The Daily Briefing Friday, October 13, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The dreaded torn groin for WR MARKUS WHEATON is the latest in line of injuries.  Adam Jahns in the Chicago Sun-Times:

 

Bears wide receiver Markus Wheaton has a tear in his groin and could miss four to six weeks, league sources told the Sun-Times on Thursday.

 

Wheaton, who was awaiting final results for an MRI exam, officially was listed on the Bears’ injury report as a limited participant because of a groin injury. He was not included on the injury report on Wednesday.

 

In March, the Bears signed Wheaton to a two-year, $11 million deal, including $6 million guaranteed. He has been snakebit by injuries since he arrived.

 

Wheaton underwent an emergency appendectomy during the first week of training camp in July. Once he returned, he broke his pinkie finger catching a pass.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Packers RB TY MONTGOMERY is closing in on a return from broken ribs.  Rob Demovsky in the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

 

Ty Montgomery said he took some hits in Thursday’s practice on his broken ribs — which were protected by a flak jacket — for the first time since the injury last month.

 

The Packers running back said he made it through practice without any trouble and felt “fine.”

 

“It made me feel very comfortable about today and the workload today,” Montgomery said after practice. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

 

Montgomery was listed as a full participant in practice for the first time since he broke multiple ribs on the first series of the Sept. 28 game against the Chicago Bears. He practiced on a limited basis last week but did not play against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday because Montgomery said he was not cleared by the team’s medical staff.

 

If Montgomery is cleared to compete this Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings, he would have to play with the protective pad around his midsection, but he did not think it would be too cumbersome or problematic in any way.

 

“I played with one in high school,” Montgomery said. “It’s very normal. A flak jacket is pretty normal. It’s not in the way or anything.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with a Vikings injury update:

 

Both quarterback Sam Bradford and No.1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs remain sidelined at practice for the Minnesota Vikings Thursday.

 

Of the two, Bradford seems to be the least likely to suit up for Sunday’s NFC North divisional game against the Green Bay Packers.  Bradford never looked comfortable playing on his injured knee Monday night against the Chicago Bears and was replaced by backup Case Keenum shortly before halftime.  Keenum seems to be virtually certain the get the start in Week 6.

 

Diggs also missed much of the MNF victory with a groin injury but insisted to reporters that he would suit up against the Packers.   For what it’s worth, Diggs said his current groin injury isn’t as bad as the one that sidelined him for several games last season but fantasy owners need to see him get in at least a limited practice on Friday to feel confident pencilling him into their lineups for Sunday.  If Diggs is unable to go, Michael Floyd would most likely get the start opposite Adam Thielen.

– – –

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com scrutinizes the Vikings QB situation:

 

Several unrelated issues have assembled for what promises to be a wild month in the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback saga. An ominous diagnosis for Sam Bradford’s knee and the potential return of Teddy Bridgewater have intersected, leaving open the possibility of a midseason transition that once seemed highly improbable.

 

Let’s examine the issues involved in a friendly format. There’s nothing to fear here…

 

Ominous? I thought the Vikings said Bradford was just dealing with “wear and tear.”

 

They did, and he is.

 

But there are two important takeaways from that information.

 

Go on …

 

The first is that “wear and tear” isn’t a medical diagnosis. It’s a description of why the injury happened. The real question to ask in order to understand Bradford’s condition is: WHAT happened?

 

OK, genius: What happened?

 

The NFL Network reported that he suffered a bone bruise in the left knee in Week 1. That’s the same knee in which Bradford has twice torn the ACL.

 

But I thought the Vikings said Bradford didn’t have a bone bruise.

 

That’s not actually what they said. Speaking to reporters Monday, athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said: “We’re not dealing with a bone bruise from a direct hit.”

 

See, there you go!

 

Well … as it turns out, there are two types of bone bruises. One can occur if, say, a helmet hits the shin. Another, as former San Diego Chargers team doctor David Chao has pointed out, happens with no contact. Technically, it’s referred to as a periarticular bruise, and it occurs when the femur and tibia jam together without muscles absorbing the force.

 

Is that what Bradford has?

 

No one can say for sure except those who have seen Bradford’s full medical report. But that’s what Chao deduced in this analysis posted on the San Diego Union-Tribune website. I spoke with Chao by phone Wednesday, and he said that periarticular bruises are usually week-to-week injuries, not day-to-day.

 

So how long will Bradford sit out this time?

 

The Vikings are saying they will examine him daily, and I’m sure they will. But it’s only fair to note that Bradford needed three weeks off just to attempt a return from the initial injury, and he still looked uncomfortable right away before suffering an aggravation. “These injuries are very difficult to manage and treat,” Sugarman said.

 

Well, at least this is an injury that will heal fully in time for 2018.

