The Daily Briefing Tuesday, October 30, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
If The Season Ended Today in the AFC –
Kansas City West 7-1 3-0 6-1
New England East 6-2 2-0 5-1
Pittsburgh North 4-2-1 2-1-1 2-2-1
Houston South 5-3 2-1 4-2
LA Chargers WC 5-2 1-1 4-1
Cincinnati WC 5-3 1-1 3-2
Baltimore 4-4 1-2 4-2
Miami 4-4 1-1 3-3
Tennessee 3-4 2-0 2-4
In the NFC, Gregg Rosenthal notes that November has a lot of big NFC games:
The NFC contender gauntlet is here.
The Rams face the next two hottest NFC teams over the next two weeks (the Saints and Seahawks) before heading to Mexico City for a matchup with the Chiefs in Week 11. Seattle’s four November games do not feature a single opponent with a losing record, including a three-game slalom against the Rams, Packers and Panthers. The Packers are part of the Vikings’ stretch of three straight NFC North contests, before Minnesota has road games in New England and Seattle. The Lions’ next five games are against NFC foes with winning records.
In short: A lot of the best games and drama in the NFC race will happen in the third quarter of the season, with the Rams-Saints in Week 9 setting the table for the battle for home-field advantage.
We would add the Minnesota plays at Chicago in Week 11.
Both games between Washington and Philadelphia are in December.
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With the London Series 2018 in the rearview mirror, the NFL says there will be four games in the UK in 2019. Two will be played at Wembley Stadium and two at the new Tottenham Stadium. People have noted that the Texans, Packers and Panthers are the three teams that have yet to visit England for a regular season game – so we wouldn’t be shocked to see Texans “at” Jaguars as one of the contests. And the Packers have a road game at the Chargers.
The Packers are in a tough stretch, with the Patriots coming up this Sunday night. But Patriots QB TOM BRADY is counting on AARON RODGERS to do great things.
A promo for Sunday night’s game between the Patriots and Packers features Michael Jordan musing about who is the greatest quarterback ever while hyping a rare matchup between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Brady acknowledges that it is fun to debate such matters, but notes that it is ultimately “a hypothetical question that is truly impossible to answer.” Brady did say that Rodgers has “every skill you need to be a great quarterback” and that the Packers quarterback provides him with a push to be the best player he can be.
“What he’s done as a quarterback, I think it is is inspiring, even for me,” Brady said on WEEI. “I watch his game and it makes me want to get out there and practice and improve because I think he’s so phenomenal with the way he manages himself in the pocket and his ability to throw the football is unlikely anyone probably in the history of the league. It’s pretty awesome to watch.”
Brady said that he is sure that Sunday’s game in New England “will come down to the wire.”
The only other meeting between the two teams with Brady and Rodgers starting came in Green Bay during the 2014 season. The Packers prevailed 26-21 behind two Rodgers touchdown passes and a seven-yard completion to Randall Cobb on third down that allowed them to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
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RB TY MONTGOMERY says he was within his rights to try to return the Rams late kickoff on Sunday.
Ty Montgomery cost the Green Bay Packers a chance at a comeback against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday when he fumbled the ball on a late-game kickoff return, but he dismisses the notion he intentionally defied orders to take a knee in the end zone.
Speaking to reporters a day after the Packers’ 29-27 loss, Montgomery said he was told what he’s always told before kickoffs — “if it’s in the end zone, keep it in the end zone” — but added he believed he could make a play since it was near the goal line.
“I had a returnable ball,” Montgomery said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “So I made a split-second decision on, I don’t know if this is going to land on the goal line. So I’m not going to take a knee on the goal line, at the half-yard line and take a chance at putting the game in the ref’s hands.
“Unfortunately, I ended up fumbling the football,” Montgomery continued. “I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if I didn’t fumble the football because we know how good our two-minute offense is. But I’ve never been a guy to completely disobey what I’m being told. I think you can ask a lot of guys in our locker room. That’s not what I do. That’s not the type of man I am. That’s not the kind of person I am.”
Montgomery’s defense of his decision to return the kickoff comes after NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported that more than half a dozen Packers players and coaches noticed Montgomery throwing a tantrum on the sideline after being removed from the game during Green Bay’s previous offensive series. At least one player believed Montgomery’s decision to defy orders was sparked by being pulled in favor of Aaron Jones.
“They took him out (the previous drive) for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit,” one Packers player told Silver. “Then (before the kickoff) they told him to take a knee, and he ran it out anyway. You know what that was? That was him saying, ‘I’m gonna do me.’ It’s a f—— joke.”
