The Daily Briefing Thursday, February 16, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Ex-WR Roddy White’s time in Atlanta came to an end at the hands of Kyle Shanahan.  And now that Kyle Shanahan’s time in Atlanta has come to an end, White kicks him out the door.  Steven Ruiz at USA TODAY reports White’s attack, but also offers a defense of Shanahan:

 

Former Falcons receiver Roddy White has never been a fan of Kyle Shanahan, and the former Atlanta offense coordinator’s play-calling down the stretch of Super Bowl LI did nothing to change his mind.

 

White, appearing on the “We’ve Never Played the Game” podcast, put the heart-breaking loss squarely on Shanahan and claimed things would have gotten physical if he was still on the team.

 

Via the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

 

“I’m glad I wasn’t a part of that team because I probably literally would’ve fought him,” White said…

 

“You destroyed a dream for a city. It’s bigger than me. The city of Atlanta needed that championship and you had it. Arthur Blank needed that championship and he deserved to win that game, with everything he’s been through. It was finally our time to win and it just hurt me that we didn’t get it done.”

 

Let’s consider the source of this criticism. This isn’t the first time White has taken aim at Shanahan. After being released by the Falcons, he claimed the offensive coordinator had it out for him and wanted him gone.

 

“I expected to play a bigger role in the offense,” White told ESPN last year, “and that’s what I wanted to do. But he didn’t have that in his desires. He had other people that he wanted to play my role, so he wanted me to be out of the [offense].”

 

Well, apparently the entire league was also conspiring against him, because no other NFL team wanted him to be a part of their offense either.

 

We should also point out that the Falcons would not have been in the Super Bowl if not for Shanahan’s play-calling. This team was carried by the offense throughout the regular season. It was one of the best offenses in NFL history due in large part to Shanahan’s play-calling.

 

But let’s ignore all that for a second and just focus on White’s criticism of the Super Bowl play-calling. White takes issue with the decision to pass on 2-and-11 from the New England 23 with the Falcons leading 28-20 late in the fourth. It was a questionable decision, but if the offensive line blocks adequately, a receiver gets open faster or Matt Ryan throws the ball away, this is a non-issue.

 

Shanahan’s play-call wasn’t “take a sack.” The players just didn’t execute. Just like Devonta Freeman didn’t execute when he whiffed on this block that would have given Ryan enough time to hit Taylor Gabriel on the game-sealing score.

 

And Jake Matthews didn’t execute on the following play when he was called for holding, negating a play that would have put Atlanta back in field goal range.

 

Falcons players, as they admitted after the game, just made too many mistakes to beat a team like the Patriots.

 

But, no, it’s all on Shanahan. He’s the sole reason the Falcons lost the Super Bowl. And he’s also the reason White is talking bitterly on podcasts instead of playing in the NFL.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is in high dudgeon over the inconsistencies in how the NFL treated RICHARD SHERMAN’s non-injury reported ailment and Brett Favre’s similar situation in 2009:

 

At a time when the Seahawks reportedly faced the loss of a second-round draft pick for hiding cornerback Richard Sherman’s knee injury, the NFL shocked everyone by imposing a punishment of nothing.

 

Well, not completely nothing. They got off with a warning. A wagging finger and a “don’t do that again” but as a practical matter a full and complete pass for a blatant violation of both the letter and spirit of the rules aimed at providing equal access to injury information.

 

As explained by the NFL employee who wrote up the story based on the report from an NFL employee who presumably got the scoop directly from the NFL, the NFL has opted to issue only a warning to the Seahawks for not disclosing Sherman’s knee injury. Given the plain language of the policy, which requires all “significant or noteworthy” injuries to be disclosed “even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game,” Sherman’s injury should have been disclosed, even if he fully participated in each and every practice.

 

Of course, to make that shoe fit Sherman and the Seahawks, the NFL had to assume that Sherman’s multiple “general rest days,” when he practiced at least three times after mid-December with the “not injury related” designation, had nothing to do with resting or recovering from his undisclosed injury. It’s illogical, it’s inconsistent with the rule, and it meshes with the perception (as Drew Brees aptly pointed out two weeks ago on PFT Live) that the league picks a preferred result and works backward to justify it.

 

Indeed, the same reasoning that applied to the Seahawks and Sherman would have applied to the Jets and quarterback Brett Favre. In 2008, Favre finished the year with an undisclosed arm injury (a partially torn biceps tendon). Favre fully participated in every practice (without any Sherman-style “general rest days”), Favre played in every game, and no one would have known anything about it unless and until Favre decided as part of his arrival in Minnesota to explain his sputtering performances down the stretch in 2008 by talking repeatedly about an arm injury that hadn’t been disclosed.

 

Did the Jets get a warning? Nope. The NFL fined the team $75,000, it separately fined then-G.M. Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and it also fined former coach Eric Mangini $25,000.

 

So how can Sherman’s case be distinguished from Favre’s? It can’t be. In both cases, the player’s injury was concealed. In both cases, the player fully participated in every practice. In both cases, the player played in every game.

 

The only difference is that Sherman had multiple “general rest days,” which if anything makes Sherman’s situation worse that Favre’s. Still, the Jets were whacked, and the Seahawks were only warned.

 

It’s possible that the league opted to fashion an inconsistent outcome because the Seahawks, given three separate violations of the offseason workout policies, would have been in line for something far more serious than a $125,000 fine, if the NFL had opted to issue any punishment at all. It’s also possible that the league plans to issue a warning to the Steelers for failing to disclose running back Le’Veon Bell’s injury, requiring them as a practical to do the same for the Seahawks.

 

Regardless, what would the outcome have been if the Patriots had hidden an injury to Tom Brady and, in his final press conference of the year, coach Bill Belichick had blurted out that Brady had an injury that previously hadn’t been disclosed? We’ll let the Patriots fans in the crowd answer that one in the comments.

 

As if anyone needs to have it spelled out.

 

The DB agrees with the glaring inconsistency, but we would argue that the error was more the over-punishment of the Jets as opposed to the non-punishment of the Seahawks.  The DB thinks the injury report should be about availability to play, not the arguable level of performance if and when the player does take the field.

 

AFC WEST

 

OAKLAND

The Raiders are being courted by a San Diego group that says it is willing to build a stadium on the Qualcomm Stadium grounds.  Kevin Acee of UT-San Diego:

 

Local developer Doug Manchester has contacted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing a desire to build a privately-financed stadium in Mission Valley.

