The Daily Briefing Friday, May 19, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com tries to puzzle out what the Bears have been trying to accomplish:

 

Chicago Bears

 

What went right

 

The Bears’ secondary is better. After fielding a series of truly terrifying defensive backfields since Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings left town, they finally invested in upgrades this offseason. They found a good deal on Prince Amukamara, signing the former Giants corner to a one-year, $7 million deal after he had a solid season in Jacksonville. The three-year, $16 million deal they gave Marcus Cooper isn’t quite as promising, but it’s reasonable money for a player who has looked competent at times for the Chiefs and Cardinals. Quintin Demps isn’t a star, but he’s a functional safety. These are all upgrades for a unit that sunk below the depths of replacement level far too frequently last season.

 

What went wrong

 

They threw assets at their quarterback situation and came away with question marks. Even if the Bears end up finding a useful quarterback out of the combination of Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky, it’s difficult to admire how they approached the market in doing so. General manager Ryan Pace committed $18.5 million in guarantees to Glennon despite suggestions that nobody else was interested in coming close to matching Chicago’s offer. It’s hard to imagine that there was an enormous market of teams lining up to give Glennon starting quarterback money, given his relative ineffectiveness during his time with the Bucs and perennial inaccuracy dating back to college.

 

Pace then usurped Glennon before the QB ever took a snap by trading up one spot with the 49ers to grab Trubisky in the draft at No. 2 overall. Chicago was able to recoup some of the picks it gave up in the Trubisky deal by trading down with Arizona on Day 2, but it’s telling that the Browns and 49ers — two teams in desperate need of a quarterback — didn’t think Trubisky was worth taking with the first or second overall selection. (The Bears could have also made that Day 2 trade with the Cardinals without making the Trubisky deal and just enjoyed extra picks.)

 

Former North Carolina signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky was the draft’s consensus top QB, but the Bears already invested in another QB this offseason. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

The argument that any price is worth paying if the Bears are right isn’t really logical; there’s a reasonable chance the Bears have wasted millions of dollars and multiple draft picks in signing two mediocre players. They might also have two useful quarterbacks, to be fair, but they appear to be out on an island in terms of their evaluations. Usually, that’s a recipe for failure.

 

They went all-in for small-school prospects in the draft. I’m not fond of hipster-shaming, but there’s something painfully obscure about most of Chicago’s picks. Their second-round pick was Ashland’s Adam Shaheen. After drafting Eddie Jackson from the decidedly large school of Alabama in the fourth round, Pace finished up his draft with North Carolina A&T’s Tarik Cohen and Kutztown’s Jordan Morgan.

 

There’s nothing inherently wrong in drafting small-school players, as NFL teams have found success with players like Ali Marpet of Hobart and Pierre Garcon of Mount Union in recent years. When you’re using three of your five picks on small-school players, though, it’s difficult to believe that an organization is effectively sorting through the player pool and accurately evaluating talent, if only because the sheer number of players at larger schools suggest that you should be more likely to take them than the handful coming out of tiny institutions. And if you’re really spotting diamonds in the rough, chances are you should be able to trade down and grab them in later rounds.

 

The most recent example of a general manager who repeatedly fell in love with small-school players was Gene Smith of the Jaguars. Smith had mixed success at best with his small-school picks. Again, it’s too early to say confidently that Pace’s selections will suffer the same fate, but breaking through to the mainstream isn’t easy.

 

What’s next?

 

Wait to find a trade partner for Glennon. Glennon is not particularly useful to the Bears at this point because they basically have him signed to a one-year deal and have every intention of transitioning to Trubisky as their long-term quarterback in the near future. It’s tempting to try to hold out for a Sam Bradford-sized trade offer, but it’s rare for teams to lose their starting quarterback in training camp or the preseason and send a first-round pick to another team to acquire a quarterback.

 

It’s also more plausible that a team in that situation would look up Jay Cutler or Tony Romo before sending away a first-round pick to get a relative question mark like Glennon. The Bears would probably do well to get a mid-round pick for Glennon, and it would help if they restructured his contract to turn some of his $8 million salary into a roster bonus, which would make Glennon a cheaper (and more palatable) trade chit.

