The Daily Briefing Thursday, April 13, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The City of St. Louis has filed a law suit against the NFL and the Rams for last year’s re-accommodation to Los Angeles. The case starts out in a hometown court. Ken Belson of the New York Times:
St. Louis and several groups in the city sued the N.F.L. on Wednesday, accusing it of violating its own relocation guidelines when the league’s team owners voted a year ago to let the Rams leave the city for Los Angeles.
In a 52-page complaint filed in Circuit Court in St. Louis, a group that included the city, the county and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority — which operates the team’s former stadium, in downtown St. Louis — said that team executives, league officials and other teams’ owners had encouraged them to try to build a new stadium to keep the Rams. Then the owners disregarded those efforts without explanation and voted to let the team move to California, the complaint says.
“The N.F.L., through its member teams and the votes of the teams’ owners, approved the relocation of the Rams despite the failure of the Rams franchise to meet its obligations under the relocation policy or even to offer a credible, persuasive statement of reasons concerning the factors set out in the relocation policy,” the plaintiffs said. “In doing so, the N.F.L., through its member teams, and the owners failed to apply and enforce the policy’s standards and procedures.”
According to the league’s bylaws on relocating franchises, teams “are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories,” as well as to support their fans.
For years, the Rams said their stadium in St. Louis was inadequate. In response, officials in St. Louis spent $17 million on designs and plans for a new stadium by the Mississippi River, and they had secured commitments for public contributions and a naming rights partner.
The city, the county and the stadium authority are seeking damages totaling more than a billion dollars.
“There is no legitimate basis for this litigation,” the league said in a statement. “While we understand the disappointment of the St. Louis fans and the community, we worked diligently with local and state officials in a process that was honest and fair at all times.”
Of the three recent moves, St. Louis was the one city that seemed willing to jump through the hoops of giving the team a new stadium, but the NFL still let Stan Kroenke chase big money in L.A.
Lawyer Mike Florio looks at the filing. We don’t know if it is actionable, but it does point out some whoppers the Rams told along the way out of town:
The lawsuit, at pages 28-30, lists several false statements from Rams owner Stan Kroenke and executive V.P. of football operations Kevin Demoff. For example, Kroenke allegedly said in 2010, “I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis . . . I’ve always stepped up for pro football in St. Louis. And I’m stepping up one more time. I’m born and raised in Missouri. . . . People in our state know me. People know I can be trusted. People know I am an honorable guy.”
Also, after Kroenke bought the land that will become the site of the team’s new stadium in Inglewood, California, Demoff allegedly said that it is “not a piece of land that’s any good for a football stadium,” and that the “size and the shape aren’t good for a football stadium.” Demoff allegedly said at a 2014 fan forum that there was a “one-in-a-million chance” that the Rams would leave St. Louis.
The various plaintiffs contend that extensive actions were taken and significant expenses were incurred in reliance on the statements made by the Rams and the provisions of the Relocation Policy in an effort to develop a new stadium for the Rams in St. Louis.
“The Rams never intended to engage in good faith negotiations with St. Louis,” the lawsuit contends at page 32. “In contrast to his prior statements, Mr. Demoff admitted in a January 2016 interview in Los Angeles that he ‘always dreamed that he could be part of bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.’ He also admitted that Mr. Kroenke, who inspected the California property in the summer of 2013, called him at that time and told him that the location was ‘an unbelievable site’ for a football stadium.”
The lawsuit also focuses on comments from coach Jeff Fisher after his 2016 termination, during which he admitted that, upon being hired in 2012, he knew “that there was going to be a pending move.”
Apart from pointing out alleged inconsistencies in the team’s commitment to St. Louis and intended move to Los Angeles, the plaintiffs make this strong claim about the league’s rules regarding franchise relocation: “[T]he Relocation Policy and relocation process are a sham meant to disguise the avarice and anticompetitive nature of the entire proceeding. The Relocation Policy was adopted to avoid antitrust liability by circumscribing the members’ subjective decision-making, but, in reality, the Policy is ignored whenever convenient to pursue a greater profit.”