 

Perhaps, but that brings us to our second takeaway. Bradford turns 30 next month and his contract expires after the season. As recently as this summer, given Bridgewater’s status, the assumption was that the Vikings hoped to re-sign Bradford. Don’t forget: They gave the Philadelphia Eagles a first-round draft choice, which turned out to be the No. 14 overall pick in 2017, to acquire him after Bridgewater’s injury in August 2016. The Vikings considered Bradford more than a short-term replacement.

 

So why would a bone bruise change that plan?

 

Because it only adds to a long list of knee ailments Bradford has suffered since entering the NFL in 2010. How much money, and commitment, would you invest in a quarterback who not only has multiple ACL injuries on his résumé but also “wear and tear” that might have contributed to a corresponding injury and an extended absence?

 

Wow. Good thing Bridgewater is almost ready.

 

Honestly, we all need to slow our roll on that one.

 

Come on, I’m too hyped.

 

Let’s just be realistic for a moment. Bridgewater hasn’t practiced since enduring a catastrophic injury to his left knee nearly 15 months ago. The injury was so severe that the team rushed him to a Level 1 trauma hospital for fear that he could lose part of his leg. While the Vikings have always said they hoped he would return, details on his progress have been scarce, and we have never received a full accounting of the injuries he suffered that day.

 

But we’ve seen video of him dropping back and throwing!

 

Yes, we have. But as anyone would tell you, there is a big difference between rehabilitation work (off to the side) and practicing, let alone playing in a live game.

 

So what do we know about Bridgewater?

 

He is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list (PUP) and is scheduled to undergo an exam Monday to update his recovery. If he is medically cleared, the Vikings could open a three-week window that amounts to a roster exemption. It would allow Bridgewater to practice fully with the team but not count against their 53-man roster. At the end of that window, or at any point before that, they could activate him to the roster and make him eligible to play.

 

So, if my math is right, Bridgewater technically could be eligible to play in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens?

 

Yes, but that almost definitely won’t happen. I can’t imagine the Vikings — or any other team — using a starting quarterback with one week of practice over a 15-month period.

 

Are the Vikings required to open the window next week?

 

No. They can start the process at any point after the sixth week. [Note: An earlier version of this post indicated a Week 11 deadline. That rule was eliminated in March during the NFL owners meeting.]

 

What if they decide he isn’t ready to play at the end of the three-week window?

 

Then he moves to injured reserve and misses the rest of the season.

 

Let’s be more positive than that. Is he the Vikings’ starter if and when he is activated to the roster?

 

I’m not so sure about that. Even if you remove Bradford from the equation, backup Case Keenum has played pretty well. His Total Quarterback Rating of 68.0 ranks fifth among qualified quarterbacks. The Vikings are 3-2 at the moment and in position to contend for a playoff spot. If Keenum maintains his current pace, an argument could be made for leaving him on the field regardless of Bridgewater’s status. The approach might be different if the Vikings are out of contention near the end of the season.

 

If they don’t play Bridgewater, how will they decide whether to re-sign him this offseason?

 

His contract, like Bradford’s, is scheduled to expire after the season. But NFL rules are dicey when it comes to PUP players in the final year of their deals. The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to roll over the contracts of players on the PUP if they are still “physically unable to perform” by the sixth week of the season, according to the exact language.

 

What does that mean?

 

It’s a little vague. Does that mean the window needs to be opened after Week 6? Does the player need to be added to the 53-man roster? If challenged, the NFL would need to clarify for both the Vikings and Bridgewater.

 

Ultimately, if Bridgewater gets back on the field and demonstrates he is healthy, I don’t think the Vikings would reward his hard work by dealing him a contractual blow. So the guess here is that Bridgewater’s contract won’t be “tolled,” as it’s called, unless he misses the entire season.

 

Wow, there are a lot of moving parts here.

 

Indeed. To sum it up: Bradford has a knee injury that is more serious than day-to-day and adds a new level of concern about his future. Bridgewater is approaching the first of many hurdles he’ll need to clear before anyone can say that he is ready to resume his career. And in the meantime, the Vikings’ only healthy and experienced quarterback is having a career year. Stay tuned.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The NFL wins another 2-1 decision in a U.S. District Court of Appeals and unless RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT’s lawyers can pull a rabbit out of a hat, the Cowboys running back will begin serving his six-game suspension next week.

 

A.J. Perez in USA TODAY:

 

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension has been reinstated after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court’s preliminary injunction Thursday and instructed the lower court to dismiss the case.

 

The NFL said in a statement the suspension would be effective immediately. The Cowboys have a bye this week before facing the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.

 

The 2-1 decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary injunction in the case, which he ruled was “fundamentally unfair.” Because Elliott filed prior to arbitrator Harold Henderson’s ruling on his suspension, judges Edward C. Prado and Jennifer Walker Elrod ruled that the running back had “had not yet exhausted the contracted-for remedies.”

 

Frank Salzano, a lawyer for Elliott, wrote in a statement that his team is “currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days.” The NFL Players Association wrote that “the failures of due process by the NFL articulated in the district court’s decision were not addressed.”

