The Daily Briefing Friday, June 8, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The new coaching regime in Arizona doesn’t seem very forthcoming about injury matters. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic:
Running back David Johnson has missed practice time this week with an injury the Cardinals aren’t disclosing.
Johnson watched voluntary practice on Thursday, but no injury was readily apparent.
“It’s the offseason, and I’m not going to really indulge in injuries or things like that,” coach Steve Wilks said when asked why Johnson wasn’t practicing. “We’re going to talk about the guys that are out there.”
Apparently it was not a regularly scheduled day off for Johnson. In other instances, Wilks – when asked – has told reporters certain players were behind held out of practice for precautionary reasons. That’s not how he answered the question about Johnson on Thursday.
Johnson missed 15 games last season after suffering a wrist injury in the season opener. He was cleared medically earlier this year and until this week had been participating fully in the offseason program.
DL SOLOMON THOMAS wants to think less in 2018. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The transition from college to the pros is a hard one for many players and it can be more difficult for players drafted high in the first round due to the expectations that come with such a position.
Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas felt that added pressure after being drafted by the 49ers with the third overall pick last year. Thomas explained how that manifested itself and how he plans to eliminate it this year in an interview with Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.
“I tried to brush it by, but sometimes my mind would just get ahold of it and I’d be frantic out there,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t be myself — just thinking too much. I’m an over-thinker. That’s what I do sometimes. But I’ve taken a couple of breaths this year and calmed down and started taking it bit by bit, step by step, and attacked it, and just gone out there and played ball, and go be a beast. So that’s what I’m here to do. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Thomas missed two games with a knee sprain and rang up 41 tackles and three sacks in his 14 appearances. He said he’s confident that he will show why he “was drafted No. 3 in the draft” this year and a breakout year would add to the playoff noise around the 49ers in 2018.
Another setback for LB DION JORDAN. Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
The Seattle Seahawks have a good news, bad news scenario on defensive end Dion Jordan.
Coach Pete Carroll revealed Thursday that Jordan underwent offseason knee surgery, which was categorized as a cleanup, and will be out 6-8 weeks, per NFL Network’s James Palmer.
For Jordan, who signed a $1.9 million restricted free-agent tender in April, being down represents the bad news. The projected timetable of his recover, however, lands squarely at or near the start of training camp in late July, so the Seahawks should have Jordan available before the regular season.
The Seahawks currently possess depth behind Jordan to last through mandatory minicamp on June 12-14.
Rookie defensive end Jacob Martin, Seattle’s sixth-round pick, has received work with the first-team defense in Jordan’s place during organized team activies, Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune reported.
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Pete Carroll has optimism about S EARL THOMAS. Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News-Tribune:
It’s become an $84,000 question for Earl Thomas.
Will the three-time All-Pro safety show up next week for the Seahawks’ only mandatory workouts of this offseason, a three-day veteran minicamp Tuesday through Thursday?
Pete Carroll expects him to.
“Yeah, it’s mandatory, you know. We expect everybody to show up,” Seattle’s coach said Thursday at the end of the 10th and final practice of the team’s organized team activities this offseason.
Thomas skipped all 10 because, well, they are voluntary.
That, and he wants a new contract that would pay him among if not as THE highest-paid safety in the NFL.
The Seahawks can, by the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, fine Thomas $84,435 if he decides to skip all three days of next week’s mandatory minicamp.
The daily fines can grow exponentially beyond that if Thomas should decide to keep making his stance into training camp that begins the last week of July and goes on for weeks.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said multiple times this offseason that Thomas’ representatives have assured him Thomas will not hold out into the 2018 season. But as of last month, the Seahawks had not talked about an extension with Thomas’ agents since March.
Thomas has said he wants to remain with Seattle, the only NFL team he’s known, beyond his contract ending after the 2018 season.
Next week the Seahawks will find out if Thomas is willing to lose money, on principle.
QB DEREK CARR sings the praises of WR JORDY NELSON. Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area:
Jordy Nelson was the biggest name to join the Raiders this offseason. A two-year contract brought the veteran receiver to Oakland days after Green Bay released him, and he’s already made a major impact on his position group.
Quarterback Derek Carr has lauded Nelson’s leadership, and his involvement with younger players in an overhauled position group. That has been clear during a productive offseason program that has just a three-day minicamp remaining.