The plaintiffs allege that the move to L.A. unfairly enriched the Rams and the NFL at the expense of St. Louis, with more than $15 million in annual lost revenue. The legal theories are breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation by the Rams and Kroenke, fraudulent misrepresentation by the league, and unlawful interference with business expectations.
The Rams declined to comment on the matter, citing the team’s policy against commenting on pending litigation. The NFL provided the following statement to PFT: “There is no legitimate basis for this litigation. While we understand the disappointment of the St. Louis fans and the community, we worked diligently with local and state officials in a process that was honest and fair at all times.”
The league will now be working diligently to defend itself against the lawsuit, which will likely remain in the Missouri court system because the Chiefs operate in Missouri. This eliminates the ability of the league to take the case to federal court, where defendants without a clear connection to a given state are more likely to get a more fair shake.
Will this Instagram post by WR DEZ BRYANT cause a kerfuffle? The DB can never judge these things.
First and foremost, I would like to say I do a great job of minding my own business, but it’s pressing on my heart to share my thoughts about white Americans and black Americans (racism).
I saw a person quote Charles Barkley when he said, “We as black people, we’re never going to be successful not because [of] you white people, but because of other black people.”
I hate to admit it, but I understand that quote.
I’ve been [racially] profiled on numerous occasions, but not once has it influenced an ill feeling inside me about anyone outside of that issue. REAL SLAVERY is different from what’s going on in our world now. We all (every ethnicity) have the opportunity to lead by EXAMPLE.
Instead of making videos about the history of racism that get applause or people with influence merely doing things to post for social media, we should focus on individual accountability to be better as a whole.
I recently ran into a guy I grew up with who spent his adulthood dealing drugs. While we were catching up, he shared with me that he wished that he chose a different and better path. He said seeing my success was inspiring and that it encouraged him to do better with his life.
Real question: What is wrong with being sophisticated and black? Why do we associate those who choose the straight-and-narrow as not being “black enough?” Why was it that I was one of the first examples of success to my friend?
We focus hard on fighting the realities that exist instead of creating our own reality. The ones who came for us (Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X) paved a new path for us to follow. The struggles and hurt they endured created new life for us today.
It is not our job to carry the burden, but it is our job to lead by example.
Not that my opinion matters, I’m just sharing my thoughts.
Where in his career is WR CAM NEWTON who turns 28 in May? You would think he is somewhere between first and second on his way around the career bases, but Ross Tucker in Sports On Earth seems to think he has reached shortstop prematurely.
Have we already seen the best of Cam Newton on the football field?
Based on several factors, that is a fair question to ask and very possibly a reality that we might be forced to accept.
Let’s hope that’s not the case. No matter how you feel about how Newton has handled himself over the years, he is a truly unique talent the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Whether it is uncorking a 65-yard laser beam to a receiver off his back foot or bowling over three defenders on his way to yet another rushing touchdown, it feels like he does something special pretty much every time you watch him play.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of signs that the best Newton has to offer on an NFL field is already in our collective rearview mirror.
Let’s start with what we know for sure. Newton is coming off the worst season of his NFL career. He threw for a career-low 6.9 yards per attempt, one of the best stats to indicate quarterback productivity. He also ran the ball for only 359 yards on 90 carries, which is barely a 4.0 yards per carry average. All three of those rushing stats were career lows. In fact, he had never rushed for fewer than 539 yards in a season before, and that was in a season in which he played in just 14 games.
Perhaps most troubling was Newton’s dreadful 52.9 completion percentage. Not only was that by far the worst of his career (he had never been below 57.7 percent) but, according to NFL research, it was the worst of any NFL quarterback that started at least 10 games in a season since Tim Tebow and Blaine Gabbert in 2011. Yikes.
Then there is what we’ve learned since the season ended. Newton underwent surgery for a partially torn rotator cuff that will force him to miss all the minicamps and organized team activities (OTAs) that the Panthers have this spring. The hope is that he’ll be ready for training camp, but even then you have to think he’ll be at least limited for a while. Missing all that time is not exactly conducive to improving the timing and rhythm of the passing game, although the case can be made that perhaps Newton’s accuracy will be improved in part by having a healthier shoulder.
