FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE 2017 SEA­SON

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS -

1. AN­THEM PROTESTS

When Colin Kaeper­nick be­gan kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them last sea­son to protest racial in­jus­tice in the US, it was met with both sup­port and crit­i­cism.

One sea­son later, Kaeper­nick is out of the NFL though his pres­ence re­mains strong as a grow­ing num­ber of play­ers are fol­low­ing in his foot­steps to protest dur­ing the an­them.

From groups of play­ers kneel­ing to­gether, to putting arms around team­mates in a show of unity, the an­them has be­come a plat­form for demon­stra­tion that con­tin­ues to push its way into the league’s con­ver­sa­tion.

2. LUCK’S HEALTH

In­di­anapo­lis Colts quar­ter­back An­drew Luck will not be ready for the reg­u­lar sea­son opener af­ter off-sea­son surgery on his right throw­ing shoul­der as the in­juries and un­cer­tainty are be­gin­ning to pile up for the face of the Colts fran­chise.

The Colts signed Luck to a six-year con­tract ex­ten­sion worth US$140 mil­lion prior to last sea­son, de­spite the quar­ter­back play­ing in just seven games in 2015, and now he’s again on the mend with no clear date for when he will play al­though the Colts did re­turn him to the ac­tive ros­ter last Saturday.

3. ROOKIE RUN­NING BACKS

As the NFL has evolved into an aerial show, run­ning backs have seem­ingly lost value but a class of first-year run­ners ap­pear poised f or big i mpact this sea­son.

The Jack­sonville Jaguars used the fourth pick of the draft to take bruiser

Leonard Four­nette who will be given the keys to their rush­ing at­tack.

Cincin­nati’s Joe Mixon and Minnesota’s Dalvin

Cook have each drawn rave re­views and are ex­pected to play heavy roles, while Kansas City’s

Ka­reem Hunt has as­cended to the top of the depth chart af­ter Chiefs starter Spencer Ware went down with a knee in­jury dur­ing pre­sea­son.

Carolina’s Chris­tian McCaf­frey could also play a key role for the Pan­thers as a run­ner and pass catcher.

4. BAT­TLE FOR LA

The Charg­ers be­came the sec­ond team in as many years to re­lo­cate to Los An­ge­les, leav­ing be­hind San Diego to fol­low the Rams who de­parted St Louis in 2016.

Both teams will vie for fans in a city packed with com­pet­ing sports and en­ter­tain­ment op­tions.

The Rams have added a new head coach and a tal­ented pass catcher in Sammy Watkins to join sec­ond-year quar­ter­back Jared Goff, while the Charg­ers have a new coach and vet­eran lead­ers look­ing for re­ju­ve­na­tion in a new lo­ca­tion.

5. RODGERS’ HUNT

Aaron Rodgers has long been con­sid­ered by many as the NFL’s best quar­ter­back, but while he has racked up high­lights and statis­tics, oth­ers have laid claim to Su­per Bowl ti­tles.

Af­ter win­ning the Su­per Bowl for the 2010 sea­son, the two-time most valu­able player will turn 34 in De­cem­ber and may be run­ning out of time to cap­ture his sec­ond ti­tle.

If the Pack­ers once again fail to get over the hump with their core of head coach Mike McCarthy, line­backer Clay Matthews and wide re­ceiver Jordy Nel­son, it may be time for a shake-up.

Jaguars run­ning back Leonard Four­nette. Green Bay quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers.

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