The Daily Briefing Monday, November 6, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:
Overall Division Conference
Pittsburgh Steelers ACN 6-2 3-0 4-1
New England Patriots ACN 6-2 1-0 3-1
Kansas City Chiefs ACW 6-3 2-1 4-2
Tennessee Titans ACS 5-3 2-1 4-3
Jacksonville Jaguars WC 5-3 2-1 5-2
Buffalo Bills WC 5-3 1-1 3-2
Miami Dolphins 4-4 1-1 3-3
Baltimore Ravens 4-5 2-1 4-3
Oakland Raiders 4-5 1-2 4-4
New York Jets 4-5 2-3 4-4
With Pittsburgh and New England off and Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami losing, it was a big weekend for the AFC South duo of Tennessee and Jacksonville.
The Chiefs have lost three of their last four, but still sit a game and a half ahead of the Raiders. But we should point out that the Raiders won the first game between the two teams. They meet again on December 10.
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Two of the NFL’s top receivers went off the rails Sunday and go involved in huge fracii/fracases. Only one will be suspended. Charean Williams of ESPN.com:
The NFL will not suspend Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green for his ejection Sunday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who was not ejected for shoving Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, is the only player the NFL will suspend for actions in this week’s games. Evans received a one-game suspension.
Green, though, can expect a fine.
Green lost his cool in the waning seconds of the first half, placing Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a chokehold, throwing him to the ground and punching his helmet. Green said he snapped because of repeated cheap shots he felt Ramsey was taking.
Peter King takes issue with a statement from Jerry Jones:
“Make no mistake about it: There is zero tolerance, complete zero tolerance, complete zero tolerance by me and by the Cowboys about domestic violence.”
—Dallas owner Jerry Jones, to the Dallas Morning News.
How possibly can Jerry Jones say this? Let’s say there was zero, complete zero, complete zero evidence that Ezekiel Elliott ever touched his girlfriend in anger. (And no one who looks at this case objectively would say that.) What about Greg Hardy? Can Jerry Jones say with any degree of legitimacy that there’s no evidence Hardy abused a girlfriend before the Cowboys signed him in 2015? That’s an incredible statement from Jones.
Now if in Hardy’s case, Jones said the Cowboys believe in giving players a second chance, fine. But that’s not what he said.
NEW YORK GIANTS
I think the first time this year I thought, The Giants might have to clean house, was Sunday, late in the third quarter against the Rams, when a once-proud defense had allowed touchdown-field goal-touchdown-touchdown-punt-field goal-touchdown-touchdown-touchdown. (And one of those touchdowns came on a third-and-33 pass play.) I can just envision the smoke coming out of John Mara’s ears. He’s got to be disappointed, even with all these injuries, with how feeble his team is playing. Giants are 1-7 for the first time since 1980.
The DB finds the demise (as a player) of Robert Griffin III to be fascinating. It is a fact that as a rookie, he was a good to very good player with a bright future. Then he wasn’t. Why?
This from Peter King:
“Regardless of his desires to do different things, he wasn’t as good of a player the second year. I don’t know what happened to him. But he just wasn’t the same person, wasn’t the same player. Again, he was trying to be someone he wasn’t. … I feel like Robert was trying to be Aaron Rodgers, or trying to be someone he wasn’t instead of embracing himself and what he’s good at and building on that.”
—Former Washington quarterback Rex Grossman, on teammate Robert Griffin III, to ESPN 980 in Washington (via the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog), concerning Griffin’s NFL flameout after his offensive rookie of the year season five years ago.
Peter King assesses the 6-2 Saints, pointing out that a draft that was part skill, part good fortune is playing a big role in their success:
The Saints snuck up on the rest of the league. Here they are, one of five division leaders with a 6-2 record, and Drew Brees swears: “I’m just telling you, I see this team every day. We’re just scratching the surface.” Look at what Brees did in the feisty 30-10 rout of the Bucs: completed 81 percent of his throws for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, a tidy ballgame for someone used to far more explosive days. But the Saints don’t need that from Brees now. That’s because there’s a very good running game here with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara (26 total rushes, 145 yards on the ground Sunday, and another 86 receiving yards), and a defense that’s allowed 15 points per game over the past six. Not so coincidentally, the Saints have their first six-game winning streak since 2009.
“They say a quarterback’s best friend is a great running game and a great defense,” Brees said Sunday. “We’ve been getting both.” Another good friend is a good draft—and GM Mickey Loomis provided that. Marshon Lattimore, the 11th overall pick, is probably the leader for defensive rookie of the year. Kamara, selected in the third round, is a latter-day Reggie Bush, with 652 rushing/receiving yards and five touchdowns in eight games. And the defense, with Lattimore starring in a renewed secondary and Cam Jordan playing at his peak only with more help, is a legitimate top-10 unit.
