AROUND THE NFL

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT was in handcuffs at a music festival over the weekend.  TMZ.com:

 

Ezekiel Elliott was handcuffed at the EDC music festival in Las Vegas over the weekend after he shoved a security guard to the ground and TMZ Sports has the video.

 

… but the NFL star’s attorney says Zeke was NOT formally arrested (only detained) and claims the whole thing is much ado about nothing.

 

Here’s the deal … the Dallas Cowboys superstar running back had been spotted in the parking lot at the Electric Daisy Carnival around 3 AM on Saturday morning arguing with his girlfriend. 

 

Zeke never puts his hands on the woman but he uses his body to block her from walking away several times during the argument.

 

A short time later, Zeke and the woman are seen speaking with event staffers — when suddenly Elliott confronts one them and says, “You got something to say!?”

 

Zeke gets in the staffer’s face and uses his body to shove the guy backward until the staffer hits a metal gate — that’s when Zeke uses his forearm to shove the guy to the ground.

 

Zeke immediately throws his hands up and says, “I didn’t do anything!”

 

Event security — along with Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. officers rush over and eventually put Zeke in handcuffs and escort him away from the scene.

 

We spoke with Zeke’s attorney, Frank Salzano, who says Elliott was released shortly after our video ends and he was not formally arrested or charged with a crime.

 

Salzano says Elliott was just having a normal discussion with his girlfriend and blames event security for “overreacting.”

 

“Security misconstrued and overreacted to the situation,” Salzano tells TMZ Sports.

 

“He was cuffed as a precautionary measure. He was released with no charges. He left Vegas that night and went to his [youth football camp in Dallas] on Sunday.”

 

Even without an official arrest, Elliott could face discipline from the NFL if they find his actions violated the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

Remember, the league had investigated Zeke in 2017 over allegations he physically abused an ex-girlfriend — and even though he wasn’t arrested, the league believed there was enough evidence to warrant a 6-game suspension.

 

Zeke has always maintained he did not attack the accuser in that situation.

 

We watched the video, so you don’t have to.  He’s wearing a Lebron Lakers jersey.  He does get in front of his “girlfriend.”  He does use his chest to knock a “security” guard (not big, not menacing) against a bike rack so that it falls over, then he laughs.  He looks wasted.  Don’t know if the NFL will do anything about it, but it is not a good look.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Steve Serby of the New York Post is at Giants camp:

 

The threat is real this time, it wears No. 8, and it shadows Eli Manning from the practice field to the quarterback room.

 

The handwriting isn’t only on the Big Blue wall, it is right behind him and it is alongside him every step of the way, and while the Future remains Now for Eli Manning, Now suddenly has an expiration date.

 

Pat Shurmur must get Daniel Jones on the field — when he is deemed ready, of course — and get him enough experience in 2019 so he can hit the ground running in 2020 and give the Giants their best chance for a better and brighter tomorrow. Just as Tom Coughlin got a rookie Eli Manning on the field for the final seven games when he took the ball away from caretaker Kurt Warner on Nov. 21, 2004.

 

If GM Dave Gettleman is right about Jones — and for the sake of the franchise he better be — Jones should be able to close the gap on Manning sooner rather than later.

 

Manning continues his noble fight against Father Time, but he can’t fight City Hall. And City Hall didn’t make Jones the sixth pick of the NFL draft to be a redshirt freshman, no matter what they may have told us about the Kansas City model.

 

Manning has one chance and one chance only for a gallant last stand that few believe a 38-year-old quarterback trapped in a rebuilding situation can make, and he recognizes as much.

 

“I understand the circumstances,” Manning said. “I need to play well, and need to play well early, and do my job.

 

“You want to do that and also be careful not to press and trying to do too much too soon when things aren’t there and force things into bad play,” Manning said. So hey, I gotta try to the best of my ability, make good decisions and lead this team to get wins.”

 

Jones is already getting the lion’s share of the backup reps, apparently is a quick enough study that offensive coordinator Mike Shula has proclaimed him capable of starting Week 1.

 

Week 1 would be really rushing it. There is no such thing as a $23.2 million backup in the NFL anyway. After much deliberation, Manning was brought back to start the season, to mentor Jones as only a gentleman like him can, even if it sometimes must be only by osmosis.

 

“In one way it helps me — if you can kinda teach it, then you know it,” Manning said.

 

Manning remains the good soldier that he has forever been and forever will be when the day comes when his dream job is no longer his.

 

The Jets drafted Richard Todd with the sixth pick of the 1976 draft prior to Joe Namath’s last season in New York. Both played at Alabama. There was no awkwardness there. There won’t be much here with Manning and Jones, Cutcliffe University grads.

 

“It’s not about being nervous or worried, it’s just about treating it the same as it’s been the last 15 years,” Manning said.

 

He is in splendid shape. Never mind the pass Sam Beal deflected that Jabrill Peppers intercepted. He will have a better offensive line and a second year in Shurmur’s offense, so there’s that. But Odell Beckham Jr. is in Cleveland. And the defense is a work in progress at best. For Eli Manning, the glass is always half full.

 

 “Last two years, we played a decent number of games without [Beckham], and end of last year, played last four or five games, we were able to score points and do well,” Manning said. “We got a lot of playmakers still, and everybody’s just gotta do their job, make plays, win the one-on-one matchups, and we’ll be fine.”

 

Someone asked him how much longer he wants to play.

 

“I don’t know,” Manning said. “I haven’t thought about it. I want to play this year, and go from there.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever put a time frame on how long. I think you’ll know when he’s time to stop based off the circumstances or how your body’s feeling.”