 

Grade: C-

 

Elsewhere in the division, Barnwell gives the Lions a “C”, the Packers get a “B-“ and the Vikings achieve a “C+”.  You can read his thinking here.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Mike McCarthy launches a defense of his defensive coordinator.  Aaron Nagler in the Milwaukee Journal:

 

One need not spend a lot of time online to find out how Packers fans feel about the long-tenured defensive coordinator. Calls for Capers’ firing are as much an annual tradition at the end of Packers seasons as players riding kids’ bikes is a tradition at the beginning of them.

 

Despite the annual gnashing of teeth, however, McCarthy has stuck by Capers.

 

Appearing on the Wilde and Tausch radio program on ESPN 540-AM Thursday morning (via an interview that had been recorded the day before), McCarthy was asked about his commitment to Capers and why he tends to lean on loyalty (as he did when kicker Mason Crosby was struggling years ago) instead of implementing sweeping changes.

 

“I think all of us in life have always gone through experiences in our past that you may have quit on something just to get that fresh, new start, and it feels good but in hindsight it was not the best thing for you,” McCarthy said.  “I know I have personally. So I’ve always held true to that in my decision-making process.

 

“You’ve got to make right decisions. Results don’t always prove to be the answer to the right decision. It’s no different than the way we view plays, and this is a conversation Dom and I have all the time.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

Advice for the Vikings from Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com:

 

Look into signing Nick Mangold. The longtime Jets center slipped some in 2016, so it wasn’t a surprise when New York general manager Mike Maccagnan cut Mangold as part of the rebuild. Mangold is recovering from ankle surgery, but he appears to be interested in extending his career. If the 33-year-old can pass a physical, the Vikings should consider signing him to be their starting center, which would allow Berger to play guard and Elflein to serve as depth during his rookie season while learning from a seven-time Pro Bowler.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers have signed a veteran back-up for JAMEIS WINSTON, and since it is not COLIN KAEPERNICK, more ammo is provided to those in the media certain an NFL black ball is at work on the distinguished social activist.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Buccaneers lost their veteran backup quarterback to Chicago via free agency. They’ve finally added one.

 

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Bucs have added veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 34-year-old Harvard graduate spent the past two seasons with the Jets, after stops in Tennessee, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.

 

A 16-game starter in three of his NFL seasons, Fitzpatrick had his best performance in 2015, his first year with the Jets. A contract impasse caused him to miss the offseason program, and possibly contributed to a subpar 2016, with a major reduction in his performance — and a 5-11 season.

 

Fitzpatrick becomes the primary backup to Jameis Winston, and possibly a mentor to the third-year player as he tries to become a full-blown franchise quarterback.

– – –

Crime and punishment in Hillsborough County, Florida.  Greg Auman in the Tampa Bay Times:

 

The teenager who was charged with the armed burglary of Gerald McCoy’s home, injuring the Bucs’ player’s father hours before a game in November, has been sentenced to five years in prison in a plea agreement related to six other felony charges against him.

 

Justin Frazier, 18, of Wesley Chapel entered into a “best interest” plea agreement May 3, with credit for 180 days already served in jail, according to court records. He was facing a combined nine felony charges from six incidents, though the largest came in the burglary that fractured the wrist of McCoy’s father Nov. 3.

 

Frazier faced counts of armed burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft from that incident, as well as misdemeanor charges of battery and trespass. He also faced separate charges of grand theft, robbery and dealing in stolen property related to four other incidents between July and November last year. Officially, Frazier entered a guilty plea on one felony count of robbery by sudden snatching, with one concurrent sentence for all the charges against him. He agreed to pay $1,200 to another victim and $665 in court costs in addition to the prison sentence.

 

McCoy had publicly expressed forgiveness to Frazier a week after the incident, saying he would pray for him.

 

“That’s a lost kid,” McCoy said. “Probably just needs some guidance. It’s nothing to be upset over. It happens. You could look at it at a different way, like ‘I hate the person that tried to break into my house,’ or you could look at it like somebody who needs help. I would just advise people to pray for this kid.”

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Los Angeles construction workers don’t work in the rain and their bosses didn’t calculate any rain delays in the construction of the new stadium in Inglewood.  As a result, the Rams and the Chargers will be playing three more years in temporary homes, not two.

