The Daily Briefing Friday, November 10, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

With T TAYLOR DECKER back at practice, the Lions can’t wait to get rid of T GREG ROBINSON, the bust from the Rams.

 

The Lions got left tackle Taylor Decker back at practice over a week ago and they said goodbye to a player they acquired in the wake of Decker’s offseason shoulder injury.

 

The team announced that they have waived tackle Greg Robinson with an injured designation. The move may signal Decker’s return is imminent as he can be added to the 53-man roster at any point. Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn’t offer any hints about how close Decker might be when talking about the tackle earlier this week.

 

While Decker should have a long run ahead of him in the NFL, Robinson’s future isn’t nearly as certain. The second overall pick of the 2014 draft flopped with the Rams before being traded to the Lions this offseason. He didn’t do much better with Detroit before picking up the ankle injury that sidelined him the last two games. He was already set to become a free agent this offseason before being dropped by the Lions.

 

Brian Mihalik started at left tackle in those games, but would move back to the bench if Decker’s ready to make his 2017 debut.

 

On the other hand, it looks like DE ZIGGY ANSAH is going to miss Sunday’s game.  He has a back issue.

 

 

MINNESOTA

DE EVERSON GRIFFIN will be looking for a Vikings record on Sunday.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen can set the team record with at least one sack in consecutive games. He currently is tied with Jared Allen and Jim Marshall with eight consecutive games with a sack.

 

Griffen returned to practice Friday from a foot injury, and although the Vikings list him as question, coach Mike Zimmer said Griffen will play.

 

Although Griffen didn’t talk to the media all week, Allen and Marshall did talk to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press about the defensive end’s accomplishment.

 

“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Allen, who had his eight straight games with a sack in 2011. “Records are meant to be broken, so I’m rooting for him.”

 

Griffen has 10 sacks this season, tied for third in the NFL, one behind leader Calais Campbell of Jacksonville.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT has come to the end of the line if his goal was to avoid missing a game and not be available to his team.  Tom Pelissaro of NFL.com looks as to whether Elliott has any chance of clearing his name.

 

Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott’s seemingly endless string of legal timeouts ran out Thursday, when a three-judge panel with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals swiftly denied his request for another injunction, allowing the NFL to enforce his six-game suspension immediately.

 

Elliott’s remaining options for getting the suspension put on hold a fourth time are considered long shots. So, as he prepares for the likelihood he’ll sit beginning with Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons — and most likely beyond, with a hearing in his broader appeal not scheduled until Dec. 1 — there is fallout on several fronts.

 

What it means for the Dallas Cowboys

They’re 5-3, 2.5 games back of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, and just lost the focal point of their offense for what’s likely to be an extended period. I was getting texts within minutes of the decision from people with other NFL teams, hoping this means they won’t see Elliott later this season. (Perhaps the most entertaining point in Thursday’s hearing came when Judge Christopher Droney went back and forth with NFL attorney Paul Clement about whether it’s better or worse for Dallas to lose Elliott now, as opposed to earlier in the season.) The cupboard isn’t bare at running back, with Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith on the depth chart, but none of them are Elliott, whom my annual survey of NFL executives last year pegged as the MVP. Even behind that Cowboys O-line, and even with quarterback Dak Prescott playing well, Elliott’s absence is a big deal.

 

What it means for Ezekiel Elliott

He’ll lose $93,178 for each game missed and is subject to bonus forfeiture (though it seems highly unlikely owner Jerry Jones would pursue that, given his very strong and public support of Elliott). It’ll also be harder for Elliott to pursue another rushing title and earn postseason honors if he serves the full six games — an impact that, his legal team has argued repeatedly in court, would constitute irreparable harm, should he serve his suspension while the case plays out. Elliott’s appellate attorney, Andrew Tulumello, pointed out three federal judges have agreed with that stance in delaying the suspension before. However, three judges also had ruled against Elliott before Thursday, when the panel joined them. There also is, of course, harm to Elliott’s brand and reputation from the domestic violence allegations that led to the NFL investigation and subsequent suspension. The court case is about the process through which an arbitrator upheld the suspension, not whether Elliott is guilty or innocent, but serving time makes it seem less like vindication even if the courts eventually rule in his favor.

 

What it means for other NFL players

Thursday’s ruling showed exactly why the NFL wanted this case to play out in the Southern District of New York rather than in Texas, where the NFL Players Association filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of Elliott that eventually was thrown out by a different appeals court. In the Texas case, Judge Amos Mazzant made a point of saying in court he wasn’t bound by the decision in the Tom Brady Deflategate case, in which a legal challenge to a suspension of the Patriots quarterback ultimately resulted in the suspension going into effect. Not so in the 2nd Circuit, where Judge Dennis Jacobs’ first question Thursday referenced the Brady case — precedent on a similar issue, in the same court, regarding the same collective bargaining agreement at issue in Elliott’s case. The NFLPA has been arguing in all these cases that Commissioner Roger Goodell is overstepping his authority under the CBA and that the process is fundamentally unfair, but once again, the commissioner’s power over discipline has been reaffirmed. Right or wrong, that sends a strong message to other players that Goodell will use that power and the courts have his back, in part because the bar is extremely high for intervening in labor dispute

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Two Giants whispered hurtful things about Coach Ben McAdoo to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.  Publicly, the rest of the Giants have his back:  The New York Daily News:

 

The Giants smell a rat. Two rats, at that.