“We’ve put in a few good months here in the meeting rooms and on the practice field,” Nelson said Thursday, after helping coach a prep passing league tournament at Raiders HQ. “We have another week to go, but we’ve done well.”
Nelson may be the biggest name among the new guys, but he isn’t the only established receiver to join the Silver and Black. Martavis Bryant was acquired from Pittsburgh for a third-round pick during the NFL Draft, and has impressed Nelson in a few short weeks.
“He’s very talented,” Nelson said. “Everyone has seen what Martavis has done in Pittsburgh. He’s another threat to put out there in the passing game. He’s another big threat as well. We have a few big guys to line up and hopefully create some mismatches. We’re looking forward to him playing with us. We’re excited to see him get on the field and get after it.”
Nelson has helped Bryant and other receivers hit the ground running this offseason. He’s involved in meetings and game plans, trying to be as quarterback friendly as possible.
“Nothing is just being left under the rug,” Carr said last week. “Nothing is just being thrown out the window and not thought about. Jordy is very detailed. He wants to do everything exactly how you want it done. I see why Aaron (Rodgers) loved throwing him the ball. He knows if you’re comfortable, you’ll throw it to them. I think all the guys are taking note of that.”
The Raiders hoped to add production and leadership with Nelson’s acquisition. The 32-year old has a long track record of success in the NFL, save a down period save a stretch last year after Rodgers got hurt.
Nelson won’t be a motivational speaker, but his professionalism could set an example for an otherwise young receiver corps.
“When you add a guy like that, it just trickles down throughout the whole room of guys just their study habits,” Carr said. “You see Jordy off to the side when another group is in, if you just look over there, he is probably just telling somebody something about a route or a technique or a coverage. He’s very smart. He can read coverage like a quarterback.”
Browns fans are excited with their three-headed monster at running back. Chris Wesseling on a significant extension for RB DUKE JOHNSON:
The Browns might have bolstered their backfield with the additions of veteran Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb, but that doesn’t mean Duke Johnson is being phased out of the offense.
Johnson agreed to a three-year, $15.6 million contract extension ($7.7 million guaranteed) with the Browns on Thursday, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via sources close to the situation. The deal includes a $5 million signing bonus. The team later confirmed the extension.
Johnson was the most reliable performer in coach Hue Jackson’s attack last season, totaling 1,041 yards from scrimmage on 156 touches. Among the best pass-catching specialists in football, he finished third among all running backs in receiving yards (693) and fourth in receptions (74).
Although Hyde and Chubb project to handle early down rushing chores, Johnson will ride sidecar to quarterback Tyrod Taylor in obvious passing situations. Considering new play-caller Todd Haley’s success with Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield in Pittsburgh, Johnson’s targets might actually increase in 2018.
Boasting a pair of new quarterbacks, a diverse backfield and a deeper wide receiver corps, the Browns’ offense should be among the NFL’s most improved.
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While praising his new QBs, WR JARVIS LANDRY throws shade at his former teammates (or did he?). Herb Habib of the Palm Beach Post:
You could say receiver Jarvis Landry doesn’t appear to be missing Miami much.
While praising Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Thursday, Landry took a swipe at his former QB with the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill.
But wait: That report was posted on NFL.com, which contained only excerpts of what Landry said. The full interview, posted on cleveland.com, includes other comments in which Landry credited Tannehill and even went so far as to say he “loves” Jay Cutler.
What to make of it all? You decide.
“It makes me that much more excited,” Landry said of playing with Taylor, according to NFL.com. “It’s a lot better than what I had in Miami. I’m excited about that.”
Landry, Miami’s leading receiver last year, was traded to Cleveland for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-rounder in 2019.
The Browns agreed to give Landry the kind of money Miami would not: $75 million over five years. The trade went down because the Dolphins originally placed the franchise tag on Landry to assure they’d get something in return.
“Honestly, I didn’t have any plans to play on the franchise tag,” Landry told cleveland.com reporter Dan Labbe. “I think that was part of the reason for the trade as well.” He added, “Long-term security is why we play this game.”
Getting back to Tannehill …
“I think Tannehill’s skill level and the way that he was playing the year we went to the playoffs before his injury was at a high level and he could have took us to a championship or whatever or whatnot, but it didn’t happen,” Landry said. “Things happen in the NFL and we moved past it and the next season we had Jay Cutler and I love Jay. I love Jay. I really do.”
