The New Orleans Saints have reportedly decided on their starting quarterback, with head coach Sean Payton going with the reclamation project over the relative unknown.

According to multiple reports, Jameis Winston will be the Saints' starter under center when they face the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 on September 12.

Winston has won the job over Taysom Hill, who started four games at quarterback last season when Drew Brees was out injured.

But it is Winston who has the unenviable task of succeeding future Hall of Famer Brees, who ended his career last season as the all-time leader in passing yards with 80,358.

Winston is the owner of an unwanted record following his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019.

He undoubtedly offers more upside than a 42-year-old Brees would have, but Payton's challenge in turning Winston's career around is a sizeable one.

30 for 30

Winston ended his Buccaneers career in 2019 with a season that epitomised his maddening inconsistency.

He led the league in passing yards with 5,109 but became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. 

The former number one overall pick tossed 33 scores, but his final throw for the Bucs was his 30th interception that was returned for a touchdown. His seven picks returned for touchdowns set an NFL record.

It could have been substantially worse for Winston. Per Stats Perform data, he ended the 2019 season with 46 pickable passes, with his interceptable pass percentage of 7.69 the highest of any quarterback with at least 100 attempts.

Winston's well-thrown percentage of 70.2 was fourth-worst in the NFL. By contrast, Brees produced an accurate, well-thrown ball on 84.6% of his passes in 2019, the highest rate in the NFL.

Payton will obviously hope to minimize Winston's penchant for turnovers and make the most of his abilities as a downfield thrower. He was second in air yards per attempt (10.70) in his final year for Tampa Bay. Brees' average of 6.83 that year was the fifth-worst in the league and he declined to 6.41 per attempt last season.

Winston led the league with 1,158 passing yards on 94 attempts of 21 or more air yards in 2019 and, while his average of 12.32 passing yards on those attempts was only eighth among quarterbacks with 50 such throws, he is a signal-caller who can raise the ceiling in a manner beyond the Brees of 2020 or backup Hill.

Hill's unconvincing audition

Hill went 3-1 in his four games in relief of Brees last year, though one of those victories came against a Denver Broncos team fielding wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback following a coronavirus outbreak.

And there was little in his audition last year to convince he is worthy of a promotion from backup and utility player to starting quarterback.

Indeed, Hill threw a pickable pass on 5.93 of his 118 attempts, the eighth-highest rate in the NFL, and delivered a well-thrown ball just 72.9% of the time (fifth-worst).

He did so while averaging only 7.1 air yards per attempt. Only nine quarterbacks in the league averaged fewer in 2020.

Payton will have made his decision based on Winston and Hill's respective performances in training camp and preseason. However, Hill's play last season showed he lacks the accuracy of Brees and brings no added upside as a downfield thrower.

The path to the playoffs will be more difficult for a Saints team that has lost several key players on both sides of the ball in the offseason.

But Payton has decided their best route is with Winston as the starter and Hill reprising his role as a part-time quarterback whose athleticism can help him make an impact lined up in the backfield and as a receiver.

Whether Payton is vindicated remains to be seen, but all the numbers suggest his bet on Winston over Hill is the right call.

Saturday's scheduled NFL pre-season game between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals has been cancelled as Hurricane Ida churns into the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Saints announced Friday afternoon they had called off the game at the request of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

They had previously moved the game up from a scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday to noon local time in an attempt to get it in ahead of the storm. 

"Due to the intensification of the hurricane throughout the day and after the most recent tropical update, the team's leadership has made the decision in the best interests of all personnel that may have been directly and indirectly affected by the storm," the Saints said.

The Cardinals were en route to New Orleans when the game was cancelled, and online flight-tracking services showed the team plane turned around over Texas to head back to Phoenix. 

The team confirmed on social media they were returning home, adding: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those preparing for Hurricane Ida."

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) update on the storm shortly after the cancellation was announced projected Ida would make landfall on the Louisiana coast as a major hurricane – meaning it would have sustained winds exceeding 110 miles per hour – by Sunday afternoon. 

"Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the coast of Louisiana," the NHC said. "Hurricane-force winds are expected Sunday in portions of the hurricane warning area along the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans, with potentially catastrophic wind damage possible where the core of Ida moves onshore. Actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the warning area."

The cancellation was announced while Edwards was in the middle of a news conference encouraging Louisiana residents to take the storm seriously. 

"I did not believe it was appropriate for an NFL pre-season game to take place on Saturday afternoon," he said. 

Sunday is the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall in Louisiana. 