 

This will be the final year of his contract.

 

“I want to be in this position, I want to be the quarterback, I want to go win games and have a great year,” Manning said.

 

It’s impossible not to root for him. It’s also impossible for him not to see the future. A not-too-distant future with someone else playing quarterback for his New York Giants.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The early reports are that QB DWAYNE HASKINS has wowed the Redskins with his brain.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

The little kid in the front row quickly raised his hand, only to be ignored by the coach. Three times in a row. At this invite-only camp for quarterbacks, the coach would show a picture of a defense, quizzing the quarterbacks on the pre-snap read. The pattern went like this: The middle-schooler’s arm shot up first; the coach called on one of the many older quarterbacks in the room.

 

But Dwayne Haskins, the youngest quarterback in the room, persisted. And the coach finally relented. So on the fourth time, after posting another picture, the coach finally called on Haskins.

 

“It’s quarter, quarter, half, coach,” he said, correctly identifying the secondary’s coverage.

 

Nearly a decade later, that same mind was what attracted the Washington Redskins to Haskins in their pre-draft meeting. The team liked his skill set on film, but his brain convinced them, despite only 14 college starts, Haskins was worthy of being drafted 15th overall.

 

To overcome the lack of experience, and to be ready to play as a rookie, Haskins must be mentally sharp. At their early-April meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, the Redskins put Haskins through the same work as the other top quarterbacks who visited. They gave him a set of eight to 10 plays, broke for an approximate 90-minute lunch, and then had him write them out on a whiteboard. How did he do?

 

“Easy,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Effortlessly. He’s a bright guy.”

 

It’s a vital skill because teams add different concepts and formations every day. Also, Haskins didn’t call plays in the huddle at Ohio State, and that will be a big part of his adjustment to the NFL.

 

Though Ohio State didn’t run exactly the same concepts as the Redskins, there was crossover: Both teams run a lot of shallow crosses; both use run-pass options; there were similarities in play-action.

 

“They do a good job with different concepts that we run, so it was good to dissect those concepts,” Gruden said after the Redskins’ second rookie minicamp practice on May 11. “‘This is how we read it, how did you read it?’ A lot of the same thought process goes into it. Those concepts he’s comfortable with we will carry and feature more.”

 

Getting acclimated

In the rookie minicamp, for example, the Redskins installed about 50 plays. Each day they would give the quarterbacks a set of plays, then 30 minutes later run them on the field. At times, Gruden said, Haskins stumbled with the terminology or forgot the protection. They need to know what he can handle.

 

“It’s not like we gave him a cheat sheet before he got here,” Gruden said. “This is something we want to challenge him and see how he translated the meeting to the field. He did a pretty good job.”

 

Gruden did say it’s not as if Haskins must master all of this before he plays. They can help by having him use wristbands for wordier plays; they can use more no-huddle; or they an have signals called in from the sideline at times.

 

“It’s our job to make it easier,” Gruden said.

 

That includes with protection calls.

 

“At Ohio State, they’re far along as far as protections and schemes, so he’s got a good base foundation,” Gruden said. “Now we just have to expand because we obviously see more fronts and a lot more blitzes that he’s going to have to learn.”

 

But Gruden said the most important thing from that April meeting was what Haskins told them he did at the line. Often, college teams get in formation at the line and after seeing the defense, the coaches will then signal in plays. It cuts down on what the quarterback must do.

 

“I wanted to make sure coaches weren’t doing everything for him as far as protection,” Gruden said. “How much did you have at the line to call the play? Change the protection? The route concept? I was OK with his answer. He did a lot himself without the help of the coaches. Some quarterbacks just look over there and one coach signals the receivers, one coach signals the line so the quarterback just snaps it and goes. But at Ohio State they do a little bit of everything.”

 

Indeed, Ohio State coach Ryan Day — the offensive coordinator last season — said Haskins excelled during their classroom quizzes. He liked how Haskins “stayed focused for a long period of time.” As the season progressed, they placed more responsibility on him at the line.

 

“He got more comfortable with that,” Day said. “It was just a matter of what he can handle and still allow him to play and be himself.”

 

The Redskins also learned in April how concisely Haskins can explain plays.

 

“He’s very good, very detailed,” Gruden said. “He gets to the important part of the play, and he can express what he means without going into too much fluff. There’s no fluff with him. He’s very basic, but he’s very thorough in what he knows.”

 

The coaches want Haskins to understand the formation, splits and little things such as why they want to target a certain area to run the ball. How does he need to adjust motions based on those calls and the defensive formation?

 

“All those things he handled very well,” Gruden said. “… He had solid answers for everything. He understood what the breakdowns were and what the protections were and the holes and how to protect himself. That’s the big thing.”

 

‘I just don’t like defenses’

Haskins can move in the pocket, but he’s not a mobile threat like an Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or fellow rookie Kyler Murray. So Haskins must be adept mentally, allowing him to make better pre-snap reads and quicker decisions. Friends recall how, when he was in fifth grade, he loved watching film and studying the game.

 

“It slows the game down,” Haskins said. “I take great pride in that. At Ohio State, it made the games very easy. Of course, being able to make the adjustments to the pros is very different. Me being able to study as much as I can and learning the plays in great detail as far as how to read it from different adjustments and coverages, different protections, different reads. It’s a lot of stuff that goes into one play that a lot of people don’t know.”

 

It’s not just that he loves watching film.

 

“I just don’t like defenses,” Haskins said. “I want to be the most prepared to rip them apart. That’s what I like about it.”

