The Daily Briefing Thursday, June 7, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The Bears are using the NBA gaffe of J.R. Smith as a teaching tool per Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky loves the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And his adoration for the NBA team isn’t surprising when considering Trubisky grew up in Mentor, Ohio, so he has kept close tabs on the Cavs as they face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
“I have to watch the game with as least amount of people as possible,” Trubisky told NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano and Stacey Dales on Wednesday Bears’ minicamp. “By myself or with my roommate or in the dark just locked up.”
Given his affinity for the Cavaliers, the quarterback felt pain over how regulation ended in Game 1, with J.R. Smith rebounding a missed free-throw and then dribbling out the final seconds with the score tied. The Warriors went on to defeat the Cavaliers in overtime, 124-114.
Trubisky admits he was calling timeout for Smith while watching the action unfold. But he also revealed the Bears used the Cavaliers’ blunder as a teaching moment for situational awareness.
“We actually watched that the next day as a team and tried to learn from the situation,” Trubisky said. “I was having a hard time watching it twice again, but it just goes to show you everyone gets caught up in the moment even if it’s the biggest of lights. But you always have to know the situation, so take advantage of it.”
Meanwhile, the NBA Finals resumes Wednesday night and the Cavaliers look to get on track at home.
Trubisky said he is excited to watch the matchup, but he wouldn’t mind an opportunity to play shooting guard in a supporting role to LeBron James.
“I think I should be coming off the bench to help the Cavs,” Trubisky said. “It’s like I’m a part of the team, I’m one of those guys, it’s like that crazy.
“I’m not crashing the boards, I’m just shooting threes. I’m spreading the floor for LeBron, so I’m just going to knock down shots for him if he needs.”
The Warriors hold a 2-0 edge over the Cavaliers, who have mostly depended on James as a one-man wrecking crew.
There is no doubting James needs help, so perhaps Trubisky could be that player to help the Cavaliers make the NBA Finals interesting.
Positive reports on the rehab of QB CARSON WENTZ. Here is Jeff McLane in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Carson Wentz continues to increase his workload, as he returns from a major knee injury.
After surprising some in the media with how much he could practice during the previous two weeks of spring workouts, the Eagles quarterback took another step forward this week and has participated in 7-on-7 drills. Eagles coach Doug Pederson confirmed that his starting quarterback would again take snaps during 7-on-7s on Wednesday, the first day this week that reporters have access.
“Part of the rehab process with him is giving him a little more — I don’t want to say freedom — but a little more practice time,” Pederson said at the NovaCare Complex. “And one of the controlled environments that we can, obviously, put him in is a 7-on-7 situation. So being able to sprinkle him in and just watch him more in an up-tempo type of practice, in those situations, has been good. We’ll continue to do that these next two days and next week and just keep building as we go.”
Backup quarterback Nick Foles had been taking all the repetitions with the first-team offense. It’s unclear if Wentz has been working with the starters or the reserves. His workload during two open practices the previous two weeks consisted of individual drills, throwing to receivers and participating in 2-on-2 drills.
If it weren’t for the knee brace on his left knee, it would be difficult to detect that Wentz was just 5 1/2 months removed from surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. Peterson declined to say whether his quarterback was ahead of schedule or whether he was surprised by his progress, and mentioned other players such as tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Jordan Hicks, who were also coming back from major injuries.
“I’m very pleased and very encouraged with all those guys, where they are, physically right now,” Pederson said. “And, listen, we’re going slow. We’re not pushing any one of these players to get back. We’re taking it slow, and we’re going to make sure they’re 100 percent.”
Michael Bennett was still absent from organized team activities, Peterson confirmed. The new Eagles defensive end has opted to skip the voluntary workouts, but Pederson said he was present a “few weeks ago” during the early portion of the Phase 2 period.
“You worried about Michael Bennett?” Pederson asked a reporter. “I’m not.”
Bennett was often a no-show during OTAs when he played for the Seahawks. The same applied to Sproles, who is also missing, during recent years. Both players will be required to attend next week’s mandatory three-day minicamp.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com looks at the intriguing and risky selection of RB DARIUS GUICE by the Redskins.
The Washington Redskins ranked 28th in the NFL last season in total rushing yards (1,448) and tied for 31st in yards per carry (3.6), so it was hardly a surprise when the club made improving the talent at the position a top priority in the 2018 draft.
It was, however, quite the surprise that Washington found LSU running back Derrius Guice still on the board at No. 59 overall.