Landry said the Browns’ skill players got together following the trade, had another gathering in Miami and planned a third activity this summer.
“I love it,” Landry said. “Again, I didn’t do that in Miami with the quarterbacks because they didn’t want to do it. I would say that the chemistry and the type of guys that I’m around here makes me that much more excited because I know I’m going to be pushed at all levels at all times.”
Some of Landry’s comments appeared to point a finger at Tannehill, but a secondary headline on NFL.com specified he was talking about the quarterbacks he played with in Miami “in 17,” which obviously did not include Tannehill, who was out with a knee injury. In that regard, Landry appeared to be talking about Cutler and Matt Moore.
In an odd way, Landry might be agreeing with the Dolphins. Coach Adam Gase cleaned house this offseason and repeatedly has praised the culture in the locker room, saying the players he now has are the kind he has longed for.
Some maintain that the Dolphins did the right thing, not wanting to overpay a slot receiver. Landry’s response: “Every receiver’s a slot receiver, depending on the offense. If you go back, I think I caught 60 balls in the slot this past year, but guys like Julio Jones, he catches at least 30, 40 balls from the slot.”
Landry later indicated that part of the perception regarding his accomplishments could be traced to where he played.
“What I’ve done, I feel like it goes under-appreciated because we’ve been losing and Miami’s not a great market, so I think it does get under-appreciated, but every receiver’s a slot receiver.”
It’s starting to look like QB ANDREW LUCK is still hurting. This from former NFL GM Jeff Diamond at The Sporting News:
With less than two months until training camp and as the Colts’ offseason program winds down, Andrew Luck still is not throwing in team drills. Despite proclamations of the Indianapolis front office that the quarterback will be ready to go full tilt on Day 1 of camp, there surely is plenty of nervousness being kept under wraps.
I understand it’s important for the leadership of an organization to put on a good public face to keep concern from turning into panic when the face of the franchise is the focal point. When I was a GM, thankfully I never had to deal with our starting quarterback missing the entire prior season and ensuing offseason as he tried to return from a major injury.
But I was plenty uneasy with situations such as that involving our Vikings first-round running back Robert Smith, who came back from two ACL surgeries. Things turned out well in Smith’s case; he had several Pro Bowl seasons after overcoming his injuries.
In the Luck case, we’re talking about Colts owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich trying to reassure players, coaches, team staff, fans, media and sponsors that the team’s best player will indeed be steering the ship this season as the team seeks to rebound from last year’s 4-12 disaster. And they also want Luck to know they believe in and are counting on him.
The party line is that Luck has been working diligently through a carefully constructed rehab process; he will begin throwing without limitations in the weeks between minicamp and training camp so he can be ready in late July when the Colts report. He has been building his upper and lower body to take pressure off his surgically repaired right shoulder. And he reportedly has moved from tossing lighter to heavier balls in order to increase his arm speed and build strength.
Back in February, there were lots of positive Luck-related quotes, such as Ballard saying, “I’m very confident and he’s very confident that he’s going to come back and prove a lot of people wrong.” Irsay said in March that Luck will “throw quite a bit” during the offseason program.
That has not been the case, and it likely will not occur during next week’s mandatory minicamp, the most important pre-training camp activity. Ballard and Irsay have not been as talkative on Luck lately as they await his return.
Reich, a first-year head coach, is installing an offense similar to the Eagles’ aggressive, quick-strike passing attack that he as offensive coordinator and head coach Doug Pederson parlayed to a Super Bowl title. There will be more no-huddle and up-tempo play in the Colts’ system.
Luck has been doing all the mental drills, but it’s not the same as live action. Ex-Colt Peyton Manning expressed it well last week by saying it’s about getting a great number of on-field team reps when returning from major injury. And Manning should know.
Reich recently said of Luck: “He’s got elite level ability mentally and physically. I’m very confident that when he starts taking reps that things will accelerate very quickly. I’m not worried at all.”
Sorry, coach, but we know you’re concerned. It’s only natural.