The Saints will open the regular season at home against the Green Bay Packers on September 12, with the Cardinals travelling to the Tennessee Titans for their opener that day.

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley stepped up his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) after taking his first full-team reps since the injury.

Barkley has been sidelined since sustaining the ACL injury in the Week 2 defeat to the Chicago Bears in the NFL last year.

The 2018 Pro Bowler has been progressing slowly as the Giants prepare for their Week 1 opener against the Denver Broncos on September 12.

Following Thursday's live drills in joint practice with the New England Patriots, Barkley said: "I feel really good right now.

"It feels good being with the team, feels good to get a couple of team reps. It's just fun to be able to play football again, feel like a little kid and just taking it day by day."

The second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft had established himself as one of the league's elite dual-threat running backs prior to that setback.

In his rookie season, Barkley ranked second for carries (261) and rushing yards (1,307) and was also second for catches among players at his position (91).

That amounted to 15 total touchdowns, trailing only Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara for running backs.

Year two was slightly slower but Barkley still became the first Giant to pass 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons and was looking forward to a big 2020 when he went down against the Bears.

"I definitely want to get hit again," Barkley said. "To me, it's not just the hitting, it's just playing football. Even though I only took two reps and a couple of reps in seven-on-seven, those reps are so valuable right now and going to help me in the long run.

"That's the next thing, to be completely honest. It's just taking it one day at a time. But we're at the point where I'm allowed to start taking team reps and those steps are going to happen naturally, especially throughout a couple more weeks coming up.

"You know me, as a player I want to go out there and make plays and especially in those situations when it's two minute and it's our team versus their team. Those things are going to come naturally, and I've just got continue to be patient and when I have the opportunities, take advantage of them."

Teddy Bridgewater will start at quarterback for the Denver Broncos this season, the team confirmed on Wednesday.

Bridgewater joined the Broncos this offseason in a trade from the Carolina Panthers, who moved for Sam Darnold.

The new Denver signing has been battling with Drew Lock in preseason but has won the starting job and will now hope to give the team some stability at the position.

The Broncos have had nine different starting QBs since the start of the 2016 season after Peyton Manning retired.

Manning left the team a champion after their Super Bowl 50 success, but they have not been back to the playoffs since and have only recorded one winning season. They have a 32-48 record in this time.

Although Case Keenum started every game in the 2018 season, the Broncos have not otherwise had a QB start more than 11 games in succession post-Manning.

Lock has largely held down the role since midway through his rookie 2019 campaign, yet a return of 3,953 yards, with a 59.1 completion percentage, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions from 18 games encouraged Denver to give Bridgewater an opportunity.

At Carolina last year, Bridgewater threw for 15 TDs and 11 picks but completed a more impressive 69.1 per cent of his passes.

Trevor Lawrence will begin the 2021 NFL season as the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach Urban Meyer has confirmed.

The number one overall pick had been widely expected to come straight into the team since he was selected, and that decision was made official on Wednesday.

Lawrence can now prepare for Week 1 and the Houston Texans, who are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year.

That September 12 meeting should therefore give Lawrence the opportunity to display his outstanding talent.

The Jaguars will hope the transition is as seamless as it was for Lawrence at college, where he threw for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his freshman year at Clemson.

He tossed for 90 scores across 40 games in his three-year college career and was well established as the leading prospect in a strong QB class.

Lawrence led all Power 5 passers in well-thrown percentage in 2020, delivering a well-thrown, accurate ball on 84.31 per cent of his passes. The average was 75.37 per cent.

The 21-year-old, under first-time NFL coach Meyer, will hope to lead improvement in Jacksonville after a miserable 1-15 record last time out, the Jags' third consecutive year without playoff football.

They and Lawrence have been dealt a blow this week, however, as his Clemson team-mate and fellow first-round pick Travis Etienne suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury.

Across four college seasons, including three with Lawrence, the dual-threat running back racked up 1,115 receiving yards, ranking third in the FBS.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will not have the services of one of their two 2021 first-round picks this season, with running back Travis Etienne placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury.

It was reported on Tuesday that Etienne had suffered a Lisfranc injury that would require surgery during the Jaguars' preseason game with the New Orleans Saints on Monday.

The Jaguars subsequently ended his rookie year before it began by placing Etienne on IR. Only players on the 53-man roster as of next Tuesday are eligible for short-term injured reserve, from which they can be activated if they recover from their injury during the season.