 

The most likely next step for Elliott could be to pursue the case in New York, where the NFL has already filed a case on the matter. Lawyers from the NFLPA representing Elliott could ask the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York — the same venue as New England quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate case — to issue an injunction.

 

“We could very well have the same results that we had in Texas’ district court and Elliott could be again granted a temporary restraining order,” sports law attorney Daniel Wallach, a partner at Becker & Poliakoff, told USA TODAY Sports. “The ‘fundamental fairness’ issue and the irreparable haven’t diminished with time. In fact, there’s significantly more harm now since the Cowboys are nearing the middle of the season. That (irreparable harm) argument becomes even stronger.”

 

The NFL filed a letter Thursday with U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York notifying that court of the of the appeals court’s decision.

 

David Weinstein, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson and a former assistant U.S. Attorney, said there are two other avenues: refile the case again in Texas or seek a rehearing in front of all 13 judges of the 5th Circuit.

 

“If he refiles in Texas, the NFL still has their jurisdictional argument and they have already filed a suit in New York, so they beat him to that courthouse,” Weinstein said.

 

Elliott’s suspension could remain on hold if he seeks a rehearing, known as an en banc petition, Weinstein said. But the 5th Circuit could deny the rehearing within weeks and few are granted.

 

“I have been saying all along to be careful what he wishes for,” Weinstein said. “He could end up getting suspended for the last few weeks of the regular season and depending on the Cowboys record, the playoffs.”

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says Elliott lost because the two judges who sided with NFL Justice were Republicans.

 

Appointed for life, federal judges typically are above the political fray. But they had to be in the political fray to secure what ultimately is a political appointment, and few federal judges who aren’t on the U.S. Supreme Court ever undergo a dramatic change in their political views.

 

That’s why the first question when dealing with a federal judge is this: Which president nominated the judge?

 

In cases involving employment rights, the loose rule of thumb is that judges nominated by Republican presidents are more likely to apply pro-business reasoning and to reach a pro-employer outcome — and the judges nominated by Democratic presidents are more likely to apply pro-labor reasoning and to reach a pro-employee outcome. That’s exactly what happened with the three judges randomly assigned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to the Elliott case.

 

The two judges who voted in favor of the NFL were nominated by Republican presidents, and the one judge who voted in favor of Elliott was nominated by a Democratic president. If there had been two judges assigned to the case who had been nominated by a Democratic president, the outcome likely would have flipped.

 

This underscores what ultimately is one of the most important powers of any president. For every vacancy that arises during the president’s term in office, the president has the ability to appoint like-minded judges for lifetime terms to issue rulings that align with the president’s politics and ideologies.

 

As the NFLPA points out, the two 5th Circuit Republicans only said the Texas District Court case was improperly filed:

 

Despite the NFL winning in federal appeals court on Thursday, the broader legal fight regarding Ezekiel Elliott‘s six-game suspension isn’t over. And the NFL Players Association has essentially pointed that out.

 

“The NFLPA is reviewing the decision and considering all options,” the union said in a statement issued on Thursday. “The appellate court decision focuses on the jurisdictional issues. The failures of due process by the NFL articulated in the district court’s decision were not addressed.”

 

The problem for the NFLPA and Elliott is that the case now shifts to a federal circuit with law on the books (courtesy of the Tom Brady case) that will, in the view of the NFL, make it easier for the league to prevail. The first fight in New York likely will come very soon, with the NFLPA and Elliott likely pursuing an injunction blocking the suspension while the court proceeds.

 

As to those who claim that the NFLPA and Elliott erred by filing his lawsuit before the internal appeals process had ended, the problem is that the league controls the appeals process — and the league likely would have immediately filed its own lawsuit in New York before Elliott had a chance to file in Texas or anywhere else. So Elliott and the union rolled the dice. If they’d simply gotten a slightly different composition of the three-member appeals panel, they likely would have won.

 

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com says Elliott’s chances are bleak.

 

Elliott’s best chance at striking down his six-game suspension and dragging the NFL into a potentially telling legal exploration would have happened in front of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III. It was Mazzant who granted Elliott an injunction preventing the suspension from taking hold. The federal judge also took shots at the NFL while issuing his opinion, suggesting that the league didn’t give Elliott a fair appeal hearing in front of league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson. Overall, Mazzant’s ruling gave the impression that he would have been a difficult judge for the league to deal with if Elliott’s case played out in his court. Now it appears Mazzant will never get his hands on the case – should Elliott choose to continue his pursuit.

 

That leaves only difficult legal paths ahead. Among them …

 

The slightest glimmer of hope

 

Elliott lost his appeal to continue his case in a federal Texas court largely because it was filed before the league’s own appeals process had concluded. Essentially, it was ruled that Elliott’s legal team jumped the gun and Mazzant shouldn’t have accepted jurisdiction over the suit because the league’s collectively bargained process had not yet concluded.