 

In April, it was only the Redskins’ coaches sitting in the meeting with Haskins. At the NFL scouting combine, the 15-minute session included members of the front office. There, he impressed them by how he recalled plays from the season, drawing them on the whiteboard.

 

“You can tell the kid is sharp, he’s engaging and has a great personality,” said Doug Williams, the Redskins senior vice president of football operations.

 

Quincy Avery has worked with Haskins since his junior year of high school and helped him prepare for his pro day and the combine. That included on-field and classroom work. Avery said he likes how detailed Haskins is — in his work and his questions when talking to top quarterbacks.

 

“Everyone asks the overarching questions, but with him it’s like, ‘Where do I put my eyes? How did you manipulate that guy in order to move to find a window over here?'”Avery said. “Even down to the cadence: ‘What are you trying to do with your cadence?’ It’s not just what are you doing, but also why did you do it like that: ‘OK, so what are you trying to see? OK, that makes sense.’ That helps make him special.”

 

That’s what the coaches and camp directors saw in the young Haskins at that two-day camp at Rutgers University long ago. There were pro coaches working the camp, such as Al Saunders. There were kids getting ready to receive college scholarships, like Matt Barkley and Tom Savage. And Haskins stood out.

 

“I was like, who is this kid?” said Garrett Shea, a former college football player and coach who helped organize activities at that event. “He had the skills on the field and to this day, he is one of the quickest, smartest players I’ve had a chance to witness. I walked away thinking, ‘This kid has the mind of a quarterback.'”

 

How do we say this? 

 

The Giants seemed ready to believe that QB DANIEL JONES was mentally advanced over Haskins without doing all that much work.  Perhaps, with Doug Williams on board, the Redskins were better able to see what Haskins had to offer.  Williams had a sharp mind that only became apparent when Buccaneers assistant Joe Gibbs did some intensive pre-draft work with him back in 1978.  And the Redskins, who also knew of Haskins from his days in high school with the son of Daniel Snyder, were able to see him as the face of the franchise, something the Giants could not.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers couldn’t find anyone who wanted DT GERALD McCOY at $13 million in 2019 – and they certainly didn’t.  Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that the Buccaneers told the former third overall pick in the draft that they will be releasing him.  His time in Tampa Bay ends after nine seasons.  We’re thinking he will be signing with a contender like the Browns or Patriots shortly.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

A thought from Bob Condotta:

 

@bcondotta

 Since John Schneider became Seahawks GM in 2010 he has never been named the NFL’s Executive of the Year. Of the nine who have been in that time, six have now been fired, including Mike Maccagnan today by the Jets. Of the other three, one is the unfireable Jerry Jones.

 

Mike Maccagnan was an NFL Executive of the Year?  And Trent Baalke?  And Ryan Grigson? 

 

Condotta must have seen this from Josh Hermsmeyer of The538.com:

 

In a move that surprised many, the New York Jets on Wednesday fired general manager Mike Maccagnan and named head coach Adam Gase as the team’s interim GM. The timing was unusual in that Maccagnan just last month had job security enough to oversee the team’s draft, including the selection of the third overall pick in defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. Maccagnan was likewise given the freedom to spend $125 million in free agency this offseason, which included paying for easily replaceable production by signing former Pittsburgh star Le’veon Bell at running back. Maccagnan was also reportedly instrumental in hiring Gase, a decision that may have ultimately led to his ouster.

 

Maccagnan’s fall from grace was precipitous. He was named executive of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America for the 2015 season, his first as Jets GM. That season, he helped shepherd the Jets to a 10-6 record, coming up a win short of the playoffs. Now, less than four years after being recognized as the top executive in the league, Maccagnan is unemployed.

 

But perhaps we should have known his days were numbered when he won that award. Shockingly, this honor has become the front office equivalent of the Madden curse. Seven of the past 10 award winners have been fired. Of the three winners who still have jobs, one — Jerry Jones — is an owner who is unlikely to fire himself, and the other two are the most recent recipients: Howie Roseman in 2017 and Chris Ballard in 2018.

 

 

SEASON          GM                      TEAM                                      STATUS

2018     Chris Ballard                    Indianapolis Colts        Active

2017     Howie Roseman Philadelphia Eagles        Active

2016     Reggie McKenzie           Oakland Raiders            Fired Dec. 10, 2018

2015     Mike Maccagnan           New York Jets                Fired May 15, 2019

2014     Jerry Jones                    Dallas Cowboys                         Owner

2013     John Dorsey                  Kansas City Chiefs        Fired June 22, 2017

2012     Ryan Grigson               Indianapolis Colts           Fired Jan. 21, 2017

2011     Trent Baalke                 San Francisco 49ers       Fired Jan. 1, 2016

2010     Scott Pioli                   Kansas City Chiefs          Fired Jan. 4, 2013

2009     Bill Polian                      Indianapolis Colts          Fired Jan. 3 2012

 

For the seven fired GMs, the average time from winning executive of the year to being unemployed works out to a brisk 1,122 days, or just over three years. Former Colts’ GM Bill Polian leads the seven in time served, with a 12-year run with the Colts and 22 years total as an NFL executive prior to winning a record fifth executive of the year award in 2009. He stepped down as GM after the 2009 season but remained vice chairman of the team, and then he began the decade of despair by getting unceremoniously fired — along with his son, who succeeded him as GM — two years later.

 

It’s interesting to note that the longest-tenured GMs in the NFL who aren’t also owners — the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and the Steelers’ Kevin Colbert — have never won the award. Neither has Washington’s on-again, off-again GM Bruce Allen, and he’s been able to hold on to a spot in the organization for the past nine years. Perhaps owners and league observers are giving GMs both too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things come up pear-shaped. Half of the honored executives during the past decade worked as GMs of the Colts and the Chiefs, suggesting that the teams they inherited might have been just as important to their success.

