twice), Seahawks, Texans and Broncos. 

Before joining the 49ers staff as an offensive quality control coach in 1997, Knapp spent nine years on the coaching staff at his alma mater, Sacramento State. 

"Greg had such an inner peace about him that people always seemed to gravitate towards," Jets head coach Robert Saleh told the team's website.

"He lived life in a loving way that helped him connect with people from all walks of life in a unique way. In his short time here, I believe the people in this organisation had a chance to experience that connection."

The Jets had entrusted Knapp with preparing the second overall pick in this spring's NFL Draft, Zach Wilson, for life in the NFL. 

Knapp previously had worked with numerous star quarterbacks including Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. 

During the Jets' minicamp last month, Knapp had told reporters he found it "invigorating" to work with a young talent like Wilson. 

"It is really cool," Knapp said then. "Both my parents are teachers. It's like, here's the canvas, start teaching them what you know without overteaching them too quickly. So that's the challenge, but it's really exciting."

Knapp is survived by his wife Charlotte and daughters Jordan, Natalie and Camille. 

The San Francisco 49ers have signed Fred Warner to a five-year extension to make him the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker, reflecting his status as arguably the premier player at his position.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Niners inked Warner to a deal worth $95million including $40.5m guaranteed at signing.

The contract will keep him with San Francisco through the 2026 season.

It follows a 2020 campaign in which Warner was an ever-present for a Niners team decimated by injury and enjoyed a stellar campaign that saw him named as a first-team All-Pro.

San Francisco, having seen three opt out before the start of the season, had 40 players placed on either the injured reserve, physically unable to perform, or reserve/COVID-19 list over the course of last term.

It left them ill-equipped to make a return trip to the Super Bowl having suffered an agonising late 31-20 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 season, but individually it was an outstanding year for Warner.

Renowned for having the athleticism to cover wide receivers as well as running backs and tight ends, Warner's adjusted open percentage, which measures how frequently an opposing pass-catcher gets open against a defender's coverage and is adjusted based on position, was 24.60, putting him fifth among all inside linebackers in 2020 according to Stats Perform data.

He allowed a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup against a defender on plays when they are targeted regardless of whether the pass is caught, on 41.7 per cent of his targets, with that burn percentage the seventh-best among linebackers with at least 250 coverage snaps.

Illustrating his all-round impact in affecting the pass game, Warner's pressure rate of 33.3 per cent was tied sixth among linebackers with at least 20 pass-rush snaps.

A third-round pick in 2018, Warner has registered 21 pass breakups since entering the NFL, with that tally tied eighth among all linebackers in that period.

His efforts last year helped the Niners stay in the top five in the NFL in opponent yards per play (5.05) and yards per game (314.4) allowed in 2020 despite their raft of injuries.

With his future decided and San Francisco getting healthy on both sides of the ball having kept the core of one of the deeper rosters in the league intact before drafting quarterback Trey Lance this offseason, Warner will hope to play an integral role in making sure the Niners are a perennial playoff contender this decade.

The Los Angeles Rams had one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL last season, but their odds of improving the ground game in 2021 suffered a blow on Tuesday.

Running back Cam Akers, whom the Rams selected in the second round of the 2020 draft, will miss his second year in the league with a torn Achilles.

It was a case of extremely unfortunate timing for Akers, who sustained the injury a week before the Rams were due to start training camp.

"I just want to thank any and every person sending prayers my way and wishing me well," Akers posted on Twitter. 

"I hate this happened but I'm in great spirits and I understand God makes no mistakes. I'll be back better than ever in no time I'm a soldier. Again, thank you."

And it leaves the Rams without a player who came on extremely strong down the stretch in his rookie year.

Indeed, Akers racked up 424 of his 625 rushing yards from Week 12 to Week 17, with that tally the 10th-most among running backs in that period.

His efforts helped the Rams finish 10th in average rush yards per game with 126.1, while his four rushes of 10 yards or more in Los Angeles' two playoff games trailed only Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams (all five).

Akers was tied for 19th in yards after contact per attempt, according to Stats Perform data, gaining an average of 2.05 yards following first contact by a defender. The league-wide average for running backs was 1.91.

In other words, Akers was a difficult back to bring down quickly and was very much finding his feet in the league before the Rams' 2020 season was brought to an end by the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.

He had been expected to form a one-two punch with Darrell Henderson, who may now instead have to take on the burden of being the lead back.

Henderson produced a mediocre yards after contact average of 1.94 in 2020, though his yards per carry average of 4.52 was superior to that of Akers (4.31).

Selected in the third round in 2019 after amassing 4,303 yards and 44 touchdowns from scrimmage in his college career at Memphis, where Henderson has a significant edge over Akers is as a receiver.

In the passing game, Henderson produced a big play, defined as plays where the receiver wins his matchup for a gain of 20 yards or for a touchdown, on 25.4 per cent of his targets, putting him sixth among all running backs and fullbacks last year.

Yet passes to running backs are unlikely to be as significant of a feature of the Rams' attack in 2021. With the arrival of Matthew Stafford at quarterback, theirs is an offense that should be much more aggressive in going downfield and the onus will be on Henderson to take advantage of the running opportunities that the threat of the deep pass will open.

Henderson is the most versatile running back the Rams have and, with the four backs below him having never taken an offensive snap at the NFL level, he must use that well-rounded skill set to excel as the undisputed lead back and ensure the Los Angeles ground game remains among the elite.

Tom Brady's Super Bowl triumph with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was watched by a disbelieving audience, giving him something in common with US president Joe Biden.

Brady and the Bucs visited the White House on Tuesday in honour of their Super Bowl LV win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the former New England Patriots quarterback winning a scarcely fathomable seventh Lombardi Trophy at the age of 43.

And he humorously compared that success to president Biden's win in last November's presidential election, which continues to be disputed by former president Donald Trump and his supporters despite no evidence to support claims of election fraud.

"Not a lot of people think we could've won," said Brady in his speech. "In fact, I think about 40 per cent of the people still don't think we won."

"I understand that," president Biden replied. 

Making a pointed reference to the build-up to the election in which then-president Trump and the Republicans frequently referred to president Biden as "sleepy Joe", Brady added: "We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was.

"I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me... Sleepy Tom. Why would they do that to me?!"

Tampa Bay begin their title defence against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9, and it is safe to say nobody will be sleeping on the Buccaneers' chances of retaining the crown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have bolstered their pass rush with the signing of veteran Melvin Ingram on a one-year deal.

Knee injuries limited the edge rusher to just seven games in the 2020 season, his final campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He did not register a sack last year but the 32-year-old Ingram has been a consistently productive pass rusher in his career.

Ingram is one sack shy of 50 at the NFL level and should be in a good spot to reach that milestone playing for a Steelers defense that features one of the league's best pass rushers in T.J. Watt.

Watt led the NFL in sacks with 15 last season and was first among edge rushers with a pressure rate of 25.8 per cent.

The attention Watt commands could free up Ingram to regularly wreak havoc in the backfield and revitalise his career in Pittsburgh.

Ingram told ESPN's Josina Anderson: "I definitely feel like it's the place for me.

"I met with coach [Mike] Tomlin. You can tell he's very involved and a players' coach. That's what stood out to me.

"He wants to win and that is what I am on. My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play."

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