- Tory Barron is a Bristol-based writer and editor for ESPN.com. After retiring from playing lacrosse at UConn, the DC native decided to try her hand at writing about people playing sports.
And just like that, players have reported for training camp. The NFL offseason felt about as short-lived as Tom Brady’s retirement.
OK, that analogy was admittedly low on the originality scale, but we’re hopeful this early reference gives us carte blanche to breeze past the aforementioned saga throughout the rest of this offseason “social media scrapbook” of sorts.
After all, we have more important matters to discuss. You know, like Lamar Jackson revealing a bulked-up physique, Kyler Murray partaking in cryptic Instagram activity and Brady hopping on a Justin Bieber-inspired TikTok trend to address the Tuck Rule.
As 31 training camps get underway (the Las Vegas Raiders got an early start last week), here is a refresher on some of the defining off-the-field moments since the Los Angeles Rams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. A new season is almost upon us, and it’s never cool to show up unprepared.
Love is in the offseason
The thing about getting married in the offseason, is that it does make sense from a scheduling perspective. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably why so many players — and coaches — tend to do it. The 2022 offseason was no exception to the trend.
In March, Patrick Mahomes took his talents to Hawai’i to wed his longtime girlfriend, Brittany Matthews (Mahomes). Several of his Kansas City Chiefs teammates including Travis Kelce, Orlando Brown Jr., Tyrann Mathieu and Clyde Edwards-Helaire were in attendance at the Maui ceremony.
While Mahomes’ wedding looked like an all-around good (read: lavish) time, it was lacking the theatrics of another high-profile NFL wedding.
Cue Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay’s Beverly Hills nuptials. In June, the Super Bowl-winning coach joined the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast and shared that he had an unexpected attendee in the form of one Odell Beckham Jr.
In OBJ’s defense, after helping your coach win his first Super Bowl title, a wedding invitation does feel like a mere formality.
If Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt’s Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, wedding to soccer player Dani Rhodes had any wedding crashers, they’ve yet to be revealed on a podcast.
What was revealed on Instagram is that the Watt brothers — Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt and Steelers fullback Derek Watt were both in attendance — aren’t ones to shy away from colorful, coordinating beach fits.
While numerous players were tying the knot, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff was getting engaged to Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Christen Harper.
We have a hunch McVay might be the one left off the guest list this time around.
Selling Sunset (and Denver)
Win the Super Bowl, buy two houses from Drake? That’s the formula Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford adhered to anyway.
Stafford’s teammate, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, didn’t buy a house from the rapper, but he did buy a $17 million home in the same neighborhood as his QB — complete with nine bathrooms and a movie theater.
Donald’s compound might have the slight edge on Stafford’s on account of the lighted waterfall. But Stafford does have the private horse trail going for him. … Not that we’re comparing their luxe cribs (we are).
In other real estate news, after being traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, QB Russell Wilson and his superstar wife, Ciara, bought a $25 million home with a basketball court and indoor pool.
At the risk of one-upping the aforementioned Rams players, Wilson’s home has 12 bathrooms.
From this moment forward, bathroom quantity shall be used as an offseason success metric.
We know what you’re thinking: Tom Brady needs more exposure.
That was facetious. To put it mildly, Brady had himself a social media-heavy summer. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ freshly unretired QB engaged in so many internet antics we can easily dedicate a whole section to the seven-time Super Bowl champion and mention him unretiring only once … OK, twice.
But when TB12 wasn’t busy promoting his Brady clothing brand, er — positioning himself for post-football success — he had some genuinely entertaining moments online. One of those came at the expense of his longtime rival and friend, Peyton Manning, and much to the delight of his greatest adversary, Eli Manning.
In addition to chirping at other QB legends, Brady spent some time reuniting with former New England Patriots teammates Rob Gronkowski (did we mention he retired again this offseason?), Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on the movie set of “80 for Brady.” The film, set to be released in 2023, tells the story of four women going to Super Bowl LI.
If Brady should tire of the whole Hollywood thing, a video posted to social media in May has us believing the 44-year-old left-handed “hitting catcher” might be able to return to his baseball roots.
Hey, stranger things have happened …
Namely, the time TB12 used a Justin Bieber-inspired TikTok trend, in which the singer prompted people to “tell him something honest,” as a way to troll Las Vegas Raiders fans about the Tuck Rule game.
It’s OK, Raiders faithful, the universe is clearly just trying to keep you humble after the Davante Adams trade.
Rodgers’ new ink
We’re really going to denote a player getting a tattoo as a defining moment of the offseason? Yup.
You see, this wasn’t just any player or any ink. When Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers took to Instagram to reveal his new arm art designed by Hungarian artist Balazs Bercsenyi, it sent social media into a frenzy. Fans and media pundits asked the same question: What does it all mean?