Reich wanted his starter to be running the new offense by this point. The coach knows it’s important for Luck to have as much time as possible to build chemistry with so many new faces like free-agent signees Eric Ebron at tight end and Ryan Grant at wide receiver, plus two draftees at wide receiver in Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain. There also are several new faces on the offensive line, led by first round-guard Quenton Nelson and second-round guard Braden Smith. They need to step up quickly to help a line that allowed a league-high 56 sacks last season.
The Colts also have the benefit of a backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett who has had a full offseason to prepare, unlike last year when he started 15 games and played mediocre after being acquired from the Patriots in a trade eight days before the season opener. But Indy’s hope is that Brissett will be holding the clipboard throughout the regular season after sharing time with Luck in the preseason. If Luck can’t make it back or is reinjured, the Colts might have to seek an option better than Brissett.
When and if Luck does return, everyone will wonder how quickly he will be able to shake off the rust. Will he be the old Luck or close to it when Indianapolis hosts Cincinnati in the season opener? Will he be able to handle the hits he’ll inevitably absorb? Can his shoulder stand up to throwing 600-plus passes?
Realistically for the Colts to be a playoff contender, they will need Luck at the top of his game right off the bat in a regular season that pits them against a tough stretch in Weeks 3-5 — they play at Philadelphia, host division-rival Houston and then go to New England. Indianapolis also takes on defending division-champion Jacksonville twice in a four-week stretch.
So the watch in Indy continues for the return of the $26 million-per-year quarterback who had $87 million guaranteed on the $140 million extension he signed in 2016. And, believe me, it’s painful for a team owner and GM to have their highest paid player out for such an extended period.
At 28, Luck has the time and talent to rekindle an outstanding career. But until everyone sees him on the field throwing full throttle and leading the Colts back to the playoffs, it remains a big if.
The next few months will remain nerve-wracking for Colts Nation.
Within the last fortnight, LUKE FALK’s father looking on in horror as two teammates brought a sword to bear on the rookie quarterback. Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com explains:
Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Luke Falk never saw it coming. He was chatting with his dad in the team’s hotel lobby when he saw a glimpse of linebacker Will Compton, eyes wide, ready to end him.
Falk sprinted for the hotel doors. Compton and team ally, receiver Michael Campanaro, caught him, stabbing him with a Nerf sword. Falk simply shook his head. He let his guard down at the wrong time.
“Best kill is the first one. He was a runner, but he couldn’t escape. He wasn’t strapped. We had to take his soul,” Compton said. “You gotta stay strapped.”
This is the way of life in the Titan Games — a real-life version of the popular survival video game “Fortnite” — that has put the entire Titans roster on guard for several weeks. Players carry their sword everywhere, like it’s a cell phone. The game runs until minicamp ends on June 14.
The rules are simple: Each team has two members, one offensive player and one defender. The game cannot be played inside the team facility. On days that the team is practicing, game curfew is 7:30 p.m. On days with no practice, game curfew is midnight. Every player must have a Nerf sword on him at all times during that period. If you don’t, well … that’s how you end up like Falk.
“It’s called tagging, not killing, it’s 2018 — that could be a trigger for some people,” left tackle Taylor Lewan proclaimed, explaining the rules. “You have to have video evidence of you tagging someone with a sword. Once that person is tagged, they are out. The winner gets a prize at the end. So far it’s gone well, lost some guys out there. I’m still alive for now, and I’m very happy to be alive.”
The idea was presented to the Titans’ offensive line by former coach Russ Grimm. Lewan discussed it with Compton over breakfast one day and they made the joint decision to run the idea by coach Mike Vrabel.
“I came in thinking it was going to be a hard no,” Lewan said.
But Vrabel was up for it. He saw an opportunity to build some team chemistry, have some fun during organized team activities and allow the team’s competitive juices to flow off the field — with some rules, of course.
“We thought it’d be a good opportunity for our players to get to know each other,” Vrabel said. “They seem to be having fun with it and being safe with it at the same time. It gives us a break away from football. This is hard. I get it. We ask a lot of them. Hopefully we can find some time to have some fun in and around all the coaching.”
The Lewan-Compton pairing was natural, but other interesting duos include: quarterback Marcus Mariota and linebacker Derrick Morgan, running back Derrick Henry and cornerback Logan Ryan, and tight end Delanie Walker and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.
Compton said they’ve taken at least eight souls, but noted Mariota was “one of the good guys,” and they hadn’t seen him out yet. Nearly all the rookies have been eliminated.