 

Often, GMs on the list rose and fell based on the fortunes of their head coaches or quarterbacks. San Francisco’s Trent Baalke won the award while paired with head coach Jim Harbaugh, who would take the Niners to the brink of Super Bowl glory. But Harbaugh departed for Michigan, and Baalke was quickly dismissed after he hitched his wagon to a sweaty and confused Jim Tomsula and the ghost of Chip Kelly. Indianapolis’s Ryan Grigson, gifted the first overall pick in his rookie year as a GM, took an absolute no-brainer in quarterback Andrew Luck and reaped the benefits for five years, posting a record of 52-34 as a GM before being fired.

 

The reigning executive of the year, Chris Ballard, might be an exception. Ballard worked under fellow award winner and former mentor John Dorsey in Kansas City. Dorsey was fired soon after Ballard left for Indianapolis, and some insiders have pointed to Ballard’s management acumen and attention to detail as something Dorsey leaned on and was unable to replicate in Ballard’s absence. Dorsey landed on his feet in Cleveland, however, and he inherited both the first and fourth overall picks in the 2018 draft, setting himself and his team up for success.

 

If Maccagnan has an opportunity at a second act as an NFL GM, he should probably follow in the footsteps of Baalke and Dorsey and seek out a team with a good coach and a high draft pick. Then he should probably pray that he never wins another executive of the year award.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER sort of apologizes for offending WR ANTONIO BROWN.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

In the months leading up to the trade that sent wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers to the Raiders, Brown said several critical things about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

 

One instance concerned an interception Roethlisberger threw late in a November loss to the Broncos and the quarterback’s reaction to it. Roethisberger criticized Brown’s route-running and said he should have thrown to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which earned a rebuke from Brown that included his belief that Roethlisberger “feels like he’s the owner” because he wouldn’t take blame for throwing the pass.

 

In an interview with KDKA that is set to air in full Monday evening, Roethlisberger offered a belated apology for what he said after the loss.

 

“I took some heat and deservedly so for some of the comments on that show and especially towards him,” Roethlisberger said. “I genuinely feel bad about that and I’m sorry. Did I got to far after that Denver game? Probably. … That’s the thing about media and social media, As soon as you say ‘sorry’ it only goes so far. You can’t take it back. And I wish I could because if that’s what ruined our friendship and relationship, I’m truly, genuinely sorry about that.”

 

Roethlisberger’s comments came on his weekly in-season radio show and his comments on the show about Steelers matters frequently became fodder for commentary from others around the team. There was word in March that ending the show was under consideration and the way things melted down with Brown last year may be one of the reasons for the change in plans.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

RB LEONARD FOURNETTE’s driving with a suspended license case is adjudicated.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was arrested in Jacksonville for driving without a valid license in April and he settled the case in court on Monday.

 

Per multiple reports, court records show that Fournette pleaded no contest to the charge and was fined $303. The fine must be paid by July 1.

 

Fournette was also charged with speeding and improper tint on his windows, but those charges were dropped as part of the resolution of the case. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said the team would not discipline Fournette for making that mistake and told reporters he had been arrested on a similar charge earlier in his coaching career.

 

Fournette had been ticketed for speeding in November, but failed to pay the ticket and his driver’s license was suspended as a result. He paid that ticket a day after his arrest.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Peter King with a couple of thoughts from Dan Orlovsky, the former journeyman quarterback who is making a name for himself in the analysis game:

 

“Watching [the Patriots] go from what they were at the beginning of the year to what they were at the end of the year, and take football back in time 20 years, it hasn’t gotten the appreciation that it should have. And they’ve only added to that identity. Their offensive line is going be freakin’ ridiculous. Their secondary? We talk about Baltimore’s secondary, and it’s very good. We talk about Kansas City’s secondary. (But) New England has the best secondary in football. I don’t see anyone chasing them, not in that division.”

 

—Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, to Don Banks of the Patriots web site, in a piece about whether the rest of the AFC East is catching up to New England.

 

Banks got interesting stuff from Orlovsky. More of it: “New England really doesn’t have position players, outside of players like Gronk and Randy Moss. Their running backs are receivers. You mean to tell me that Rex Burkhead couldn’t play slot receiver? They don’t really have running backs and they don’t really have receivers. They have football players and they move them all over the place … They’re going to force you to get into what you don’t want to get into. And they will strategically gut you, because that’s what they are. They don’t play by positions, they just play with 11 players.”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger had this to say about the recent Jets management:

 

What kind of team allows a GM to make a franchise-shaping decision with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft and then fires him three weeks later? What kind of business allows an employee to hand out $125 million in contracts and then hands him a pink slip before any of them actually show up for a meaningful day of work? Only this team. Only the Jets.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

MAKING THE NFL BETTER

Peter King polls 25 “smart people” around the NFL and solicits ideas to improve the league.  Here they are, somewhat edited down:

 

Ron Wolf: Cut Down On Flags

Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager

 

I spent 38 active years in professional football. I came in not knowing anything at all about pass interference, and guess what? After those 38 years, I left without knowing what pass interference is. I think that the officials have responsibility in too many areas nowadays. The rule that drives me batty is “players in a defenseless posture.” The thing I fail to understand is throughout the ages when hasn’t a receiver been in a defenseless position? Interestingly, football has always been a game of blocking, tackling and kicking. It is supposed to be a spartan game and necessary roughness was a huge part of its attraction and still is. It’s my firm belief that the game should go back to the coaches and players to determine the outcome of a contest. There are way too many flags flying in today’s game. It takes away from the spectacular aspect of the sport. People love the toughness, the dedication, the overall athletic skill of the performers on the field, and they should be the ones that determine the final outcome of any contest—not the officials.