According to the four-time NFL MVP, “There’s a deep and meaningful story and connection to absolutely each element of this art piece.”
How incredibly … vague.
Rodgers did add he would, “share a little more about that one day.” But for now, we’re left to our own self-taught astrologist interpretations.
That’s my quarterback
Almost-sort-of beef abounded in the offseason. They weren’t full-fledged feuds, rather one-sided musings between wide receivers looking to show loyalty to one quarterback over another.
Cue Carolina Panthers WR Robbie Anderson. The 29-year-old insisted he was simply “thinking out loud,” but Anderson’s practice of tweeting — and sometimes deleting — his thoughts on team matters created its fair share of buzz.
This rings especially true as it pertains to the business of trading for Baker Mayfield. In response to a tweet about the Panthers pursuing the former Cleveland Browns quarterback (to compete with incumbent starter Sam Darnold), Anderson replied with the comment, “Nooooo.”
When asked about his public disapproval, Anderson said: “I said what I said. Just trying to be a good teammate to my quarterback. That’s it. Just trying to defend the guy who is my quarterback. You understand? That’s it.”
Anderson got people talking again in June with a since deleted tweet saying, “Ain’t gone lie. Thinking about retiring.”
Spoiler alert: Anderson hasn’t retired, Mayfield is now a Panther and the Carolina locker room just got a whole lot more interesting.
Meanwhile in Miami, Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill faced ire for his comments comparing his current quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, to his former QB in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes, during the debut episode of his podcast, “It Needed to Be Said.”
“Obviously, like I’m gonna go with 15 as the strongest arm but as far as accuracy-wise, I’m going with Tua all day,” Hill said.
The reaction from the internet was severe, with Hill saying on the second episode of his podcast that he received death threats.
“We all know Patrick Mahomes is great. We know that,” Hill said. “But, right now, I’m going into a new season with a new quarterback who’s trying to head in the same direction as Patrick and do great things and lead this team to a Super Bowl championship — who is also great, in my opinion. He just doesn’t have the accolades — of yet. I believe in him.”
All is well that ends well? To the untrained eye, Kyler Murray was rewarded for his elite play on the field with a lucrative contract — a five-year extension worth $230.5 million, to be exact.
To social media sleuths, the saga that preceded the Arizona Cardinals star securing the bag was as intriguing as K1’s newly minted status as one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.
It all began when Murray — amid sharp criticism for his play in a NFC Wild Card loss to the eventual champion Rams — wiped his Instagram grid of any content featuring the Cardinals. As any IG enthusiast knows, this is classic breakup behavior. The post-Pro Bowl grid cleansing paired with speculation he had unfollowed the team account on Twitter and Instagram had the rumor mill running rampant.
Murray’s social-media-savvy teammate (read: teammate who tweets a lot) J.J. Watt couldn’t help but mock the drama:
The day after the Super Bowl, K1 seemingly set the record straight with a message of his own.
While the statement was cryptic at best, the accompanying photo of Murray in his Cards uniform seemed promising enough.
Fast forward to July 21, and all is right in the Red Sea. Murray’s former Oklahoma Sooners teammate and current Cardinals teammate Marquise Brown appropriately summed up the vibe.
Up in the gym, workin’ on their fitness
The year of the swoll quarterback awaits. Both Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and New England Patriots QB Mac Jones have gone all-in on their fitness regimens this offseason.
Jacked has gained 12-15 pounds of muscle mass as a result of his efforts. The unanimous 2019 NFL MVP — who said he usually plays at between 205 and 208 pounds — now weighs 220 pounds.
“I just wanted to do it. See how I look, see how I feel,” Jackson said. “And I feel good.”
Seattle Seahawks star DK Metcalf, who knows a thing or two about strict fitness regimens, couldn’t help but notice Jackson’s jacked physique.
Another AFC signal caller up the East Coast shared Jackson’s desire to achieve peak physical fitness.
“I just cleaned up my diet,” a slimmed-down Jones said of his offseason conditioning work. “I’ve learned more this offseason than I probably ever have about nutrition, sleep, wellness, all that stuff.
“At the same time, I need to be able to maintain my weight and be able to take hits. There’s a fine balance for every player. I’ve definitely trimmed down on the body fat, and I’ll get a chance to bulk up before the season starts and be able to absorb hits.”
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. “He’s in the best shape of his life,” receiver Kendrick Bourne said of the 6-foot-3, 214-pound QB. “He looks really good. His stomach is gone.
“When you’re a rookie, you just don’t know it until you go through it for a year. So he’s definitely a lot more in shape than he ever was, just dominating in conditioning. It’s dope to see.”
More like Lamar Jacked-son and Jacked Jones. … We’ll see ourselves out.
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