 

Ben McAdoo’s players were ticked off Thursday about anonymous quotes from two separate Giants players that trashed both their head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the day prior. And they are narrowing their suspect search to corner the pests.

 

“The stuff that was said came out of the defensive side of the room,” strong safety Landon Collins said. “We just want him to come forward and be a man.”

 

Defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said he views the “cowardly” comments in an ESPN report as “lashing out against everybody” on the Giants, not just McAdoo, adding: “I don’t wanna play with” a player who isn’t “all in.”

 

The anonymous criticisms, amid paragraphs of quotes attributed to two different players, included that “McAdoo has lost this team,” that the coach is not a “leader,” and that players “are giving up on the season.”

 

“It sucks that something like that was said,” Casillas said. “Everything’s supposed to be in-house, and for something like that to be said is like, I don’t know, it’s like a rat or somebody in the locker room . . . I feel like we got a close-knit group and I don’t know how something like that could have been said, basically.”

 

“It wasn’t me,” Casillas added, raising his hand.

 

Even Damon Harrison, characteristically reluctant to discuss the story of the day, called out the players.

 

“Whoever said it, whoever was anonymous, is a coward. Flat out,” Harrison said. “If you’re not man enough to put your name behind something that you feel because that hasn’t been echoed to anybody in this locker room. I mean, we could have talked it out if you feel that way. It could have went differently, but point blank, whoever said that is a coward.”

 

Spagnuolo, meanwhile, was taken aback when asked about one player quote that “Coach Spags has really just been panicking in the game” and making poor calls. He actually went as far as to make the startling accusation that ESPN reporter Josina Anderson had manufactured the quotes.

 

“We don’t know — anonymous — we don’t know if it was made up,” Spagnuolo said. “We don’t know if it was actually said. Would that be true? So I’m not going to comment on it. Move on. Any football questions.”

 

Virtually every player approached in the locker room on Thursday defended McAdoo and expressed frustration with the anonymous quotes. The only unique situation was Eli Apple.

 

Apple was asked for his reaction to the anonymous quotes and he answered: “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We keep everything in house.” But then, when Apple was asked if players ripping McAdoo anonymously upset him, a public relations employee cut off the interview and said Apple no longer would be talking to the media.

 

Apple, when asked to confirm that, answered: “I’m not talking today. Rabbit got all my answers,” jokingly referring to teammate Janoris Jenkins. Apple had spoken to the media on Wednesday but that was before the ESPN report had been publicized widely, and there is no across-the-board, once-a-week policy for NFL players.

 

McAdoo also broke from his Thursday policy of answering questions through a team employee and met the media face-to-face and said he was not offended personally and didn’t know how to proceed until he found out who the players are that have these complaints.

 

“Well first things first, I have an open door policy,” McAdoo said. “So any player that has anything to say is welcome to come in the front door and talk. I had a couple conversations over the last couple weeks and I welcome those conversations. And the next thing is it’s pretty simple, it’s hard to help a player when they don’t put their name on a quote. So if they need some help, come see me, I’m the guy that can help ’em.”

 

McAdoo understands that players will naturally feel the urge to “bitch” from time to time, but said there is a difference between complaining and bitching.

 

“Nobody wants to be around a constant complainer,” McAdoo said. “That doesn’t help the team, that doesn’t help the chemistry, that doesn’t help anything get any better.”

 

While the players in the locker room continue to sniff out the rat, McAdoo acknowledged it could be from someone who is no longer on the active roster.

 

“Anonymous quotes can come from a lot of different places,” he said. “It may not come from the 53 (man roster).”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com likes the decision to jettison WR KELVIN BENJAMIN:

 

When the Carolina Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin moments before last week’s deadline, eyebrows raised around the league. Observers questioned why a team with a sputtering offense would jettison its No. 1 receiver while still in contention for a division title/playoff berth. In addition, onlookers couldn’t understand how the move would improve the Panthers’ offense when the departing player was enjoying a productive season as Carolina’s big-play threat and the team didn’t appear to have a WR1 candidate waiting in the wings.

 

To me, it’s quite simple.

 

The removal of Benjamin from the lineup is a classic case of addition by subtraction, and the Panthers’ offense will not only be more explosive, but it will be a more difficult attack to defend heading down the stretch.

 

What?!