 

Rick Gosselin: Help Defenses By Extending The Bump Zone

Covered NFL in Kansas City and Dallas for 47 years, Pro Football Hall of Fame voter

 

The NFL has stacked the rules against the defense for years and it’s no longer a fair fight. It’s time to level the playing field. I’d extend the NFL bump rule from five yards to 10. Make the receivers work a little harder for space in their routes and also their catches. The 10-yard cushion would also give NFL defenders a physical counter to all the “rub” routes that have become staples in NFL offenses. The NCAA doesn’t have a five-yard rule. Neither do high schools. At those two levels, defenders are allowed to contact receivers until the ball is in the air. The NFL needs to follow suit.

 

Dean Blandino: Make Every Play Replay-Reviewable

FOX officiating analyst, former NFL vice president of officiating

 

Two thoughts:

 

• I have come full circle on this since I worked in the league, but I now think coaches should be able to challenge anything they want. Don’t increase the number of challenges. Put the onus on the coach to save his challenges. This would simplify the rule because you wouldn’t have to wonder what’s reviewable and what isn’t. Now that the leaguer has added pass-interference to reviewable calls, we’re going to see the creep begin. Next year, they’ll add something else. By not opening it up to all things being reviewable, all we are doing is delaying the inevitable.

 

• The league needs to put real resources behind officiating. Nothing the league does impacts the game more than officiating, and I believe it’s probably the area least valued by the league. I don’t want this to come across as sour grapes, because the NFL treated me great. But officiating in the NFL is treated almost as a necessary evil. You see on-field officials, good ones, moving to network jobs before the end of their careers. The NFL needs to be competitive and compensate the officials better, and also give them better resources in training.

 

Brandon Carr: Take Away Some Protection of the Quarterbacks

11-year veteran cornerback, Baltimore Ravens

 

I was playing for Kansas City in 2008, in the game when Bernard Pollard blitzed and injured Tom Brady. [Brady tore his left MCL and ACL in the first game of 2008 when Pollard hit him around the knee. The NFL created a rule to outlaw hits by defensive players to the knee or lower leg of a quarterback in the pocket in 2009.] I appreciate the Competition Committee trying to make the game as safe as possible for the players. I love the fact that the last CBA outlawed two-a-day practices in training camp—that’s going to allow me to extend my career. But the rules protecting the quarterbacks are pretty tough for defensive backs. Think about it: a 185-pound nickel back blitzes and can’t hit the quarterback low because of the Brady rule, and he has to be careful about hitting him high to avoid hitting him in helmet. Think of that 185-pound DB trying to bring down Ben Roethlisberger, or 245-pound Cam Newton. He’ll hit him around the waist and might just bounce off. This game’s hard enough for the DBs. I think a DB should be able to tackle a quarterback [in the pocket] by the legs.

 

Scott Hanson: Make the Onside Kick a Real Play Again I

Host, NFL RedZone channel

 

Let’s morph the onside kick into a fourth-and-15 offensive play. After a field goal or touchdown, the scoring team—if trailing in the fourth quarter—can elect to forgo a kickoff and run a fourth-and-15 offensive play from its own 35 to try and retain possession. Due to the (appropriate, in my opinion) “no running start on kickoffs” rule implemented in 2018, successful onside kick attempts have become overly difficult. Last year, there were only four successful onside kicks in 52 attempts (7.7 percent). In the nine seasons prior, 16.3% of onside kicks were successful.

 

As for fourth-and-15, teams going for it on fourth-and-15 (exactly) had a 21.7% success rate over the past five years. While I realize the yardage might need to be tweaked (maybe 20 yards instead of 15) based on statistical analysis, I think it’s worth trying to inject more drama and hope into the late moments of NFL games. Or, as we call it on NFL RedZone, “The Witching Hour.”

 

Hat-tip and thank you to Greg Schiano, who, to my knowledge, was the first to go public with the concept years ago. Great idea.

 

Booger McFarland: Make the Onside Kick a Real Play Again II

ESPN Monday Night Football analyst

 

What I would do is allow a trailing team to try to get into the end zone on one play from the 10-yard line, only in the fourth quarter. If they are successful, they retain possession on their own 30-yard line. If they fail, the opposing team takes over at the 50-yard line. Onside kicks would still be allowed, if teams choose, but I think you would find a success rate somewhere around 20 to 25 percent trying to convert from the 10-yard line, which is where I think the NFL wants that play to land—as opposed to the less than 10 percent that we’re at now with onside kicks.

 

Pete Carroll: Kill Instant Replay

Head coach, Seattle Seahawks

 

Get rid of—or at least decrease the use of—instant replay. I get all the reasons why we have instant replay, and technology has opened up a new world for us to get to this point. But I miss the human element of trusting the officials to make the calls in the moment and then the rest of us having to live with what they called. It was both fun and frustrating, but I really liked the game better when the officials were just as much a part of the game as the players.

 

Mark Leibovich: Put Bad Ownership Up For a Public Vote

Chief national correspondent, New York Times Magazine. Author, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times”

 

If I could change one rule in the NFL—and I realize this would never happen in the real world but what the hell—I would put in a rule that owners need to stand for re-election every five years. Anyone who lived in the jurisdiction where the team plays, or who purchased a ticket to a home game in the last calendar year, would be eligible to vote, either “approve” or “disapprove,” on the owners’ performance. If an owner receives less than 35-percent approval, he or she would be forced to sell the franchise within 90 days, and that new owner would be forbidden from moving the team.