Recent history treated the Saints right. They almost acquired Malcolm Butler from New England in the spring but couldn’t figure the right deal—either for the Patriots or in a contract. So they dealt wideout Brandin Cooks to the Patriots for the 32nd overall pick in the draft, and New England kept Butler. One other X factor: The top two players on New Orleans’ board, in some order, were Lattimore and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes. So things went very well when:
• Kansas City traded up to the spot ahead of New Orleans, at 10, to take Mahomes. The Saints happily took Lattimore at 11. Lattimore has been a top-10 cornerback in the league this year. It was interesting to hear Lattimore’s post-game talk about the cheap shot Bucs wideout Mike Evans took at him, using a running start and a blindside hit to drill him. “I was shocked,” Lattimore said. “But it’s football. It is what it is. We got the W. That’s all that matters. I’ve seen that before.”
• With the pick acquired from New England, the Saints were going to take Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. But the Niners jumped them and took Foster. New Orleans took tackle Ryan Ramczyk, which was fortunate: Ramczyk been their best offensive lineman, and he’s played every offensive snap at right tackle.
• In the second round, free safety Marcus Williams was there, and he was an easy pick; now Kenny Vaccaro can play down in the box and do what he does best—play the run and be a cover guy on intermediate routes. Williams has played more snaps than any other defensive back on the team.
“The significance of the draft class can’t be overstated,” Payton said Sunday night. “It’s made all the difference.”
And maybe without all the pressure on him, Brees can be healthier later in the year, and play longer, and keep playing at a high level, the way Tom Brady is doing. “I don’t feel any different than I’ve felt in the past few years,” Brees said. “I feel like, like I’m sure Tom does, that I’ve got a great routine and great process to stay on top of the physical part of the game. There’s probably a lot of similarities between us that way.”
With this news, it looks like RYAN FITZPATRICK will be taking on JOSH McCOWN Sunday in a battle of QBs against their former teams. Rick Stroud in the Tampa Bay Times:
The Bucs have decided Jameis Winston needs a couple weeks off to rest his injured shoulder.
The Bucs quarterback, who has failed to finish two of the past four games following a sprained AC joint in his right throwing shoulder at Arizona Oct. 15, will be shut down for at least two weeks following an MRI he received Monday.
Winston has started all 40 games since entering the NFL as a No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs in 2015. But the Bucs have lost five games in a row and their franchise quarterback was forced to leave Sunday’s 30-10 loss at New Orleans shortly after sustaining a hit from Saints defensive end Alex Okafor just before halftime.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick would start Sunday’s game against the Jets Sunday. The Bucs will also recall quarterback Ryan Griffin from injured reserve and he will serve as the No. 2 QB in Sunday’s game.
“As I told you guys last night, Jameis did have an MRI today and as a result of that MRI he’s going to be out the next couple weeks,” Koetter said.
Koetter would not give any details about what the latest MRI revealed.
“A lot of medical terms that I’m not an expert on, but that he needs to be off for a couple weeks,” Koetter said.
Since Winston’s initial injury against the Cardinals, the Bucs are 0-4 and have scored a total of nine points in the first half of those games.
“Jameis didn’t play his best,” Koetter said. “But on the third from the last play of the half, when he got hit on his left side, the way the defensive end and Jameis’ weight fell on his right shoulder, that’s when he reaggravated it and that was a hit most all quarterbacks in the NFL, when you’re coming off an injury and you see those, those are not good. Up until that point, Jameis had practiced good last week. He had one of his best practices on Friday. He threw the ball great in pre-game warmups. But after that point, he was definitely hurt.”
Following the initial injury at Arizona, Winston had one of his best games at Buffalo, throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in a 30-27 loss to the Bills.
He did not play well in a 17-3 loss to Carolina Oct. 29, but coaches attributed that to the wind and a lack of practice time.
The fact that the Winston has been injured for four of the Bucs’ five straight losses may not be a coincidence.
“Yup, I mean you could definitely draw that conclusion,” Koetter said. “The problem with that is there’s no way to measure it. There’s no measurement for that. And because Jameis played so well the second half at Buffalo the first time, even though he came off a week where he didn’t practice until Friday, you think that could be duplicated as long as he’s medically cleared. Of course, his safety is first.
“I talked to Jameis about that earlier today. We have been on this losing streak since Jameis was injured, at some point in there. But there’s no way to put a measurement on that. As you have asked in here, of course we would always want our starting quarterback, most starting quarterbacks in the NFL take every rep during the week with the first unit. So that hasn’t been ideal, but at the same time, at most positions in the NFL, if a guy is cleared medically to play, he’s going to play. And a quarterback is not an exception to that.”
When asked if Winston had any kind of ligament tear in his shoulder, Koetter would not elaborate.
“They feel like he needs to rest a couple weeks and that’s going to happen,” Koetter said. “They’re saying it’s not structural, but they want to shut him down. I don’t want to say something I shouldn’t say.”