 

Manchester, the former owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune, told Goodell he had “assembled a powerful group of associates” who will develop the land on which Qualcomm Stadium sits and “construct a new 70,000-seat stadium and surrounding development.”

 

An NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. Manchester declined to comment.

 

Significantly, the letter said the project could “provide an immediate alternative” for the Raiders if their stadium proposal in Las Vegas falls through. The Raiders maintain they are still working toward moving to Las Vegas despite two potential financial partners withdrawing. League owners are set to vote on their possible relocation at a meeting in late March.

 

The correspondence from Manchester, dated Feb. 8, said the group is “open to working with the Chargers, the Raiders, other NFL owners or a new ownership group.” The letter said an NFL franchise could participate as a partner or tenant.

 

“Our group will provide the funds previously allocated to be provided by the City of San Diego and guarantee the stadium’s expeditious construction,” the letter says. “Accordingly, this project will not require voter approval.”

 

The letter also said the group would provide “new state of the art scoreboards and upgrade Qualcomm Stadium while the new stadium is being constructed.”

 

 

SAN DIEGO

The Chargers are NOT going to market themselves as the cheaper alternative to the Rams.  In fact, their newly-announced ticket prices are the highest in the NFL.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers will play in by far the NFL’s smallest stadium this year, a soccer stadium with just 30,000 seats. And the Chargers plan to profit from scarcity pricing.

 

When the Chargers announced ticket prices this week, the average ticket came out to about about $192 a game at the StubHub Center. That’s by far the highest ticket price in the NFL: The Bears are expected to have the second-most expensive ticket, at about $135 a game. The price is also a huge increase from an average ticket price of $84.55 in San Diego last year, according to Team Marketing Report.

 

The Chargers had an average home attendance of 57,024 last season, which means the average gate for a home game was about $4.8 million. To top that this year in Los Angeles, the Chargers would only have to sell about 26,000 tickets a game at $192 a ticket.

 

Even though the Chargers’ welcome in Los Angeles has been lukewarm at best, selling 26,000 tickets a game should be no problem. This is, after all, NFL football. Even as NFL attendance declines, 26,000 tickets is nothing. The Chargers have said they expect their season ticket inventory to sell out.

 

Obviously, the Chargers think they’re going to make more money in Los Angeles in the long term, once the new stadium they’re sharing with the Rams is built. That’s why they’re moving. But even in the short term, in their tiny stadium in Carson, the Chargers will make more money from fewer fans.

 

“Selling 26,000 tickets should be no problem.”  Hmmm.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

T KELVIN BEACHUM is one-and-done in Jacksonville.  Zac Jackson at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Just one year after signing a five-year deal with annual options attached, Beachum will be a free agent.

 

Beachum, 27, had a $1 million option bonus and would have made $7.5 million with the Jaguars in 2017. He came to Jacksonville last March after four seasons in Pittsburgh.

 

A seventh-round pick of the Steelers in 2012, Beachum was primarily the left tackle with the Steelers but played on the right side early in his career. He played in 15 games with the Jaguars last season at left tackle.

 

 

TENNESSEE

An update on QB MARCUS MARIOTA’s rehab.  Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com:

 

Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Marcus Mariota is doing well in his rehab from a broken fibula but said that the team plans to be “very cautious” with the quarterback, who will likely miss the team’s summer work.

 

“We texted back and forth last night. He’s on schedule,” Mularkey said Wednesday during an in-studio visit with The Midday 180 in Nashville.

 

“I saw some video of him in a pool, one of the treadmills that are now designed to keep the weight off but you can still walk. That was good to see, him walking on that treadmill. He’s right on schedule.”

 

Mularkey said he doesn’t have specific dates for benchmarks in recovery.

 

“I think we’re going to be really smart about how we handle him and probably be overly cautious,” he said.

 

Mariota suffered the injury to his right leg in a 38-17 Week 16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

WR JULIAN EDELMAN tries to make QB JIMMY GARAPPOLO some money.  Mike Reiss at ESPN.com:

 

In an offseason when a potential trade of New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a notable storyline, veteran receiver Julian Edelman paid him a high compliment by comparing his approach to that of two Green Bay Packers greats.

 

“The guy is a stud. He went out and played in the regular season and played very well. He has that kind of gunslinger-like confidence, that Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers kind of confidence,” Edelman said Tuesday night on NFL Network.

 

Garoppolo, whom the Patriots selected in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Eastern Illinois, is entering the final year of his contract.

 

With starter Tom Brady signed through 2019 and showing few signs of slowing down as he approaches his 40th birthday on Aug. 3, some have speculated that the Patriots — who also selected quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the third round of the 2016 draft — could consider trading Garoppolo this offseason.

 

The 25-year-old Garoppolo had an early-season audition of sorts, starting the Patriots’ first two games of 2016 as Brady served a four-game suspension as part of the NFL’s Deflategate penalties.

 

In a season-opening 23-21 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football,” Garoppolo was 24-of-33 for 264 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He followed that up with a fast start the next week in a 31-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins, going 18-of-26 for 232 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions before injuring his right shoulder late in the second quarter.

 

Garoppolo missed the next two games, with Brissett starting until Brady returned. Garoppolo attempted only four passes the rest of the season, all coming late in the fourth quarter when the outcome was decided.

 

“It was a good opportunity, and I went out and tried to take advantage of it and do everything I could,” Garoppolo said in the days leading up to Super Bowl LI. “And it worked out pretty well. The injury obviously wasn’t the best thing, but I think it was overall a good experience.”

– – –

The 2017 will not be QB TOM BRADY’s farewell tour, according to Tom Brady.  That and other things in his long conversation with Peter King in TheMMQB:

 

During our conversation Sunday, in the shadow of a breathtaking mountain with fresh powder on a pristine winter afternoon, 39-year-old Tom Brady drank two 20-ounce bottles of Vitamin Water Zero. When he opened each one, he squirted the contents of a small plastic container labeled “TB12 Electrolytes,” maybe two or three ounces into each bottle. And over 90 minutes, he drank those 45 ounces or so of Vitamin Water plus the electrolyte solution.

 

The sports media often marvel at the staying power of Brady as he heads into his 40s. Super Bowl 51 was the last game in his 30s. Brady played 141 of the 145 New England games between the 2009 and 2016 seasons; the only four he missed were because of the non-injury-related Deflategate suspension this season. And despite his advanced age—Joe Montana and Dan Marino were retired by 39—Brady believes he can maintain his level of play long past the age of any everyday quarterback in NFL history.