The Redskins were heavily linked to Guice throughout the pre-draft process with some close to the team even suggesting Washington might consider him with its first pick, No. 13 overall.
The 5-foot-11, 224-pound Guice was viewed as a consensus first-round talent, ranking behind only No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley on NFLDraftScout.com‘s board at running back. Guice left LSU with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a spot on the All-SEC team after both his sophomore and junior campaigns despite sharing the workload.
Like his predecessor, Leonard Fournette, Guice was criticized by some for just average production as a receiver (32 catches over his LSU career) but this was more a function of a run-heavy offense than a limitation to either back’s all-around game.
While complementing (and, at times, overshadowing) Fournette, Guice developed a reputation as one of the fiercest and most competitive runners in the country, earning comparisons from many (including this analyst) to longtime standout NFL runner, Marshawn Lynch due to his toughness, power and balance through contact.
Unfortunately, also like Lynch, Guice comes with questions as to how well his body will hold up in the NFL, as well as concerns about his personality and maturity. According to various sources for clubs that considered (and in some cases, selected running backs early), Guice’s slip from potential top 15 pick to outside of the top 50 primarily came down to these factors.
Much has been made of a reported “altercation” between Guice and representatives of the Philadelphia Eagles at the Combine. Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman, Guice and multiple others have since publicly denied any such confrontation occurred. Rumors of much more serious improprieties also circulated among teams on Day One and Two of the draft, including one that claimed the infamous news website TMZ would be releasing a damaging story on Guice once he was drafted.
At least to this point, no TMZ bombshell story on Guice has been released, perhaps sparing Washington of criticism for ending his dramatic fall at No. 59.
Assuming that team president Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden knew of the reports, the Redskins clearly felt that Guice’s potential was worth whatever problems he may have.
To his credit, rather than focus on the drama that led to his fall, Guice is focusing on the positives in Washington.
“No one wants to hear their name be slandered like that,” Guice said, repeating that he didn’t know where the reports originated.
“(The Redskins) didn’t just go off rumors, they didn’t just hear everything and believe it because they met me. They know me as a person, so they already know who I am as a person. Just to see a team not let rumors and stuff like that affect their decision to bring me in, I have to give my all to these guys. They changed my life, they believed in me, they trusted me.”
Though the Redskins already have two young, starting-caliber backs in Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine (among others), Guice — the most prototypically-built and versatile of the bunch — is expected to compete for the starting running back role immediately. With veteran quarterback Alex Smith and a flashy pass-catcher corps, Guice could theoretically enjoy the type of flashy first year that could earn him Rookie of the Year consideration and push the Redskins back into playoff contention.
LB RUEBEN FOSTER is done with the California justice system, now he braces for NFL Justice. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
By pleading no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster has closed all of his pending criminal cases. Coupled with the recent resolution of a marijuana possession charge, Foster now faces multiple potential suspensions.
Under the substance-abuse policy, the placement of Foster in a diversion program likely will result in a suspension of at least one game. The fact that he possibly already was in the substance-abuse program (due to a positive test at the Scouting Combine in 2017) could enhance the penalty.
It’s unclear whether the misdemeanor weapons charge will trigger a suspension. Former 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith once received a nine-game suspension, but he pleaded no contest to three felony weapons charges, and he had other issues.
The fact that Foster has had other issues — include the bizarre circumstances resulting in Foster being sent home from the Scouting Combine, which kept him from being invited to the draft — could as a practical matter prompt Commissioner Roger Goodell to send a stronger message.
While things would have been much worse for Foster if the domestic violence charges against him hadn’t been dismissed after the alleged victim recanted, Foster isn’t out of the woods, and he likely will be missing some time to start the 2018 season.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams have set their sights on San Diego. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
When the Chargers ditched San Diego for Los Angeles, it left a void that the Chargers’ landlords hope to fill.
The Los Angeles Rams, who are building themselves a new stadium that made the Chargers’ move possible, are now trying to attract disaffected fans from San Diego. Toward that end, the Rams have made a deal with San Diego sports radio station Mighty 1090 to broadcast Rams games in the San Diego market.
“We can’t wait to invade San Diego,” Rams G.M. Les Snead told the station.
It’s easy to envision the Rams becoming more popular in San Diego than the Chargers. Many San Diego fans are angry at the Chargers for leaving, but if you live in San Diego and you like football, it makes sense that you’d want to support Southern California’s other team. And the Rams have an exciting team loaded with talent, so they’re easy to cheer for. The Rams would love to build a fan base throughout Southern California, including both Los Angeles and San Diego.