 

In a way, that decision is good for Elliott because his case is being sent back for dismissal based on when it was filed – and not the actual merits of the case. But the bad news for Elliott is the NFL filed its own lawsuit in a New York district court after Henderson made his arbitration ruling. It means that the NFL did the right thing in the eyes of the law, filing the New York lawsuit at the appropriate time and correct jurisdiction. Now that Elliott’s case in Texas will get bounced, the league’s filing in New York will take precedence. This means Elliott won’t have a chance to re-file back in Texas unless the NFL’s case in New York gets dismissed (which is now extremely unlikely).

 

What Elliott’s legal team can pray for is this: the league’s filing in New York gets dismissed for some reason, paving the way for Elliott’s legal team to re-file his case in Texas, no longer having the worries of having jumped the gun on arbitration decision. Or in an even unlikelier scenario, Elliott re-files his suit in Texas or somewhere else advantageous, and that somehow overrides the league’s filing in New York. There is almost no chance either of these scenarios happens.

 

The likelier – and most difficult – legal path

 

The most likely road will be Elliott’s case being played out in a New York federal courthouse. That is where the league has been victorious in cases against both Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady. This is exactly what his legal team and the NFL Players Association did not want to take place.

 

The NFL will argue that there is legal precedent from Brady’s case that prevents Elliott from being granted an injunction against his six-game suspension. Further, the league believes that Elliott and the NFLPA are mounting a different version of the same argument that Brady already lost. Specifically, the league believes the federal courts have already established the NFL has the latitude – thanks to the collective-bargaining agreement – to deliver discipline in the manner and process that commissioner Roger Goodell deems appropriate. And in the league’s eyes, the federal courts have agreed that once an arbitrator has affirmed the discipline, the argument is over.

 

The NFLPA and Elliott’s legal team fundamentally disagree that his case overlaps with Brady’s – largely because of perceived conspiratorial activity it believes took place. The league denies that accusation and says it acted appropriately according to the disciplinary guidelines that were laid out in the CBA.

 

From there, it’s the same eye-glossing legal wrangling that we’ve heard before, mostly predicated on Goodell using the broad powers that he was granted by the players union in negotiations. Whatever the case, it won’t stop Elliott from seeking an injunction against the league’s suspension in the next 10 days, keeping him on the field. The NFL will argue against it and point to precedent set by the Brady case in New York federal courts.

 

However that shakes out in the next week or more, Elliott and the NFLPA will likely continue to try and penetrate any rulings against them in court. But this time around, it won’t be the court of his choosing. And that is expected to make all the difference between winning and losing.

 

When the NFL says the suspension starts immediately, it starts immediately – with Elliott’s bye week check.  Florio:

 

With Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott officially suspended as the bye week approaches, he won’t be getting paid for Week Six. But he will get the money back later.

 

According to the NFL, the Elliott won’t be paid at all during his six-game suspension, including the bye week. However, he’ll get the $93,000-plus that he’ll lose this weekend in equal installments over the balance of the season, once his suspension ends.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

After Thursday’s win in Charlotte, Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com sees QB CARSON WENTZ growing before our eyes.

 

In a battle of two 4-1 teams, it was ultimately the Philadelphia Eagles that were able to make more plays, topping the Carolina Panthers, 28-23, in the Panthers’ own stadium.

 

We wrote earlier this week that the Eagles’ hot start would look a lot more legit if they were able to beat the Panthers in Carolina on Thursday night, and well, they came out and did just that. Beating the 4-1 Panthers at home and slowing down an offense that had been really humming along is a heck of a lot different than squeaking by the then-winless Chargers and Giants, or beating up on a banged-up Cardinals team. This is one of the best wins of the young season, by any team.

 

Philadelphia’s defense kept pressure on Cam Newton all night long, making sure he never got comfortable in the pocket like he did as the Carolina offense took off over the last couple weeks. Fletcher Cox (more on him later), rookie Derek Barnett, and especially, linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham were simply all over the field all night long. The Philadelphia front seven overwhelmingly won its battle with the Panthers’ offensive line, and it made all the difference in the world.

 

But it wasn’t just the defense that won this one for the Eagles. The offense did its part, winning the scoring and yardage battles despite losing time of possession. Carson Wentz didn’t get off to a great start, but he rebounded quickly and finished with a line that showcased his combination of efficiency and explosiveness: 16 of 30 for 222 yards, three touchdowns (his second career three-TD game, after he got his first last week), and most importantly, no interceptions.

 

LeGarrette Blount ran well, ticking off early-down yardage. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor picked up key first downs. Rookie Mack Hollins had two timely catches. Zach Ertz found the end zone twice. All the things the Eagles did to make Wentz’s job easier paid off in a big way, and it led to a win over a quality opponent.

 

Here are a few more things to know about Philly’s 28-23 win.

 

Carson Wentz is making the leap

The focus of one of our weekly Tuesday features earlier this week was whether or not this year’s version of the Eagles is “for real.” Last year’s vintage started 3-0 behind a strong defense and better-than-expected play from Carson Wentz, but promptly fell apart after a Week 4 bye.