 

“I’d like to play until my mid-40s,” he told me. “Then I’ll make a decision. If I’m still feeling like I’m feeling today, who knows? Now, those things can always change. You do need long-term goals too. I know next year is not going to be my last year.”

 

His non-dairy, no-vices diet is one thing. The other is a simple devotion to the game and to his body. His physical guru, Alex Guerrero, has been with him for 10 years, refining workouts, pushing his physical and mental self. There’s nothing else Brady wants to do as much as play football, and so he’ll investigate every option and every physical-education regimen to keep going.

 

For Brady, this isn’t work. It’s a lifestyle choice.

 

“Other than playing football,” Brady said, “the other thing I love to do is prepare to play football. I’ve worked hard to get a system in place that really works for me and I know could work for everybody else if they just did it. That enables me to play 99 plays [in Super Bowl 51, the most of his career in one game] as a 39-year-old in the last game of the season … Football to me is more than just a sport. It has become my life. Every choice that I make … what I have for breakfast, how I work out, all of those things. I love the game. I love playing.”

 

But the sacrifices, I wonder … the avocado ice cream instead of the real sugary thing … and the sleep, the long periods of sleep that he won’t sacrifice.

 

“Taking out some things in your lifestyle—[like] going out with your friends until 1 a.m. I don’t do that anymore,” Brady said.

 

“Do you miss it?” I said.

 

“Not really,” Brady said, “because I know what I’m getting on the other end. I know I can enjoy other experiences with my friends that don’t have to happen at 1 a.m. I can have my friends at a Super Bowl game as a 39-year-old. That’s a pretty amazing feeling. So it doesn’t ever feel like a sacrifice to me … That’s making lifestyle choices that support dreams and goals that I have. Football is a job, but it’s never felt like a job for me.”

– – –

Said his friend and coach and confidant McDaniels after the game: “Holding grudges doesn’t do anyone any good. Focus on the positive in life. That’s what Tom always does.”

 

“I don’t want to give my power away to other people by letting my emotions be subjected to what their opinions are. So if someone calls me something, that’s their problem. I’m not going to give away my power.”

 

That’s what he was doing the morning after the game. When Brady met commissioner Roger Goodell, who imposed the four-game ban, Brady smiled a lot. On the Monday after winning the MVP, at the MVP press conference, Brady defused the story by standing with Goodell, smiling for 20 seconds while holding the silver football given to Super Bowl MVPs.

 

This was either passive-aggressive, never-let-’em-see-you-sweat Brady, or zen Brady. After reading Greg Bishop in Sports Illustrated, writing floridly about the game, I’m thinking it’s zen Brady. Bishop wrote that Brady loves a mind-fixing book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In it, Ruiz writes that people adopt storylines that others create for them, and people are just supposed to fall into line and accept them as truths, whether they feel that way or not. In this case: Brady gets whacked by Goodell, so Brady must hate Goodell, and when he triumphs, that hatred will surface.

I ran it by Brady. His answer was complicated.

 

“When you play professional sports,” Brady said, “there’s a choice that you’re going to be … you subject yourself to a lot of criticism. After 17 years in the NFL, there’s a lot of criticism. I started experiencing that in college. College wasn’t an easy go for me … But I guess the point is, when you subject yourself to a lot of criticism, what I’ve learned from myself is, I don’t want to give my power away to other people by letting my own emotions be subjected to what their thoughts or opinions are. So if someone calls me something, that’s their problem. It’s not my problem. I’m not going to give away my power.

 

“You can call me an asshole and I am going to smile at you probably. I’m not going to say, ‘No, you’re an asshole.’ Because that person is controlling me with what their thoughts and actions are. How can you go through life, now at this point, 17 years, being affected by everybody all the time with what someone says?”

 

But, I countered, this wasn’t someone calling you a name. This was someone taking you off the field for a month. And you responded in a placid way, not a fighting way.

 

“Well,” he said, “what’s the best way to fight? There’s only one fight I can win, and that is how well I play. That’s the only one I can control, because I tried to play for 18 months and it didn’t work. So finally I said … ‘My team is going to go out and play great, I know they are going to, and when I come back, I am just going to do what I’ve always done.’

“Why let anything get in the way of that? You start giving your power away to other people, it’s a tough life. There are a lot of people who say something every day at this point. I am a very positive person. Most people who know me, I’d say I am very much an introvert, more like my mom than my dad. If it is up to me, it would just be dinner with my family and let’s go to bed. I’m not a partier; those things probably take away more of my energy, and I am trying to store my energy up. So I try to just be a positive influence and role model and impact on the people that I have when I am in those situations. When you are faced with things that are negative, those are challenging for me, because the positivity … I just want this to be a positive. Why is this a negative? Why are all these things negative now? What I’ve learned is, this is other people’s attitudes towards me as well. These aren’t necessarily my attitudes. So why don’t I just compartmentalize, still deal with my own emotion, which is challenging at times. But me not giving away my power to anybody has been something that I’ve had to learn, and I’ve learned it the hard way.”

 

If there’s another reason why you wouldn’t have expected Brady to be a flatliner in the Super Bowl, it’s the bit about the illness of his mother, Galynn, who is being treated for cancer. The Super Bowl was the first game she attended all season. Brady told Jim Gray in their weekly radio show before the game that he was dedicating the game to his mother.

 

Brady got emotional once in our conversation, and it was about his mother. He misted up, and his mouth quivered a bit as he said:

 

“It’s been a very challenging year for our family. You have parents that are going through what they are going through, and my mom is not the only one going through it. My dad is going through it at the same time, taking such good care of my mom. And my dad needing the support of my sisters, that I couldn’t give when I’m in Boston. So my sisters are the ones that are taking care of my mom, and my dad is there taking care of my mom. And we are so used to these football seasons where my sisters will come back for games with my nieces, and my parents will come back for almost every game, and they get to see my kids, and this year it was all FaceTime. I kept saying, ‘Mom, don’t you worry, we are going to be in Houston, we are going to make sure you come to that one.’

 

“I am happy that it ended up being a happy, happy experience because we won, But she’s a tough woman, and every family who has gone through these battles, it’s really hard. It puts a lot of things in perspective. Life puts a lot of things in perspective, and kids put a lot of things in perspective. I think all those things are factors in a 39-year-old Tom Brady versus 25-year-old Tom Brady. And that’s a good perspective to have because it’s a week after the season and I’m so happy we won the Super Bowl, but you also realize that life goes on, too. You are going to wake up the next day and life is still going to be going, so you better enjoy that too because all those things are taking up different parts of your life.”