 

See you on Election Day, Mr. Snyder.

 

Hunter Henry: Ensure That Each Team Gets a Possession in Overtime

Tight end, Los Angeles Chargers

 

I think both teams should have a chance to touch the ball in overtime, especially in the playoffs. The league should allow both sides of the ball to have a chance to be successful.

 

Lindsay Jones: Be More Progressive About Players Using Marijuana

National NFL writer, The Athletic

 

It’s beyond time for the NFL to completely overhaul its drug policy, especially with the way it punishes players for using marijuana, so that’s where I would start. (I swear I am not writing this just because I live in Colorado, home to the most progressive marijuana laws in the country.) The league’s drug policy, collectively bargained with the NFLPA, is growing increasingly out of date with norms across the country, and the fact that many players live in states where possession and use of marijuana is legal for adults but still considered a major offense by the league is problematic.

 

Chris Nowinski: Eliminate Tackle Football Until High School

Co-founder and CEO, Concussion Legacy Foundation

 

Football is in a precarious position. The more successful a player is, and the longer he plays, the more likely he is to develop CTE. It’s called a dose-response relationship: The more years of tackle football you play (the dose), the higher your risk of CTE (the response). The NFL can reduce CTE risk for players by lowering the dose, but changing the NFL game further wouldn’t be expected to make a big difference. The biggest gains would be made by changing the way children play the game.

 

Richard Deitsch: Give Fans a Beckham Cam

Staff writer (and media columnist), The Athletic. Radio host, Sportsnet 590 in Toronto

 

Kill all kickoffs. This would be one of my immediate mandates if given the power to improve the NFL. But I have been asked by my former SI colleague and editor of The MMQB to focus on a media-centric angle regarding improving the game—or in this case, the viewing of the game. The NFL, now, as a television product is very good (Red Zone, high-speed cameras, Tony Romo) and technology will take us to even better places. I personally love the idea of watching the game from a specific positional perspective. Imagine having a Beckham Cam, where viewers at home can experience what it is like from Odell Beckham Jr’s perspective for an entire game, including the vantage point the receiver watches the game from the sideline. The wearable camera technology already exists and you’d also be able to add all the advanced data such as how far Beckham ran during a game, how much energy he expended.

 

But if you want an outside-the-box idea, and one that would open up a whole new broadcasting genre, well, here you go: I’d love to see a second-screen option for NFL games. Each team designates one practice-squad player (or someone not playing that day) to sit on the bench during the game and offer real-time commentary regarding what viewers are seeing. It would be an incredible education into the game (along with great reps for those who want a post-playing career in broadcasting), the first of its kind in major sports. (As a second-screen option, you could also always go back to the main broadcast if you wanted.)

 

Sam Farmer: Adios, Chain Gangs

NFL writer, Los Angeles Times

 

Do away with chain gangs. Use a laser to mark off 10 yards. I know there are far more important issues—concussions and off-the-field behavior among them—but this imprecise, anachronistic system of measuring first downs is silly. You’re only as precise as your most imprecise measurement, so the fact that officials guesstimate on first, second and third down, then suddenly get ultra-precise on fourth down is just wrong.

 

Eric Winston: Seed the Playoffs By Record, Not Division Title

President, NFL Players Association, and former NFL tackle

 

Ever since you were a small kid and you played games and they kept score, the team with the best record at the end of the season, before the playoffs, got the advantage in the playoffs. Then I get to the NFL, and it’s not that way at all. You get a massive advantage by being one of the top four seeds in each conference. You get at least one home game.

 

(Examples: In 2011, Pittsburgh was 12-4 and finished second in the AFC North. The Steelers, seeded fifth, had to play a wild-card game at 8-8 Denver … In 2013, the Niners were 12-4 and finished second in the NFC West. Seeded fifth, San Francisco had to play on the road at fourth-seeded Green Bay, 8-7-1.)

 

I say you can’t control how good the other teams in your division are. Let’s say the division winner is 13-3, and you’re 12-4. This league is supposed to be about excellence, being the best. The best should get the spoils at the end of the day. And a 12-4 team being seeded below teams that might be 9-7 or whatever … it’s just not right. It’s a matter of fairness, which is what the NFL should be about. We have a landscape where it’s not fair right now, and it should be fixed.

 

Amy Trask: Increase Roster Size

Former CEO, Oakland Raiders. Current CBS NFL analyst

 

I would increase roster size by a significant number. League economics support an increase and concerns about player health and safety should dictate it. As for league economics: To counter an argument that more players per team means less money per player, increase the salary cap by an amount roughly equal to the cost of additional players at the bottom of the roster. For example, if you increase the roster by a dozen, take an average of the various minimums and multiply that by a dozen and add that to the cap. That’s a marginal amount relative to club revenues. (Trust me on that.) I would also strongly consider doing away with “inactives.” If you’re on the roster, you’re active.

 

Calais Campbell: Make Every Healthy Player Active on Game Day

Defensive end, Jacksonville Jaguars

 

One rule change I’d like to propose is eliminating inactives on game day. If teams can dress and play all 53 guys on Sundays, it would help decrease injuries incurred during competition because it would allow more rest and substitutions. If players are aware that there are more guys on the team that can substitute in for a play or two, guys will be less inclined to remain in the game with an injury that could worsen with more time on the field. Overall, more players on the active roster would lead to better health for all players.