One of the points in favor of this year’s team being legit was Wentz’s improved play in the first five games of 2017. That continued on Thursday night. Wentz was running for his life for half the evening, but he managed to repeatedly escape pressure and make several under throws under duress. He found Zach Ertz for two scores, the second of which was just a gorgeous throw.

 

He made a beautiful sideline toss to Alshon Jeffery late in the third quarter, spotting one-on-one coverage and hitting him perfectly in stride to set up a touchdown to Nelson Agholor later in the drive.

 

Wentz – as has become his custom this season – was also able to do damage on third down, completing 5 of 10 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. He was terrific.

 

Yes, he has played 1 or 2 more games than anyone else – but Wentz leads the NFL with 7 TD passes on 3rd down, 3 more than anyone else.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

WR JULIO JONES says the bye has cured his hip.  Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:

 

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones said a hip flexor injury won’t keep him from playing against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

 

Jones, who suffered the injury in a Week 4 loss to Buffalo, had last week’s bye to rest and recover. He has been limited the last two days of practice.

 

“I feel great,” Jones told reporters Thursday. “We just have a plan here. I’ve been doing it the whole year. So, limited means really nothing. I’ll be ready to go.”

 

Jones leads the 3-1 Falcons with 19 catches for 295 yards, but he has yet to score a touchdown.

 

“I don’t know why people are worried about Julio Jones,” Jones said. “I’m not worried about it. I could care less about a touchdown. We’re 3-1 right now. Right now, it’s 0-0 for this quarter (of the season) for us. Whatever defenses give us, we’re going to take. If that’s me going out there and not scoring and we’re still winning games, that’s fine with me.”

 

Although Jones looks poised to play barring a last-minute setback, No. 2 receiver Mohamed Sanu is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Sanu hasn’t practice this week. He wore Jones’ No. 11 jersey while going through a rehab run on Thursday, while Jones practiced in Sanu’s No. 12 jersey.

 

 

CAROLINA

Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on the concussion suffered by LB LUKE KUECHLY:

 

Perhaps because they’ve done this before, most of the Panthers talked about next-man-up after middle linebacker Luke Kuechly left Thursday’s loss to the Eagles with a concussion.

 

But quarterback Cam Newton may have summed up the spot they’re in now, and the uncertain future because of their defensive leader’s track record.

 

“We need Luke,” Newton said. “His presence was missed.”

 

The concussion was Kuechly’s third in three seasons, and his second straight on national television on Thursday Night Football. He didn’t leave in tears this time, but jogged off the field under his own power after being hit by Eagles guard Brandon Brooks.

 

But the Eagles immediately went to work on the middle of the field in his absence, attacking backup David Mayo, and hitting tight end Zach Ertz for a pair of touchdowns in spots where Kuechly would have ordinarily been.

 

Kuechly missed the last six weeks of last season following a concussion, though he was cleared by the independent neurologist but was held back by coach Ron Rivera during a lost season. He also missed three games in 2015, which gives the Panthers pause.

 

Kuechly has refused to make it an issue, but the concern in the Panthers locker room was obvious, with the potential loss of the former defensive player of the year overshadowing the simple emotion of a loss that dropped them to 4-2.

 

“We don’t talk about that kind of thing,” Mayo said. “It’s unfortunate, but it happens.”

 

And now that it has happened again to Kuechly, the uncertainly about his future and theirs will linger.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The timetable on RB DAVID JOHNSON remains Thanksgiving at the earliest.  Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic:

 

On Wednesday afternoon, Cardinals running back David Johnson said there is no timetable for his return from a dislocated wrist.

 

But on SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday night, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the “earliest” Johnson is expected to return is Thanksgiving. The Cardinals play at Houston on Nov. 19, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and at home against the Jaguars the following week.

 

Johnson suffered the dislocated wrist in the season opener and was placed on injured reserve. That requires him to sit out six weeks before beginning practice for two weeks. The earliest he could play in a game is Nov. 9 against the Seahawks but that seems unlikely.

 

“Rehab’s going great,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “Just got my cast. Feeling good.”

 

And as for the timetable?

 

“No timetable. Wait and see how it goes. Just see what happens.”

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams have given some good money for an extension for LB ALEC OGLETREE.  NFL.com:

 

The Los Angeles Rams are making sure one of their defensive stalwarts will remain under contract heading into the next decade.

 

The Rams announced Thursday they have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension with linebacker Alec Ogletree. The deal is worth $42 million and includes $30 million in guarantees, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

“Alec has evolved into a true leader of our football team and we are excited to sign him to this extension,” Rams general manager Les Snead said in a statement. “His teammates voted him as a captain in back-to-back seasons for a reason — and it’s not only because of his production, but his character and resiliency. We look forward to Alec helping our team emerge as a consistent winner for years to come.”

 

Ogletree has played a vital role in the Rams’ defense and likely will play a big part of the team’s future now that he’s under contract through 2021. Ogletree has tallied a team-leading 54 tackles and 30 solo stops during the Rams’ 3-2 start. He also has two sacks.