“The idea of the whole thing is when we’re out at practice — it’s business. When we’re outside, let’s have a little fun,” Lewan said. “If you go to the bars with a couple guys, you see another guy out there, make sure you have your sword and take out a dude or two.
“You may go to someone’s house, lay under their car, wait until they wake up in the morning and, ‘boom’ you’re got.”
The Lewan-Compton duo is creative. Lewan had his fiancée, Taylin Gallacher, dress up as a hotel employee to knock on other players’ doors to secure tags. It was successful a few times. They tagged rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans when he was in the hotel lobby talking to his mom. They tagged second-year linebacker Jayon Brown at the airport.
“Poor Jayon, bless his heart. We lost him on Saturday night,” Lewan said. “But you know what, he wasn’t strapped, so that’s his problem.”
There will be a prize for the champion when the game ends on June 14. Coaches collect the info on the tags and report the news each morning with a R.I.P. label that draws a bunch of laughs. It has become an official team OTA game.
But the biggest perk for the winners might be the pride of holding it over the rest of the team for much of the summer. It’s a way to make June fun, but some are taking this seriously.
“The endgame is when we take all of the souls, one-by-one,” Compton said with a stare that looked like he was eyeing up an opposing quarterback. “We will win. No mercy.”
Now QB TOM BRADY tells us he wasn’t sending us a message about Bill Belichick when he skipped OTAs. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said his absence from voluntary workouts had nothing to do with coach Bill Belichick, calling the reasons “personal” as he expressed excitement for the 2018 season.
“We’ve always had a great relationship,” Brady said of Belichick after the team’s final practice of mandatory minicamp on Thursday. “I’ve been here for a long time and I love this team, I love this organization, and I love playing quarterback for him. I loved it last year. I’m having a lot of fun now, so that’s obviously what’s most important to me.”
Brady, who enters his 19th season under Belichick, was asked what has changed from past years when he would attend voluntary workouts and had commented on them as a time to lay a foundation with teammates.
“It’s obviously important for everybody. Our coaches do a great job getting us ready. Just some personal reasons for me,” he responded. “But I’m here now and focused on what I need to do, as I always say I am. I’m looking forward to this year.”
Brady, who has signed the majority of his contract extensions with two years remaining on his deal, is under contract through the 2019 season. His most recent extension, in 2016, paid him an average of $20.5 million per season. The highest-paid quarterback in the NFL is currently Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, who signed a deal worth $30 million per season.
Asked if his contract status was a reason he’s stayed away from the team, Brady deflected.
“I’ve never talked about my contract. I’ve never brought up money for a lot of reasons that I’ve said over the years,” he said. “Those things are very personal.”
Brady, who turns 41 in August and is the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, said he never considered retirement over the past few months. He said the team’s three-day minicamp was productive, and now the focus is to build momentum into training camp in late July.
The Patriots are scheduled for a few more voluntary practices next week, but Brady didn’t commit to attending them, saying, “We’re not even through today yet.”
He added that he hopes his absence in previous voluntary practices doesn’t hurt the team.
“Every year has different challenges, you know? There’s some years where, I mean, obviously this team has very high expectations. We’re trying to win every game. That’s what our goals are,” he said.
“I think those things we have a lot of time to work on literally. Figuratively there’s a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s going to be up to us individually to prepare as best we can and then collectively when we come together we do the same.”
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WR JULIAN EDELMAN gets a 4-game suspension from the NFL and fingers are pointed at exercise guru Alex Guerrero. From TheRedZone.org:
In light of Julian Edelman’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, trainer Alex Guerrero released a statement Thursday night to defend the integrity of his practice, Kevin Duffy of Masslive reports.
Per Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston, here’s what Guerrero said:
“I’ve known Julian since his rookie year and he is a phenomenal athlete who takes his training seriously — it’s disappointing to hear today’s news. Elite athletes sometimes work with multiple coaches and health professionals as part of their off-season training.”
“Here at our facility, we take a natural, holistic, appropriate and, above all, legal approach to training and recovery for all of our clients. And anyone who would suggest otherwise is irresponsible, and just plain wrong.”
Guerrero made sure to note that elite athletes train with “multiple coaches and health professionals.” This way, he’s pinning the blame on…some other strength and conditioning coach, somewhere.
So, which other training professionals does Edelman work with?
