The NFL last year stepped up its social justice efforts at the league level, and multiple individual teams worked to make immediate impacts in their respective communities.
This year, the NFL plans to once again place an emphasis on social justice issues but in an even bigger way. CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones wrote:
The NFL will use Weeks 17 and 18 of the regular season to promote "Inspire Change," the league's social justice campaign. Much like the Salute to Service and [Crucial Catch] cancer awareness-themed weeks on the NFL calendar, the "Inspire Change" weeks will give all 32 teams the opportunity to highlight work done in their respective communities by the club and individual players.
Jones quoted NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson:
"We are certainly a company and have financial resources, but what sets the NFL apart when it comes to social responsibility is not necessarily the cash, but it's the platform," Isaacson told CBS Sports. "The [grant] partners, and we heard this from players, too, they want us to use our platform. They want us to take our most important moments and biggest assets and put it towards this cause. And that is everything from NFL Network, our social media handles, the Super Bowl.
"Use it to raise up the people who are doing the work," Isaacson added.
Jones pointed out that the "Inspire Change" campaign "has been ongoing since 2017, but the events of 2020 caused the league to self-reflect and do more for the cause."
The end-zone stencils created for 2020 return this season. "It Takes All of Us' will be in one end zone while teams have the option of putting "End Racism" or "Advance Social Justice" in the other. The helmet decal program continues with some tweaks. Players will have the option of one of six messages for the back of their helmet: "End Racism," "Stop Hate," "It Takes All of Us," "Black Lives Matter," "Inspire Change" or "Say Their Stories."
The NFL is continuing its pledge of $250 million in donations to grant partners over 10 years to various social justice causes.
The league has 27 grant partners and will add more late in the fall when it announces its next round of funding. The NFL raised more than $90 million in 2020 alone, taking its total from 2017 up to $160 million and growing.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Sept. 13, 2021.
PFF shares each team's highest- and lowest-ranked players during preseason
Three preseason games are in the rearview mirror, which means the regular season is kicking off in just over a week.
But before we dive into Week 1, analytics site Pro Football Focus rolled out the highest- and lowest-graded players for every NFL team through the preseason. PFF's Michael Renner wrote:
While boiling down a player's entire performance to a single number between 1 and 100 glosses over some of football's finer nuances, the PFF grades still function as a very useful barometer for performance, describing how each NFL player fared on every play of the game.
I'm here to go a step further on the best and worst rookie performers from each franchise and give context on what they mean going forward. We'll mostly focus on the good unless the lowest-graded player is a high pick or slated for early playing time.
For the Vikings, Renner highlighted running back A.J. Rose (75.9) and tight end Zach Davidson (40.5), both of whom have signed with Minnesota's practice squad.
Rose went into camp knowing there likely wasn't going to be a roster spot for him, but that didn't stop him from balling out anyway. He rushed for 151 yards [and two scores] on 37 carries [and recorded] seven broken tackles. It was enough to land him a practice-squad position for the Vikings.
The highest-graded player in the preseason across the whole league was Colts rookie edge rusher Kwity Paye, whom the Vikings saw firsthand in their second exhibition contest.
Paye looked nothing short of freaky in his limited playing time. With the obvious caveat of "he faced backups," Paye also clowned those backups. His ability to win with quicks as well as pure power is special — he looks like your every-down starter.