 

I’m not spewing hate on the Panthers’ former No. 1 receiver because he was certainly an effective playmaker for the team on the outside. Benjamin posted a 1,000-yard season as a rookie and nearly topped that mark a year ago (941), after returning from an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2015 campaign. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound pass catcher is a dominant red-zone weapon (18 touchdowns in 40 career games) and he expanded the strike zone for Cam Newton as a big-bodied, jump-ball specialist.

 

Despite those impressive attributes as a playmaker, Benjamin was also a bit of an albatross to the unit as a lumbering pass catcher with slow feet and marginal route-running skills. Although his steady production masked those deficiencies, defensive coordinators didn’t respect his game — this was reflected in the number of loaded boxes and press coverages Carolina faced when Benjamin was on the field.

 

Remember, Benjamin was frequently joined on the field by Devin Funchess, a former college tight end who transitioned to wide receiver late in his Michigan career. The 6-4, 225-pound pass catcher not only has a similar game, but he lacks the explosiveness to take the top off the defense as a vertical weapon. With the team’s No. 1 tight end — perennial Pro Bowl selectee Greg Olsen — sidelined by injury, defensive coordinators weren’t truly threatened by anyone on the Panthers’ roster in the passing game. Thus, they could single up the receivers on the outside and drop an extra defender into the box to suffocate the run.

 

“When you have some vertical speed it gets [defenses] to back off a little bit,” Rivera told reporters shortly after the trade, via USA Today. “We saw a lot of single safety with the other safety in the box. And we had to do something to help alleviate pressure on the offense to run the ball.”

 

Interim general manager Marty Hurney echoed those sentiments when he suggested that the team had “too many WRs with similar skill sets” on a radio interview with 102.5 FM The Fan in Charlotte the day after the trade. He went on to say that moving Benjamin would allow “the run game to flourish” and the Panthers to “clear out the box.”

 

In another interview, Hurney discussed the need to put more speed on the field with a diverse set of receivers occupying prime roles.

 

“This was more about getting more speed on the field. We’ve got some young players who we think have some real ability,” Hurney told the Charlotte Observer. “Kelvin was a very good player and was productive for us. It was more getting a mix of skill sets on the field and more speed.”

 

In case you forgot: Hurney was the team’s general manager when the squad went to Super Bowl XXXVIII with Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith playing on the perimeter of a smashmouth offense fueled by Stephen Davis. Muhammad handled the dirty work as the big-bodied receiver between the numbers, while Smith provided the playmaking on the outside. The combination worked well, as the two wideouts helped elevate the play of journeyman quarterback Jake Delhomme during that span.

 

Looking at the team’s current QB1, the removal of Benjamin could also help Newton regain his MVP form. In 2015, with No. 13 sidelined by injury, Newton enjoyed the best season of his career — one that ended with an MVP trophy and Super Bowl appearance. Without Benjamin, Newton was forced to distribute the ball to a cast of pass catchers that featured only Olsen as a feared threat on the perimeter. No disrespect to Ted Ginn Jr. or Philly Brown, but opponents weren’t altering their game plans to stop either guy in the passing game. Newton simply threw the ball to the open man and trusted that his no-name wideouts would get the job done. This is something Tom Brady has done for years as the leader of a team that’s been in title contention for most of his career.

 

Newton has also thrived when forced to elevate those around him — remember his Heisman Trophy season at Auburn? — because it puts more responsibility on his shoulders as a dual-threat playmaker. The offense becomes more potent when it fully utilizes Newton’s skills as a powerful runner and play-action passer to stress the defense.

 

Don’t believe me? Just look at how Newton responded in his first game without Benjamin. The veteran accounted for 223 total yards (137 passing and 86 rushing) while essentially playing the role of a single-wing halfback for the Panthers. And lo and behold, the Panthers won. It might not show up in gaudy fantasy numbers, but the wins pile up when Newton functions as the primary playmaker of an offense that looks a lot like the “power spread” offenses we see at the collegiate ranks (think Ohio State). He remains a dynamic weapon as a dual-threat and the pieces around him should enhance those skills.

 

That brings me back to why removing Benjamin was necessary to help the Panthers’ offense grow this season. The team needed to find more ways to take advantage of their top two draft picks — Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel — as hybrid playmakers. The removal of an outside receiver gives offensive coordinator Mike Shula more opportunities to put the duo on the field at the same time.

 

McCaffrey is already doing yeoman’s work as the team’s designated slot receiver. He leads all running backs in receptions (54) and ranks fourth overall in that category. Although he ranks second on the team in receiving yards, McCaffrey’s ability to align anywhere in the formation forces opponents to tweak their coverage to account for his whereabouts. According to Next Gen Stats, McCaffrey has logged the highest percentage of snaps out wide or in the slot (25.8 percent) among running backs with at least 200 offensive snaps. In addition, he is the fourth-most productive receiver out of “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs), with 38 receptions in 50 pass attempts for 310 receiving yards.