Broncos LB SHANE RAY is having a fourth surgery on his wrist. Charean Williams at ProFootballTalk.com:
Shane Ray will undergo a fourth surgery on his left wrist, via multiple tweets. The Broncos outside linebacker is expected to miss three months, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.
That puts Ray’s availability for the start of the regular season in question.
Ray has had three previous surgeries on the wrist the past year. It began bothering him again late last week but is not a new injury.
A second medical opinion this week determined Ray needs a clean-up procedure related to complications from the initial surgery, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports. The Broncos, though, were encouraged by the news.
Ray missed eight games last season with the injury and made only 16 tackles and a sack.
The Broncos chose not to pick up the $9.23 million option on Ray’s contract for 2019. He is scheduled to become a free agent in March.
Apparently due to contact in pass coverage situations, the Ravens are repeat practice offenders in the eyes of the NFL and its CBA. Chris Wesseling at NFL.com:
For the second time in three years, the Baltimore Ravens are facing NFL discipline for violating offseason workout rules under the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
The Ravens will forfeit their final two organized team activities this week as a result of an undisclosed infraction, NFL Vice President of Football Communications Michael Signora announced Tuesday. Owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh have been fined $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via sources informed of the situation.
The Baltimore Sun first reported the team’s latest breach of CBA protocol. In a statement released by the team, Harbaugh explained that the Ravens have been “singled out for pass coverage contact” during the early portion of OTAs.
“We have heavily emphasized these CBA pass coverage rules in meetings, and coached them diligently on the practice field,” Harbaugh continued. “It has also been our priority to include our veteran players, along with new Ravens who have practiced and played for other teams, in the process and use their input and ideas. Even with consistent and repeated teaching, these rules pose considerable adjustments for the young players.”
“We have tried very hard to eliminate contact in pass coverage during OTAs, even so far as to pull players out of practice who struggle with these adjustments. I am confident we have done everything within our power and ability to practice within the rules, and we will continue to focus on preparing, teaching and practicing the right way.”
General manager Ozzie Newsome released his own statement on the matter, insisting the organization is “vigilant” about practicing within the parameters set by the CBA.
“I attend every practice and then watch the practices again on video,” Newsome explained. “I see how the coaching staff teaches, corrects and addresses issues immediately on the field. In meetings, I have watched John’s presentation to his players and assistants regarding how to properly practice and the pace of these sessions. We have players competing, including rookies and those fighting to make our team. Sometimes breaking old practice habits of these players, especially rookies, takes more repetitions. We’ll continue to be vigilant about this.”
Harbaugh’s squad will return for mandatory minicamp next week after losing June 7 and 8 practice sessions.
The Ravens and Harbaugh were fined $343,057 and $137,223, respectively, for a similar infraction in 2016. The organization was also forced to cancel a week of workouts in 2010 for violating rules under the previous CBA.
Harbaugh has been a strident critic of the rules stemming from the 2011 CBA, once describing the offseason restrictions on player development as “un-American.”
“Young guys want a chance to compete in the National Football League for a job,” Harbaugh offered, via ESPN.com, in 2014. “They want to go see their position coach. They want to learn football. It’s their craft. And we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t do it?’
“Why? Because of the collective bargaining agreement that makes no sense? Because somebody wanted to get their little win here vs. their little win over there? Get together and do what’s best for these players, and it’s about time that somebody stepped to the plate and realized that and [took] the politics out of it.”
LB RYAN SHAZIER has a dream. Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Progress sometimes can be measured in slow steps across a carpet with the aid of a cane. Other times it can be measured in the smile on his three-year-old son’s face.
Ryan Shazier gauges his recovery from spinal stabilization surgery in many ways, yet one destination remains the same.
The Steelers inside linebacker, whose life was changed by a devastating football injury six months ago, vows to return to the NFL sometime after the 2018 season.
“My dream is to come back and play football again,” Shazier said Wednesday in his first mass media interview since his Dec. 4 injury. “I’ve been working my tail off.”
The Steelers broadcast the press conference live on Facebook (Shazier begins at the 6:25 mark.)
Using a cane to walk from team offices to the podium in the media room at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Shazier spoke for 20 minutes about his injury, rehabilitation and hopes in beating the odds by resuming his football career.
“I’ve played the game since I was four years old,” Shazier said. “Just because I got hurt doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving the game of football.”