The problem with that optimistic way of looking at things is that Newton’s issues in 2016 were more than simply physical. Just ask his coach.
“He’s gonna have to rebuild his confidence. I mean, he was shook. Let’s be honest. I’m not going to lie about that,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said at the Annual League Meeting in March in Phoenix.
Combine all the above factors with the widespread belief that Newton will run the ball less moving forward and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he does get back to the MVP form he displayed in 2015. And while it is understandable that the Panthers wouldn’t ask Newton to run as much given all the hits he has taken already in his career — especially during his bone-rattling goal line and short yardage carries — one must wonder if he will be nearly as effective of a player without the same volume of rushes.
His ability to run with power is such a big part of his game. If you take that away from him, how effective will he be as a true drop-back pocket passer?
The best thing Newton has in his favor may be his demonstrated knack of bouncing back in a major way from down seasons throughout his career.
“I don’t know because when you look at every time he’s been down it seems like he always comes back the next year with a vengeance,” former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes said when asked whether we’ve seen the best of Newton.
“Think about that in college or even in the NFL. He’s just such a resilient guy.”
Newton’s track record in that regard is extraordinary. After coming on the scene in a major way as a rookie, Newton bounced back from a subpar second season to lead the Panthers to a 12-4 campaign and a spot in the playoffs (while he earned a Pro Bowl nod). After missing a couple of games in a down 2014 season for both him and the team, Newton responded by getting the Panthers to the brink of immortality by playing at an All-Pro level while the team went 15-1 before ultimately falling to the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Even in college Newton bounced back from a bad situation at Florida to win back to back National Championships, first at the Junior College level at Blinn and then at the FBS level for Auburn.
2016 was a down year for Newton across the board. But let’s all hope for both his sake and our entertainment value that he has at least one major redemption story left.
The Saints seem like an odd fit for ADRIAN PETERSON, but the teams are talking. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
Adrian Peterson left New Orleans without a contract.
The running back met with the Saints this week and left Tuesday night without a deal, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Rapoport added that the visit went well and the sides will continue to talk.
The 32-year-old Peterson seems like an ill fit in the Saints’ pass-happy offense. Yet the sides have a mutual interest in pairing. New Orleans is looking for a backup power runner behind Mark Ingram. Peterson is seeking to continue his career chasing a Super Bowl ring.
GM John Lynch has made it clear he is not locked into using the second overall pick in the draft. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
San Francisco General Manager John Lynch will trade the second overall pick in the draft if he gets the right offer.
Lynch said he has already talked to some teams about a potential trade and hopes to talk to more.
“We’re open for business,” Lynch told reporters today.
Lynch said the 49ers have a general idea of what kind of package of picks it would take for them to trade down. Last year the Browns traded the second overall pick to the Eagles and got two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a third-round pick.
There’s also the possibility that Lynch would like to trade the No. 2 pick to Washington for Kirk Cousins. Cousins doesn’t think that’s going to happen, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would reportedly love to have another opportunity to coach Cousins, after the two previously worked together in Washington.
In any event, Lynch hopes his phone rings a lot in the next two weeks. He’s ready to make a deal.
There are reports that the Browns have yet to settle on DE MYLES GARRETT, as so many draftniks feel they should. This from ESPN.com and rumor monger Adam Schefter:
The Cleveland Browns have not made up their minds about who to select with the first overall pick in the NFL draft, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. The Browns’ decision appears to be between defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the source said.
Another NFL executive of a team that has a top-10 pick said, “Don’t be surprised if Myles Garrett isn’t the No. 1 pick.”
Garrett, out of Texas A&M, has become the consensus choice for most draft analysts as the draft’s best player and the likely first pick. He and Cleveland coach Hue Jackson have shared a private dinner, and Garrett told ESPN The Magazine that Jackson said he would be happy to draft him.
North Carolina’s Trubisky jumped up draft boards after starting for the first time last season for the Tar Heels.
Cleveland already has three quarterbacks on its roster who are 26 years old or younger in Cody Kessler (23), Kevin Hogan (24) and the recently acquired Brock Osweiler (26).
If the Browns pass on Trubisky, he might not fall further than the second pick.