There’s the Pats’ training staff. There’s Guerrero. And if there’s anyone else, it hasn’t been publicized.
The substance for which Edelman allegedly tested positive remains undisclosed.
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And this about a trade of TE ROB GRONKOWSKI. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Social media has been lighting up today with rumors of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski getting traded, but don’t believe every rumor you see.
Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston reports that there is “zero truth” to any talk of an imminent Gronkowski trade.
The rumors were so thinly sourced that ordinarily they wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. But after a pending Julian Edelman suspension showed up on Reddit one day and on ESPN the next, everyone is wondering what the next big Patriots story to get spilled on social media will be.
Furthermore, a Gronkowski trade isn’t totally unthinkable: There have been reports that Gronk isn’t happy in New England, that he and Bill Belichick don’t see eye to eye, and that he wants a new contract. All that adds up to sound like a player that could be traded.
But just because Gronk could be traded, that doesn’t mean he will be. This is one rumor without a lot behind it.
THIS AND THAT
T.O. NO GO
Terrell Owens says he will not be in Canton the first week in August:
Terrell Owens, who was selected for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, has declined an invitation to attend the induction ceremony, he said Thursday.
“While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton,” Owens said in a statement released Thursday. “… After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere.”
Owens, who said he has let the Hall of Fame know of his intentions, added he will announce “where and when” he will celebrate his induction at a later date. He later tweeted out his statement with a simple “Sincerely, #81” added to it.
“We are disappointed but will respect Terrell’s decision not to participate in the enshrinement,” Hall of Fame president David Baker said in a statement. “While unprecedented, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the nearly 5,000 volunteers and the entire community are committed to celebrating the excellence of the Class of 2018 that will kick off the NFL’s 99th season.”
Baker said the Pro Football Hall of Fame would have no further comment on Owens’ decision.
A finalist for the past three years, Owens had been a hot-button candidate with his own public criticisms of the board of selectors after he had not been chosen for the Hall in 2016 or 2017.
Owens was selected for enshrinement in the class of 2018 along with Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher and Brian Dawkins. They will be joined by Bobby Beathard (contributor) and seniors committee nominees Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile.
The enshrinement ceremony will be Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.
“I wish to congratulate all past, current and future inductees,” Owens said in the statement. “It is quite an honor to be part of such elite company. This honor is something that I will cherish forever.”
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com offers a theory (follow the money):
It’s not entirely clear why receiver Terrell Owens won’t be participating in the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One person with knowledge of how the ceremony works has offered a theory.
For the Hall of Famer, induction weekend can be an expensive proposition, with travel and lodging for multiple family members and friends, and the cost of a party commemorating the honor. As one source explained it, most Hall of Famers get financial support from the team with which they are most associated, or possibly from a sponsor.
Given that Owens played for so many teams — and routinely nuked the bridge back to each one — it’s possible that Owens realized during his initial visit to Canton that: (1) Hall of Fame weekend won’t be cheap; and (2) the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and/or Bengals won’t be chipping in to cover the tab.
If Owens can instead persuade another network to televise an induction party, at which Owens would deliver his speech, the network would foot the bill for the event. And Owens would have a one-man Hall of Fame party that potentially will upstage the official enshrinement of Owens and seven others.
That theory regarding the real reason for the decision of receiver Terrell Owens to not show up for the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony may have some merit.
As explained on Thursday night, Hall of Fame weekend can be an expensive proposition, from travel expenses for the inductee and his entourage to lodging expenses for the inductee and his entourage to a party that can become lavish, and thus very pricey.
We’ve picked up a little factual information that supports that theory, to a certain extent. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Hall of Fame covers the travel and lodging expenses for the Hall of Famer and those accompanying him. (Surely, there’s a limit to that; otherwise, the Hall of Famer could invite everyone he’s ever known.) The Hall of Fame, however, doesn’t pay for the party. And given the lavish Justin Timberlake-headlined bash that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threw for himself in 2017, the bar has been set at a level that few Hall of Famers can begin to match without outside help.
The Hall of Fame would have tried to help Owens with the party expenses if he’d asked, but apparently he didn’t. The sense has been that Owens felt disrespected by being passed over twice before getting in (indeed, he skipped out on the TV appearances held in the aftermath of securing enshrinement in February), but it wasn’t until after he went to Canton that Owens decided not to return.