Shazier has been ruled out for this season. He already has spent the offseason assisting the scouting department in evaluating players and the coaching staff in film study. His role beyond organized team activities and minicamp remains undetermined.
“I’m really just taking it all in,” he said. “I’m going to try to learn as much as I can. I still want to play football, but I’m still really excited about everything.”
Shazier’s immediate goal is to shed the can he has used for assistance since taking his first public steps April 26 when he announced the Steelers’ first-round pick at the NFL Draft in Dallas. Shazier used a wheelchair after being released from the hospital in February.
“One of the things I’m looking forward to doing is just start walking a little more by myself,” he said. “If that’s by (training) camp, I’m happy for it. If it’s by the regular season, I’ll be happy for it. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Shazier grew up in Florida, and his family still resides there, but he never thought about transferring his rehab away from Pittsburgh because it makes him “feel more like myself.”
Teammates are glad Shazier is still around the organization whether it’s taking in practice from a golf cart or watching film or sitting in on meetings.
“I just think it helps out both sides,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “As a teammate of his, I want to see him succeed, and I want to succeed for him. It shows what type of leader he is, a guy who cares about football and this team. He wants to be involved as much as possible.”
As encouraged as Shazier is by his progress, so is his three-year-old son, who was confused when his father was hospitalized after the December game against the Bengals.
“When I was in the wheelchair, he would try to push me. If I drop the cane, he tries to pick it up. He sees I’m getting better,” Shazier said. “He might say, ‘Daddy, come on, walk. Or daddy do this or daddy do that.’
“When I was hurt before, he wouldn’t ask me to do the stuff that he’s asking me to do now. Just to know he’s seeing that I’m feeling better and I’m getting a lot better means so much to me. It allows me to play with him, to do more activities that I wouldn’t be able to do three months ago.”
Shazier thanked his fiance, family, friends, doctors, teammates and Steelers personnel for aiding in his recovery. His attitude is so upbeat that he estimates out of 100 days, he’s had 95 good ones, three “neutral” and two “bad” days.
“Honestly, I feel when you give your best at anything you do, it makes it easier on you if something bad happens,” Shazier said. “You never have to look back. I gave everything I had. I got hurt, but I’m still going to give everything I have.”
With a return to the NFL serving as an end game, no matter the odds.
“I’m fine with whatever the outcome is,” he said. “I try to stay as positive as possible.”
Speaking of Shazier’s family, we didn’t know this about his father, Vernon Shazier. This from the Miami Herald in 2014:
Shazier grew up the son of a pastor — and not just any pastor. Vernon Shazier is the team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and a motivational speaker for the team. Davis said both of Shazier’s parents did a tremendous job raising him, especially as he struggled growing up battling Alopecia, a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
The Colts have big plans for TE ERIC EBRON. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:
While the Indianapolis Colts’ defense is in the early stages of a comprehensive overhaul, new coach Frank Reich’s offense has a chance to take the league by surprise if Andrew Luck is healthy and the major offseason acquisitions come through.
One of those newcomers is former Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron, who expects to be featured in an offensive system that will borrow heavily from the Super Bowl champions.
“Me and Frank, we click, man,” Ebron said on Wednesday’s edition of Good Morning Football. “And he’s done great things with tight ends, as you look at Zach Ertz and his offense last year.
“He’s done great things, and I think he’s brought me in here to be that … effective player for him.”
While coach Doug Pederson called the plays for the Eagles last season, it was Reich who scripted the game plans as Ertz earned Pro Bowl recognition and backup tight end Trey Burton parlayed his own potential into a lucrative new contract with the Bears.
Can Reich work the same magic with an enigmatic fifth-year tight end who is just a few months older than Ravens’ first-round rookie Hayden Hurst?
Ebron never could put it all together in Detroit, mixing flashes of playmaking ability with untimely drops and mental mistakes. He is one year removed, however, from a 700-yard campaign that made him a popular breakout candidate last offseason.
Now that he has Reich and Luck in his corner, Ebron has found a new level of confidence in Indianapolis.
“When Andrew Luck is healthy, he is one of the most dominant quarterbacks in this league,” Ebron added. “So I just look forward to playing with him. And whenever he gets healthy, I’ll just tell him, I’m 7-11, man. I’m always open, so just find me.”
The Dolphins were so happy with the first two days of mandatory mini-camp that Coach Adam Gase has cancelled the third day scheduled for Thursday.