The 49ers own the No. 2 selection, and San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello both flew to North Carolina to work out Trubisky on Thursday.
Trubisky is the only quarterback that Shanahan, a former offensive coordinator, has personally worked, a source told Schefter.
Charley Casserly is incredulous they are not proclaiming their intention to draft Garrett to the world.
If NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly was in charge of the Browns, he would ensure Hue Jackson remained the head coach through the team’s rebuild. The former NFL general manager believes coaches under pressure are more prone to drafting a quarterback rather than selecting the best player.
“… The owner has to come in there and say, ‘Listen, you’re going to be here Hue Jackson, take the best player. I know we’re reaching on a quarterback,'” Casserly said on Good Morning Football on Wednesday. “‘Myles Garrett is a Hall of Famer (I’m joking a little bit there), take him. We’ll build this program from the bottom up and you’ve got my backing. By the way, you’ve got a year on your contract, too.'”
Casserly’s words came the morning after an ESPN report suggested Cleveland has yet to make up its mind at No. 1. The Browns reportedly are mulling between selecting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and a quarterback at No. 1 during the draft, which takes place from April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
Like many in the NFL world, Casserly wondered if the report was a rumor to prop up the value of the No. 1 pick and entice a quarterback-needy team to trade up to No. 1. The Buffalo Bills, who have worked out North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, could be an example of a team that might be desperate to snag their quarterback of the future. The Cardinals, Giants, 49ers and others have also become a moderate-to-heavy presence in the quarterback workout circuit.
And Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com thinks the Browns should trade the pick for a proven QB (or JIMMY GARAPPOLO who is semi-proven) rather than flip a coin on Trupinsky:
The notion recently floated by the Browns that they’re torn between defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky overlooks one critical reality regarding the situation: If the Browns would use the first overall pick on a rookie quarterback (essentially trading the pick for a rookie quarterback), would they trade the pick for a veteran quarterback?
The Patriots, by all accounts, have decided they won’t be trading Jimmy Garoppolo at all, presumably even if the offer includes the top pick in the draft. As one league source recently explained it to PFT, coach Bill Belichick has decided that he wants Garoppolo to be the backup to Tom Brady in 2017 — and that Belichick will worry about Garoppolo becoming a free agent in 2018 when 2018 arrives.
So what about the trading the first overall pick in the draft for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins? While that may seem like a high price for a guy who has yet to firmly establish himself as a franchise quarterback, think of it another way. If Cousins were in the draft pool along with Garrett and all of the various unproven rookie quarterbacks for whom success in the NFL is a coin-flip proposition at best, wouldn’t the Browns take Cousins?
Of course, they’d get him that way at a contract that pays out less than $30 million over four years. To keep Cousins the sixth-year franchise-tagged veteran beyond 2017, the Browns would have to break the bank, with a long-term deal that pays out at least $52 million fully guaranteed over the first two years of the contract.
It would be unconventional, but this is the team that bought a second-round pick last month for $16 million. If they’ll do that to get a quarterback they don’t want, what would they pay for one they do?
Coach Hue Jackson runs an offense very similar to the one Cousins has mastered in Washington with Jay Gruden. The Cleveland interest in Cousins, rumored for weeks, is something needs to at least be considered as the draft approaches.
Is BEN ROETHLISBERGER trying to put his considerable weight behind the team drafting a tight end? Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has committed to the team for 2017. As the 2017 draft approaches, Roethlisberger wants it to be known that he’s not expecting the team to make a commitment at any one specific position.
Specifically, Roethlisberger has disputed a report from NFL Network that he’s lobbying for the team to take a tight end.
“Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was in [the team facility] not less than two weeks ago and he said to Mike Tomlin, ‘Get me some more help,’” Aditi Kinkhabwala recently said on NFL Network. “He was lobbying for a tight end.”
Said Roethlisberger in a statement provided to PFT: “The report of me lobbying to draft a tight end or pass catcher is wrong. Coaches and teammates know I love the guys we have and always believe we can win. I trust the organization to do their best selecting players to help us, and and every year they tell me generally the positions they are exploring, but I have not lobbied or demanded we add a tight end or pass catcher or any other position through the draft or free agency.”