 

The ability to use McCaffrey more as a slot receiver will not only enhance his contributions as a receiver, but it could help him get more touches on jet sweeps and various option plays. This becomes easier to accomplish with Benjamin out of the lineup because it opens up an additional spot in the rotation in three-receiver sets. Although Jonathan Stewart’s fumbling woes led to more carries for McCaffrey in Week 9, the Panthers’ coaching staff undoubtedly took note of the increased production (15 carries for 66 rushing yards) the rookie delivered with more touches and reps.

 

Samuel also benefits from Benjamin’s departure. The rookie speedster moves up in the rotation and becomes an integral part of the offense as a hybrid on the perimeter. He can get his touches on traditional routes on the outside or on reverses, sweeps and pitches via various option plays. That was the original plan for the Ohio State star when he was selected with the 40th overall pick in April, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that he had his career high in touches (four) in the game immediately following Benjamin’s trade. Expect him to assume a bigger role with No. 13 out of the equation.

 

In spite of my insistence that the Panthers’ offense is better off without Benjamin, I must point out that someone will need to fill his role as a deep-ball specialist. He led the Panthers this season in deep-ball passer rating (109.7) on the strength of four receptions (out of six pass attempts) for 118 yards and a pair of scores (with one INT). That production will need to be replaced by one of the aforementioned playmakers or by an unheralded pass catcher like Russell Shepard or Kaelin Clay. While Funchess hasn’t delivered in that role to date (0-for-10 on deep-ball pass attempts), he appears to have Newton’s confidence as a down-the-field weapon. If he can hold his own in that role, the Panthers appear to be better suited for a playoff run without their former No. 1 receiver on the team.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints paid a huge price to get RB ALVIN KAMARA – and so far it looks to be picks well spent.  ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Saints took a significant risk in this year’s draft, shipping both their 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 seventh-round pick to San Francisco to get the 49ers’ third-rounder. Why would the Saints give up a second-round pick and more to acquire a third-round pick?

 

Because, Saints coach Sean Payton said on the PFT PM podcast, they thought the player they were going to take with that pick from the 49ers, running back Alvin Kamara, was special. Payton said that when the Saints’ staff went to Tennessee to see Kamara and some of his college teammates, they came away from it knowing he was a player they wanted on their team.

 

“We felt in the draft process, after our workout up in Tennessee,” Payton said. “We had a vision for the player, certainly, after that day.”

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Three Cardinals are heading to IR after Thursday night’s loss to the Seahawks.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was wrong about left tackle D.J. Humphries tearing his ACL on Thursday night, but he was right about Humphries heading to injured reserve along with two of his teammates.

 

Arians said at a Friday news conference that Humphries dislocated his kneecap and hurt his MCL when he was injured against the Seahawks. He will miss the rest of the season, but the recovery time from that injury should be shorter than a torn ACL would have been and Humphries is expected to be ready for offseason work.

 

Jared Veldheer will move back to left tackle with John Wetzel taking over at right tackle.

 

Arians also confirmed safety Tyvon Branch‘s torn ACL and said that tight end Ifeanyi Momah broke his leg, which makes up the rest of a painful injury report for Arizona.

– – –

RB ADRIAN PETERSON was utterly stifled by the Seahawks, one week after running through the 49ers.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

To say that Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson had a bad game last night would be an understatement. Peterson had one of the worst games ever.

 

Peterson gained just 29 yards on 21 carries against the Seahawks, making for just the seventh time in NFL history that a player has finished a game with more than 20 carries and less than 30 yards.

 

And Peterson’s game was even worse than those numbers suggest: He also lost a fumble on the Cardinals’ first offensive play, and he was later tackled in the end zone for a safety.

 

Peterson has had a very strange start to his tenure in Arizona: His four games as a Cardinal include two games when he topped 130 yards, and two other games when he failed to reach even 30 yards. Peterson is one of just three running backs in the league with two 130-yard games since Week Six, when he became a Cardinal. (The other two are Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott.) But Peterson is also one of just three running backs in the league with two games of 10 or more attempts and 30 or fewer yards since Week Six. (The other two are Carlos Hyde and Elijah McGuire.)

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers hope to get into the win column against the Giants Sunday.  Their hopes for accomplishing that feat have gone up with news that veteran T JOE STALEY is off the injury report and practiced fully.  His orbital bone was damaged two weeks ago in Philadelphia.

 

C.J. BEATHARD will start again at QB for the Niners.

 

 

SEATTLE

Another prominent NFL player bites the dust as CB RICHARD SHERMAN pops his Achilles during Thursday’s win over the Cardinals.

 

In the aftermath, WR DOUG BALDWIN delivers a rant at those who would schedule a game every Thursday.  Gregg Bell in the Tacoma News-Tribune:

 

The Seahawks did not just win their second game in four days thanks to that wondrous, NFL money-making idea called Thursday Night Football.

 

They survived it. And not at all completely intact.

 

“This s*** should be illegal,” Baldwin said of Thursday-after-Sunday games. “It is not OK. It’s not OK. You can quote me on that,” Baldwin said of Thursday-after-Sunday games.