Montgomery told reporters he was frustrated by the team’s decision to pull him from the game but said it had nothing to do with returning the kickoff.
“Absolutely not, and that’s the point that I was trying to make,” he said. ” … I’m very disappointed in the fact that was said and they tried to make correlations that don’t exist.”
Montgomery also expressed frustration over the anonymous comments made about him after the game.
“We talk about being brothers,” he said. “We talk about being family and keeping things in-house, in-house, this, that and the other. That’s not what happened. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what they do in their family. That’s not what I do in mine. No one ever said anything to me. No one ever came to me. So I’m thoroughly disappointed in the speculation and just the backlash I have to deal with now. Because now, we’re talking about my character. We’re not even talking about the fumble anymore, we’re talking about my character. We’re talking about the reasons why I did what I did, and I’m not OK with that.”
He’s right in that he did catch the ball on the goal line, too far up to catch it and take a knee. His choice was to run it out, or let it hit and count that it would bounce through the end zone.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Rookie QB KYLE LAULETTA, who might have been closing in on some in-game audition time, suddenly found himself behind bars this morning for some bad rush hour driving. Ron Zeitlinger of NJ.com:
Just when you thought a horrific season couldn’t get any worse.
New York Giants backup quarterback Kyle Lauletta — who many fans hoped to see in the starting lineup next week — was arrested in Weehawken Tuesday morning while driving to the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford.
Sources in Weehawken with knowledge of the incident said the 23-year-old was trying to make a right turn from the wrong lane to get to Route 495 West, and was directed to keep going straight. Lauletta made the right turn and nearly ran over the officer directing traffic. He was stopped by another officer at the end of the on-ramp.
One of the sources said that Lauletta did the same thing yesterday morning, but he was not stopped. Police did see his license plate and he is being issued two summonses in the mail, the source said.
Police have not responded to requests for more information on the arrest.
“We are aware of the situation and are in contact with Kyle,” a Giants official said. “We are still gathering information.”
Lauletta has not taken a snap this year and was declared inactive for the Giants’ last game, a 20-13 loss to the Redskins that dropped the team to 1-7. The Giants have a bye this week and don’t play again until Nov. 12 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Although he isn’t considered the QB of the future for the Giants, many fans had hoped the Giants might sit Eli Manning and see what the fourth-round draft pick out of Richmond University could do.
The Redskins win an arbitrator’s ruling over the firing of troubled GM Scot McCloughan. The Washington Post:
More than a year after former general manager Scot McCloughan filed a grievance against the Washington Redskins over his March 2017 firing, an NFL arbitrator has ruled in the team’s favor, Liz Clarke and Mark Maske of the Washington Post report. This according to a person familiar with the process.
McCloughan had sought payment of the roughly $2.8 million remaining on his four-year contract when the team dismissed him with 22 months remaining on his deal.
Details of the ruling by NFL-appointed arbitrator Peter Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, were not available. But it is a final decision, with no avenue for appeal under the NFL’s system.
McCloughan filed the grievance with the NFL in summer 2017, contending that he was fired unjustly. During his tenure, the Redskins posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 19 years (winning the NFC East with a 9-7 record in 2015 and finishing 8-7-1 in 2016).
The Redskins, however, asserted they fired McCloughan “for cause.” Within days of McCloughan’s firing on March 9, 2017, the team-owned radio station speculated that McCloughan was abusing alcohol. A team official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that the general manager was ousted because he had reported to work intoxicated.
The Buccaneers will be without rookie RB RONALD JONES for a couple of weeks. He has a hamstring problem. Jones has not been much of a figure in the team’s offense so far but that leaves RB PEYTON BARBER and RB JACQUIZZ RODGERS as the only current options.
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The Buccaneers are having a strange season in the passing game. Sunday their two quarterbacks passed for 450 net yards (470 gross).
As a team, Tampa Bay has passed for 376.3 net yards per game. That’s more than 50 yards per game more than any other team (Pittsburgh 318.1) in this pass-happy season. We believe the NFL record is 340.5 net passing yards per game by the Denver Broncos in 2013. The Buccaneers have a great shot to break it.
That said, the Buccaneers also lead the NFL in interceptions thrown with 15 (10 by JAMEIS WINSTON).
Eric Adelson of YahooSports.com says the end game is underway between the Buccaneers and Winston.
There’s a difference between a loss and a total loss, and that’s where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be with Jameis Winston right now.