Last year, the Steelers signed tight end Ladarius Green as the potential replacement for Heath Miller, who retired. Injuries limited Green dramatically, and Jesse James emerged as the top option at the position, catching 39 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s not the first time Roethlisberger has spoken out in response to a report from NFL Network. In 2013, he aggressively disputed a claim that he planned to ask the team to explore trade options after the season.
“It is one of the most BS stories that I’ve ever heard of,” Roethlisberger said at the time. “I’ve always said that I want to be a Steeler for life. I love it here. I’m happy here. I don’t want to go anywhere. No one in my family, our camp, agents, no one has ever said anything about that. Wherever this was made up from is totally false.” (Reminder: He has remained with the Steelers consistently since then, and he hasn’t asked for a trade.)
While Roethlisberger used more measured words this time around, the point is the same: He disagrees with the NFLN report.
The broader question as it relates to the Steelers (and every other team with an aging franchise quarterback) is whether he’ll disagree with a decision to use the first-round pick on the quarterback’s eventual replacement.
The Colts are said to have kicked the tires of DT JOhNATHAN HANKINS and found him wanting. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star:
When the Colts hosted Giants free agent defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins for a visit on Tuesday, it presented an opportunity for Indianapolis to acquire a player who is, arguably, the NFL’s top remaining free agent.
But while that window hasn’t completely closed, it does not appear Hankins is destined to don the horseshoe.
Hankins left Indianapolis without agreeing to a contract, and an NFL source with knowledge of the situation said a deal with Hankins does not appear likely.
Hankins seems a good fit for the Colts, who could use a jolt at nose tackle – Hankins’ preferred position. But while the football fit seems ideal, what’s less clear is whether Hankins is a financial fit for the Colts. He reportedly has been seeking an annual salary on par with some of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. But given the fact he remains on the market a full month after the start of free agency, teams appear to be resistant to obliging.
Hankins’ best option might be a long-term deal from the Giants that, according to ESPN.com, remains on the table. He recorded 43 total tackles for the Giants in 2016 and co-owner John Mara said during the recent NFL owners meetings, “We still very much like him on our team. … Hopefully we’ll get it worked out. But I have no idea whether that will happen or not.”
If the Colts do, in fact, move on, the Giants might now be able to bring the Hankins situation to a conclusion.
For the Colts, look for defensive line to remain a position of great interest in this month’s draft. The team faces both on- and off-field issues. Nose tackle David Parry is facing multiple felonies in an Arizona criminal case while defensive ends Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson battled knee issues for the duration of the 2016 season.
Are all the workouts and interviews with quarterbacks prospects just an elaborate smokescreen as the Bills new head coach suggests? Or is his interview about the QB interest being a smokescreen just a smokescreen in itself? Or do the Bills just not know what they are doing? You be the judge. Mike Rodak at ESPN.com:
A week ago, much of the discussion around the Buffalo Bills’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft was focused on a pair of positions where the team has needs: wide receiver and cornerback.
Now, with the 2017 draft just over two weeks away, quarterback is once again a hot topic for the Bills and their No. 10 overall selection.
A photo posted Sunday to Twitter by North Carolina co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer revealed coach Sean McDermott and owner Terry Pegula were among a traveling party meeting with UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Reports this week also indicated the Bills met with Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (USA Today) and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes (Houston Chronicle). The Bills presumably have also gotten a close look at Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, whom Bleacher Report reported GM Doug Whaley is rumored to like.
So does that mean the Bills could take a quarterback with their first-round pick, even with Tyrod Taylor remaining as their starter?
“We’ll take a look at those [quarterbacks], but it doesn’t mean we’re taking a quarterback,” McDermott told Kiss 98.5 in Buffalo on Wednesday. “Maybe these last three or four trips were just kind of all a smokescreen, right? It’s kind of like hiding your presents from your kids. You kind of put them in different spots and see, right? We’ll just see. It’s just a big mystery at this point. No one really knows. You never know who’s going to be there at No. 10 when we pick. You just got to go do the homework and study it up.”