I think I find it incredible that Arizona (which has lost by a combined 67-7 to the Eagles and Rams in the past month) and Seattle (which had won four straight by 54 points before an agonizing loss to Washington on Sunday) could be tied at midnight Thursday in the NFC West. Seahawks, 5-3, at Cards, 4-4, in the desert.
Peter King, perhaps not telling all the knows, with some hints on why QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO ended up in San Francisco:
• So why’d the Patriots finally cave and deal Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco for a second-round pick—or to anyone for anything? I cannot tell you exactly why. And I still think it’s a mistake to leave your 40-year-old franchise quarterback without a net for the last three months of the season. The Patriots are a closed shop, but one good theory that I buy is this: If the Pats had dealt Garoppolo to Cleveland in the spring, they knew he and wise agent Don Yee likely wouldn’t have been inclined to sign a long-term deal … and what would that have meant? Cleveland likely would have franchised Garoppolo this March, which could have opened the door for a quarterback-hungry, Garoppolo-admiring team—perhaps Patriots division rivals like the Jets, Bills or Dolphins—to make Garoppolo an offer sheet he couldn’t refuse. The Patriots wouldn’t have wanted to see Garoppolo back in the division. Just a theory, but one I buy.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Peter King thinks that the 6-2 Rams have staying power:
The reason why the Rams are such a great story—other than the fact that their coach graduated from Miami (Ohio) just 10 years ago, and that they haven’t had a winning season in 14 years—is they are so darn explosive, and so darn likeable.
Look at the NFL’s points per game basement last year …
Team Points Per Game
32. Rams (4-12) 14.0
31. Browns (1-15) 16.5
…and the penthouse this season.
Team Points Per Game
1. Rams (6-2) 32.9
2. Eagles (8-1) 31.4
How have they done it? By stealing, in part. That’s right. Thievery.
On Friday, on the team bus on the way to the Los Angeles International Airport for the flight to New Jersey, coach Sean McVay was telling a story about one of the turning-point plays of their season. It happened in Week 4, against Dallas. Late in the third quarter, down 29-24, Rams ball at their 47-yard line, Jared Goff took a shotgun snap. From Goff’s left, speedy Tavon Austin came in motion. Snap. Ball-fake to Austin on the jet sweep. Todd Gurley circled out of the backfield as though to run a typical running back wheel route. Except he never stopped. He bisected Dallas defenders Damien Wilson and Kavon Frazier and kept going up the right seam. Goff hit Gurley in stride, for a 53-yard touchdown. The Rams took the lead there and never trailed.
“I got that from Andy Reid,” McVay said. “Opening night, Kansas City at New England.”
So I go to trusty NFL Game Pass, to search for Alex Smith to a back, seam route, big play. There it is, eerie in its similarity, early in the fourth quarter, first game of this NFL season.
Smith took a shotgun snap. From Smith’s left, speedy Tyreek Hill came in motion. Snap. Ball-fake to Hill on the jet sweep. Kareem Hunt circled out of the backfield as though to run a wheel route. Except he never stopped. He bisected Patriot defenders Cassius Marsh and Kyle Van Noy and kept going up the right seam. Smith hit Hunt in stride, for a 78-yard touchdown. The Chiefs took the lead there and never trailed.
“K.C. ran it the first game of the season,” Goff said Sunday. “That was straight from them. But you saw how well it fit what we do. They’ve got players like we have. Our coaches do things like that pretty often. It really makes it fun. It’s just like, we come into our meeting Saturday night before the game, and we sit down and look at the plays, and it’s hard to find plays we don’t like. It’s hard to find plays we think aren’t going to work.”
I can’t tell you how many coaches over the years, smart coaches, have told me openly that they steal. Buddy Ryan was one of the first, at the height of his “46 Defense” success . In 1985 or ’86, he told me he watched tape (might have been film) of other teams he admired every week, and he’d copy some defensive wrinkle or blitz. The coaches I admire admit it the way McVay did instead of huffing and puffing and being all proud. McVay knows everything in the game comes around. Goff says when one of these old but new plays gets introduced in practice, “The defense will go, ‘Wow. Cool.’”
“What you notice about Sean,” said Rams COO Kevin Demoff, who led the charge to hire the then-30-year-old Washington offensive coordinator, “is he’s a millennial in so many ways. But he’s really an old soul in football. He knows what works. Like, he said to us he really wanted Wade Phillips to coach the defense. He knew he wasn’t going to do it, so why not get someone who’d done it so well for so long. So the defense is all Wade’s. He took the interim coach [John Fassel] and kept him as special-teams coach, and gave him more responsibilities, like clock management and timeouts. So he knows it’s smart to empower people.”