 

Historically heavy rainfall in Los Angeles has delayed the highly anticipated, $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, by a year.

 

The new facility, to be shared by the Rams and Chargers, will now open in 2020 instead of 2019, the teams said Thursday. In the meantime, the Rams will play at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an additional year and the Chargers will have one more season at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

 

In a conference call with reporters, Rams COO Kevin Demoff expressed disappointment in the delay but stressed: “This is important to get right.”

 

“Stan’s vision is unique,” Demoff said, referring to Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who visualized and funded the project. “I think it’s an unbelievable responsibility for all of us who work on this project to make sure we deliver that for him, for the fans, for Angelenos, for the NFL and for the world when you talk about an event like the 2024 Olympics. It’s much more important to get it right than to make sure you hit a certain date.”

 

Dale Koger, senior vice president and managing director for Legends Project Development, said the initial timeline for the new stadium was “very aggressive” and called the new target date “more conventional,” leaving more wiggle room for potential delays.

 

Opening in the summer also allows for non-football events to take place before the start of the season, said Koger, who acts as the construction project manager for the site.

 

The new stadium was previously approved to host Super Bowl LV in February 2021, but it remains to be seen whether that will continue to be the case. NFL rules stipulate that a team cannot host a Super Bowl at the end of a stadium’s inaugural season, but the league confirmed that a waiver can be obtained in order to bypass that.

 

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, “It’s something the ownership would need to consider.” Commissioner Roger Goodell previously waived the NFL’s rule on minimum temperatures at the Super Bowl so that MetLife Stadium in New Jersey could host Super Bowl XLVIII.

 

Two NFL executives estimated to ESPN that the Rams would lose at least $80 million in future revenue by moving into their new stadium in 2020 instead of 2019, including more than $40 million in sponsorship and ticket sales.

 

“Certainly there will be a revenue hit, and there will be an added-expense hit,” Demoff said. “But this is not a decision about economics. This is a decision based on quality and fan experience.”

 

Record-setting rain this winter coincided with the mass excavation period of construction, causing significant delays in which developers basically lost the better part of two months in January and February.

 

 

SEATTLE

Former NFL GM Jeff Diamond opines that the Seahawks and RICHARD SHERMAN can’t put their relationship back together.

 

A wise NFL executive once said the best trades are often the ones you don’t make. Another truism: It’s better to trade a player one year early rather than one year late.

 

In the strange case of Richard Sherman and the Seahawks, I subscribe to the latter. It’s time for the verbose four-time Pro Bowl corner to move on from Seattle.

 

Sherman may not be playing at the peak level he achieved in 2013, when he led the NFL with eight interceptions during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. But at 29 he remains a talented, productive player. Yet Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider both confirmed back in March that Sherman has been on the trade block this offseason.

 

Sherman himself is rumored to have initiated the trade conversation. He understands trades are part of the business and might be seeking a fresh start elsewhere. Schneider has said a trade would help the Seahawks’ salary cap situation, plus the GM surely had his eye on a couple premium draft picks in a deal.

 

A trade did not materialize prior to or during the draft. Maybe the Seahawks were asking too much. Perhaps other teams were apprehensive about trading for a high-salary player who has the look of an egomaniac and has had several well-reported spats with coaches and media.

 

A combination of factors likely led to the current state of affairs. Carroll now says of a potential trade this year, “the likelihood is zero percent, it seems like.”

 

A team admitting a player is being shopped is extremely rare. Whenever I was asked about potential trades during my GM years, I would always say the team doesn’t talk about possible personnel moves until they happen. Once that bridge is crossed — admitting a trade is a possibility — it’s difficult to turn back.

 

That’s why the Sherman-Seattle saga has the look of a combustible situation that will be a thorn in the team’s side during the 2017 season.

 

Carroll and Schneider acknowledging interest in parting ways with Sherman tells me they’re tired of his arrogant act. He has always been a highly visible, boisterous player who thinks he’s smarter than most everyone else and is never shy about giving his opinions on any subject, football-related or otherwise.

 

Which was fine when he was Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 … not so great when his play is not at its peak and when he’s dissing coaches.