 

Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have formed a bond that extends past football.

 

The MMQB: Think it’s likely you’ll play every year with the Patriots for your career?

 

Brady: “That’s an impossible question because I don’t make those choices.”

 

The MMQB: Would you like to?

 

Brady: “Of course. I don’t ever want to play for another coach. I don’t want to play for another owner. But this is professional sports. I’ve seen some of the best players I’ve ever played with on other teams. I’ve seen Jerry Rice play for the Raiders, Joe Montana play for the Chiefs, Brett Favre play for a lot of teams. You never know. That’s why I want to keep taking care of what I need to take care of. That’s what it comes down to. I want to take care of Tom Brady. I want to make sure Tom is available to the team, Tom is playing at a high level, so the team wants to keep him.”

 

* * *

 

So … aside from wife Gisele Bündchen getting a photo credit for her work—the international supermodel shot a picture of me and Brady in Montana on Sunday afternoon—she does play a part in this story.

 

“I was joking with my wife earlier this week,” Brady said. “She said, ‘Oh great, babe. Now you can retire because I know you always wanted to win another Super Bowl.’ I said, ‘You know, this is actually when it’s really fun.’”

 

It’s fun now, Brady said, because he knows what’s coming. He feels great, and you can’t fool him.

 

“I have the answers to the test now,” Brady said.

 

“You can’t surprise me on defense. I’ve seen it all. I’ve processed 261 games, I’ve played them all. It’s an incredibly hard sport, but because the processes are right and are in place, for anyone with experience in their job, it’s not as hard as it used to be. There was a time when quarterbacking was really hard for me because you didn’t know what to do. Now I really know what to do, I don’t want to stop now. This is when it’s really enjoyable to go out.”

 

One of the things that can get overlooked in the Brady run is the relationship he has with his head coach, Bill Belichick. Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB wrote an insightful story about their bond that explains a lot about the Patriots greatness: namely, that Belichick likes to coach his players hard, and the best player of them all, Brady, likes to be coached the hardest. It’s a remarkable tale that Vrentas wove.

 

And the Belichick angle here cannot be minimized. “I can only speak from my standpoint as a quarterback dealing with the head coach whose sole focus is winning games,” Brady said. “It’s not about public relations, it’s not about selling PSLs, it’s not about being a leader at the pep rally. I have so much respect for Coach Belichick because I think there are two things that he wants in his players, because there are two things that he gives us as a coach, and that is consistency and dependability. He is the most consistent coach that I could ever imagine playing for. Every day is the same. … He comes in and says, ‘We are going to put you guys in the position to win, and you guys gotta go do it. Don’t count on the crowd, don’t count on the refs. Don’t make excuses, just do it. Just get the job done … And when you come to the team you buy in because it works and it is the truth.”

 

The truth. We didn’t discuss it much, but there’s no question Brady knows the ultimate reality: If he slips, even a bit, here comes Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett. Belichick didn’t draft Garoppolo in the second round in 2014 or Brissett in the third round in 2016 for nothing.

 

Belichick knows an old quarterback is a risky quarterback. Brady knows an unsentimental coach is his boss. We are going to put you guys in the position to win, and you guys just gotta do it.

 

No question Brady will be ticked off, and feeling like he’s been jobbed, if Belichick ever replaces him. But the bottom-line nature of it all will be the best thing for the team. Brady knows Belichick will be forever grateful to him for evenings like Feb. 5. He also knows that that night won’t mean much when Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree are rushing the passer and the Patriots are not responding because their quarterback isn’t playing well.

 

 

Brady has taken his share of hits, but hasn’t missed a game due to injury in eight years.

 

At the top of this story I emphasized Brady’s health and physical conditioning. I did that because—as you may have heard—he’s become a fanatic about taking care of his body.

 

This is not going to be a scientific story; that’s not why I came here. But Brady is convinced that the longevity of his career is due in part to going counter to the NFL norm. Flexibility and stretching and diet are important, more important than the hours spent doing deadlifts.

 

“Feel my arm,” he said, when we walked outside of his cabin.

 

He held his arm out, flexed, and I felt the underside of his forearm, and it was not a rock. It was pliable. That’s the way he wants it. He doesn’t want to have solid muscles; he wants them to be flexible and malleable, but strong.

 

“Strength is very important to [my] job,” Brady said. “But how much strength do you need? You only need the strength to withstand the hits and throw the ball and make your movements of being a quarterback. You need conditioning because you need to be able to do that over a period of time, certainly a season. You need muscle pliability—long, soft muscles—in order to be durable.

 

“I can be an ambassador to play this great sport of football … how to take care of yourself so you don’t feel like you’re 60 years old when you’re in your mid-30s.”

Brady gets enthusiastic talking about the fitness regimen he’ll use for the rest of his career, and the rest of his life. Now he talks, and it’s like he’s on a mission.

 

“I know Joe Montana has had a lot of back surgeries,” Brady said. “A friend of mine who is friends with Joe says he had a horrible back surgery. Like, those things resonate with me. Those are my heroes. I know being in a position that I’m in, there’s a lot of kids that look up to me. I want to be able to show them a different way, the way I learned. I can be an ambassador to play this great sport of football, a contact sport, but also how to take care of yourself so you don’t feel like you’re 60 years old when you’re in your mid-30s.

“It’s about making the right choices. It’s not more effort. Everyone puts in effort.

Everyone wants to do the right thing, they just don’t know what it is. I want to be the person that proves to other people: This is the right thing. Just do it. And you’ll see all the benefits that I’ve seen. This is going to be the norm in 10 years. I actually think it’s going to make for a more competitive game, when you have so many players that are so healthy for long periods of times. I think the caliber of talent is going to be so much better.

 

“How sad is it to see Tiger Woods withdraw from a golf tournament? You’re watching the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen not be able to play a sport. In an age, to me, that’s hard to imagine. It’s kind of sad in a way. I want to be someone who is known to do the right things. We’re out here, a week after the Super Bowl. I spent five days in Boston to make sure my body was 100 percent before I left town. I know that if it’s not, those muscle memory patterns set in. If you’re sore for a week, you’re going to be sore for two, three, four weeks. Then you’ll get back to working out, and your body is going to go, ‘Ahh, God, you haven’t done anything for four weeks.’”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets get cap compliant by cutting loose T RYAN CLADY.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:

 

The New York Jets have released high-priced left tackle Ryan Clady, the start of what figures to be an off-season roster purge.