It means the Jaguars will be without a player they selected with the 25th overall pick in this year's first round and one who, alongside Jacksonville's first overall pick Trevor Lawrence, was one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in college football during his time at Clemson.

While the Jaguars, who went 1-15 last year, are considered a long way from contention, the loss of Etienne robs them of a player capable of making a significant impact on the ground and as a receiver.

A true dual threat

Across his four seasons with Clemson from 2017 to 2020, Etienne racked up 6,107 yards from scrimmage – second among all FBS running backs in that span – and 78 touchdowns, which led all FBS players at his position.

He also led FBS running backs with an average of 7.8 scrimmage yards per touch in that timeframe, with 4,952 of his yards (second in FBS since 2017) and 70 touchdowns (first) coming on the ground.

Etienne's 1,115 receiving yards in that four-year span were third in the FBS, and Stats Perform's advanced metrics reflect his efficiency as a runner and a pass-catcher.

An explosive runner whose burst allows him to get to the second level of the defense in a hurry, Etienne averaged 5.26 yards before first contact by a defender per attempt in 2019, putting him fifth among Power 5 backs with at least 100 snaps.

That dipped to 3.16 in 2020, but he still excelled as a receiver. Etienne registered a burn, which is when a pass-catcher wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable, on 72.4 per cent of his targets.

He averaged 11.88 burn yards per target, second for Power 5 backs with 100 snaps and 25 targets, reflecting his proficiency for evading the coverage of defenders and making big plays in the passing game.

Yet the presence of a rookie standout from 2020 should help mitigate the impact of Etienne's absence.

Robinson ready to carry the burden

James Robinson was the lone bright spot of the Jaguars' dismal 2020 campaign, the undrafted free agent's emergence as a rookie leading some to question the wisdom of selecting Etienne.

Robinson was tied-fifth in the NFL in rushing yards last season with 1,070, while he also found the endzone seven times on the ground.

A different type of runner to Etienne, Robinson's strength is in surviving tackle attempts from defenders.

Indeed, his average of 2.34 yards after first contact per attempt ranked sixth in the NFL last season.

Where he is inferior to Etienne is in the passing game. Robinson registered a burn on only 39 per cent of his targets as a rookie, well below the average of 47.6 per cent for running backs.

Still, what Robinson demonstrated in his first year in the league suggests the Jaguars' running game should still cause defenses problems, though perhaps not as much as it would with Etienne available to complement his team-mate's more bruising style.

For Lawrence, Etienne's injury removes a reliable option who could have made his life significantly easier in the passing game. He and Etienne share an obvious rapport from their time together in college but there is now more of an onus on Lawrence to develop the same kind of connection with his cast of wide receivers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady said he will continue playing for as long as he can win Super Bowls.

Brady – who is the most successful player in NFL history with seven Super Bowl rings – is preparing for his 22nd season at the age of 44.

The veteran quarterback led the Buccaneers to glory last season before undergoing knee surgery, having earned Super Bowl MVP honours and a contract extension in Tampa.

Tampa Bay open their season against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9 and Brady has no plans to retire just yet.

"I'll know when the time's right. If I can't … if I'm not a championship-level quarterback, then I'm not gonna play," Brady told Peter King's Football Morning in America.

"If I'm a liability to the team, I mean, no way. But if I think I can win a championship, then I'll play."

Brady added: "I love playing football. [Offensive coordinator] Byron Leftwich said something really good the other day: It's a very simple game that's so hard to execute.

"It's a totally imperfect game that you're trying to do as perfectly as possible. Every day I come out trying to do it. I'm hoping this is my best year."

Brady – in his first season with the Buccaneers after 20 successful years at the New England Patriots – claimed his seventh Lombardi Trophy as Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium, ending the Kansas City Chiefs' hopes of retaining the title in a 31-9 rout.

He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, his passer rating of 102.2 his highest since his MVP season of 2017 (102.8).

Only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes had more completions of 20 yards or more than Brady's 63 as he experienced a revival as a downfield passer in Tampa.

In the playoffs, he helped the Bucs come through a gauntlet, winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

By defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Bucs became the first team to win three games against former Super Bowl MVPs in the same postseason having also seen off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

The Minnesota Vikings have signed pass rusher Everson Griffen, bringing him back for a second spell to bolster Mike Zimmer's defense.

Griffen was drafted as a fourth-round pick by the Vikings in 2010 and the defensive end went on to rack up 74.5 sacks in 10 seasons for Minnesota.

That number puts him fourth on the all-time list for the Vikings, though sacks as a stat have only been counted since 1982. Including players who began their careers before that season, Griffen ranks seventh.