 

“This is not OK. … Absolutely, guys do not have enough time to recover. You can’t recover in four days.”

 

So many Seahawks couldn’t walk without significant pain after this Thursday night “showcase,” about 10 piled onto an equipment cart from all angles outside locker room so they could avoid having to walk to the team bus. Sherman and his crutches plus Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett with his plantar-fascia injury on top of wrecked toe were among them.

 

When I asked Carroll if the NFL needs to end these Thursday games for teams that just played four days earlier, the coach said he didn’t want to answer that.

 

“I don’t want to pay anything so I’m not going to comment about that,” Carroll said.

 

 “I hope you recognize how difficult this is for NFL players, physically.”

 

He didn’t mean the sport. He meant the Thursday night games.

 

Good thing, perhaps, that the Seahawks (6-3) don’t play again until Monday, Nov. 11, 11 days from now, at home on a Monday night against Atlanta.

 

But that won’t help Sherman.

 

Another Seahawks player who appeared to get hurt Thursday night was QB RUSSELL WILSON, but he returned to action in a manner that surprised doctors watching at home.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is among those armchair doctors:

 

Before Thursday night, the primary flaws with the concussion protocol related to the spotting of potential concussions and the flagging of a player for evaluation. On Thursday night, a new flaw emerged: The failure of a team to properly look at a player who had been sent to the sideline for evaluation.

 

In the third quarter, with the Seahawks leading 15-10, referee Walt Anderson sent Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to the sideline for an evaluation after he took a helmet from Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby to the jaw. Initially, Wilson went to the medical tent for a concussion evaluation. As the tent was being dropped over him, Wilson got up and left, insisting “I’m fine” and returning to the field.

 

No one stopped him. Based on the NFL’s policy, someone should have.

 

“A thorough review is underway,” the NFL said in a statement issued on Friday morning. “According to the policy jointed developed by the NFL and NFLPA, if the Concussion Protocol is not properly followed the club is subject to discipline.”

 

If the policy is applied as written, a violation will be found, because nothing was done to properly evaluate Wilson during the one play that he missed.

 

The NFL’s “concussion checklist” requires, for starters, the team physician to review the video of the play. (It’s unclear whether that happened.) Then, the team physician must “at a minimum” ask the player what happened, review the go/no-go signs and symptoms, and ask the so-called Maddock’s questions. Then, if there’s any doubt that the player may have been concussed, a full NFL sideline concussion assessment will occur in the locker room.

 

(The Maddock’s questions include: 1. At what venue are we today?; 2. Which half is it now?; 3. Who scored last in this match?; 4. What did you play last week?; and 5. Did your team win the last game?)

 

Here, the evaluation consisted, by all appearances, of Wilson saying, “I’m fine” and returning to the field, with the trip to the medical tent delayed until after the drive had ended. The fact that Wilson delayed the evaluation confirms that the evaluation should have happened not then but when Wilson first went to the sideline.

 

If a violation is found, the Seahawks will face a maximum fine of $150,000. Also, club employees or medical team members involved in the process will be required to attend remedial education.

 

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that Wilson should have been evaluated not after the drive ended but immediately after being sent to the sideline. Fine or not, the rules require much more than what the Seahawks did last night.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

T JOE THOMAS is not yet ready to commit to a 2018 season.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Joe Thomas had a chance to show off what he could do with his left arm, which was braced and wrapped.

 

“Ready for it?” he asked the group of assembled reporters in the Browns locker room. He moved his arm, ever so slightly. “Aaaah. You’ve seen it all.”

 

The wrap on Thomas’ arm that covered the brace extended from just above his wrist all the way up into the sleeve on his shirt. The only exposed piece of the brace was a dial attached to it to regulate the arm’s range of motion.

 

“This basically is just a hinged brace that prevents me from bending it,” Thomas said, again slightly bending his arm, “because when you do this, you put more pressure on your tendon. And they don’t want any pressure. They want it basically loose so that it can heal without having any tugging on it.”

 

Thomas said you get about five degrees more range of motion every week until full range of motion is returned, then the real work starts.

 

“After that tendon heals and you’re sure that it’s not going to detach from the bone again, then you can slowly start building the weight back up and trying to get your strength back,” Thomas said.

 

Thomas said he can drive one-handed and he’s gotten used to sleeping with the brace on, though he admitted the first week was tough because of the pain and discomfort. He’s received encouragement from Kevin Mawae, a former center for the Seahawks, Jets and Titans, who suffered the same rare injury. Mawae reached out to him via Twitter.

 

“He just said take it slow, really,” Thomas said. “Take it slow. It’s going to take a long time to get your strength back but, basically, the two things were you can come back from this and just take it slow.”

 

That’s where Thomas is right now, recently made the highest-paid offensive lineman in the game — something Thomas said the team was planning to do prior to the injury and followed through on after — yet able only to help his teammates. He was on the field on Wednesday, coaching up his replacement, Spencer Drango, and on Thursday he was again offering pointers to his linemates.