 

On Wednesday, the team informed Clady’s agent it won’t pay a $1 million roster bonus, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. By not paying the bonus, due Wednesday, the Jets made Clady a free agent.

 

Clady, 30, whom they acquired only 10 months ago in a trade with the Denver Broncos, also was scheduled to make a non-guaranteed $10 million in base salary in the final year of the contract he signed last April to facilitate the trade.

 

The Jets cleared $10 million in cap space by cutting Clady, which should get them under the projected salary cap for 2017. Previously, they were about $7 million over the cap.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

After one article portrays ex-QB Steve Young as focused on his career in finance, the HOFer defends his interest in football.  Barry Petchesky at Deadspin.com ultimately sides with Young:

 

Steve Young is in damage control mode, apologizing to ESPN after participating in a profile that sure made it look like he’s not that into the NFL or his Monday Night Football analyst job, and even seemed to imply his MNF job is merely a means to bolster his private equity firm.

 

The Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Young, which was published last week, focuses on Young’s life outside of football and in finance, and it comes across as way more rewarding and important to him:

 

Young says he may have quit ESPN years ago if not for his private equity partners, who like him to keep a high profile. When he works a Monday Night game for the network, he spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium preparing his commentary, he says; the rest of the time, he’s holed up in HGGC’s suite, cramming for deals. Once the game starts, he barely watches the action. A couple of transactions, he notes, have even been agreed to with handshakes in the suites.

 

“My wife hates football, and my kids don’t really care,” Young says. “I see myself as a deal guy first. I’ve put football behind me. Roger Staubach once told me—and I’ll never forget it: ‘When you retire, run. Never look back.’”

 

The story notes that MNF is basically a touring marketing event for Young and his partners. They buy a luxury box at every game to entertain clients, potential customers, and acquisition targets, and Young can’t wait to get up there and talk about anything but football from the moment his analyst duties are finished.

 

Naturally, this didn’t make ESPN happy and didn’t make anyone look good. ESPN would prefer you think its analysts do more than an “hour or two” of preparation before showtime, and actually watch football throughout the week. An ESPN spokesperson gave a statement to the Sporting News insisting that Young works hard and knows what he’s talking about.

 

“Steve is one of the most respected analysts in football and he remains committed to his job at ESPN. His producers and colleagues have noted his work ethic internally, his level of preparation and the effort he brings each week. In addition to analyzing ‘Monday Night Football,’ he watches games, actively participates in production meetings and contributes weekly analysis to our studio shows using a camera that ESPN installed in his office. He is one of the veterans of our analyst team and he’s constantly making fans smarter about the game.”

Young is trying to defuse this too. He sent a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek, which has been appended to the bottom of the story, insisting that he takes his TV job seriously. Then he went on television Monday, and gently criticized the story’s author for portraying football as a distraction for Young.

 

“I certainly think it’s a little disservice in the article about my passion and expertise at ESPN and for football. I mean the truth is I spend an inordinate amount of time in the fall preparing for my job. I don’t want to do a disservice to my family at ESPN, who I’ve been with longer than the 49ers, so there are so many rich relationships there. I feel like they’re not in conflict, the two jobs, at all, and I’m really lucky to have them both.”

 

I have a take here, and it’s that research is a relatively small part of a TV analyst’s job, especially in a pregame role like the one Young serves. The nature of television, both in the format and the limited time allotted, doesn’t lend itself to that much more than surface observations and oversimplifications. (If you want in-depth analysis, go read Bill Barnwell or Football Outsiders or Pro Football Focus.) Much more important than compiling a detailed dossier is being able to convey concepts to an audience, quickly and clearly and naturally. It’s almost closer to acting than true analysis.

 

The smartest people are rarely the best on TV, and vice versa. All I’ve ever heard from ESPNers is that Young is one of the smartest guys working, and whatever his preparation, it’s clearly more than enough to make him very good at the job he has. I think ESPN knows it too, or they wouldn’t have leapt to support him with yesterday’s statement. This will blow over, and now we have the pleasure of knowing while watching Monday games that Young has mentally checked out only a few minutes before the rest of us.

 

 

COMBINE EXILES

Ole Miss QB CHAD KELLY has not been invited to the Combine in Indianapolis due to character concerns, so, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explains, he will be picking up frequent flier miles in the weeks to come:

 

On the surface, valid P.R. reasons exist for shunning certain players with histories of certain types of criminal activity from the Scouting Combine. As a practical matter, however, telling players with a history of violent crime to not come to Indianapolis serves only to make the process more complicated and expensive, for everyone.

 

Key employees from two different teams (and counting) privately have expressed concern in the past few hours to PFT regarding the decision to keep certain players with obvious red flags from the Scouting Combine. As one source put it, “Any of these guys with question marks need to be vetted.”

 

And they will be. They just won’t be part of the cost-effective effort to get them all in one place at one time.

 

As another source put it, the decision to keep players like Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly away from the Scouting Combine means that teams will need to obtain separate medical information about Kelly, flying him from city to city to be poked and prodded in the way that all players are once and only once in Indy. Indeed, the Combine emerged primarily from the desire to get one set of comprehensive medical information on the incoming players. The rest of it, from interviews to press conferences to Underwear Olympics, grew out of that.

 

Regardless of what it has become, teams will find a way to get the information they need as to the players who aren’t there, for whatever reason. With the immediate emergence of Chiefs jack-of-all-trades Tyreek Hill despite ugly and troubling domestic violence allegations that didn’t get him shunned from the league, teams will continue to do their due diligence even if the player’s behavior ultimately puts him in the “do not draft” category.

 

Michael David Smith, also of ProFootballTalk.com, on why Kelly was dis-invited:

 

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was not invited to the Scouting Combine. Or perhaps he was invited, only to later learn it was a non-vite or an un-vitation.

 

According to Bill Polian of ESPN, Kelly initially was invited to the Combine, only to have that invitation rescinded by the league office. Polian, who signed Chad’s uncle Jim Kelly in 1986 and has been close to Kelly’s family for decades, indicated that the family isn’t sure why the invitation was rescinded.

 

It’s obvious why Kelly won’t be at the Combine: The NFL implemented a new rule this year that players who have been convicted of violent crimes won’t be permitted, and Kelly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct two years ago as part of a case in which he was initially accused of punching two people, threatening to shoot up a bar with an AK-47 and resisting arrest.