So confusion lingers regarding the real reason for T.O.’s looming no-show. It could be that no one was willing to pay for the party. It could be that Owens realized that, when it was time to put together the list of people who would be accompanying him for the weekend, not many names would have been on it. It could just be Owens being Owens.
Regardless of the reason(s), Owens won’t be going, and he’s fully within his rights not to go. The fact that so many people are upset about it underscores the fact that the only opinion that matters is his.
KAEP AND TRUMP
Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com gets the plan from Colin Kaepernick’s attorneys. They are thinking big.
After months of circling President Donald Trump during NFL depositions and discovery, Colin Kaepernick’s lawyers are expected to force Trump directly into the ongoing legal battle between the quarterback and league.
Kaepernick’s legal team is expected to seek federal subpoenas in the coming weeks to compel testimony from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other officials familiar with the president’s agenda on protesting NFL players, sources with knowledge of the quarterback’s collusion case against the NFL told Yahoo Sports.
The aim will be a dive into the administration’s political involvement with the NFL during Kaepernick’s free agency and the league’s handling of player protests, sources said. This after recent disclosures that multiple owners had direct talks with Trump about players kneeling during the national anthem. The content of those conversations between Trump and owners – as well as any forms of pressure directed at the league by the administration – are expected to shape the requests to force the testimony of Trump, Pence and other affiliated officials, sources said.
What has to happen for Trump to be subpoenaed?
Due to the nature of the rules in collective bargaining grievances, reeling in sworn testimony from the political sector will create at least one additional hurdle for Kaepernick’s camp. The quarterback’s legal team first must notify the system arbitrator of the need for targeted depositions beyond the boundaries of the agreement between the NFL and the player’s union. That would entail presenting a detailed argument to the system arbitrator overseeing the grievance, spelling out the relevance and impact that testimony from Trump or others could have on the grievance. If the arbitrator rules the testimony would be justifiable, that would open the door for Kaepernick’s attorneys to seek the subpoenas in a district court under the Federal Arbitration Act.
That’s also where the process would get more complicated and contentious.
Should the system arbitrator and a federal judge find there is a basis to force Trump or others to sit for depositions, it would raise an argument over whether the president can actually be compelled by the courts to sit for a deposition. Trump could choose to ignore the order or simply decline, leaving it up to the justice system to enforce the subpoena.
Whether that would ever happen is a significant matter of debate.
Trump’s lawyers already fighting subpoenas in Mueller case
Multiple media outlets have reported Trump’s lawyers have already argued to special counsel Robert Mueller that the president couldn’t be compelled to comply with a criminal subpoena in the Russian collusion probe. It stands to reason if Trump would refuse to sit for a deposition in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, he’s also likely to refuse to comply with a subpoena from a district court stemming from Kaepernick’s arbitration case.
Complicating matters further? Even if Trump was attracted to lock horns more directly with Kaepernick, doing so in a deposition could potentially expose the president legally if it is found he somehow bore responsibility for NFL owners refusing to offer Kaepernick a job.
Still, there is also a flip side for Trump, whose head-on verbal barrage against the NFL over protesting players has been a red-meat issue politically, stoking his base and creating a staple talking point he has continually revisited. In theory, taking part in the Kaepernick case would give him the opportunity to air his thoughts about the quarterback face-to-face in a deposition – much the same way multiple NFL owners have done in the process. It would also offer Trump fertile material for his steady diet of social media and “Fox & Friends” appearances, which can’t be discounted.
How will Kaepernick’s team build an argument to subpoena Trump?
But long before that quandary comes to fruition, Kaepernick’s attorneys will be tasked with illustrating a connection between the quarterback’s unemployment and Trump’s pressure on the NFL regarding protests during the national anthem.
With that in mind, multiple incidents could factor prominently into the request for subpoenas. Among a few (but not all) that could ultimately be referenced by Kaepernick’s attorneys:
• In August 2016, as a Republican presidential candidate, Trump went on Seattle radio station KIRO and remarked of Kaepernick protesting during the national anthem: “I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”
That could prove to be significant, because it can be framed as the “clock-starting” moment when Trump’s interference in Kaepernick’s livelihood first began, then extended and became amplified into the presidency.