 

Carroll is the ultimate players’ coach who gives his guys plenty latitude in their public comments (or non-comments, in the case of Marshawn Lynch). But the tipping point in this relationship obviously came when Sherman got into a sideline shouting match with Darrell Bevell after the offensive coordinator called a goal-line pass play during a late-season win over the Rams. To add fuel to the fire, Sherman told the media post-game, “We’ve already seen that,” referring to the infamous, last-minute interception in the 2014 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. His outburst prompted a reportedly heated post-game discussion with Carroll.

 

In addition to the Bevell blow-up, Sherman’s refusal to speak to local media, coupled with a knee injury that affected his play over the second half of last season, made for a difficult 2016. This surely led to a feeling in the organization, and with Sherman, that a split was in everyone’s best interest.

 

When a divorce is inevitable, why wait and put more stress on both parties? It’s apparent that Sherman has one foot out the door, so how committed can he possibly be to the team that made him a fifth-round draft pick in 2011?

 

I know how much coaches and GMs dread dealing with unhappy players, as it often creates tension on a team. And in my current work with an NFL agent group, I’ve seen how a player who is not pleased with his situation and/or not 100 percent committed will focus on finding a change of scenery as soon as possible.

 

Sherman is not a burner — he’s a 4.5 guy — and while he’s obviously a quality player, he’s not the most gifted corner athletically. He wins with great technique and smarts. That said, if he has a negative attitude about his future with the Seahawks, it easily could affect his intensity level on the field. He could become a divisive force in the locker room and a distraction to the team, especially the coaching staff.

 

Carroll has had great success as a head coach, but I also can tell you from my experience working with him (when he was the Vikings’ secondary coach under Bud Grant in the 1980s) that he can coach defensive backs as well as anyone I’ve ever been around. He and his coaches should be able to rebuild Seattle’s secondary over the next few years, given that the new players are reasonably talented and committed.

 

Schneider and Carroll might have identified Sherman’s successor when they drafted Shaquill Griffin in the third round of last month’s draft — the highest drafted defensive back under the current GM and coach. They picked another big corner/safety, Mike Tyson from Cincinnati, in the sixth round.

 

By re-signing a backup corner in Neiko Thorpe and drafting two safeties, third-rounder Delano Hill and fourth-rounder Tedric Thompson, Seattle clearly is preparing for life after Sherman and star safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

 

Considering all factors, the best time to trade Sherman was prior to last month’s draft. The Seahawks could have picked up premium picks, and Sherman would have been able to acclimate to his new team during the offseason program.

 

Yet it’s not too late for Seattle to deal him and get a high draft pick or two next year, or perhaps a veteran player and a 2018 pick.

 

If a Sherman trade does not happen this year, it surely will occur in 2018, when he’ll be in the last year of his $14 million-per-year deal and the Seahawks could save $8.8 million in cap room.

 

Both Sherman and Carroll are talking a good game about how the trade rumors will not impact Sherman’s concentration or level of play. That’s an illusion, not reality.

 

The best thing for both the Seahawks and Sherman is to exit this shaky situation and make the best deal possible sooner rather than later.

 

The DB would think that the Seahawks found the market for Sherman to be very, very limited – that’s the issue Diamond doesn’t address.  We think they didn’t find many high draft picks available for a player who seems to be losing a step even as his personality seems to be ratcheting in the direction of disruptive and away from entertaining.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos have held an employee honors luncheon for a long time.  For the first time, a player attended – and not just any player:

 

All-Pro linebacker Von Miller made a surprise appearance at the Denver Broncos’ service awards ceremony Thursday to honor and say thank you to more than 200 team employees.

 

The ceremony, which took place inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse, recognized service milestones that were reached by employees from the team’s stadium and practice facility. Members of the grounds crew, equipment managers and the team’s chefs were among those who were honored.

 

“We couldn’t do what we do if it weren’t for you,” Miller said at the ceremony.

 

@psmyth12

So classy for 5x All-Pro @VonMiller to thank 200+ Broncos employees for their hard work. “On behalf of our team, we appreciate all you do.”

 

Miller, 28, stayed to shake hands with the employees who received awards and also took part in a raffle, the Denver Post reported.

 

He is the first Broncos player to take part in the festivities in the 18 years the team has honored its employees, according to the Post.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders have a lease in Vegas.  Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority on Thursday unanimously approved a conditional lease agreement for the Oakland Raiders, helping avoid any possible delays on the team’s relocation.