He had six last season playing for the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions but is back with the Vikings to try to help Minnesota turn around their defensive fortunes after a disappointing 2020.

Minnesota allowed 6.07 yards per play last season, ranking 27th in the NFL, while the Vikings registered 19 sacks for negative yardage. Only two teams – the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals – posted fewer.

They will hope the return of Griffen, along with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, will help dramatically increase that number. The Vikings will also be able to call on Danielle Hunter again after he missed the entire 2020 season through injury.

Hunter ranked ninth among edge rushers with a pressure rate of 26.4 per cent in 2019. Griffen's 21.7 per cent was still above the average of 18.2 for players with at least 200 edge snaps.

Richardson's pressure rate of 14.4 for the Cleveland Browns last season was more decidedly more mediocre but still above the average of 13.2 for the defensive tackle position.

The Vikings could see instant dividends on the return of that trio in their season opener on September 12, which sees them face a Cincinnati Bengals offensive line that gave up 45 sacks for negative yards last year, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.

Carson Wentz is optimistic he will be ready in time to make his Indianapolis Colts debut in their season opener with the Seattle Seahawks having returned to practice following foot surgery.

Wentz was given a recovery timeline of five to 12 weeks this month after it was confirmed he would undergo surgery on a broken metatarsal.

But the former Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller was back on the practice field on Monday, raising hopes he could be under center when the Colts face the Seahawks on September 12.

"I'm optimistic, but we'll see how it responds," Wentz said. 

"It's going to be up to the doctors, for sure. At the end of the day, as long as there's nothing that I can do to injure myself and make it worse, I know I've played through a lot worse. But it's going to come down to what the doctors say."

The Colts face a race against time to get Wentz up to speed following his time on the sideline, though his familiarity with head coach Frank Reich should help him catch up.

Reich was the offensive coordinator in 2017 when Wentz was a frontrunner for the MVP award before a knee injury curtailed his campaign and backup Nick Foles improbably led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title.

The Colts traded a conditional second-round pick, which will become a first-round pick if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the snaps or he plays 70 per cent and Indianapolis reach the postseason, to the Eagles to acquire the 2016 second overall selection.

Last season, Wentz suffered the most sacks in the NFL (50) and was tied-first for interceptions with 15.

Per Stats Perform data, Wentz had the worst well-thrown percentage in the NFL in 2020.

He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on just 68.8 per cent of his passes and threw an interceptable pass on 6.78 per cent of his attempts, with only three quarterbacks doing so more often.

Should he be unable to feature in the season opener, Jacob Eason or rookie Sam Ehlinger will start for the Colts, with that duo having split first-team reps in his absence.

Cam Newton will be away from the New England Patriots' facility until Thursday due to coronavirus protocols following a "misunderstanding" about daily testing.

Newton is seen as the frontrunner in his competition with rookie first-round pick Mac Jones to be the Patriots' starting quarterback.

However, he will now miss time as the Patriots take part in joint practices with the New York Giants ahead of their preseason finale on Sunday.

Explaining Newton's absence, a Patriots statement read: "On Saturday, Cam Newton travelled to a club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area. He received daily COVID tests, which were all negative. 

"Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility. 

"Cam will continue participating virtually in team activities and return to the club facility on Thursday, August 26."

Only players who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are subject to the five-day re-entry process.

Newton and Jones have each impressed in preseason for the Patriots and had little difficulty moving the ball against second and third-stringers in their 35-0 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles last time out.

Former MVP Newton went eight of nine for 103 yards and a touchdown while Jones completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 146 yards.

Newton missed one game last season after testing positive for COVID-19. Across 15 games, he completed 65.8 per cent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

While his numbers through the air were disappointing, he did rush for 12 touchdowns, Newton's most since his rookie year with the Carolina Panthers in 2011 (14).

The 2020 season saw Newton, according to Stats Perform data, perform below the average in well-thrown percentage and air yards per attempt. He delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball on 76.1 per cent of his passes while averaging 7.07 air yards. The league averages for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in those metrics in 2020 was 78.0 per cent well-thrown and 8.16 air yards.

Jones, who was third in the Power 5 with a well-thrown percentage of 83.21 in his final season at Alabama last year, now has a chance to further his claim to the starting job with extra practice reps as Newton sits out.

Kyle Shanahan said nothing has changed regarding the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback situation after two pre-season games, but he declined to officially name a starter. 