• In March 2017, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined Trump on a flight aboard Air Force One in which the two men engaged in conversation. The next day, at a speaking event in Kentucky, Trump bragged that NFL owners weren’t signing Kaepernick because they were afraid of him.
“Your San Francisco quarterback, I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” the president said. “… There was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”
In a later deposition in the Kaepernick case, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross testified Kraft told NFL owners he had spoken to Trump about players kneeling during the anthem. It wasn’t clear if that conversation occurred on the Air Force One flight or a different date.
• In September 2017, Trump spoke directly to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who later revealed during his deposition in the Kaepernick collusion case that the president told him, “Tell everybody [in the NFL], you can’t win this one. This one lifts me,” and that the player-kneeling issue was a “very winning, strong issue for me [politically].”
• Also in September 2017, Trump blasted NFL players during a speech in Alabama, taking direct aim at the jobs of kneeling players.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump said.
• In October 2017, Trump again spoke directly about Kaepernick, and again suggested NFL retribution against the quarterback for his kneeling during the anthem.
“I watched Colin Kaepernick [in 2016], and I thought it was terrible, and then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming, and frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game, and he would have never done it again,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “They could have then suspended him for two games, and they could have suspended him if he did it a third time, for the season, and you would never have had a problem. But I will tell you, you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem. You cannot do that.”
• Also in October 2017, Trump admitted to orchestrating a walkout of an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts, in which Pence attended the game briefly and then left when players knelt during the national anthem.
• In late October 2017, a handful of NFL owners met with a select group of players during the league’s New York meetings. In a confidential meeting that was secretly taped and then leaked to the New York Times, Kraft can be heard referring to kneeling as the elephant in the room.
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said, according to the Times. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
The Times also quoted other owners at the meeting talking specifically about Trump’s impact. They included Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, who reportedly said, “We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula, who reportedly worried that, “All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again. We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.”
• In March 2018, Ross told the New York Daily News that Trump had influenced him to reverse his support of players who chose to kneel during the anthem. It was the first time that an owner said publicly that Trump had influenced their stance on the issue.
“I think initially I totally supported the players in what they were doing, because it’s America – people should be able to really speak about their choices and show them [in] doing that,” Ross said. “But I think when you change the message, about, is it support of our country or the military, it’s a different message. When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against the kneeling. …[Trump’s] message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that’s the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that, because that’s how I think the country is now interpreting the kneeling issue.”
• In May 2018, after the NFL passed a rule prohibiting kneeling during the national anthem – but allowing players to remain in the locker room during the ceremony if they wish – some owners admitted that Trump had impacted the league’s motivation for creating a rule. The day after the NFL passed the rule, Trump once again revisited his remarks about players’ job statuses or whether they should be in the country if they didn’t stand for the anthem.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing – you shouldn’t be there,” Trump told “Fox & Friends.” “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
That is only a handful of some of the incidents reflecting Trump potentially influencing NFL owners on either Kaepernick or kneeling players. It doesn’t account for all of his statements or address the multitude of tweets he has sent about the issue – nor other private conversations that have reportedly occurred inside the NFL about his impact.
It remains to be seen whether the totality of those incidents will be enough to convince the system arbitrator in Kaepernick’s case or a federal judge to conclude that forcing depositions of Trump, Pence or others is necessary. But that appears to be the next avenue of pursuit for Kaepernick’s legal team, in a case that has only seemed to gain more traction with each passing month.
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Then this surprising twist. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
President Trump has railed against NFL players who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem as unpatriotic over the last two years while ignoring the stated reasons for the protests but that changed a bit on Friday.
Those reasons center on inequality in the treatment of minorities by law enforcement in the United States and the President said during a press gathering ahead of his trip to the G-7 meeting that players have “seen a lot of abuse, they’ve seen a lot of unfairness” during their lives. He also invited players to make known people they think have been treated unfairly and promised to look into those cases.
“I’m going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that’s what they’re protesting — people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system. And I understand that. I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated and I’m gonna take a look at those applications and if I find and my committee finds that they’ve been unfairly treated than we’ll pardon them. Or at least let them out.”
There’s no way to pardon or let out people who are dead after run-ins with law enforcement, of course. Those deaths and the response to those deaths by law enforcement agencies and the justice system are a major part of what spurred the protests in the first place and were not addressed by the President on Friday.