The former No. 1 overall pick is tied for the league lead in interceptions even though he missed the first three games of the season because of a suspension. He has double the interceptions (10) as old/new starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he has less than half of Fitzpatrick’s 13 touchdowns. You know it’s bad when a QB is handed the starter’s job over a 35-year-old journeyman and then he gets benched later in the same month.
It’s time for Tampa to move on.
But that’s the tricky part. How to move on? The trade deadline is Tuesday. The Bucs should see if there are any takers, and they should look for a Jimmy Garoppolo-type deal, with another team sending a second-round pick, if that’s even possible. Is a third-round pick worth it? The Bucs have to weigh that, and probably have already.
If the market isn’t there, then the Bucs have to take a risk. The question is, which risk?
There is the financial risk: After the season, the team will have the option to pick up the fifth year on Winston’s rookie deal, which will cost them $20.9 million. Is a quarterback worth $20.9 million if he’s not worth starting against the rival Panthers in the middle of his fourth year?
There is also the injury risk: If the Bucs go back to him and Winston gets hurt, that fifth year becomes fully guaranteed. The team could pay full price for a quarterback who never develops into an elite passer.
This is on top of the headline risk: Winston has embarrassed the franchise with off-field behavior, and although he has been out of legal trouble since allegedly groping an Uber driver in 2016, it’s not yet time to be certain he won’t err again.
And how can we forget the ever-present season risk: the Bucs are 3-4 and not out of the race by any means. They already have a road win against the Saints. They have yet to play all three division opponents at home. They have only one more non-conference game (against Baltimore). If Fitzpatrick is magical again, this could still be a playoff season. The team lost on Sunday to Cincinnati because of Winston; they cannot afford to lose again because of him.
So let’s play this out: If the Bucs ride with Fitzpatrick and if the season is saved, they have their answer. Keep Fitzpatrick, pocket the money, and look for a free-agent passer or a draft pick. Release Winston and hope he doesn’t turn into Patrick Mahomes at his next stop.
If Fitzpatrick fails, the Bucs might even try third-stringer Ryan Griffin — who they genuinely like — without risking the Winston money. Then, if Griffin is a dud, they can still give Winston one last shot.
Here’s the bottom line: Do the Bucs think they can contend next season with Fitzpatrick and a quarterback to be named later? There are some decent options in free agency, most notably Teddy Bridgewater. (There’s also Tyrod Taylor and Brett Hundley.) There are also some promising quarterbacks likely to be available in the middle of the first round of the draft, including Jarrett Stidham and Ryan Finley. Even if they keep Winston, the Bucs need to bring in a younger passer. If that passer beats out Winston, then they’ve paid Winston and wound up in the same place anyway.
There are two crucial questions when it comes to the Jameis Winston situation in Tampa:
1. Can they win without him?
2. Can he fix the turnover issue?
The first question, in a way, has already been answered. The offensive talent is enough to win games against good opponents behind a 35-year-old passer. The second question doesn’t look like it has an affirmative answer, as it’s been the better part of five seasons and Winston is still throwing picks.
It’s hard to find a franchise quarterback in the draft or free agency. But it has been more than a decade without the playoffs for the Bucs; they owe it to their fans to try.
The NFL relents and LB MYCHAL KENDRICKS will be available for Seattle’s December playoff push as he awaits the start of his federal prison sentence. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The indefinite has become definite for Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has suspended Kendricks eight games under the Personal Conduct Policy for his guilty plea to federal insider trading charges. Kendricks will receive credit for the three games he has missed, and he’ll be eligible to play on Monday, December 10, when the Seahawks host the Vikings. (Kendricks’ brother, Eric, plays for Minnesota.)
Kendricks also may return to the Seahawks as of Week 12 and participate in meetings and practices.
Kendricks has appeal rights, but no decision has been made as to whether they will be exercised. At a time when the league seemed to be determined to keep him off the field for the rest of the year, the ability to return for the final four games of the regular season and potential postseason games constitutes an unexpected win.
Still, an eight-game suspension for a white-collar crime seems a little stiff, given that the baseline suspension for domestic violence is six games — and in light of the reality that the league has on multiple occasions reduced the punishment based on mitigating factors.
If there’s no appeal, Kendricks will be back for the final push to the playoffs, and he could be a difference maker for a team that, as Russel Wilson recently told PFT, feels a lot like it did in 2012, when no one expected anything off a team that was a year away from a Super Bowl win.