 

Sal Paolantonio: Send Replay Review Into Our Living Rooms

National correspondent, ESPN

 

I think the NFL should televise the instant replay review. That’s right: Make it part of the network broadcast. The payoff would be immediate and lucrative. One, it would turn an annoying stoppage of play into must-see TV. The audience would see and hear the on-field referee, the instant replay ref in the booth and league officiating guru Al Riveron in New York, dissecting the play. Ratings go up. Two, sponsor this segment. Cha-ching! That’ll get the networks’ attention. Three, a televised review would be the holy-grail of prop bets. The league’s new casino partners would love that action.

 

Les Snead: Reinvent the Preseason

General manager, Los Angeles Rams

 

My long-term thought is to reduce the preseason from four to two games, one home and one away. But don’t waste the rest of August. I would add a scrimmage with another team at a neutral site that loves football—and slot that scrimmage the same week that now would be used for the first full preseason weekend, the week after the Hall of Fame Game. We could take the NFL on the road to towns in America that support the NFL on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays by watching us. Play those scrimmages in great high school stadiums, college stadiums or minor-league baseball stadiums. It’s a chance to give back and invest in our dedicated fans who support us even though they might be in a place that’s not close to an NFL franchise city. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Carson Wentz and the Eagles scrimmage the Vikings somewhere in North Dakota? Or the Seahawks and Texans scrimmaging in Madison, Wis., where Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt played? Good work for the teams, and very beneficial for the fans. And wouldn’t Carson Wentz always remember the time his professional team played in the state he grew up?

 

Rich Eisen: Give the Ball Back to the Offense on Fumbles Through the End Zone

Anchor, NFL Network, and host of “The Rich Eisen Show”

 

If I could wave a wand for NFL change, I’d get rid of the antiquated rule that makes a fumble into and through the end zone a touchback and a change of possession. I know the end zone is hallowed ground, but why should a ball fumbled out of bounds at the one-inch line remain with the offense while a fumble that occurs two inches further down the field, one inch into and through the end zone, goes to the defense? Under the current rule, the defense that likely performed poorly on the drive gets bailed out by a lucky bounce of the ball. I say: Any fumble into and through the endzone should be a reverse touchback.

 

Terez Paylor: The NFL Must Loosen Its Vise-Grip on Highlights

Senior NFL writer, Yahoo Sports

 

There is no shortage of things that can be done to improve the NFL, but I’ll use this space to advocate for one underrated thing that I believe could help everyone, from reporters to fans to the NFL itself: loosening up the league’s restrictions on the utilization of highlights and GIFs. I wrote about this here, but the NBA promotes its players and teams by letting news outlets break down X’s and O’s using league footage—unlike the NFL, which aggressively targets organizations that are not rights holders. You can’t even embed the NFL’s videos from its YouTube channel on web sites because the league won’t get a direct click. Allowing more news groups to use the footage to create smarter fans will only improve fans’ understanding of what teams are doing on the field, and help keep the focus on how amazing these athletes are and how special the game of professional football really is.

 

Neil Hornsby: Shorten the Game

Founder, Pro Football Focus

 

I would propose that the clock run on incomplete passes till the last four minutes of each half. Then the clock would stop on incompletions. I love the NFL, obviously, but the games are too long, and there are many dead periods in games. There is no reason a football game cannot be played in two hours and 35 minutes, or 2:40. The NCAA is far worse; it’s ridiculous to stop the game on every first down. Who wants a four-hour football game? One of the things I loved about watching the Alliance of American Football games this year was the speed of the game. It just makes the game more enjoyable when you’re not sitting around, sitting around, sitting around waiting for the next play.

 

Harry Carson: Bring Pre-1993 Retirees’ Pensions In Line With Other Sports …

Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker. Executive director, Fritz Pollard Alliance

 

As a 13-year veteran of the game and now a retiree myself, I understand first-hand the price many players paid to help build the National Football League into what it is today. The price paid for almost all were physical injuries (knees, hips, etc.) while many others suffered neurological impairment. The NFL should respond to the voices of older (pre-1993) former players and their spouses by bringing pensions and benefits in line with professional basketball and baseball.

 

Joe Horrigan: … And Do The Same For Pre-1993 Player Benefits

Executive director, Pro Football Hall of Fame (retiring June 1)

 

It seems almost trivial to say, but the most important element of pro football’s success has always been its players, men who spend countless hours training and preparing for the greatest and most physically demanding sport played. While the financial rewards for today’s players are more reflective of the game’s success than ever, it’s important to remember that the average pro football career is relatively short, yet long-term post-career physical ailments might last a lifetime. The NFL should be applauded for its continuing efforts to address and improve health, safety and quality of life issues for its players. But, if I could do one thing to improve the game off the field it would be to provide former players, particularly those from the pre-1993 era, the same post-career health benefits as their present-day brethren.

 

Bart Scott: Liberalize Rules to Bring Back the Excitement of the Kickoff

Former NFL linebacker. Current sports-talk host, WFAN in New York

 

Bring back the old kickoff rules. In fact, move the kickoff back to the 20-yard-line to encourage kick returns. It’s the most exciting play in the game.