– – –

That’s the little picture, of course — Thomas as coach without the insanely long hours, invited to travel with the team and expected to do so this week when they go to Detroit.

 

The big picture, however, is still murky, even with the new money. Thomas, who turns 33 in December, again was non-committal about his future, saying he’s not ready to walk away from the game if he’s healthy, but pointed to three factors in his ultimate decision.

 

“Are you playing well? Are you healthy? And do you love it?” Thomas said. “To me, I feel like I was playing well and I still loved it, and the question it’s going to come down to is, am I feeling like, from a personal health standpoint, is it something that I can do for another year?”

 

And it’s something that Thomas said will go beyond his triceps.

 

“I’ve obviously had a lot of knee issues over the years and stuff that’s not fixable at this point with modern medicine,” he said, “so just sort of a matter of, more that than even the triceps, but, obviously, the whole body will come into play when you make that decision.”

 

He admitted, too, that the team’s outlook could play a role in his choice.

 

“Is it going to be for trying to pursue a championship or are we trying to pursue a playoff berth or are we trying to pursue a first pick overall?” Thomas said. “Those are all things that could play into that decision.”

 

Thomas’ head coach, Hue Jackson, said on Wednesday that football was in Thomas’ blood.

 

“I think it is hard to let that go,” Jackson said.

 

Thomas is being forced to let it go for now. Whether he ends up letting it go for good — after his triceps heals and he’s able to hold on to anything with that left arm again — will be a decision for another day.

– – –

Matt Wilhelm, a former player turned radio host, has angered DC Gregg Williams by appearing to question the toughness of first overall pick DE MYLES GARRETT.  Charean Williams of ESPN.com:

 

Defensive end Myles Garrett said he wasn’t bothered by a Browns in-house radio host questioning his decision to self-report a concussion. But the team wasn’t happy about Matt Wilhelm’s comments, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was downright angry.

 

“It really p–sed me off when somebody questions whether a kid has a concussion or not and I’m being very truthful,” Williams said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “And any of you in here really want to p– me off, okay? That’s stupid, and it’s a good thing I wasn’t in the building when all that went down.”

 

Wilhelm, co-host of Cleveland Browns Daily and a former NFL linebacker, challenged Garrett’s decision to tell the Browns about concussion symptoms five days before the Vikings game. The team has denounced Wilhelm’s comments as “ill-advised” and “inappropriate.”

 

Wilhelm since has apologized, but he hasn’t heard the last of it. Williams said he will confront Wilhelm.

 

“Myles Garrett is a very, very, very tough human being, and the fact that he played through a bang upside the head, and it didn’t affect him until a few days later, there’s never a question in my mind that that young man wants to play, can play and will play,” Williams said.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

As one RYAN GRIFFIN (the Tampa Bay QB) comes off IR, another (the Houston TE) goes on it.  Aaron Wilson in the Houston Chronicle:

 

Texans tight end Ryan Griffin’s season is officially over.

 

He was placed on injured reserve Friday. Griffin suffered his second concussion of the season last Sunday.

 

His spot on the active roster was taken over by tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz as he was activated from injured reserve designated to return.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

The NFL listened to Tom Coughlin and allowed CB JALEN RAMSEY to keep all his money for his shove that ignited WR A.J. GREEN last week. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Bengals receiver A.J. Green got a whopping $42,000 in fines for his actions on Sunday, but the player Green fought wasn’t fined at all.

 

The NFL decided not to fine Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was ejected along with Green after the two of them went at it on Sunday.

 

That’s a surprising decision, but it likely stems from the fact that Green was the one who was throwing the punches in their fight, while Ramsey did little more than give Green the kind of post-play shove that we see several times in every NFL game. The league felt that Green was to blame for the matter.

 

Ramsey did reportedly escalate the situation by trying to find Green in the locker room after they fought, but the league apparently didn’t think that should result in a fine, either. So Ramsey got off with nothing more than Sunday’s ejection.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Back in New England, TE MARTELLUS BENNETT offers his opinion of what went wrong in Green Bay.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Tight end Martellus Bennett is back with the Patriots after being waived by the Packers this week, but he’s not done talking about what led to his departure from Green Bay nine weeks into a multi-year deal.

 

Bennett was waived with a failure to disclose injury designation related to the shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup last weekend and was set to have him on Green Bay’s inactive list again this week. In a series of posts to his Instagram stories, Bennett took issue with the Packers’ claim and with the care he received from team doctor Patrick McKenzie.

 

Bennett wrote that the team examined his shoulder when he signed and cleared it and that things got worse as the season went along. He said he circled his shoulder “pretty much” every week when given a body evaluation sheet by the team and that the pain got worse when he stopped taking anti-inflammatories during the bye in Week Eight. Upon returning to the team, he asked for an evaluation “and that’s when we found out it was really f–ed up.”