Given that Kendricks is facing a prison term that could be in the range of three years, this could be the last season of his football career. That will likely prompt him to make the most out of it
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com deep dives into the Cleveland mess:
When you have a new baby napping in the house, and your two older children are fighting over a toy and the fight gets so loud you worry they’re going to wake up the baby, you don’t pick which one of them gets to have the toy. You take it away from both of them.
In the case of the Cleveland Browns, the sleeping baby is Baker Mayfield, the two older children are Hue Jackson and Todd Haley and the toy is the two coaches’ jobs.
So it was that on Monday, the Browns resolved a petty power struggle between head coach Jackson and offensive coordinator Haley by firing both men in an effort to quiet things down around Mayfield, in whose success the Browns are far more invested than they ever were in either coach.
Pretty remarkable when you think about it, especially in the case of Jackson. Haley is quite talented but has a well-established reputation of being difficult to work with, and he now has been let go by two different AFC North teams in a span of about 10 months. Browns management deserves some heat for ever thinking the Jackson-Haley thing would work in the first place, but at least it didn’t linger too long on its mistake.
Jackson, though … The Browns brought this guy back after he went 1-15 in his first season and brought him back again after he went 0-16 in his second season. They forgave him, continually, for being a historically terrible NFL head coach. What they couldn’t forgive, and what led to Jackson’s dismissal in the midst of his best year as their coach, was his contribution to any situation that might hinder Mayfield’s growth. After Sunday’s events — not just the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers but the pregame revelation of the fractures in the Jackson-Haley relationship — the team decided that relationship had grown potentially poisonous to Mayfield. So they eliminated it from his life.
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation say Haley and Jackson never developed a level of mutual respect that enabled them to work together for the benefit of the team and of Mayfield’s development. During training camp, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” showed a meeting in which Haley and Jackson strongly opposed each other on the issue of how much players with nagging injuries should be asked to practice. Sources say the disagreements didn’t stop there, and that the two clashed throughout the summer and the early part of the season on the direction of the offense.
Areas of dispute included the offensive line arrangement (specifically, the decision to insert undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle to start the season), playing time for wide receiver Josh Gordon in the opener (Haley started him after Jackson had publicly said Gordon wouldn’t start), the usage of pass-catching running back Duke Johnson and the early-season marginalizing of rookie running back Nick Chubb. The Chubb issue frustrated the front office so much that they eventually traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars so the coaches would have no choice but to give the rookie the ball.
More recently, sources say, Jackson and Haley clashed over Mayfield. Jackson wanted to adjust the offense to help Mayfield play quicker — use more of the up-tempo concepts with which he had so much success in college. Haley wanted to stick with his more conservative approach, especially with the team decimated by injuries at wide receiver and unable to rotate personnel in a way that would keep a quicker tempo from exhausting everyone.
Sources say Jackson had privately brought up to management the idea of his taking back some control of the offense or getting rid of Haley entirely. Jackson had been publicly supportive of the offseason decision to hire Haley and cede control of the offense to him, but as the season went along Jackson grew restless about his own long-term future and told people in the building that, if he was going to end up getting fired anyway, he wanted the opportunity to run things his way in the meantime.
Things came to a head after the team’s Week 7 loss to Tampa Bay, when Jackson suggested in a postgame news conference that he might need to get more involved in the offense. That led to increased tension in the building and a week in which, according to one source, “there were a lot more meetings than usual.” Correctly or incorrectly, the front office believed Jackson to be one of the anonymous sources of information behind Sunday’s reports of division, and that irked them further.
A source close to the situation told ESPN on Sunday that any decision the team made about the coaching staff (or anything else, for that matter) would be rooted in the idea of what they felt was best for Mayfield and his development, and they determined that a feud between the head coach and offensive coordinator did not fit that description.
“The message today,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said in the Monday news conference at which the firings were announced, “is that we’re not going to put up with internal discord.”
Gregg Williams takes over as interim head coach for Mayfield and the Browns. AP Photo/Ron Schwane
So the temporary solution is that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was the Buffalo Bills’ head coach from 2001-03, becomes interim head coach while running backs coach Freddie Kitchens becomes interim offensive coordinator. Kitchens has been an NFL position coach since 2006 but never a coordinator, though Jackson and Haley allowed him to call plays this summer during some preseason games in which Mayfield was playing quarterback.