 

What’s unclear is why the league would initially invite Kelly, only to rescind that invitation later. It may be that this new policy hasn’t been thoroughly considered, and the league is still deciding which types of offenses merit exclusion from the Combine. A disorderly conduct plea might not necessarily keep a player from the Combine, but when that plea stemmed from an incident in which the player was initially accused of violence and serious threats, the NFL steers clear.

 

Chase Goodbread at NFL.com has a list of uninvited notables, not all because they threatened to shoot up a bar with an AK-47:

 

The NFL Scouting Combine makes room for more than 300 draft prospects, but that doesn’t mean every highly accomplished college player gets an invitation, and each year, there are quite a few who are selected in the NFL draft without the benefit of combine participation. Last year’s list of notable combine absences included draft picks such as Keenan Reynolds and Derek Watt. The full list of 2017 combine participants was released on Wednesday, but below we’ve assembled a list of some of the top players who didn’t receive invitations:

 

RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

Unquestionably the most highly regarded talent listed here, Mixon rushed for nearly 1,200 yards for the Sooners as a third-year sophomore and is remarkably gifted as a receiver out of the backfield, as well. A year-old NFL conduct policy bars players from the combine based on criminal cases involving violence or sexual offenses. Mixon punched a female student as an OU freshman in 2014, and the case drew additional attention more than two years later when a video of the incident was made public under an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that compelled its release. Mixon wasn’t convicted in the case, but the NFL can bar any prospect from the combine after evaluating underlying circumstances involving the player.

 

QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

Kelly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct following a nightclub brawl about two years ago. As of Senior Bowl week, Kelly was looking forward to the combine, so the news that he wasn’t invited could have surprised him. Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, threw for 6,800 yards and 50 touchdowns over two seasons at Ole Miss.

 

LB Elijah Lee, Kansas State

Lee (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) had a spectacular senior season for the Wildcats, leading the team in tackles with 110 (72 of them solos) with 6.5 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. He was selected first-team All-Big 12 and entered the NFL draft as a junior. Lee might not have gotten a combine invitation, but look for him to get a draft call.

 

WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss

Stringfellow was Ole Miss’ second-leading receiver with 46 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns for the Rebels last season. He’s an impressive receiving threat with soft hands at 6-2, 211 pounds. However, he also will miss the combine based on past conduct. He pleaded guilty to an assault charge in 2014 while a member of the Washington Huskies. He was arrested following a nightclub fight while at Ole Miss, as well.

 

OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan

One of many Michigan seniors with a chance to be drafted, Magnuson earned first-team All-Big Ten honors while starting at right tackle for the Wolverines. He made 37 career starts and was an East-West Shrine Game participant. The fifth-year senior isn’t the only notable absence from the combine along the UM offensive line. Kyle Kalis, who started beside Magnuson at right guard and was a Senior Bowl selection, also wasn’t invited.

 

WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor

Zamora was charged and cited in an animal abuse case after a police were alerted to a social media video that showed Zamora beating his dog last summer. Zamora caught 63 passes for 809 yards last season for BU. Like Mixon, Zamora (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) entered the draft as a third-year sophomore.

 

LB Steven Taylor, Houston

Whatever the reason for Taylor’s absence, it wasn’t his senior-year production. He was all over the field for the Cougars, piling up 12 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks. Taylor (6-1, 225) also came up with a monster performance against Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, posting 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in UH’s 36-10 upset.

 

OT Victor Salako, Oklahoma State

Salako started at UAB as a freshman and sophomore before the Blazers discontinued football. He resumed his career at Oklahoma State and immediately stepped in as a two-year starter for the Cowboys. At 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, he has all the size NFL scouts look for. Salako was a second-team All-Big 12 pick as a senior last year and competed last month in the East-West Shrine Game.

 

DE Hunter Dimick, Utah

Dimick is Utah’s career sacks record holder (29) and rebounded from a 2015 injury to play extremely well as a fifth-year senior. His 14 sacks led the nation, and his 19.5 tackles for loss led the Utes. Dimick (6-3, 272) can bench press 225 pounds 36 times, which would have been the best performance at any position at last year’s combine.

 

OL Alex Kozan, Auburn

Auburn’s most effective offensive guard was a first-team All-SEC pick as a senior, and a team captain. Kozan logged 40 career starts despite missing all of 2014 with a back injury. Kozan competed at the East-West Shrine Game in January and could be an attractive third-day draft option for a team looking to add some toughness to its interior offensive line.

 

S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State

Sterns, a senior, was a first-team All-Big 12 selection after leading the Cowboys in tackles with 101, along with three interceptions and five pass breakups. Considered more of a box safety than a coverage prospect, Sterns was a Reese’s Senior Bowl selection and has leadership skills NFL clubs look for.

 

RB Shock Linwood, Baylor

Linwood broke former Pittsburgh Steelers RB Walter Abercrombie’s school record for career rushing yards last year, and later broke the Bears record for career rushing touchdowns. He posted big seasons as a sophomore (1,252 yards) and a junior (1,329 yards), but drew a suspension from interim coach Jim Grobe as a senior and wasn’t as much of a consistent presence in the Bears offense. He later skipped Baylor’s bowl game to prepare for the draft.

 

QB Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

In what is considered to be a down year at the quarterback position, one would have thought room would be made at the combine for Terrell, one of the best passers in the Group of Five conferences. As NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter noted in the fall, he might not be drafted, but he is a sleeper to watch who has a vast depth of college experience as a four-year starter. As a senior, Terrell’s TD-INT ratio was 33-4.

 

 

FREE AGENT FITS

Eliot Harrison of NFL.com plays matchmaker for the top free agents:

 

Kirk Cousins, quarterback

Potential fits: Redskins, 49ers, Browns.

Cousins will, barring a major surprise, end up with the Redskins — either via the franchise tag (again) for $24 million or under a long-term deal that won’t come much cheaper per year. But major surprises do happen every so often, so who else could be out there? The Browns and 49ers could make sense.

 

Long-starved for a franchise quarterback, the Browns have tons of money — as in, the most cap space in the league, according to OverTheCap.com. They also have enough draft capital that the blow for handing over two first-round picks (the price for signing a player under the non-exclusive franchise tag, should the Redskins go that route with Cousins) would be softened a tad. Trading down in last year’s draft — allowing the Eagles to nab Carson Wentz — provided the Browns with a gaggle of picks. That said, paying multiple first-round picks for Cousins wouldn’t seem to fit into Cleveland’s Moneyball approach. Not to mention, adding Cousins would be highly unusual unless the Browns are completely scrapping the RGIII project, given that Cousins was Griffin’s former caddy in D.C.