Interesting that the Rams have gone from the most feeble offense to the most explosive, in nine months. How does that happen? By getting everyone involved. Robert Woods, Buffalo free-agent import, with two TD catches Sunday. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo trade import, with a 67-yard scoring bomb from Goff. Cooper Kupp, third-round rookie, with a catch-in-the-flat and quick lateral for a nine-yard gain to another weapon, Austin. Gurley, with 102 total yards and two more touchdowns. Rookie tight end Gerald Everett with a 44-yard catch, and another young tight end, Tyler Higbee, with a touchdown. And Goff, with his best game as a pro, four touchdowns and no picks and a 146.8 rating.
“The ball’s going to be spread around,” said Goff, “which makes it easy on me. There’s always a good option for me. We’ve got so many talented players here, and for us, it’s like what Tiger Woods says: ‘Winning fixes everything.’” As does fun. And no team is having more fun than the Rams right now.
You know what else is impressive? Winning travels. Look what’s happened the past three games. The Rams flew to Jacksonville and won by 10. Then it was on to London; Rams 33, Cards 0. Then home, then the bye, then on to New Jersey. Rams by 34. Three games, 3,000 to 7,000 miles away from home, and three double-digit wins. It’s strange to say “first-place Rams” in November. But the Rams are trending up. I’ll be surprised if they flatten out in the second half of the season.
Watching without the sound, the DB wondered how Seattle was allowed to throw a final Hail Mary. Turns out the game officials were not alert to a shenanigan/mistake by the Seattle clock operator. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Sunday’s game in Seattle ended with the Seahawks throwing an unsuccessful Hail Mary. If it had been successful, the league would have a huge controversy on its hands today.
That’s because the final play never should have happened. On the preceding play, Russell Wilson was sacked. The clock should have kept running, and if it had, the Seahawks — with receivers deep downfield — likely wouldn’t have had time to line everyone up for one last play. But the clock stopped, apparently because the clock operator wrongly thought Wilson had thrown an incomplete pass. In reality, the officials correctly ruled — and replay subsequently confirmed — that Wilson was down.
Former NFL V.P. of Officiating Mike Pereira said on a FOX video today that stopping the clock at 0:11 ended up being a huge mistake because it was 17 seconds later, with the Seahawks still not having run a play, that the officials buzzed the referee to review the Wilson sack.
“You had a clock error,” Pereira said. “You had 12 seconds when Russell Wilson went down on a knee, a whistle was blown ending the play. The clock operator stopped the clock. He stopped the clock with 11 seconds left to go. Seventeen seconds later — 17 seconds later, on a clock that was not supposed to stop . . . you had a buzz from replay. . . . The clock should never have stopped. I think it’s reasonable to say Seattle would have never gotten another play without this clock erroneously stopping.”
Pereira indicated that the league should discipline the clock operator for the mistake, which could have been decisive in the game.
“Obviously there’s a mistake made. Who’s accountable?” Pereira said. “To me, the league is pretty damn lucky that that pass was incomplete in the end zone and not a touchdown by Seattle.”
Two years ago the NFL suspended an official and investigated a clock operator over a late-game mistake. The league may take similar disciplinary actions this week.
The DB actually has some sympathy for the clock operator here, who may have thought he saw an incomplete signal from a field official. But shouldn’t someone in the on-field crew have caught the error just several seconds into those 17 seconds.
Two years ago, BROCK OSWEILER beat the Patriots in Denver. He will get another chance on Sunday per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The word after Sunday’s loss was that the Broncos would give Brock Osweiler another start when they face the Patriots in Denver next weekend and nothing changed on Monday.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph announced that Osweiler will start his second game of the year and second game in a row next Sunday night. Osweiler was 19-of-38 for 208 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 51-23 loss to the Eagles.
“I think Brock’s earned it. Deserves one more week to prove [he can do the job],” Joseph said, via Mike Klis of KUSA.
The Broncos aren’t exactly overflowing with other options. Trevor Siemian got seven starts before Joseph opted to pull the plug last week on the heels of a three-interception outing against the Chiefs and Paxton Lynch has only been practicing for a short while after a long stretch on the shelf with a right shoulder injury.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Of all the 3-5 teams, the DB kind of thinks the Chargers may have the best chance of making a run and stealing a division. So does their coach, according to Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Chargers are 3-5 and 2 1/2 games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West, but coach Anthony Lynn says don’t count them out.
“I like our chances,” Lynn said, via Eric Williams of ESPN. “I’d like to be in a better position, but everything’s still in front of us. The whole division is still in front of us. We’re not out of this yet. Our guys understand that. The urgency that we have to have this second half, I think everyone’s on the same page.”
Four of the Chargers’ five losses were by a combined 15 points. The only game Los Angeles didn’t finish within one score came in a 24-10 loss to the Chiefs on Sept. 24.
Victories in three of their past four games has left the Chargers hopeful about the second half.
“After our first win [following an 0-4 start], we all felt like we were still in it,” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but we’re in the third quarter of the season and we’re trying to go from there.”