 

Raiders president Marc Badain had recently warned that appearing at next week’s NFL owners meetings without a lease in hand could delay the Raiders’ Southern Nevada debut by a year, since the next opportunity to present a lease would not be until October. The Raiders are hoping to break ground on the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium with natural grass this summer.

 

“It means we go to the league meetings in Chicago with a lease and hopefully get it approved and stay on pace for a 2020 opening,” Badain told ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon.

 

While the approval was not necessarily in doubt, the approval paves the way for NFL owners to vote on ratifying the lease at their spring meetings, which begin Monday.

 

The league owners approved the team’s relocation during their gathering in March by a 31-1 vote, the Miami Dolphins the lone dissenting vote, though owners did want to see a lease agreement, design plans and FAA approval. The Raiders have identified a 62-acre plot of land on Russell Road, west of Interstate 15 and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the south end of Las Vegas.

 

The Raiders will share the stadium with UNLV’s football team, which plays in the Mountain West but has designs on eventually moving into a Power 5 conference.

 

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the approved lease “offers the Raiders and their designated events company more confidentiality for their financial information during required audits.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

The Steelers move on from TE LADARIUS GREEN.  Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

 

The Steelers had high hopes that adding veteran tight end Ladarius Green would bring a new dimension to an already potent offense.

 

Instead, he brought them real headaches, and those led to him playing just six games. He caught 18 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown in a brief Steelers career that ended on Thursday when they released him.

 

The Steelers signed the 6-foot-6 tight end as their premier free agent last year after he played four seasons for the San Diego Chargers. He received a four-year, $20 million contract with a $4.75 million signing bonus. He will go down as their worst signing ever in free agency.

 

Not only did the Steelers sign him after Green had ankle surgery in January 2016, a source told the Post-Gazette that they never fully investigated his history of concussions with the Chargers.

 

A surgeon reportedly inserted two metal plates in his ankle and it still was not fully recovered when training camp opened in 2016, when the Steelers placed Green on the physically unable to perform list. Sources at the time told the Post-Gazette that headaches, and not his ankle, was what kept him on PUP until he finally joined them in November to start a six-game stretch before his season ended for good with a concussion.

 

Green’s signing cost the team $6 million, his $4.75 million signing bonus and 2016 salary of $1.25 million. They owe him no more but he will still count $3,562,500 against their 2017 salary cap because they released him before June, according to figures compiled by Over The Cap.

 

His signing came after Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert flew to Pensacola, Fla., on the first day of free agency in 2016 to persuade him to sign with the Steelers.

 

At his introductory news conference in Pittsburgh after he signed, Green scoffed at reports that concussions kept him out of some games in San Diego in 2015. He said those issues were diagnosed as “sinus problems.”

– – –

Green was finally cleared to practice with the Steelers and he played for the first time Nov. 13 against Dallas at Heinz Field. He had his best game in a victory against the New York Giants when he caught six passes for 110 yards and his only touchdown of the season. But two games later, on Dec. 18 in Cincinnati, he had another concussion and never played again.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

DE CALAIS CAMPBELL, now in Jacksonville, thinks his new team is ready to ascend.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Calais Campbell hasn’t been a member of the Jaguars for too long, but he’s been in Jacksonville long enough to know that there’s nothing like a little bit of unbridled optimism about the team during offseason workouts.

 

When the record is 0-0, it’s time to make big pronouncements about the team’s potential to turn in a winning season for the first time in a long time even if last year’s (and 2015’s and 2014’s and so on) fell flat. Campbell, who signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in March, said that he doesn’t think there’s any holes on the roster.

 

“I truly believe this team has every piece to the puzzle,” Campbell said, via the team’s website. “We don’t need anything else. … All we have to do is take care of the small details, and put the things in place. The front office is doing a great job making it competitive, bringing the right guys in to compete. That will allow us to continue to get better. I have confidence in this coaching staff to prepare us so we’re all moving in unison. And I have confidence that my teammates are going to leave it all on the field every day, trying to win now. We have big goals, lofty goals, but all of that will take care of itself. Right now we’re going to take care of the details.”