And sure, if things go really well the rest of the way, everybody gets along, the Browns win a bunch of games and Mayfield flourishes, it’s not out of the question that they could keep the same arrangement for 2019. But it’s far more likely they bring in a new head coach from the outside. The team gave GM John Dorsey control over the draft and the roster, it may as well let him bring in his own coach to oversee it all. Mayfield and some of the young talent on defense are likely to make this a more appealing job than it has been in years past, so there should be no shortage of interested, qualified candidates looking to put their stamp on a talented young roster as it grows. Whoever Dorsey picks will be selected once again with the best interests of Mayfield in mind. That likely means an offensive coach, but it doesn’t have to mean that if the Browns believe it’s a coach who can establish and maintain a culture that gives Mayfield the best chance to develop and succeed.
Here are some possible candidates, based on what our reporting has turned up so far.
Mike McCarthy. This assumes the Packers move on from McCarthy at season’s end, which is far from a certainty. But if it happens, expect a front office packed with former Packers executives to put McCarthy at the top of its list.
Lincoln Riley. The Oklahoma head coach is on the radar of a lot of NFL teams if he decides he wants to try the NFL. He has been mentioned several times as a potential Jason Garrett replacement in Dallas if the Cowboys decide to make a change. The Mayfield connection makes him an obvious target for the Browns if he’s available.
Matt Campbell. He’s the head coach at Iowa State and is said to be well-regarded by Dorsey.
Eric Bieniemy. Succeeded Matt Nagy as Chiefs offensive coordinator this year. May be too inexperienced at this point, but teams really like to hire Andy Reid guys.
Jim Harbaugh. NFL people still think the Michigan coach will want another crack at the pros. He’ll be a hot candidate in several places when/if that happens.
Urban Meyer. Hey, he’s big in Ohio.
Brian Flores. Well-regarded Patriots defensive coach who got some attention on last year’s interview circuit. He’d have to come with a strong offensive coordinator and a plan for Mayfield, but those who know him rave about his leadership qualities.
John DeFilippo. Jumped from Eagles QBs coach to Vikings offensive coordinator following Philly’s Super Bowl title. He’s a former Browns offensive coordinator who’s from Youngstown.
Dan Campbell. He was once the Dolphins’ interim head coach and remains an intriguing head-coaching prospect for teams. Currently on Sean Payton’s staff with the Saints, who may be in the midst of a special season.
Zac Taylor. He’s the Rams’ quarterbacks coach and, like Bieniemy, may still be too green for an assignment like this. But a lot of teams are going to want to try to get a piece of what Sean McVay is doing out there in L.A.
Dave Toub. The Chiefs’ special teams coach always seems to be on these lists, and NFL people believe he’ll get a shot eventually. Could it come under former Chiefs GM Dorsey?
George Edwards. The Vikings’ defensive coordinator is another guy who gets attention every year but no job offers. His time will come.
Teryl Austin. Bengals defensive coordinator. Ditto what we said for Edwards.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com throws out another name:
With one coach out and another coach eventually in, plenty of rumors will swirl regarding the person who will eventually get the Browns job. Given the presence of quarterback Baker Mayfield, a nucleus of other great young players, extra draft picks for 2019, and lots of cap space to sign veterans, coaches will be lining up for a chance to take the job.
Which will allow G.M. John Dorsey to be very selective when selecting the next coach.
It will be a delicate proposition for Dorsey, who could hire his way into less relevance by pursuing an A-list, type-A candidate who wants to do more than just coach. That could cause Dorsey to target an up-and-coming candidate, like Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has drawn plenty of praise for his aggressive approach to the Andy Reid offense.
But there could be an opportunity to get an established name, like Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Sure, he jilted the Colts last year, but (as Peter King noted on Tuesday’s PFT Live), McDaniels made a late pre-draft visit with Mayfield, and the Patriots were ready to trade up (within reason) to get him.
McDaniels, who apparently decided in February to stay with the Patriots until Bill Belichick retires, possibly could be lured back to his home state of Ohio by the presence of a 15-year quarterback and a blank-slate legacy that includes an empty trophy case. If Dorsey is interested and McDaniels isn’t, it’s possible that McDaniels will indeed never leave New England.
However it plays out, there will be plenty of coaches plotting a path to Ohio, and the challenge will be to pick the right one.
The Texans are taking on WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS. Oddly, his first game with Houston will be in Denver on Sunday. ESPN.com:
The Denver Broncos are finalizing a trade to send star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans, a league source has confirmed to ESPN.
The deal was first reported by the NFL Network.