This is the 50th season in Cincinnati Bengals history. In those 50 seasons, the Bengals have made 106 trades. The Bengals were founded in 1968 by Paul Brown, the same man who founded the Cleveland Browns in 1946.
The royal trade-deadline screw-up last Tuesday—the Bengals nearly traded backup quarterback A.J. McCarron to the Browns, but the trade was not called into the league office by the 4 p.m. deadline—kept one of football’s most interesting streaks alive.
In a half-century sharing pro football in Ohio, the Bengals and Browns have never made a trade with each other.
Is it a big deal in Cincinnati that this is the Bengals 50th season? Because until we read this note the DB, whose father was a founding Bengals season ticketholder, was unaware of it.
Back in Cleveland, WR JOSH GORDON says he was always impaired by something when he played in the past. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Josh Gordon, who will report to the Browns facility on Tuesday, admitted that he was on drugs or alcohol ‘probably every game of my career’ in an interview with GQ magazine.
“I used to make a ritual of it before every game,” Gordon told GQ, just hours before he met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and was conditionally reinstated by him. “If I had already been drug tested that week, or the day before the game, I knew I had a couple days to buy to clean my system. Even before I was getting tested for alcohol, prior to my DWI in 2014, I would take the biggest bong rip I could. And try to conceal all the smell off all my clothes. I’d be dressed up to go to the game. A bunch of guys smoke weed before the game. But we’re not talking about them.
“I would have these little pre-made shots. I used to love Grand Marnier. I could drink it down smooth. I could usually drink a lot of it. But if it wasn’t that, it might be a whiskey or something. And I would drink probably like half a glass, or a couple shots to try and warm my system up, basically. To get the motor running. That’s what I would do for games.”
Gordon explained that he found a way to beat the system and use before games.
“We would stay at the team hotel and then players are allowed to go back home, get what they need, and then go to the game. So I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol, and then go to the game. And then, I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.”
Even for his record-setting back-to-back 200-yard games in 2013?
“Yeah,” he said.
How many games was on something?
“Every game. Probably every game of my career,” he said, including at Baylor.
Gordon, who can play in his final games of the season beginning Dec. 3 in Los Angeles against the Chargers, described himself as a “highly functioning” substance abuser.
“For sure. [I] definitely pushed the limit,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it. It could be before games, it could be before practice, after practice. You see other guys kinda doing it, but I would take it to another level a lot of times. Feeling as though I was being enabled, I thought it was an okay thing to do: Well, this is the norm. And it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t.
“I would drink probably like half a glass, or a couple shots to try and warm my system up, basically. To get the motor running. That’s what I would do for games.”
Gordon, who can begin attending meetings, conditioning and participating in individual workouts after the off-day on Tuesday and begin practicing with the team on Nov. 20, admitted he’s been using since middle school.
“Initially it started for me, [because of] a lot of childhood and adolescent trauma-based fear,” he said. “I was using in my childhood. That environment brought me into that a lot sooner than a normal–whatever normal is–kid should be brought into that, to be able to make a decision on their own of what to do. I didn’t want to feel anxiety, I didn’t want to feel fear.
“I didn’t plan on living to 18. Day-to-day life, what’s gonna happen next? So you self-medicate with Xanax, with marijuana, codeine–to help numb those nerves so you can just function every day. That became the norm from middle school to high school. So by the time I got into my 20s, I was on an accelerated pace.”
He recalled the first time he did drugs.
“I was in middle school, in seventh grade. I was in the delivery ramps on the side of the middle school with some friends. [I] was given some Xanax, smoking weed and shit like that. In that class, I ended up–not passing out, but really nodding off, off the Xanax. [I was] only supposed to take half the bar, [but] took the whole bar and I’m like drooling over the desk.
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Gordon, who can play in the last five games with the Browns, beginning Dec. 3, recounted a bender he was on in the spring and summer of 2016. He didn’t mention Johnny Manziel’s name but the two hung out a lot during that time period, and got into plenty of trouble together. One night, Gordon picked up Manziel at the scene of a hit-and-run accident. It’s unknown if the car accident he describes to GQ involved Manziel.
“I was in a car accident, totaled the car, wrapped it around a telephone pole,” he said. “(We were) speeding. Me and another passenger, both sh–faced, thinking it’s fun. Sideswiping cars on the street. Putting other people in danger. And then ultimately, it’s like: How the hell did I walk out of that without a scratch? Cause the car is blown to sh–.”
– – –
Gordon recounted why he relapsed last summer, when all he had to do was serve his four-game suspension to start the season and then he’d be back on the field.
During a team walk-through, a Browns’ security official pulled him off the field and informed him of a warrant out for his arrest for failing to show up for a paternity test. Ultimately, he submitted and was found to be the father of the Maple Heights girl, now two.