 

“Dr. McKenzie didn’t make [me] feel safe and was pushing to play which I thought was weird,” Bennett wrote. “Not that he was trying to get me to play thru it but the way he was saying things. I didn’t trust him. So I got three other opinions from doctors who all said I need to get it fixed. So I decided to do that. And they decided to waive me with some bulls–t excuse.”

 

Bennett reportedly has a torn rotator cuff, but was at Patriots practice and there’s no sign that he failed a physical with the team or is set to have surgery. He did not discuss that apparent change of heart, which may be as simple as deciding to play through an injury on an offense with Tom Brady rather than one with Brett Hundley.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets will be without RB MATT FORTE on Sunday for their tilt in Tampa.  He has a knee issue.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ROGER vs. JERRY

In the world of Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones is an ingrate who is not properly appreciative of the millions of dollars The Commish has made for the owners.

 

If Jerry Jones can’t overthrow Roger Goodell, he wants to make him bleed for his money.

 

The Cowboys owner is part of a group of NFL owners who want Goodell’s next deal to be incentive-laden, making his compensation more performance-based than a flat, guaranteed figure, ESPN reported, a development that someone close to Goodell said has made him “furious.”

 

“He feels as if the owners have made a lot of money and he should be compensated accordingly,” the source told ESPN. “The incentives thing really angers him.”

 

Goodell has made more than $200 million since he was elected commissioner in 2006 as part of “the most one-sided deal ever,” Jones told fellow owners last month. The owners very much enjoy their deal with the players, who do not have guaranteed contracts, and would like to ensure Goodell earns his money, too.

 

This is Plan B for Jones, who is on the warpath to oust Goodell from his role. Jones, who most recently hired Harvey Weinstein lawyer David Boies to aid his case against Goodell, has been lobbying his fellow billionaires for months about Goodell’s upcoming contract — which, for months, has seemed an inevitability but is still not finalized. With Boies’ help, Jones is trying to move the other owners toward his side; Jones needs 24 owners to approve of Goodell’s firing.

 

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, long a critic of Goodell, takes a look at the two combatants and tells us which one she finds more credible.

 

It’s easy to caricaturize Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and lord knows he helps, with his “I’m a rich ’un” manner. But his fellow NFL owners respect him on matters of business, even as they resent his money-whipping and brags, so if he tells them Roger Goodell must go and the league needs a new commissioner, they at least will listen, even as they bicker.

 

If I’m an NFL owner, I know whom I ultimately side with in a choice between Jones and Goodell. I side with the owner who has multiplied my revenues exponentially with his vision and willingness to upset the cart when no one else had the nerve to, as opposed to the commissioner who has mangled every serious matter he has touched. NFL owners are essentially a bunch of buccaneers: They squabble like pirates as they split up treasure in a secret cove. Their tolerance of Goodell has depended purely on the idea that he has helped make them money. But Jones really has built and driven the modern NFL’s business, and if he has decided Goodell is a liability, then Goodell is in trouble. Because the interesting thing about Jones is that he tends to be right.

 

Set aside his bluster, his speechifying and huckstering and habit of taking five sentences to express an idea when one would suffice. The man is a damn genius when it comes to building something big. And he has sight, the long-distance recognition of the commercial waves coming across the water. If NFL owners don’t listen to him on this, they will rue it.

 

The NFL’s business is beginning to show real underlying weakness and audience alienation, in no small part thanks to Goodell’s alternately shortsighted and heavy-handed performance. Jones sees it. This is what moved him to hire David Boies in a quest to block Goodell’s contract renewal, not a snit over Goodell’s tyrannical suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. Oh, the Elliott thing doesn’t help, but mainly it’s just one more demonstration that the commissioner is a blockhead, who creates problems where there are none, out of insecurity and a need to prove he isn’t just a lifetime intern.

 

Jones doesn’t take on the NFL over trivial matters. He takes on the league when he believes an important economic point is at stake. A dowdy old franchise that was losing $1 million a month when he bought it is now worth $4 billion, the most valuable team in the world, because Jones had the guts to take unpopular fiscal stands with his fellow owners that ultimately benefited them all.

 

When the league’s TV ratings were weak and the TV committee headed by Art Modell was prepared to give back $300 million just to secure a CBS contract extension, Jones fought it, insisting it was too early to renegotiate, and drew Rupert Murdoch’s Fox into the mix. One owner called him “a crazy wildcatter.” But Jones was right: The league went on to sign new contracts for $1 billion, which set a standard for hardline negotiations, that turned into the $7 billion in network deals of today.

 

In 1995, Jones acted like a crazy wildcatter again when he bucked the NFL’s centralized sponsor agreements with companies such as Coca-Cola. He believed teams would be better off on their own, and signed separate deals for the Cowboys with Pepsi, American Express and Nike. Was he right? He was: When the dust settled — after the league sued him for $300 million, and he countersued for $750 million — he had set a new template for team operations, merchandising, licensing and branding and everyone saw their revenues shoot up like geysers.