Thomas is second on the Broncos in receptions (36) and receiving yards (402) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three) this season. But his hefty salary-cap figure for 2019 — $17.533 million in what is the last year of his deal — and the emergence of rookie Courtland Sutton as a big-play threat had raised the possibility of Thomas being shipped elsewhere.
The Texans have a need at wide receiver after Will Fuller was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered during the team’s win over the Dolphins.
THIS AND THAT
AIKMAN RATINGS THRU WEEK 8
The Chicago Bears, convincing winners over the Jets last Sunday, have slid ahead of the undefeated Rams for the top spot in the Aikman Combined Ratings compiled by Sports Radar as the NFL season approaches the midway point. The two top teams meet in a Week 14 showdown in Chicago.
For those surprised by the top spot for the 4-3 Bears, Chicago would rank tied for 3rd in the NFL if you combined their NFL offensive (10th) and defensive (7th) ranking.
The Bears also moved to the top spot in Aikman Defense, going past the Ravens. Chicago sits in 10th place in Aikman Offense, up from 25th in 2017.
Aikman Offense continues to be dominated by the Chiefs. At 100.9, Kansas City is hoping to become the first team to finish the season in triple figures.
The Booger mobile has a new look.
After seven weeks of ESPN using a contraption that rolls along the sideline and allows analyst Booger McFarland to look down the line of scrimmage, an avalanche of criticism has prompted ESPN to modify the vehicle.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, ESPN removed the monitor that was on the back of the cart based on fan feedback. The decision supposedly came with no pressure from the league. (If there truly wasn’t, there should have been.)
The monitor, which projected images that were several seconds behind live action, has been replaced by a sheet of plexiglass, which presumably is aimed at keeping Booger from being pelted with foreign objects, up to and including his namesake nose goblins.
The presence of the monitor amounted to an admission that the Booger mobile creates an obstruction. Removing it makes the obstruction smaller, but there’s still an obstruction. The better play would be to put Booger in the booth.
This Boston Globe report authored by Beth Healy on the last days of tormented Aaron Hernandez:
State investigators had more evidence than previously disclosed that former New England Patriot star Aaron Hernandez was using a dangerous drug in prison prior to his death — information that was concealed in public records and from his family and lawyers.
An inmate interview with officials the day Hernandez died, April 19, 2017, was partially redacted from a 132-page public report. The hidden portion, which the Globe was able to review last week for the first time, said: “He’s spent the last two days smoking K2 in his cell and he wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”
This new disclosure is significant because it could shed more light on why the 27-year-old convicted murderer took his own life. It also raises questions about whether state officials sought to hide the extensive use of contraband drugs by inmates — including by one of their most well-known prisoners — and its potential influence on his death.
“Any disturbing commentary about the state’s investigation was clearly hidden from the public, Aaron’s lawyers, and his family,’’ said George Leontire, a lawyer for Hernandez, as well as for his fiancee and young daughter.
Department of Correction spokesman Jason Dobson said the inmate’s interview was blacked out because: “A separate investigation was ongoing into suspected drug activity [at the prison]. The section was redacted so as not to compromise that investigation.”
Lawyer George Leontire, who represents Hernandez’s fiancee and young daughter, has been pressing the Department of Correction to turn over complete records related to the suicide of Hernandez.
Hernandez’s suicide took his family and lawyers by surprise. Only five days earlier, he had been acquitted of a 2012 double murder in Boston’s South End despite substantial evidence he was involved and at the scene. As a result, he had sounded optimistic about his chances of overturning his life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.
Inmates interviewed by prison officials at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center the day Hernandez was found hanged in his cell said he had been upbeat and talking about spending time with his daughter and fiancee. One inmate said, “What do you do when you get good news?” adding, “You celebrate, right?”
It turns out that same inmate, however, said more than that to prison investigators, according to the newly revealed interview.
The unnamed inmate who talked about Hernandez’s K2 use also said, “That shit is [expletive] all these young kids up.’’ And “They aren’t going to stop no matter what happens in here.”
K2 is often called synthetic marijuana, but it’s far more toxic than pot. It comes as liquid or in the form of plant matter sprayed with an ever-changing array of chemicals that can cause hallucinations and other effects. It’s popular with prisoners because it’s difficult to detect in routine drug tests and has been easy to smuggle in.
Dobson said Department of Correction officials “fully disclosed all information known” to the State Police Detective Unit investigating Hernandez’s death for the Worcester County district attorney’s office.
But there still seemed to be a disconnect between what investigators knew and how they portrayed Hernandez’s death to the public.