He told GQ his thought process at the time was, “Who’s this girl? If there is a kid, who is this kid?” He said while the rest of the team was on the road for two weekend, he stayed home and “self-medicated.”
On the brink of his return, he left the team and checked himself into rehab instead. That stint, his third of four known trips to rehab, lasted about 35 days. He stayed sober for about six months in Gainesville, where he moved in with his business manager Michael Johnson, but then slowly found himself backsliding. In June, he entered rehab again, this time for more than three months, and got out in late September.
So why is this time any different?
“The past times, every time I would try to stop, it would be for the wrong reason,” he said. “It’d be a publicity stunt; it’d be for somebody else; it’d be for the coach, or whomever thought it was in my best interest to try to do that. Last time, I wanted to do it to save my career. Just for the job. [Now] I have the positive reinforcement and motivation of having a daughter and stuff like that, but kids can’t save you in that aspect.
“Only thing saving me at this point and time, and the difference between now and then, is that I’m doing it for myself. And I want something more for myself. I’m trying to do it for myself. I could give a f—- what anybody else is doing, honestly, at this point and time.
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Peter King with some inside dish on the Cleveland front office:
The Browns blew the A.J. McCarron deal. Say whatever you want about paying too much (second- and third-round picks) for a guy more likely to be a backup than a starter, but from all reports, EVP of Football Operations Sashi Brown did agree to the deal just before the 4 p.m. deadline—and then failed to execute the mechanics of it correctly. Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland wondered to me the other day how Brown could have done this, seeing that he’d made 17 previous trades since taking the franchise’s football reins 22 months ago. It can’t be because Brown really didn’t want to make the trade and so conveniently messed up the mechanics of it; that would only make him look worse because the failed trade was going to leak. And when Adam Schefter reported the bungled deal, the Browns looked a lot worse. I am left with this thought: I do not see how, unless there’s a reversal of play by the Browns down the stretch of this season, owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam are going to let all front-office members return in 2018. This non-trade is a major disgrace, even by the standards of the Browns.
3. I think the one byproduct of the Browns dropping the ball on the McCarron deal is that the reputation of the Cleveland front office is now surfacing. Teams do not like trading with the Browns. They feel Cleveland’s asking price, or the selling price, is too much of a moving target. This is not on every trade, but it is on some trades. I’ve heard from more than one team that it thinks it has a deal with Cleveland, and when the callback comes to confirm the deal, the price changes. Now, lots of times that is overcome, because some deals make too much sense, and pragmatic GMs and coaches realize that even if the price changes, they still want to make the deal. I’m just telling you what’s out there, and I’m telling you that other teams were not surprised the McCarron deal fell through.
Peter King on the deal that sent T DUANE BROWN to Seattle:
• The Duane Brown deal is good for both teams. For the Texans, because they get two top-100 picks (a three in 2018, a two in 2019, as well as a five in 2018) for a 32-year-old tackle who was going to be unhappy over his contract and owner Bob McNair, and perhaps verbally so if he stayed in Houston. For the Seahawks, this was a must-do deal. Entering Sunday’s game against Washington, left tackle Rees Odhiambo was the 73rd-rated tackle in the league, out of 73 qualifying tackles, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed an alarming 35 sacks/hits/pressures of Russell Wilson. That simply could not stand.
• Jimmy Graham was the player Houston wanted in that Duane Brown trade. But as I reported last week, Russell Wilson was likely going to be very unhappy if it happened. So the Seahawks went a different way. It’s probably best for them, if they’re trying to win big this year.
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Will the Texans be reaching out to Colin Kaepernick? Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report:
Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien confirmed Monday that the team discussed the possibility of signing free-agent Colin Kaepernick after quarterback Deshaun Watson was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
“Everybody gets discussed,” he said, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “Is that a problem? Don’t most teams do it like that?”
O’Brien suggested that the team would continue to utilize the players already on the roster, however.
“I like the guys that we have and we’ll continue to try to coach them,” he said, per Wilson, adding, “I coach the football team. That’s what I’m in charge of.”
He did note that he has scouted Kaepernick in the past and didn’t rule out that the team could consider adding him in the future:
Bill O’Brien on Colin Kaepernick hypothetical: ‘I’ve studied him since college and in professional football. I’ve known him a long time.’
Bill O’Brien: ‘Colin Kaepernick is a good football player, hasn’t played in a while. These things are going to continue to be discussed’
O’Brien also confirmed that Tom Savage would remain the starter Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
“Right now, I do expect him to be the starter,” he said, according to Wilson. “We’ve got to get Tom playing better. I think he has the ability to play better.”
In two starts and six quarters of play this season, Savage has led the Texans to an 0-2 record. He’s thrown for 281 yards and a touchdown, losing three fumbles, while completing just 45.6 percent of his passes.