 

Jones seemed like a crazy wildcatter yet again when he built his marbled $1.2 billion palace with a giant scoreboard fit for Vegas and put so much of his own money in it. That too turned out to be the new template for multipurpose stadiums: parts game field, concert venue, shopping center and catering operation.

 

Jones is the guy who figured out to monetize and market training camp. He is the guy who realized how to sell NFL merchandise to women. He is the guy who first put a TV camera in the draft room, and the locker room, to make fans and sponsors feel like they were truly inside. He is the guy who invested early in DraftKings, and just the other day bought up an Egaming company.

 

So if Jones is acting like “a crazy wildcatter” again, and I’m an NFL owner, I go with him. I get past my irritation at how he can dominate a conversation and how he rules on so many league committees. I take a hard look at the fact that, thanks to his insights, the revenue waterline has risen so high, and floated higher salary caps and player salaries, too. I recognize that, through it all, Jones has never been a bully or a hothead, but rather has demonstrated an interesting generosity, his largesse matching his mouth. He has never refused to take risks, or guarded his concepts jealously, like some owners. He has shared his ideas with anyone in the league who would listen, because he believed growth was good for all, owners and players and league officials alike.

 

Jones now sees trouble, rather than opportunity. Concussions, market fragmentation, new media, plunging participation numbers in youth football, a generation of children who play on screens with their thumbs and forefingers rather than outside with their arms and legs, for whom keeping score is less and less important. These are new problems that need fresh eyes. Yet at the head of the league is a power-blinded commissioner who has never had a real job outside the league office on Park Avenue, and whose performance has been undeniably poor.

 

The owners have paid Goodell $200 million over the last 11 years. At least Jones did something to earn his money: He multiplied opportunities for every owner in the league. Goodell has multiplied nothing but his own salary, and the number of staffers who had to be hired to manage his disasters.

 

Jerry Jones may act like a cartoon sometimes, but he is no joke. Love him or hate him, he’s a serious visionary, and he sees a problem. He has earned some deference. If I’m an owner, I listen to him, and I side with him.

 

But Mark Maske, also in the Washington Post, is hearing from his contacts that enough owners are committed to continuing Goodell’s reign.

 

NFL owners plan to complete their contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell despite the threat by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to file a lawsuit to block the deal, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

 

Jones delivered his threat of litigation last week to owners on the compensation committee, which is negotiating Goodell’s pending five-year contract through 2024.

 

But the committee intends to ignore Jones’s threat and plans to have the deal with Goodell in place either by the owners’ meeting scheduled to be held in Dallas in December or by the annual league meeting in March, according to those people with knowledge of the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the possibility of litigation.

 

[Jerry Jones hires attorney David Boies, threatens to file lawsuit to block Roger Goodell’s contract extension]

 

“He’s going to be extended,” said one person familiar with the deliberations. “Whether it’s in December or in March or whenever it is, he’s going to be extended.”

 

Those sentiments were echoed by another person familiar with the league’s inner workings.

 

“The committee has the authority,” that person said. “I don’t think there’s any holes in that.”

 

Asked about the contract extension being finalized by the December owners’ meeting or the March league meeting, that person said: “That time frame is probably a fair estimate.”

 

Joe Lockhart, the league’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said Thursday he expects the deal to be “wrapped up soon” between Goodell and the owners’ compensation committee.

 

Lockhart said he was not able to provide a more specific time frame for completion of the extension, which would run through 2024.

 

Jones and other owners voted, 32-0, at their meeting in May in Chicago to authorize the compensation committee to negotiate the extension with Goodell. According to those with knowledge of league procedures, no further vote of the owners is required for the committee to sign a deal with Goodell, whose current contract expires in 2019.

 

No indication that Maske’s sources are actual owners.

 

And that was before Jones wrote a letter that made it to the media claiming some of Goodell’s riches have been hidden from the owners.  Kevin Spain of USA TODAY:

 

In a letter from Dallas Cowboys general counsel Jason Cohen to NFL owners on the compensation committee and NFL counsel Brad Karp, Jerry Jones said league owners have been misled about facts concerning Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract, according to an ESPN report.

 

According to the ESPN report, the letter says that Jones has discovered a discretionary bonus plan that was not disclosed. It also says that the compensation committee’s consultants called Goodell’s previous contract “the most one-sided deal they have ever seen.”

 

The letter says that there is “a substantial commitment by the Owners, as more than $200 million is at stake, on top of the $200 million already paid to him,” according to the report.

 

According to the ESPN report, Jones said that the league is in a state of “upheaval” under an “avalanche of issues that have beleaguered the NFL unlike any other time in recent memory. These changing conditions must be weighed relative to the timing of the Commissioner’s contract extension.”

 

Jones has retained legal counsel and Wednesday threatened to sue the league in an effort to block Goodell’s extension.