Adding to the mystery was a tweet Tuesday from former Bears college scouting director Greg Gabriel:
It’s my understanding that Buffalo was trying to keep QB workouts under the radar until North Carolina coached tweeted out pic from Sunday
THIS AND THAT
BEST PLAYER NOT TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL
Several days after Sergio Garcia takes his name out of contention for the title of best player not to win a Major, Mike Florio asks a similar question in football.
With Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin embarking on his latest attempt to win his first Stanley Cup, fodder has been spotted for a PFT Live question of the day.
Who is the best player in the NFL to not yet win a Super Bowl?
Who’s the best NFL player to not win a Super Bowl?
You can vote here, but we can spoil it by telling you that the clear early leader is LARRY FITZGERALD for whom the DB voted.
Although we suppose that a vote for Fitzgerald is also a recognition that because he likely has less of a career left than any of the other five (except maybe Peterson), he is the one most likely to be in that position when the time comes to be enshrined in Canton.
Has RB JOE MIXON really changed from the woman-beating monster caught on tape? He says so. Austin Knoblach of NFL.com:
Controversial draft prospect Joe Mixon reiterated Wednesday he’s a “different person” from the one who punched a woman at an Oklahoma restaurant in 2014.
Speaking on The Rich Eisen Show, the Oklahoma running back said he has grown up since the incident and isn’t “running from the fact that I made a huge mistake.”
“I’ve been through a lot of situations after that and I learned a lot,” Mixon told Eisen. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the character of me. I just grew up from the situation and moved fast and tried to move forward in a positive manner.”
Mixon is considered one of the top running backs available in the 2017 NFL Draft, which takes place in Philadelphia on April 27-29. Tied for fifth among running backs in NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock’s latest positional rankings, many pundits have Mixon pegged as a potential second-round selection.
Still, some teams aren’t taking a chance with the man who punched and knocked out a fellow Oklahoma student after a verbal confrontation. Mixon was suspended from the Sooners for a season and, in the criminal case, received a year of probation after reaching plea agreement with prosecutors.
Although Mixon understands some NFL clubs do not consider him draft material, he told Eisen he’s visited with “around 15 teams.”
“There has been a lot of teams that I’ve been going to, going around the country and touring around, them getting to know me as a person, and you know, we’ve been trying to build a relationship from there,” said Mixon, who wasn’t invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
Mixon said he knows he can’t force his way on the draft boards of certain teams but underlined “it’ll take time” for him to convince everyone he has learned from his mistakes.
“It’s all about, really, maturity,” Mixon said. “… If I could take that day back, I will. But I can’t. Like I said, I’ve been doing whatever I can to improve myself as a person off the field and a player on the field. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last two-and-a-half years.
“It’s not a one-day thing. Nothing just goes away so quick.”
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John Crist of SaturdayDownSouth.com is another commentator unimpressed with the attitude of MYLES GARRETT:
You’re not in College Station anymore, Myles Garrett. Get used to the idea now: The NFL isn’t going to kiss your ass at every turn.
Garrett, the presumed No. 1 pick in this month’s NFL Draft, refused to be a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” on Monday morning because SEC analyst and LSU product Anthony “Booger” McFarland was a part of the broadcast.
Unlike seemingly every member of the media attached to the Texas A&M program — across the entire college football landscape, really — McFarland has dared to be critical of Garrett’s play heading into the draft. Considering the fact that McFarland is a former first-round pick himself and won a pair of Super Bowls, his opinion carries weight.
Going through ESPN’s “car wash,” Garrett later made an appearance on “Rusillo and Kanell” and was asked about skipping out on “Mike and Mike”:
“I just don’t appreciate the kind of negativity and bias that he shows for some guys, and I don’t feel like I should have to sit there and take that. I have no problem sitting on it and taking criticism from anybody, but it’s just bias. When he has showed bias toward a certain team or a certain player and then spouts negativity to everybody else, it just doesn’t sit well with me.”
Garrett is talking out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, he says he has “no problem” taking criticism. But on the other, he clearly has an issue with McFarland’s brand of analysis and hides behind the lazy “bias” excuse.