Rookie Trey Lance had another impressive showing in Sunday's 15-10 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, but the San Francisco head coach would not be drawn on whether Lance or incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo would start the season opener. 

Garoppolo started Sunday's game and led a 15-play drive that ended when he was intercepted deep in Chargers territory. 

Lance then came on for three unproductive series, including an interception of his own, before leading a pair of touchdown drives. 

The third overall pick in this year's NFL Draft led San Francisco down the field with less than a minute to play in the first half, hitting Mohamed Sanu for a five-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining. 

After a three-and-out on the 49ers' first possession of the second half, Lance engineered an 11-play drive that ended in a 16-yard TD pass to Travis Benjamin for what proved to be the final score of the game. 

Garoppolo finished three-of-six passing for 15 yards, while Lance was eight-of-14 for 102 yards. 

Shanahan said going into camp that the veteran Garoppolo was the presumptive starter and was asked following Sunday's game whether anything had changed. 

"No, I haven't seen that," he told reporters. "I would love for it to be more and more each week but I think the situation is pretty similar right now."

Shanahan said he appreciated the scrutiny Lance is under, both internally and externally, but was pleased with the way he played Sunday. 

"I understand whatever Trey does the eyes are going to be on him," Shanahan said. "I don't want him to have that pressure but that's also the reality of this business.

"I thought last week he had that big throw which, I think, it's fun to watch for a lot of people so that takes a little pressure off, but he didn't play after that as good as he would have liked to.

"This week I thought he came out much more locked-in, more comfortable."

Shanahan had originally planned to give Garoppolo the opening series, then Lance the next two, before putting Garoppolo back in for another series, but he scrapped those plans after the opening drive ended up being so long.

He will have one more chance to evaluate his quarterbacks in game conditions in Sunday's pre-season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. 

The 49ers open the season September 12 at the Detroit Lions, and Shanahan acknowledged only that he would name a starter by then.

"It's hard for me to give a date when it's based off of when we know and when we feel like naming it," Shanahan said. "So, whenever that happens. But I promise it'll be by that Sunday."

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, a day after his team's pre-season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Vrabel told reporters via video conference that he woke up on Sunday with a sore throat and went to the team's facility for a coronavirus test, which came back positive. A second test also was positive.

The 46-year-old Vrabel has previously said he is vaccinated. 

"As of now, I’ll be in quarantine, following the protocols and trying to do my best to help the football team while I am [home]," he told reporters.

"I am very confident in our football team, our coaching staff, our organization, that no matter what the situation is, we’ll handle it."

The Titans spent several days last week in Tampa holding joint practices with the Buccaneers ahead of Saturday's pre-season game, which Tennessee won 34-3. 

ESPN reported the Buccaneers were waiting on contact tracing, along with the Titans. 

Vrabel told reporters he was not aware of any other positive tests among the Titans on Sunday. 

Tennessee was the first NFL team to experience a major COVID-19 outbreak last season, with 13 players and 11 staff members testing positive over several weeks. 

Those issues resulted in two games being rescheduled. 

The Titans' final pre-season game is set for Saturday at home against the Chicago Bears. 

They will host the Arizona Cardinals on September 12 to open the regular season. 

Carson Wentz will return to Indianapolis Colts practice on Monday, head coach Frank Reich announced.

The quarterback injured his foot during a training camp session on July 29 and had surgery on August 2.

He is set to return to practice just under three weeks before the Colts' September 12 opener against the Seattle Seahawks. 

"You're going to see him out there on the practice field this week," Reich told reporters Sunday. "He'll be out there tomorrow taking some things."

Reich added: "He'll be limited but he will be participating."

The Colts acquired Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles in March and have yet to see what he can do in game conditions. 

The 28-year-old QB is coming off the worst season of his five-year NFL career, as he completed just 57.4 per cent of his passes and threw a career-high 15 interceptions despite playing in only 12 games as he was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in December. 

Wentz also was sacked 50 times, the most of any quarterback in the league. 

In Wentz's absence, the Colts have started second-year QB Jacob Eason in both of their pre-season games, and he has turned in solid performances in a pair of wins. 

Eason is 31 of 48 for 315 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Rookie Sam Ehlinger is the only other quarterback to see action and he has thrown three interceptions in 28 attempts. 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is excited to run the team's new offense heading into the new NFL season.

Roethlisberger is gearing up for his 18th season with the Steelers after the 39-year-old agreed a new restructured contract in Pittsburgh, where he will make his first preseason appearance against the Detroit Lions.

The two-time Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowler is relishing the opportunity to work alongside new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan.