 

He netted 171 tackles last season — the fifth-highest output in Rams franchise history.

 

Locking up a dynamic defensive standout like Ogletree makes sense for a Rams team that is continuing to improve on the defensive side of the ball. With Ogletree now working under a new deal, perhaps Aaron Donald will be the next notable Rams player to get a new deal.

– – –

Adam Rank at NFL.com says the Rams will win the NFC West despite losing at home to the Seahawks on Sunday:

 

UNPOPULAR OPINION: The Rams are the best team in the NFC West.

 

But Rank, the Seahawks just beat them at the L.A. Coliseum!

 

Cool story, brah. The Rams defended their home turf against the Seahawks last season. Actually, it was the first home game back in L.A. for the Rams in 22 years, and I was there. It was freaking brutal. The Rams won 9-3 — God love you, Jeff Fisher — and the only interesting thing was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ pregame show. Mostly because the band came out in Rams jerseys and I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw Anthony Kiedis perform with his shirt on. Seriously, the guy went double-nipple during the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show in New Jersey. Here it was, hot as footballs in the shadeless Coliseum, and he was wearing a jersey. (Though, no matter — he did finally ditch the top, and all was right with the world.)

 

The thing that stood out the most to me in last Sunday’s game was the growth of quarterback Jared Goff. He was great statistically in his previous games this season — including the one against that awesome Cowboys D! — but this was probably his most inspiring effort. He made mistakes, sure. There were some turnovers (though not all his fault). But with everything that happened, he still found a way to put that behind him and drive the Rams down the field in the closing moments. He even threw the winning touchdown pass. Only problem: Cooper Kupp dropped it.

 

So, I don’t know, which would you rather have? A somewhat-hollow six-point win that meant absolutely nothing for the long haul? Or some growth as a football team in a tough, six-point loss?

 

Ultimately, the Rams did lose Sunday’s game, though. Fine. But better days are ahead. I feel the same about the Rams as I did watching the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” trailer. While I haven’t seen the full thing, I got excited enough by the preview to get me ready for December. Goff gets better with every game. Todd Gurley has become a threat in the passing game. And the defense hasn’t yet fully jelled under first-year coordinator Wade Phillips — but the unit did shut down the Seahawks, which feels like a springboard to future returns.

 

So, yes, by the end of the day on Dec. 31, the Rams will sit alone atop the NFC West.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

A PAXTON LYNCH sighting.  Mike Klis of 9News:

 

In a significant development to the Denver Broncos’ long-term future, Paxton Lynch threw passes after practice Wednesday.

 

You remember Paxton Lynch. First-round draft pick. Quarterback.

 

Lynch’s throwing session was his first on the practice field since he suffered a sprain to his right throwing shoulder in the Broncos’ preseason game August 19 against the San Francisco 49ers.

 

“For Day 1, it felt good,’’ Lynch said.

 

He threw 15 passes in all – a set of five from 5 yards, another five from 10 yards and another five from 15 yards. That doesn’t exactly sound like he’ll be ready to replace Brock Osweiler as Trevor Siemian’s backup any time soon.

 

But you’ve got to start somewhere.

 

So when will Lynch be game ready?

 

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I just know it’s OK to start throwing and the doctor said we’ll progress from there.’’

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers expect first round WR MIKE WILLIAMS to debut Sunday against the Raiders. Jack Wang in the New York Daily News:

 

Nearly six months after the Chargers drafted him No. 7 overall, Mike Williams is finally going to make his NFL debut. Maybe. Probably.

 

“I think he’s very close,” Coach Anthony Lynn said Wednesday. “We’ll see at the end of the week where he’s at.”

 

Limited since spring by a back injury, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver sounded even more optimistic.

 

“I’m expecting to play,” Williams said. “I’m gonna practice hard, go through all the plays. Whatever decision the coaches make, I’m going to be ready for it.”

 

After winning a national championship at Clemson, Williams left school as one of the top wideouts available in the NFL draft. His selection by the Chargers (1-4) signaled a “win now” philosophy: Rather than shoring up the defense or finding a young passer, the franchise instead gave 35-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers another weapon.

 

That connection has yet to be realized. After the first day of rookie minicamp in early May, the Chargers began holding Williams out of practices due to tightness in his lower back. In early June, the team revealed that he was dealing with a mild disc herniation. Eight weeks later, it ruled him out of training camp entirely.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

WR RISHARD MATHEWS takes the lead in the race for Most Militant Player.  Although if the NFL enforces its policy of standing for the National Anthem, you can drop the “Player” part.

 

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews appears to be absolute in his decision to stay inside during the national anthem, saying he is willing to give up his profession rather than being forced to change his protest over social issues.

 

On Thursday afternoon, Matthews was asked by Matt Parker, a local Nashville producer, via Twitter if he would continue to remain in the locker room during the anthem if the NFL created a rule requiring players to stand or face a penalty.