McFarland last played at LSU in 1998. Texas A&M didn’t join the SEC until 2012, you’ll recall. Why Garrett thinks McFarland has built-in hate for the Aggies — or Garrett specifically, for that matter — is a mystery. He played A&M once in his career, losing as a freshman in ’95. I doubt he’s been holding a grudge ever since.
Speaking later on “The Paul Finebaum Show,” McFarland pointed out that NFL beat writers typically don’t punch with kid gloves like their college colleagues oftentimes do:
“If you can’t talk to a country boy from Louisiana, how are you going to deal with Mary Kay Cabot from the ‘Cleveland Plain Dealer’ when she writes an article about you that you are not living up to what you are supposed to be? How are you going to deal with that? How are you going to deal with the national pundits saying you aren’t J.J. Watt, you aren’t living up to what you are suppose to be?”
McFarland has never suggested that Garrett is a bust in the making. However, he does have concerns about his down-to-down desire to defend the run. He’s not exactly alone in making that part of his evaluation, either.
All Garrett had to do was sit down, answer a non-confrontational question or two from the likeable McFarland and be done with it. Instead, he bailed at the last minute — literally at the commercial break prior to his scheduled segment — and created a headline out of thin air. And that headline makes Garrett look like a spoiled brat.
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Jaaon LaCanfora of CBSSports.com on a D-2 sleeper’s awakening.
Adam Shaheen is about two weeks away from completing one of the more stunning transformations in all of college football, going from a scrawny freshman whom no school outside of Division III wanted to recruit at all for football to a walk-on tight end at tiny Division II Ashland to one of the premier prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The journey was winding and arduous, including transferring schools, giving up basketball for football and putting on about 70 pounds of mass to become an elite tight end. And if not for a big-time college football game Shaheen decided to attend on a whim as a fan three-and-a-half years ago, it might not all have been possible.
At the time, Shaheen was a freshman basketball player at Division II Pittsburgh at Johnstown, the school that gave him the best scholarship aid out of high school in Galena, Ohio, where he was a multi-sport standout. And by the fourth quarter of a fairly epic game between Ohio State and Wisconsin in Columbus in the fall of 2013 (the Buckeyes persevered, 31-24), Shaheen was intent on altering course as soon as possible and finding a school anywhere that was willing to let him return to the gridiron.
“Just sitting there watching that game, I was like, man, I want to play football again,” Shaheen said from yet another airport as yet another NFL team brought him in for what has become a never-ending procession of pre-draft visits. “I don’t care about (scholarship) money, I’ll walk on and take care of that when I get there. The feeling kind of festered over my first year playing (college) basketball, and at the end of it — it wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy basketball, and I had a great relationship with my coach and teammates, and I still hang out with them today — but It was just that I really wanted to play football. I needed to play football.”
The concept of ever being recruited by the Big Ten schools Shaheen was watching – Ohio State and Wisconsin – was beyond comprehension at the time. Shaheen figures he may have been 6-foot-4, 200 pounds back then. And now, in the spring of 2017, with the draft two weeks away, Shaheen is poised to be selected higher than many of those five-star prep stars who actually played in the Ohio State game he attended as a fan.
Shaheen could hear his name called very early in the second round – and most certainly somewhere on the second day of the draft. He has quickly gained the attention of general managers with his rare size, frame, speed and athleticism (he’s known as “Baby Gronk” in the scouting community), and he’s made miraculous gains in a relatively small period of time.
“He’s a rising star,” said a high-ranking official from one NFL club. “He’s a great kid, easy to like, and you can’t ignore his size and ability. We really like him.”
That exec said his team had a late second-round/early third-round grade on the tight end. Another exec said he expected Shaheen to be gone in the second round for sure. Even in what’s a very deep and talented pool of college tight ends, at 6-foot-6, 278 pounds, Shaheen stands out, regardless of the level of competition he faced in college.
Just as was the case when Shaheen was trying to attract the attention of college programs when in high school, his options of playing football once in college were limited, too. Pittsburgh at Johnstown was interested in for hoops only.