THIS AND THAT
SI.com’s legal expert thinks/hopes that the White House disinviting the Eagles (who were largely not going to show up anyway) will somehow bolster Colin Kaepernick’s grievance.
Trump’s decision is significant on several levels.
First, rescinding the invitation appears to be unprecedented in American history. According to ESPN writer Thomas Neumann, the White House’s custom of inviting a championship team began in 1924. At the time, President Calvin Coolidge invited the Washington Senators—fresh off a World Series victory against the New York Giants—to celebrate at the White House. There is no record of another team being disinvited by a sitting president after the team already accepted an invitation (Trump also made history last year when he didn’t invite the Golden State Warriors to a White House ceremony after they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA finals; for their part, the Warriors signaled they probably wouldn’t have accepted Trump’s invitation anyway).
From a logistical standpoint, a last second disinvitation is highly disruptive. Players and team officials—and their families—likely changed their offseason schedule to attend. The Eagles also undoubtedly incurred significant financial expenses in making arrangements for the D.C. trip. Going forward during the Trump presidency, it stands to reason that some championship teams will become more hesitant before accepting a White House invitation. They would not want to be embarrassed as the Eagles have now been.
(The DB must intervene here to say that it was Trump who was going to otherwise be embarrassed when a handful of players showed up after 81 names were sent to the White House for background checks. And we are only talking about busing down I-95 for a couple of hours from Philly to D.C. here).
Second, the sudden disinvitation—at the 11th hour, after months of planning—raises the possibility that the White House might have come across information or a rumor that caused it to take such dramatic action. Perhaps, for example, the White House became concerned about a potential player protest during the White House visit. In May, Twitter user @KayFusion asked me about potential repercussions of players kneeling during a visit to the White House. As a government building staffed by government employees, the White House is, in a general sense, obligated to protect First Amendment free speech rights. While a variety of security and privacy concerns allow the White House to restrict the behavior of visitors, a player kneeling or engaging in some other form of peaceful protest probably wouldn’t trigger security concerns. The White House might have felt that there was a risk of a controversial moment with Eagles players visiting.
Additional facts about the invitation’s rescission came to light on Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted that “only a small number of players decided to come” (he also reiterated that he finds players kneeling to be “disrespectful”). Trump’s reference to relatively few players deciding to partake in the ceremony is consistent with reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News on Tuesday that fewer than 10 players were planning to attend (it’s unclear how many coaches, executives and staff planned to attend). It is also consistent with a tweet Monday night by Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who insisted that not many Eagles players were going to attend. This information signals that the President’s decision, while clearly related to his ongoing frustration about players and the national anthem, was at least partly motivated by concern about the optics of unimpressive attendance.
Third, and most consequential to the NFL, the disinvitation fits the theory of collusion advanced by Colin Kaepernick’s attorneys, Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas. Pursuant to Article 17 of the collective bargaining agreement (and as detailed more extensively in other SI stories), Kaepernick can only prevail in his collusion grievance if he proves that two or more teams, or the league and at least one team, conspired against him. Here, the conspiracy would refer to an agreement or understanding to deny him an opportunity to sign with a team.
Keep in mind what the collusion standard requires. If one owner decided, on his own, to not sign Kaepernick for political/anthem reasons, that would not constitute collusion. The reason why is that collusion requires the involvement of multiple teams (or the involvement of the league and at least one team). Similarly, if one owner spoke with Trump and after that conversation decided to not sign Kaepernick, that too would not describe collusion. That is because for purposes of a labor grievance in the NFL, Trump is merely a third party (albeit perhaps the most influential third party on Earth). The collective bargaining agreement does not govern the President of the United States.
Yet from the moment they filed a grievance on Kaepernick’s behalf last October, Geragos and Meiselas have asserted that there is a disturbing relationship between the absence of interest by NFL teams in signing Kaepernick and the direct influence of Trump to keep Kaepernick out of the league. To wit, last October, Geragos stated, “… athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the executive branch of our government. Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation.”
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Why Robert Kraft’s Deposition Could Play a Key Role in Colin Kaepernick’s Collusion Case
Along those lines, Geragos and Meiselas contend that owners are afraid of Trump taking action against the league over anthem protests. This fear has—possibly—made owners talk among themselves and caused them to discuss Kaepernick. If such discussion included comments about not signing the quarterback, Kaepernick’s odds for prevailing in his grievance would climb dramatically. This is because he would have acquired evidence of collusive behavior.