 

“No, I will be done playing football,” Matthews responded.

 

Matthews, who hit the field for the Titans’ Thursday afternoon practice, quickly deleted the tweet. He was not available for reporters during locker room availability Thursday.

 

Matthews, whose father served 23 years in the Marines and whose brother, another Marine, died in Afghanistan two years ago, has been vocal in his stance against racial injustice and police brutality. His protest was launched shortly after President Donald Trump’s attacks toward NFL players who choose to protest. Matthews previously refrained from protesting in respect of his brother, but after Trump’s comments, he said his brother would understand his intentions going forward.

 

It should be added that Matthews has also said that he will refrain from protesting if Donald Trump apologizes for his expression of disgust at those who kneel.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Even as Miami’s offense struggles, it appears that QB JAY CUTLER has bonded with his receivers.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Jay Cutler enjoyed a lukewarm welcome during his first home game in Miami. Despite leading the Dolphins past Tennessee to their second win of the season, the quarterback threw for fewer than 100 yards and earned boos and calls for his benching from Fins fans populating Hard Rock Stadium last Sunday.

 

Cutler told reporters after the game that the fan’s reaction didn’t phase him — he’s very used to it — but his top wideout, Jarvis Landry, couldn’t say the same thing.

 

“We don’t buy into the fans of who they want to play quarterback,” Landry said Thursday, per the Miami Herald. “If they want to change the players, we can’t buy into all that. I believe it’s disrespectful. A man [Cutler] who comes out and works his [butt] off.

 

 

“For people to not understand what’s really going on — or to not have even touched the field before — to say we want somebody else to be playing, and don’t understand the situation or know what’s going on. They just want to be on Twitter or just want to start a damn chant. And it’s embarrassing as a player to have fans like that. It’s embarrassing. … He’s our quarterback. We stand by him regardless.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Adam Rank of NFL.com says QB TOM BRADY is still better than AARON RODGERS or anyone else:

 

Listen, I don’t try to live my life as a contrarian. That’s not true — I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world’s most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it’s best to take a look at the other side.

 

In this space, I’ll be articulating a handful of positions that are the opposite of what most people think — unpopular opinions, if you will — and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below are my unpopular opinions for Week 6.

 

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Aaron Rodgers is great, but let’s forget all the “best QB in the game today” talk until Tom Brady retires.

 

Yes, Aaron Rodgers was amazing last Sunday in Dallas. After Dak Prescott gave the home team a three-point lead on a third-down scamper into the end zone with just over a minute to play, one of my Cowboys-loving acquaintances turned to me and said, “Great — he left too much time on the clock. Now Rodgers is going to be able to tie the score.”

 

Tie the score? Yeah, uh, most non-star-loving sports fans knew Rodgers was going to win that game in regulation. The Cowboys’ defense was overmatched. Losing to the Packers 35-31 on Rodgers’ ensuing (and predictable) 75-yard touchdown drive, Dallas allowed 35-plus points in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 2013. In fact, the Cowboys have actually yielded 35-plus points in three of their five games this season — they’re the only NFL team with that on the 2017 resume. So it wasn’t like Rodgers was facing stout opposition. This was like Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXVIII. Of course, that didn’t stop a lot of people on Twitter and other social media platforms from saying Rodgers is the best quarterback of all time.

 

Really? For beating the Cowboys? In October? This is what Peyton Manning would do.

 

(And I’m sure you all saw it, but it was fitting Peyton Manning had his statue unveiled in October. Probably the best month of his career. I’ll admit, though, it was awesome to see one final snap from Jeff Saturday — replete with a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne! I mean, it might have been more apropos if Antonio Cromartie had appeared to intercept that final pass to Wayne, but I don’t want to take away from Peyton’s moment. Honestly, it was super cool.)

 

But here’s the thing: Like Manning in years past, Rodgers is now lauded over Tom Brady. Because of wins like this. While important, as you need to win games to get to the Super Bowl, it’s a little hollow if you don’t turn those into championships. I mean, I’m sure it’s neat to be in contention every year — I wouldn’t know this, as a Bears fan — but don’t you want to cash in those chances sometimes? Colts owner Jim Irsay knows what I’m sayin’.

 

And I understand why some think it’s lazy to simply say, “Hey, Tom’s the best — look at the rings!” But I think we all ignore how great he’s been in the regular season, too. Even this season, at age 40. Brady is currently averaging 340.4 passing yards per game, which would be the best mark of his career. His 112.0 passer rating would be the third-best of his career. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns with only one interception. He’s thrown three picks total in his last 17 regular-season games. He hasn’t had double-digit INTs in a season since 2013. This all gets overshadowed because he also plays this well in the postseason and wins Super Bowls.