“I was a really late bloomer,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen reached out to his high school football coach after his freshman year of college to see what options might be out there, and he steered Shaheen to Old Dominion University and Ashland University, a Division II school in Ohio that participates in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. There wasn’t going to be much scholarship money involved initially, if any — Ashland had originally recruited Shaheen to play hoops — and Shaheen figures at the time he may have maxed out at 210 pounds.
“As soon as I went on my visit to Ashland in the middle of May I got my transfer release form,” Shaheen said. “They have great facilities and I liked it there. They said I was going to play tight end, and not receiver, so I knew I was going to have to put on weight, and a semester later I had the (scholarship) money and we got it rolling.”
Shaheen played very sparingly in 2014, catching just two passes for 85 yards all season in what amounted to a redshirt year as he focused on adding body mass. That was quite a process in and of itself.
“I took a ton of whey protein and a ton of supplements,” Shaheen said. “It wasn’t like a quick gain, either. It’s not like I was pounding McDoubles at McDonald’s. It was slow and it took the whole two-and-a-half years to get where I am and I was eating clean.”
In 2015 Shaheen become a starter and caught 70 passes (an all-time Division II record for tight ends) with 10 touchdowns; last season he caught 57 balls, with 16 of them going for touchdowns, becoming a two-time AFCA All-American in the process. By the early part of his senior season the NFL was becoming aware of his existence, but to say he emerged from compete anonymity in the college football world is not hyperbole.
“I knew after my sophomore season that I had the size, just looking around at other tight ends, and I was up to about 250 by then, and I thought I had the athleticism to play pro,” Shaheen said. “But I really honestly wasn’t thinking about the NFL until the scouts started showing up last year, and then it was like, ‘Hey, man, this is a real possibility.’ But for me it was just about playing and getting out on the field and having fun playing football.”
Shaheen’s agent, Brian Mackler, had no idea who the tight end was not that long ago, hearing about him as a tip from a veteran national scout that there was a legit future pro tight end at Ashland. Mackler, who represents Shaheen along with Jim Ivler, polled some GMs at the time and none had any idea who the kid was, but after asking client Matt Judon, who played linebacker in that conference and had a nice rookie season with the Ravens in 2016, and hearing rave reviews, Mackler soon was eager to sign him.
Shaheen’s stock has soared since clubs have spent time with him, from the combine on, and Shaheen has drawn so much interest there simply hasn’t been sufficient time to visit and work out for all the teams interested in seeing more of him. His speed, quickness and acceleration are all superb for someone of his size, his footwork and ability to use his body to shield the ball and box-out defenders is top notch (his basketball background helps). He has exceptional hands and hand-eye coordination, and is a willing blocker.
Hence, the Baby Gronk moniker. So, it’s no surprise which current tight end Shaheen enjoys watching play the most.
“I really like Rob Gronkowski — the way he runs after the catch, I like to run the same way,” Shaheen said. “And apart from that, he’s a good blocker. I wouldn’t say that I’m the best blocker, but I’m not afraid to put my hat on somebody and get after him a little bit.”
The number of teams that like him in the second round are too many to list — the 49ers, Jets, Bears, Jaguars, Rams, Saints are just a few teams that make sense. He had to beg his father to stop sending his press clippings and mock draft projects his way as this process has unfolded and Shaheen’s stock has continued to soar. He doesn’t want to set his expectations too high, and is trying to focus on the daily task at hand, meeting teams and preparing to play football for a living. Shaheen is content to have a small party with his family during draft weekend, and doesn’t want to get caught up in the hoopla.
In the meantime he continues to navigate a relentless travel schedule, which included a 14-hour layover in Atlanta recently where he spent the night in the airport, and some brutal days and delays due to weather. Soon he will be back on Ashland’s campus continuing his studies — he took on an audacious 16 credits this semester with his professors allowing him to take his classwork on the road with him. The most probing questions for him these days, however, come from NFL decision-makers, and not his instructors, with the biggest knock on Shaheen being the level of competition he faced in college and how far removed those Division II opponents are from what is ahead on Sundays.
“I just tell the teams pretty much all the same thing,” Shaheen said. “I know that’s definitely a challenge, but I think I’ve done what I had to do to get into this position, and I don’t think the NFL is a challenge I can’t overcome once I get there.”