 

One lesson Campbell likely learned in Arizona is that having the right (or wrong) quarterback can make all the difference for a team. It was a lot easier to win with Kurt Warner or Carson Palmer than it is with Ryan Lindley or John Skelton regardless of how the rest of the roster looked and that brings us to another recurring Jaguars theme.

 

There’s plenty of talent populating the Jaguars roster, but it’s mitigated by questions about whether Blake Bortles is a quarterback who can lead a team to great success. Unless those questions are answered in the affirmative, the Jaguars may remain a team that always looks better in May than it does in November and December.

 

 

TENNESSEE

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com likes the way the Titans have built their lineup:

 

Tennessee Titans

 

QB: Marcus Mariota

RB: DeMarco Murray

WR: Corey Davis

WR: Rishard Matthews

WR: Taywan Taylor

TE: Delanie Walker

LT: Taylor Lewan

LG: Quinton Spain

C: Ben Jones

RG: Josh Kline

RT: Jack Conklin

 

DE: Jurrell Casey

DT: Sylvester Williams

DE: DaQuan Jones

OLB: Brian Orakpo

ILB: Wesley Woodyard

ILB: Avery Williamson

OLB: Derrick Morgan

CB: Logan Ryan

CB: Adoree’ Jackson

S: Johnathan Cyprien

S: Kevin Byard

 

» The Titans have achieved the platonic ideal of offensive team-building over the last few years. They acquired the franchise quarterback first, completed a fantastic book-end set of tackles and now have turned the focus to the perimeter. Tennessee should have two rookie pass catchers starting for them, with No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis and either slot receiver Taywan Taylor or backup tight end Jonnu Smith on the field, depending on the formation.

 

» Tajae Sharpe, a fifth-round pick last year, was the talk of last offseason and entered 2016 as a potential No. 1 receiver. Consider it a sign of progress that Sharpe — who registered 41 catches for 522 yards and two scores — might struggle to even get on the field now.

 

» DeMarco Murray played almost 600 more snaps than rookie Derrick Henry last season. As great as Murray was for the Titans, look for that number to decrease in 2017.

 

» The dramatically overhauled secondary looks far more promising on paper. It’s worth noting, however, that the four projected starters above played on four different teams last year. Ryan was a great role player in New England, but he will be under the microscope after signing a $10 million-per-year contract. Second-year safety Kevin Byard is a candidate to make the leap after a strong rookie season.

 

» The next step in general manager Jon Robinson’s overhaul should come in the front seven. The Titans don’t have many young pass rushers coming down the pipeline.

 

You can see Rosenthal’s comments on the rest of the AFC South here.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

In the wake of Gisele’s comments, Eric Adelson of YahooSports.com expected TOM BRADY to immediately come clean and own up to his crime. 

 

If there is anyone in football who can disclose a brain injury without fear of repercussions, it’s Tom Brady.

 

He is undisputedly tough, undisputedly a team player, undisputedly a champion.

 

He is also secure in his legacy, his finances and his place in the New England Patriots organization.

 

So it’s important that the Patriots’ quarterback speak up following his wife’s admission in a recent CBS interview that he has had multiple undisclosed concussions.

 

This isn’t about a potential league protocol violation as much as it is about public awareness: It would do a lot of good to hear from Brady – even if he had no concussions at all – and it would be a missed opportunity if he kept quiet.

 

Look at it from the perspective of someone who works every day on head trauma awareness:

 

“By not revealing it, hiding from it, it contributes to, one, the stigma surrounding it, and, two, the notion that it’s no big deal,” says Mark Herceg, who is chair of the Westchester County Concussion Task Force. “That can be dangerous over time, especially for younger kids.”

 

Both the stigma and the silence came through in Gisele Bundchen’s interview. “He had a concussion last year,” Bundchen told Charlie Rose. “He has concussions pretty much every – I mean, we don’t talk about it. But he has concussions and I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through.”

 

“We don’t talk about it” is part of the problem, says Herceg, who is a sports neuropsychologist.

 

“I think when it comes to anything related to brain injury, however minor it may be, people get scared and don’t want to address it,” he explains. “They think if they don’t think about it, it will go away. No other part of the body or injury is handled this way.”