 

So, yes, if I need one quarterback to win one game for me — be it in October or January or even February — I’m going with Brady. Even at age 40.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ANTHEM

Colin Kaepernick and the NFL’s handling of his Anthem protest back in August of 2016 have put the League on a list that any brand aspiring to dominate the entire market place should avoid.  Kevin Quealy of the New York Times:

 

About three weeks ago — before President Trump said that N.F.L. owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem — Democrats and Republicans held relatively similar views about the league. About 60 percent said they viewed it favorably, while about 20 percent said they viewed it unfavorably, according to daily online surveys conducted by Morning Consult, a polling, media and technology company.

 

Since Mr. Trump’s remarks, though, many of his supporters have changed their attitudes.

 

Trump voters are now much more likely to say that they view the N.F.L. negatively, reflecting a sharp change around Sept. 23, when Mr. Trump criticized the players at a speech in Alabama. The views of Hillary Clinton voters have not changed appreciably over the last few weeks.

 

Some of the difference may be a result of our collective filter bubbles, which make Americans more likely to engage with and share articles that reinforce their views.

 

Both Democrats and Republicans were more likely to report seeing negative news about the N.F.L. around the time of Mr. Trump’s remarks in Alabama and the protests that followed. But Trump voters were much more likely to do so, while respondents who said they voted for Mrs. Clinton were more mixed in the coverage they reported seeing.

 

One possibility is that the two groups are not reading the same kinds of articles, avoiding those they disagree with. Another is that people are simply taking different attitudes away from the same articles, tweets and Facebook posts.

 

The shifts are not limited to professional football. After LeBron James tweeted his support for Stephen Curry, whose invitation to the White House was rescinded by Mr. Trump (after Mr. Curry indicated he wouldn’t attend), the share of Trump voters who said they held very unfavorable views of Mr. James more than doubled, to 23 percent from 11 percent. For Clinton voters, the opposite was true: The event made them like Mr. James more.

 

In other polls, Americans’ views on the N.F.L. protests depend largely on how the questions are asked, and whether they emphasize patriotism, free speech or race. And while N.F.L. ratings are down compared with previous years, protests are probably not the main reason.

 

A helpful way to consider Americans’ attitudes toward the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. is to compare them with their views on other things. Every day, Morning Consult conducts large online surveys of about 5,000 adults in the United States, asking respondents their opinions about hundreds of brands and companies.

 

Most of the time, ratings are consistent among people of different political parties. For example, Americans have favorable views of Oreos, Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond, regardless of who got their vote in 2016. (And, on the whole, both Trump and Clinton voters have slightly negative views of companies like Goldman Sachs and Philip Morris.)

 

But a tiny fraction of these companies are divisive, with politics shaping how Americans perceive them. The N.F.L. has moved near the top of this list in recent weeks:

 

The Most Polarizing Brands and

Companies Measured by Morning Consult

 

NET FAVORABILITY AMONG …

COMPANY                  CLINTON VOTERS          TRUMP VOTERS          DIFFERENCE

1          Trump Hotels                -52                                    +48                   +99 Rep.

2          CNN                             +54                                  -28                    +82 Dem

3          NBC News                   +72                                   +1                     +72 Dem

4          The New York Times    +47                                   -25                     +71 Dem

5          MSNBC             +54                                  -16                     +70 Dem

6          Fox News                       -14                                 +55                     +69 Rep.

7          NFL                             +38                                   -24                   +62 Dem

8          ABC News                      +71                                +10                   +61 Dem

9          HuffPost                         +43                                 -14                   +56 Dem

10         CBS News                      +62                                 +14                  +48 Dem

11         Chick-fil-A                       +24                                 +71                  +47 Rep.

12         Fox Business                   -15                                 +31                  +46 Rep.

13         Breitbart                           -34                                 +12                  +46 Rep.

14         Cabela’s                          +28                                 +73                  +45 Rep.

15         NBC Sports                     +65                                 +23                  +42 Dem

The N.F.L. is now among the nation’s most divisive brands, behind Trump Hotels and a handful of media companies, including The New York Times.

 

It’s hard to know if or when Americans’ views of the N.F.L. will go back to how they were before these protests. President Trump has continued to fuel the controversy, directing insulting tweets this week at Jemele Hill of ESPN; the N.F.L. players who protested; and the league itself. On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when some players on the visiting team knelt during the national anthem. (President Trump said he directed Mr. Pence to do so.)

 

But a lesson of outrage in 2017 is that its lifespan is always decreasing.

 

Recall the national distress in April when a video of a passenger being dragged from an overbooked United flight went viral. In the weeks that followed, Americans’ views toward United were overwhelmingly negative; in one survey, many even said they would pay extra not to fly with the airline. Now, six months later, people view the airline almost as favorably as they did before the episode took place.

 

If you didn’t recognize Cabela’s on this list, with their Chick-fil-A demographic –

 

Cabela’s Inc. is an American direct marketer and specialty retailer of hunting, fishing, boating, camping, shooting, and related outdoor recreation merchandise, based in Sidney, Nebraska.

 

A +24/+71 demographic like Chick-fil-A is what the NFL once could have strived for.