 

The 49ers have a ton of available cap space, as well, should Jed York sign off on using it. They also have a brand new offensive-minded head coach who was part of the process of drafting Cousins three rounds after RGIII back in his Washington days. Kyle Shanahan surely would like nothing more than to start his new gig with an established QB who can handle his run-on-sentence-long play calls. New Niners general manager John Lynch is a fan of Cousins, as well.

 

Likely that the Redskins let Cousins walk? No. Worth two first-round picks? Did you watch the quarterbacks in the Super Bowl?

 

Le’Veon Bell, running back

Potential fits: Steelers, Buccaneers, Jaguars.

Like Cousins, Bell almost certainly will get franchise-tagged. Unlike the quarterback, though, this running back wouldn’t draw a pair of first-round picks from anyone. Nothing against him or his versatile skill set. It’s just, well, over the past four drafts, we’ve seen a grand total of three running backs go in Round 1 (Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon). So forget about someone giving up two first-rounders. Not to mention, Bell has encountered some off-field issues that make his availability a concern. Lastly, RB shelf life is like milk shelf life — and Bell already has an injury history.

 

Yet, if the Steelers know something we don’t and allow Bell to hit the open market without using the franchise tag, two teams should pounce: the Jags and Bucs.

 

Jacksonville has plenty of cap space — and hasn’t fielded even a top-20 run game since my colleague Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing back in 2011. Also, Bell’s pass-catching prowess certainly would significantly help the development of QB Blake Bortles. The addition of Bell wouldn’t render last offseason’s signing of Chris Ivory moot, either — the big man could still be used situationally.

 

Meanwhile, the Bucs need an every-down back. Doug Martin is enduring personal challenges off the field and will be suspended for the first four games of 2017. Jacquizz Rodgers, who gave the team a nice boost last season, is a free agent. The offense has talented youngsters in Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, but Bell would give the unit a whole other dimension. Throw in an emerging defense, and we could be talking about an instant contender. The Bucs have a healthy amount of cap space, too.

 

Eric Berry, safety

Potential fits: Titans, Browns, Raiders.

If Kansas City can’t get a long-term deal done — like the Vikings did with Harrison Smith and the Cardinals managed with Tyrann Mathieu last offseason — why wouldn’t a team make a bold move and pay Berry like the top-flight player he is? The safety would be a fantastic coup for the Titans — and a fun toy to play with for DC Dick LeBeau (who made the Hall of Fame as a DB, by the way). Then there’s the Browns, sitting on that pile of cash, inserting sabermetrics into their analytics processor — the same concoction that said no dice on retaining Tashaun Gipson last year. Would Berry’s all-around play (five takeaways, three scores and 77 tackles in 2016) influence a different line of thinking in the Haslam halls? New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has said he thinks the organization will be “aggressive” in acquiring personnel. Berry would alter the tenor of that defense.

 

Granted, this is a stretch — call it fun speculation — but why can’t the Raiders kick the tires on Berry? Upgrade a position while taking away from a division rival? Team brass missed out last offseason on Eric Weddle, who left the Chargers to make a huge difference in Baltimore. Oakland did sign Reggie Nelson, but he’ll be 34 in September. A few more potential fits for Berry: Colts, Panthers, Bears, Redskins, Jags.

 

Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver

Potential fits: Rams, 49ers, Buccaneers.

Jeffery is another player who could get the tag slapped on him (again), but that appears to be a far less likely outcome for the Bears receiver than for the guys above. Jeffery has been an off-and-on player in Chicago. And given that the Bears just paid him $14,599,000 in 2016 (under the franchise designation) for 52 catches and two touchdowns, it’s hard to believe they’d play tag again. But then again, look at their depth chart at receiver.

 

If the Bears let him walk — as most anticipate — the Rams, 49ers and Bucs could make a play.

 

Los Angeles’ top outside performer last year was Kenny Britt, who is a free agent. Jared Goff can’t succeed with only Sean McVay at his side — although the new head coach is practically Britt’s age. The 49ers have the second-most cap space to the Browns, according to OverTheCap.com, and could use a big target for whoever plays quarterback in San Francisco next season. Putting Jeffery on one side would definitely make Torrey Smith more effective on the other. Lastly, the Bucs could use another Vincent Jackson (who is now a free agent — and 34 years old). A big-bodied duo of Evans and Jeffery would be quite tough to defend, especially in the red zone.

 

Dont’a Hightower, linebacker

Potential fits: Colts, Redskins, Raiders

Well, we discussed Berry donning the Silver and Black above. That might not merely be speculation, but rampant speculation. However, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has stated that inside linebacker is “a hole that we have to fill.” Oakland won’t be sleepless letting go of ex-Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith. Enter Hightower, who would join a so-so defense with more raw talent than production (at this point, anyway).

 

Meanwhile, the Colts must rebuild the defense straight up the middle, and have the dollars to do so.

 

Perhaps the most interesting match, though, would be the Redskins, who have lacked the type of defensive leadership in the ILB spot Hightower could bring since London Fletcher hung ’em up. The ‘Skins are in their best cap shape in years, yet have several important free agents in their own driveway to consider first: Cousins, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon …

 

Most importantly: The Colts, Redskins and Raiders all gave up at least 4.5 yards per carry in 2016.

 

A.J. Bouye, cornerback

Potential fits: Lions, Saints, Browns.

Bouye is another player who easily could be tagged. It’d make plenty of sense. The Texans have developed this former undrafted free-agent signee (in the Gary Kubiak administration) into quite a player — why allow the 25-year-old to take prime years elsewhere? Houston head coach Bill O’Brien has said the franchise wants him back. But if the Texans do decide to tag Bouye, that means they would be paying approximately 14 million bucks for a guy who has been a premier corner for all of one season. Pretty steep. He wouldn’t make near that much per year in a long-term deal.

 

Thus, Bouye could be sitting on the market for the Lions, Saints or Browns. This past season, Cleveland gave up the most passing touchdowns, New Orleans the most passing yards. And Detroit allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete an astounding 72.7 percent of their passes.