"We have a new system," Roethlisberger told reporters of the need to play against the Lions. "There's a new coach to player communication in terms of a new guy. The offense is different. He's up in the box as compared to on the field.

"There is a lot of newness. I think it's prudent to get as much time as I can under those circumstances."

"I would love to get as many reps as I can," said Roethlisberger. "It's been how many months since I've actually stepped on the football field to take a hit? I know it's preseason, but still just meaningful reps. With the newness of it I'd definitely like to get as much as I can.

"I guess it depends on how we're doing, how it feels. I really wanted to try and play last week because it was on the road and that would have been our first opportunity to play on the road and the situation, with circumstances like crowd noise and things like that before we go into a very hostile environment in week one. But coach, I couldn't talk him into it."

Roethlisberger helped Pittsburgh – who have one of the best defenses in the NFL – to an incredible 11-0 start last season.

But they ran out of steam badly down the stretch, losing four of their last five to finish 12-4 before a stunning 48-37 Wild Card playoff defeat to divisional rivals the Cleveland Browns.

Roethlisberger was coming back from a serious elbow injury which saw him miss all but two games of the 2019 campaign.

His play was steady but unspectacular, leading a Steelers offense that averaged 250.5 net passing yards per game, 15th best in the NFL.

Roethlisberger threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games, with a 94.1 passer rating (19th among qualifying QBs).

At 9.65 yards per completion – the lowest rate in the league – the veteran was more of a game manager than the downfield threat of old.

Roethlisberger added: "The challenge of newness. I spent a lot of time at home, going over it, reading it, watching film. I was telling my wife the other night that I think maybe it's even better that there's some new stuff because it almost refocuses you in a way.

"If this was still the same stuff, I would probably go home and be like okay I'll watch the film and be ready to move on. But last night I watched the film, and I went back over everything again to refresh my mind. I think because it's different. I want to make sure that I'm not the reason that we struggle."

Roethlisberger's yards per attempt average of 6.3 was the lowest of his career across seasons in which he has played double-digit games – it was 5.7 in his two appearances in 2019.

He had 43 pass plays that went for 20 yards or more, tied for 17th, though yards after catch was clearly a massive contributor to those plays. Pittsburgh ranked eighth with 50.4 per cent of the Steelers' gross passing yardage made up by yards after the catch.

His passer rating of 81.0 on throws of at least 21 air yards was 18th among quarterbacks with 25 such attempts and he completed only 30.2 per cent of those attempts (22nd of 28 QBs with a minimum of 25 attempts).

"Some of the new concepts I'll have it and I'll go home and I'll look at it and I'm like wait, what is this guy…if you think about it on every pass play for instance, I have to know what five guys are doing. It's not just one guy or just what I'm doing," he continued.

"So, I have to know who the hot is and what each specific guy is doing so there'll be times that I know what maybe three of them are doing and will be like, 'Wait, what's this guy doing again.' I just have to just try and refresh in my mind."

Tom Brady is a seven-time Super Bowl champion who celebrated his 44th birthday earlier this month, but the evergreen Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar is not slowing down ahead of the NFL season.

Brady – who is the most successful player in NFL history – is gearing up for his 22nd season in the league after guiding the Buccaneers to glory last term.

The quarterback underwent a knee operation following Super Bowl LV, which he earned MVP honours and a contract extension.

Brady has already defied his age, but Father Time is not derailing the former New England Patriots QB.

"It's really fun for me. I love physically to train and put myself in a position to compete," Brady told reporters on Wednesday.

"I love the mental aspect of the sport. I have a lot of fun doing it. It's a lot of joy in my life.

"You can do anything with people you want to be with. You're with your kids, you're with your family, it doesn't matter if you're at the park, the house, the movies, you'll have a great time."

Brady – in his first season with the Buccaneers after 20 successful years at the Patriots – claimed his seventh Lombardi Trophy as Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium, ending the Kansas City Chiefs' hopes of retaining the title in a 31-9 rout.

He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, his passer rating of 102.2 his highest since his MVP season of 2017 (102.8).

Only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes had more completions of 20 yards or more than Brady's 63 as he experienced a revival as a downfield passer in Tampa.

In the playoffs, he helped the Bucs come through a gauntlet, winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

By defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Bucs became the first team to win three games against former Super Bowl MVPs in the same postseason having also seen off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

"We've got to keep earning it," Brady said. "I don't think there's any aspect of me that thinks what I've done last year means anything. I've got to go do it this year."

The Buccaneers will open their title defence against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9.

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