 

So it would be helpful for a lot of people if Brady did talk about it. Even if his wife misspoke, that itself would shed some light on the misunderstanding of concussions (which is also a problem). What are the signs and symptoms, and what aren’t? Many people don’t know.

 

Bundchen also touched on another important misconception when she said, “I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through.”

 

It’s certainly not, as any brain injury has the potential for short-term and long-term side effects. But Brady has taken a career’s worth of hits and he’s better than ever. Does that mean he’s immune from potential problems? No. But it is a reminder that the brain is resilient. Brady takes superb care of himself, and that boosts brain health.

 

 “The fear of having a brain change or be damaged causes anxiety,” says Herceg. “But we know the brain has plasticity and does heal if treated the right way when injured.”

 

That’s an important message. Admitting a concussion may feel like weakness in the moment, but it’s strength in the longer run. Any player who speaks openly about symptoms gives himself a better chance at a full recovery.

 

Of course there’s the other factor in this situation: deflate-gate. There’s a looming belief the Patriots are sneaky and deceptive. Admitting a cover-up of a concussion would give the NFL a cause for punishment, and give detractors more fuel for spite.

 

The NFL is looking into Bundchen’s claim, along with the NFL Players’ Association.

 

“We have reviewed all reports relating to Tom Brady from the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants and certified athletic trainer spotters who worked at Patriots’ home and away 2016 season games as well as club injury reports that were sent to the league office,” the NFL said in a statement. “There are no records that indicate that Mr. Brady suffered a head injury or concussion, or exhibited or complained of concussion symptoms. Today we have been in contact with the NFLPA and will work together to gather more information from the club’s medical staff and Mr. Brady.”

 

Ideally, if there were a concussion, the message from both player and league would be the importance of disclosure rather than the punishment. Hopefully that’s something the NFL is aware of in this case. The worst outcome is a chilling effect not only on players, but their loved ones. Bundchen should be commended, not chided.

 

Silence from both husband and wife is a possible outcome here. There may have been no concussion, Bundchen may have misspoken, and Brady undoubtedly wants a well-deserved, controversy-free offseason.

 

But this is still a chance for Brady to reach out to the football community. He can say he would be and will be forthcoming anytime he has concerns or symptoms. A Facebook post would do it.

 

There’s a lot of pressure on him. There’s pressure from within, and pressure from people who’d like to see him fail. He gets a ton of scrutiny, and a competitor like him does not want to yield.

 

But if Tom Brady can’t talk openly about concussions without worry, it doesn’t bode well for the countless athletes who wonder if they should.

 

Serious question from the DB, who is not a brain doctor, duh.  Is it possible to be hit and end up with a headache, but not technically have a concussion? 

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

SHOW THEM THE MONEY

Adam Schein of NFL.com with a list of nine players who should be getting big, new contracts ASAP (two of them are Lions):

 

Here is my list of guys who deserve new money now, Schein Nine style:

 

1) Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

Age: 26

Free agent in: 2018

 

Colleague Michael Silver broke the story this week that Carr’s camp is getting frustrated with the pace of negotiations on a new deal. Well, the quarterback should be frustrated. It’s absurd that it is taking this long. Back in February, Carr said on my SiriusXM Radio show that he thought there was a realistic chance they would reach a deal by March 9 and the start of free agency! Not so much …

 

Carr is not only a great player — he got my Associated Press vote for MVP last season — but he’s a true leader in every sense. He gets it. And that’s crucial, as the team prepares for a move to Las Vegas. Carr stressed to me that he wanted to get a long-term pact done before training camp, so it won’t be a distraction or a topic any of his teammates have to deal with. We are still a few months away from panic, but if the Raiders don’t sign him by mid-July, then it’s disrespectful, counterproductive and flat-out wrong.

 

Derek Carr is a star and the epitome of class. You don’t let him dangle in a contract year.

 

2) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Age: 24

Free agent in: 2018

 

At the age of 24, Hopkins is already a legit No. 1 receiver. In 2015, you could argue he was a top-three wideout in the NFL — racking up 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns, and also becoming the first player in league history to record 100-yard games with four different quarterbacks throwing him the ball. In 2016, he got “Brocked” by completely inept QB play.