 

Martellus Bennett, tight end

Potential fits: Colts, Rams, Giants

I was tempted to put the Bears and Cowboys in “Potential fits,” just to make sure you’re reading with purpose, but I have faith in my audience! (Despite some of the scorched-earth commentary that tends to appear in the comments section below.) Bennett has been around the league, experiencing varying degrees of success, but he really came into his own as a complete team player in New England this past season. Maybe there was some maturation, maybe he bought into “the Patriot Way,” maybe he enjoyed playing alongside another physical freak at the position in Rob Gronkowski (well, for half a season). Now, no one is really sure what the Patriots are planning to do with Bennett (… and Jimmy Garoppolo and Dont’a Hightower, for that matter). What we do know is that they almost certainly will not match what some team with plenty of space is willing to offer. Not with the variety of people New England uses in the passing game, and the (hopeful) return to full health of Gronk.

 

The Colts might be that team, given that Dwayne Allen has yet to take the next step to Bennett’s level, and Jack Doyle is a free agent. The Rams must acquire talent for Jared Goff. And after seeing the way McVay maximized Jordan Reed (and even Vernon Davis) with the Redskins, why not scoop up Bennett? Tell me his personality wouldn’t fit in L.A.

 

Interesting side note: Bennett has indicated he’d be open to returning to the Giants. With the recent releases of Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, why not spend some dough on the TE?

 

Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end

Potential fits: Giants, Lions, Dolphins.

Of all the impending free agents, JPP might be the most intriguing. That guy proved a lot of people wrong last year — those skeptics who thought he wouldn’t be able to compete with that hand mangled by the fireworks accident. Here’s the deal: The Giants absolutely could use Pierre-Paul back on the line, playing at the same level he did in 2016. For all the Odell Beckham Jr. love, Big Blue finished 26th in points scored — and second in points allowed. How about that?

 

The Lions also could use a pass rusher like JPP, as they amassed just 26 sacks (worst in the NFC). Detroit could have won the NFC North if the secondary didn’t allow opponents a 106.5 passer rating, easily the highest mark in the league. The Dolphins would be an appropriate fit, given that Mario Williams disappointed last season and almost certainly won’t be back. Not to mention Miami’s top edge rusher, Cameron Wake, is in his mid-30s. Executive VP Mike Tannenbaum is not afraid to make a splash in free agency.

 

DeSean Jackson, wide receiver

Potential fits: Eagles, Titans, Rams.

There’s been plenty of speculation about Jackson returning to Philadelphia. Brandon Graham’s giddy thinking about it. Football insiders are mumbling about it. And everyone knows the Eagles could use their old field stretcher again. Ideally, they’ll be in the market for Jackson, Jeffery or one of the other top free-agent wideouts, but can they afford it? That’s the question. The Eagles are not in the best financial position to acquire high-priced free agents. But the Titans are — and could really use a guy to take the top off the defense. Making safeties hyper-aware of a player like Jackson would A) create wider throwing windows for Marcus Mariota and B) lighten the box for a team that loves to run the football.

 

As mentioned in blurbs above, the Rams must provide some support for Goff — unfortunately, thanks to Goff, they don’t have as many draft picks to do so. As Jackson’s OC in Washington the last three years, McVay knows the wideout’s merits as well as anyone. (His drawbacks, too.) And despite Tavon Austin’s speed, his game has not been vertical at the NFL level.

 

Dontari Poe, defensive tackle

Potential fits: Titans, 49ers, Bengals.

Not seeing much written about Poe potentially ending up in Tennessee. OK, but here’s what we do know: Jon Robinson’s Titans are not afraid to make big offseason moves, as evidenced by last year’s trade for DeMarco Murray. As much as the Chiefs might want to retain Poe, they won’t have the funds to pay him, Berry and Charles this offseason. In fact, given that they are near the bottom of the barbecue pit in available cap dollars (according to OverTheCap.com), the Chiefs might only be able to pay Berry.

 

Poe could get paid in Nashville, playing an important role in LeBeau’s defense a few miles up Interstate 40 from where he played his college ball. Staying in the AFC, the Bengals need to replace long-time veteran Domata Peko in the middle of that defense. Poe would be an instant upgrade, allowing Vontaze Burfict to run free and make plays. The 49ers could replace another former Chief (Glenn Dorsey) with Poe, who would start alongside the team’s top picks from each of the last two drafts (Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner). The Raiders and Colts are other possibilities for the big man.

 

 

BATHROOM WARS

Texas governor Greg Abbott is not happy that the NFL’s PR arm, run by Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart, decided to insert itself into the discussion of bathrooms in his state on the side of the social justice warriors.

 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the NFL for suggesting last week that the state could miss out on hosting another Super Bowl if a bathroom bill targeting transgender people is passed.

 

Abbott, a Republican, told conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Tuesday that the NFL “is walking on thin ice” with its veiled threat.

 

After criticizing the NFL for allowing players to kneel during the national anthem, Abbott said: “The NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics.”

 

On Friday, in response to an email question about the Texas bill, which was filed last month, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said: “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

 

Said Abbott on Tuesday: “For some low-level NFL adviser to come out and say that they are going to micromanage and try to dictate to the state of Texas what types of policies we’re going to pass in our state, that’s unacceptable.

 

“We don’t care what the NFL thinks and certainly what their political policies are because they are not a political arm of the state of Texas or the United States of America. They need to learn their place in the United States, which is to govern football, not politics.”

 

Abbott had responded to McCarthy’s statement on Twitter on Saturday, indicating he wasn’t threatened by it and pointing to the Deflategate case as an example of the NFL’s hypocrisy.

 

@GregAbbott_TX

NFL decision makers also benched Tom Brady last season. It ended with NFL handing the Super Bowl trophy to Brady. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nfl-warns-texas-over-bathroom-bill-no-super-bowl-for-you/

 

The NFL has selected future Super Bowl sites through 2021, none of which are in Texas. Dallas hosted the game in 2011, and three Super Bowls have been played in Texas since 2004, which is second only to Florida.

 

Under the Texas bill, people would be required to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. It’s similar to a North Carolina law that prompted the NBA to relocate the All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans and the NCAA to pull seven championship events from that state last year.

 

 

The bathroom bill is backed by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a powerful figure in Texas who had cited the Houston Super Bowl as proof that big events will stick around. Following the NFL statement, Patrick’s office signaled on Friday that it was remaining firm and was committed to “making sure that every Texan is welcomed” at sporting events.

 

Unlike the North Carolina law, the Texas proposal stops short of some provisions the NCAA singled out when defending its decision to relocate events this past fall. That includes language that invalidates local equal-rights ordinances, although there is separate legislation in Texas that could have similar effects.

 

The NFL has issued similar warnings before about state legislation that critics say invites discrimination. In 2016, Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill that the NFL suggested could result in Atlanta being passed over for Super Bowls.