Peter King points out how the Colts and ANDREW LUCK prolonged his shoulder problems:
A few thoughts on the Colts shutting down Andrew Luck until 2018 to rehab his surgically repaired throwing shoulder:
• Luck essentially misses three prime years because of a shoulder injury that should have robbed him of one. The Colts believe Luck probably tore his labrum in Week 3 of 2015 and essentially tried to play/rehab/play through it for the next two seasons. The Colts finished 8-8 in 2015, with Matt Hasselbeck playing in relief in a season that ended with Indianapolis out of the playoffs. If, say, Luck had shoulder surgery on Nov. 1 that season, he’d have been able to rehab it and likely play opening week 2016 at something very close to 100 percent. But he missed 10 games over the next two seasons, and with Luck often playing far below 100 percent, the Colts won just 10 of his 22 starts. So Luck missed or was severely hampered during his age 26, 27 and 28 seasons. In his three seasons at that age, Peyton Manning, Luck’s predecessor, threw for 13,024 yards and 105 touchdowns. That’s the prime of a quarterback’s life.
• Playing through the injury likely necessitated more rehab. When 15 months pass between the time of an injury and the time you have surgery to repair it, what happens? You adjust and adapt things like your throwing motion to evade pain and enable yourself to stay on the field. Plus, your body’s coping mechanisms take over. As one NFL medical expert who did not examine Luck’s records said on Friday, it’s likely scarring occurred and more damage was done by Luck overcompensating, making the surgery he had in January 2017 more significant than it would have been 14 or 15 months earlier. Thus the longer recovery time now.
• Luck could need more surgery, and if he does, opening day 2018 is no sure thing. There’s no indication now that he needs another operation. I’m told it’s not likely. But the Colts and his medical team will take the future as it comes.
• Luck’s a strong-willed guy, as most great players are, but there needs to be an authority figure who dictates how far players can go when it comes to playing with injuries. Maybe that’s coach Chuck Pagano, or his successor. Maybe it’s GM Chris Ballard (which would be smarter, seeing he wouldn’t be as subject to the emotion of week-to-week coaching decisions). But someone needs to step in, even when a player is playing fairly well (as Luck was last year) and be the referee when a player may be injuring himself further by playing.
• Jim Irsay needs to not give any more medical updates. The Colts’ owner tweeted post-surgery last January that Luck “will be ready for season!” That has haunted this process, particularly when fans fully expected the franchise quarterback to play the season. It’s not fair to the fans. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know.” With a surgery like this one, I’d empower one medical official or one club official to speak for Luck and the team. That’s it. The rest of the organization, including the owner, has to zip it.
It’s amazing to me that, assuming Luck plays pain-free on opening day 2018, it will be two weeks shy of three years since Luck played a game without pain in his shoulder. How unfortunate for a player of his stature. But there are lessons in the Luck story for the Colts, and they’d be wise to learn them.
Perhaps they are reading this in Tampa Bay.
Peter King makes Doug Marrone one of his Coaches of the Week:
Doug Marrone, head coach, Jacksonville. His decision to deactivate the best player on his team with the division lead on the line was a bold one. Marrone sat running back Leonard Fournette knowing—presumably—that he had a slew of players in his locker room wondering: Are you going to let this guy get away with three or four violations that none of the rest of us are guilty of? Marrone banished Fournette … and the team responded: 40 Fournette-less carries, 149 yards, a 40:14 time of possession in a 23-7 win over Cincinnati.
And this, also from King:
At 11:28 a.m. Sunday, the Jaguars issued a stunning tweet, with coach Doug Marrone saying star running back Leonard Fournette would be inactive for violating a team rule. “This has been addressed internally,” Marrone’s statement read, “and further details will not be made public.”
Oh really? Let’s see…
11:52 a.m.: Just 24 minutes after the statement was issued, ESPN’s Field Yates reported part of the reason for the benching was Fournette missing the team photo this week.
12:09 p.m.: Just 41 minutes after the statement was issued, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported that Fournette missed an injury treatment, a workout and the team photo.
12:18 p.m.: Just 50 minutes after the statement was issued, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Fournette missed “some appointments.”
Looks like the Jags really bottled up that story.
THIS AND THAT
THERE IS A COST IF THURSDAY NIGHT GOES AWAY
I think it’s okay to say Thursday night football stinks, and on many Thursday nights it does, and it’s certainly unfair to the well-being of players. But I would also tell players that to cancel Thursday night football in the next collective bargaining agreement would be to cut some revenue from the salary cap. Having nothing to do with the TV rights, Amazon this year paid a reported $50 million just to be able to stream the games on Amazon Prime. I’m fine with Thursday night games going away. But let’s not have any bleating over the cap cuts (if there are any) if the package is killed in the next CBA.
WHEN YOU’VE LOST VIN SCULLY
A troubling sign about the Kaepernick Anthem protests and the NFL’s policy of appeasement. Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com:
Saturday night, former Dodgers announcer and Hall of Famer Vin Scully was at the Pasadena Civic Center for an event called “An Evening With Vin Scully.”