 

Last month, though, the Texans traded up to take Deshaun Watson with the No. 12 pick of the draft. This is promising — for Houston and for Hopkins in particular. With a competent quarterback, Hopkins is a nightmare to defend, given his spectacular ability to win at the catch point.

 

It would save Houston money to get out in front of this contractual situation. Like, NOW.

 

3) Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Age: 28

Free agent in: 2018

 

The Redskins should’ve given him franchise-quarterback money last offseason. Now they’re spinning their wheels for reasons beyond my comprehension.

 

Is Cousins the perfect quarterback? No. Is Cousins a fine fit for Jay Gruden and these Redskins? Yes. And he continues to get better. Cousins has spent the past two years rewriting Washington’s record book — he deserves respect from the franchise. The Redskins seem to be forgetting one important thing about this league …

 

There are two types of teams in the NFL: Those that have quarterbacks and those that don’t.

 

Why would this franchise actively choose to go backward? And the threat of Cousins leaving next offseason for San Francisco (and his old offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) looms large.

 

4) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Age: 29

Free agent in: 2018

 

Re-read that Cousins blurb, because much of the same rationale applies here. Stafford isn’t perfect, but he’s currently the Lions’ franchise. And I was very impressed with how dominant he looked for much of last season sans Calvin Johnson. With clutch play late in games, Stafford carried a flawed Detroit team to the playoffs. That was the Lions’ second playoff appearance in the past three seasons. This is a team that hit the postseason once from 2000 through 2013.

 

I’m not sure what’s taking so long. Stafford’s clearly the guy Bob Quinn and Co. should continue building around.

 

5) Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions

Age: 27

Free agent in: 2018

 

Again, what’s taking so long, Detroit?? Yes, hampered by an ankle injury, Ansah suffered a down season in 2016, recording just two sacks in 13 regular-season games. But he’s one year removed from a 14.5-sack, Pro Bowl campaign. And actually, in this past January’s playoff loss at Seattle, Ansah was one of the few bright spots for Detroit, finishing that game with nine tackles and a pair of sacks.

 

If this kind of pass-rushing talent reaches the open market next offseason in his prime, the price tag is going to be astronomical. And Detroit could come up short in a bidding war. You don’t want Ndamukong Suh, Part II.

 

6) Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks

Age: 29

Free agent in: 2018

 

He’s no spring chicken and has suffered some injury nicks in recent years, but I think the world of Kam Chancellor. He’s a bona fide star. Chancellor is a huge part of the identity and fabric of this Seahawks group. He’s the BOOM in the Legion of Boom. He remains a vital piece, on the field and in the locker room. Can you imagine the ‘Hawks without Chancellor? Me neither.

 

Chancellor has been underpaid for years. Give him the loot, Seattle!

 

7) Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Age: 23

Free agent in: 2018

 

After tying for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions in 2015, Robinson slumped a bit last season. In a related story, Blake Bortles had a bit of trouble with the forward pass last season. And even in a down year, Robinson still had 883 yards and six touchdowns. Not horrible.

 

Robinson is a really good player — and a fantastic worker and leader. In other words, he’s a Doug Marrone/Tom Coughlin kind of guy.

 

8) Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Age: 25

Free agent in: 2019

 

As noted just above, Donald isn’t set to hit free agency until after the 2018 campaign. But when this cat becomes a huge star in Los Angeles, don’t say I didn’t warn you to get the deal done far in advance. The price tag will only go up on this type of game-wrecking defender — especially if he has the kind of transcendent season I anticipate in 2017. Yes, I’m picking Donald to win Defensive Player of the Year. And I don’t think I’ll be alone in that prediction.

 

Despite playing on the interior of the defensive line, Donald has piled up 28 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. The guy’s a machine, the kind of talent you build a defense around.

 

9) Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders

Age: 26

Free agent in: 2019

 

He would be higher on this list if it weren’t for Carr. The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year is a free agent after the 2018 season. Oakland should handle Carr first, then instantly pay Mack, before the pass rusher delivers Carr’s premonition of a 30-sack season.

 

Mack, who entered the NFL as the No. 5 pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, has shown immense growth over his first three NFL seasons, establishing himself as one of the best young talents in the entire game. He’s an all-around beast against the pass and the run — a guy who keeps offensive coordinators up at night. Pay the man, Raiders!