 

Mike Florio: Adopt the XFL’s OT Rule

Founder, Pro Football Talk

 

The NFL’s overtime problem never will fully be resolved by tweaking the current rule to guarantee a possession for both teams because the possibility remains that someone will parlay the first sudden-death possession into a walk-off field goal. So why not implement a truly fair solution? The XFL, inspired by soccer and hockey using penalty kicks and shots to break ties, will try a two-point conversion shootout, with both offenses and both defenses on the field at the same time, alternating attempts to score from either end of the field. It’s a simple solution that will resonate with younger fans, reduce (ideally) the number of snaps taken to resolve a game, and most importantly change overtime into something that is truly equitable. The chances to score will be the same. And the outcome will be determined by far more players than, as in soccer and hockey, goalie vs. rotation of players trying to beat the goalie. An added benefit would emerge from this approach. With teams spending more time practicing two-point offense, maybe more teams would attempt two-point conversions during regulation. Which actually could promote fewer tie scores at the end of the fourth quarter.

 

 

KELLEN WINSLOW

Jeff Eisenberg of YahooSports.com is at the trial of former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow II:

 

For more than an hour, Kellen Winslow II fidgeted in his seat as district attorney Dan Owens painstakingly laid out the graphic, gruesome rape allegations against him that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

 

At last, it was time for Winslow’s high-priced defense attorneys to unveil their strategy to combat the mountain of evidence against him.

 

In a brief opening statement that lasted barely seven minutes, attorney Brian Watkins portrayed Winslow as the victim of money-hungry accusers, media hysteria and mistaken identity. Watkins told a Southern California jury on Monday that Winslow “has been in the spotlight since he was young” and “when you’re in the spotlight, people want things from you.”

 

The only transgression Watkins conceded Winslow committed was infidelity to his wife of nearly 13 years. Watkins told the jury that the former all-pro NFL tight end was unfaithful “numerous times,” but that he has never raped anyone.

 

“It was sex,” Watkins said. “No-strings-attached sex. It’s wrong. It’s immoral. But it’s not against the law.”

 

The approach Watkins took was noteworthy because it ensures that Winslow’s attorneys will not be putting the sport of football on trial.

 

Watkins could have attempted to argue that his client’s alleged sexual misconduct was a result of mental illness caused by brain trauma from playing football and could have put a spotlight on Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This would have been the ultimate Hail Mary given that there’s currently no test for CTE on a living person, nor is there more than anecdotal evidence that CTE can lead to violent behavior.

 

Now it will be almost impossible for Watkins to pivot to a defense built around conceding Winslow’s factual guilt yet arguing that he’s not legally responsible for his crimes due to diminished mental capacity.

 

Winslow, 35, has pleaded not guilty to a total of 12 charges, including six counts of rape and allegations of kidnapping, lewd conduct and indecent exposure. Five women have levied accusations against Winslow, four of which allegedly occurred just miles from his Encinitas home between March 2018 and February 2019.

 

The Winslow case has drawn significant media attention because of the defendant’s stature as a former NFL first-round draft pick and the son of a Hall of Famer. CourtTV is scheduled to air Winslow’s entire trial live and about two dozen reporters showed up to watch Monday’s opening statements in person.

 

What most of Monday consisted of was Owens giving jurors an overview of the prosecution’s case against Winslow. He outlined each incident, urging the jury to judge Winslow “by his deeds, not who he is or who his father is.”

 

Jane Doe No. 1 is a 54-year-old hitchhiker who 14 months ago accused Winslow of picking her up in Encinitas, raping her in a shopping center parking lot and threatening to kill her if she told anyone. Owens said the underwear and pants she turned over to the police contained DNA that matched Winslow’s.

 

Jane Doe No. 2 is a 59-year-old homeless woman Winslow allegedly picked up two months later outside an Encinitas train station under the guise of buying her a cup of coffee. While the woman identified Winslow to police as “Kevin” instead of “Kellen,” her description of her rapist and his black SUV was enough to lead to the ex-NFL star’s arrest last June.

 

Jane Doe No. 3 is a neighbor of Winslow’s who accused him of exposing his erect penis to her last May while she was gardening in her front yard. Owens said that police obtained a blue backpack at Winslow’s house matching her description of what he was wearing, as well as GPS data corroborating that he was bicycling at the location where the alleged incident occurred.

 

When Watkins briefly addressed those encounters, he described Jane Doe No. 3’s allegations as a case of mistaken identity. Watkins said Winslow’s encounters with Jane Does 1 and 2 were consensual sex with women who knew he was a football star.

 

“Those accusers aren’t giving you the whole truth,” he said.

 

The third woman to accuse Winslow of rape allegedly found the courage to go to the police last summer after reading about the other allegations against him. Jane Doe No. 4 accused Winslow of raping her at a 2003 house party when he was 19 years old and she was 17.

 

The last of the incidents involving Winslow allegedly occurred just a few months ago while he was out on $2 million bail. Police arrested Winslow for lewd conduct in front of a 77-year-old woman at a Carlsbad gym.

 

On one occasion, Owens said Winslow stroked himself while sitting a few feet away from the woman and looking directly at her. On another, Owens said Winslow spotted her alone in the jacuzzi, sat alongside her and masturbated in front of her.

 

The accusations against Winslow are a stunning set of circumstances for a brash yet talented football player who once nicknamed himself “The Chosen One.” The Cleveland Browns selected Winslow out of the University of Miami with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and, in 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the highest paid tight end in NFL history.

 

Both the prosecution and defense referenced Winslow’s uncommon background multiple times in their opening statements.

 

Watkins wants jurors to believe Winslow’s wealth and fame was the reason his accusers have targeted him. Owens wants jurors to ignore the ex-NFL star’s stature and view him by his actions.

 

Said Owens, “Mr. Winslow has been given much but for him it was not enough.”

 

We’re not sure how these women fit the profile of women who have sex to shake people down for money.  And we would think Winslow’s “fame” wasn’t all that high in Encinitas in the last few years.