At some point during the event, Scully was asked about the NFL’s national anthem protests, in which players have taken a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality and racism. Scully said he “will never watch another NFL game” because of the protests.
Here is a full transcript of Scully’s comments, via Deadspin:
“I have only one personal thought, really. And I am so disappointed. And I used to love, during the fall and winter, to watch the NFL on Sunday. And it’s not that I’m some great patriot. I was in the Navy for a year — didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do anything. But I have overwhelming respect and admiration for anyone who puts on a uniform and goes to war. So the only thing I can do in my little way is not to preach. I will never watch another NFL game.”
Scully, who will turn 90 later this month, briefly served in the navy before beginning his broadcasting career. So far only one player, Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, has knelt during the national anthem.
The DB remembered something interesting about Scully, he called one of the NFL’s 10 greatest plays on national television. Peter King adds a factoid:
Scully called NFL games for CBS from 1975 to 1982. His final game: the NFL title game in the 1982 season, and his final touchdown call was “The Catch,” Dwight Clark’s reception from Joe Montana that started the San Francisco dynasty.
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Don Van Natta of ESPN.com tells Peter King that he thinks Roger Goodell thinks he is doing his father’s work:
“Roger Goodell is the son of a senator from New York who was a principled man, who ended up losing his senate seat and resigning in principle over a fight with President Nixon … Charles Goodell decided that he was no longer going to support the Vietnam War. I would not be surprised, if the pressure does get turned up on Roger by the more hard-line owners, that this is how Roger sees this fight. If he decides to stay with the players [on the fight over standing for the national anthem], this is a principled fight, like his father fought, and I would not be surprised to see that he would fight it to the end and go out in a blaze of principled glory, if he feels he is being forced to do something against his own conscience. It would be history repeating itself in the Goodell family.”
THE MVP RACE
Here is how Peter King sees it at midseason:
Starting this week at the season’s midpoint, and continuing through Week 17, I’ll give you my top candidates for the Most Valuable Player award.
A couple things to note: Number six this week could be number two next week; it’s pretty close at the top. And you’ll notice I have a player out for the season in the top five. That’s because I think Deshaun Watson was pretty special in his six starts.
I’ve picked 12, because I want to credit all deserving players who I think have a shot to win it. Really, there’s only one I don’t think has a prayer: defensive end Calais Campbell of the Jaguars. He’s the NFL sack leader, and the Jaguars have been so dominant rushing the passer this year that I wanted them represented. Thumbnails on the top five on my list:
1. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia. Wentz, Brady. Brady, Wentz. Can’t go wrong either way. The Eagles have the best record in football, and Wentz has had dominating games against one excellent defense (Denver’s, on Sunday) and a good one, Washington’s. Wentz led Philly to 85 against Denver and Washington in the past three weeks. He has the NFL lead in touchdown passes (23), and he’s second in yards and third in rating. Perfect example of his impact: Against Denver, he rolled right and, with Von Miller in his face, threw 32 yards down the right sideline perfectly for Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown—with Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib in tight coverage. Wentz has been making these types of plays all season.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England. The ageless one is as good as ever, and that’s not hyberbolic. By the way, Brady’s regular-season touchdown and interception numbers since the start of 2016: 20 games, 44 touchdowns, four interceptions. This year Brady has survived an injury to Julian Edelman and gotten hit as much as any recent season, but the Patriots are 6-1 since that opening debacle loss to the Chiefs. It’s on Brady.
3. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City. Amazing to see this man with the dinking-and-dunking reputation entering Week 9 leading the NFL with an 8.4-yards-per-attempt average. Smith has become a good downfield thrower with a healthy Tyreek Hill to target. Smith is a legit MVP candidate … if the Chiefs can stay atop their division. He went until the fourth quarter of Week 9 before he threw his first interception of the season.
4. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. Wilson belongs in this group because of the success he has had with the worst offensive line in football, and with the shaky nature of the running game. Wilson didn’t play as well Sunday in the loss to Washington, but he still had enough at the end to put the Seahawks in position to win with the TD toss to Doug Baldwin with less than two minutes to play. If the line play and running game improve, Wilson could easily move up this list.
5. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston. I know what you’re saying: out for the year, they were 3-4 when he played, can’t have him over Aaron Rodgers. Yes I can. In his six starts, Watson led the Texans to 13, 33, 57, 34, 33 and 38 points, the final game the incredible showdown against Wilson in which Watson twice threw touchdown passes to take fourth-quarter leads. Throwing for 402 at Seattle? That’s enough for me to put Watson here. But unfortunate reality check coming soon: Can’t win my vote when you start six games.
Finishing up the top dozen:
6. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
7. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
8. Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams
9. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
10. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
11. Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville
12. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas.
The DB thinks King has Alex Smith overrated and Drew Brees underrated.