To that point, Trump has spoken and tweeted numerous statements condemning the NFL for not “firing” players who protest the anthem. Trump has also tweeted critical comments about federal tax laws that give some NFL owners an advantage regarding their stadiums. In one tweet from October 2017, the President asked “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump also applauded the NFL’s new national anthem policy, which authorizes the NFL to punish teams whose players appear on the field before games and kneel during the anthem; teams under this policy can also punish kneeling players.
As shown in leaked tapes from an October 2017 meeting involving league officials, owners and players, some NFL owners appear intimidated by Trump. Kaepernick’s attorneys have deposed some of those owners in recent months. If those owners admitted, under oath, that they spoke with other owners (or spoke with league officials or officials of other teams) about not signing Kaepernick, then Kaepernick’s grievance argument would morph from legal theory into winning reality.
The DB is no fan of the protesters, but we are actually somewhat sympathetic to Kaepernick’s compadre Eric Reid. Whereas Kaep at this point would be a lightning rod distraction as a backup, Reid is presumably a useful player who kept a relatively low profile while kneeling with the 49ers last year.
Jason Reid (no known relation to Eric) wrote this at SI.com back in April:
The fact that Reid, the player most closely aligned with Kaepernick, also hasn’t joined another team could be problematic for the NFL, said Thomas A. Lenz, a lecturer at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
“To the extent that someone else has some parallel activity, some similar involvement, it certainly cast suspicion” on what’s occurring in the NFL, said Lenz, an expert in complex labor and employment matters. “It’s the sort of thing that, as the facts bear out, you have to wonder if there’s some sort of pattern going on. … It definitely warrants some inquiry.”
Kaepernick, 30, repeatedly has been passed over for jobs that have been filled by far less accomplished passers. Privately, some NFL coaches acknowledge Kaepernick is better than many signal-callers who currently occupy spots on team rosters.
Reid, 26, has played five seasons. Even scouts critical of Reid’s performance acknowledge he’s a starting-caliber defensive back. Yet, just like Kaepernick, Reid is still out of work.
Reportedly, the Cincinnati Bengals backed away from making Reid an offer last week because he essentially declined to commit to standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Although Reid had recently said he did not plan to demonstrate next season, he apparently chafed at the Bengals’ demands.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Seattle Seahawks postponed bringing Kaepernick in for a visit last week after he also declined to say he would stop kneeling next season. Attempts to contact Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, were unsuccessful.
Susan D. Carle, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, is intrigued by Reid’s current position, as it could potentially impact Kaepernick’s case.
If someone is sort of in the range of a player who may or may not get a job based on a variety of factors — skill, versatility, age, etc. — then those situations “wouldn’t be very probative” for Kaepernick’s grievance, said Carle, an expert in discrimination, labor and employment law. “But if the player is having trouble getting a job, and if that just doesn’t make sense because of his skill level, it could be supportive evidence.”
Observing what has occurred with Kaepernick and Reid, it’s impossible to ignore the similarities, said Stanford Law School professor William B. Gould IV. An expert in labor and discrimination law, Gould argues that Reid’s unemployment “might augment Kaepernick’s case.”
“The fact that [Reid] seems to be somebody who has capability … you would think he would be attractive to any number of teams,” said Gould, who served as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994-98. “And the fact that the offers have not been forthcoming helps Kaepernick in suggesting that he’s being blackballed for his views.”
Even with Reid on the outside looking in, Kaepernick faces a high bar to prove his case, the legal experts acknowledged.
Former Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, a cohort of Kaepernick and Reid in the protest movement, signed with the New York Giants in free agency. Bolstering their efforts in an attempt to defend their title, the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles traded for outspoken defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who’s among the most socially conscious players in the league.
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Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on how the NFL’s belated action on the Anthem got the previously docile Packers riled up:
The NFL has already found out the hard way that their hastily crafted compromise with themselves over the national anthem wasn’t enough to appease President Donald Trump.
Eventually, they’ll find pockets of resistance on the other side, as players who weren’t consulted in the drafting of the new policy realize the fundamental unfairness of reversing a position the league affirmed three times.
Even in non-militant Green Bay (where no player sat or knelt last season following the week of Trump’s “son of a bitch” remarks), players are concerned about the way this came together.
“You can’t fine somebody for a peaceful protest,” Packers wide receiver Davante Adams said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We’re not out here holding signs, saying we don’t care about the troops or we don’t care about our country or whatever. It’s a peaceful protest, and it’s something as simple as people just expressing themselves and how they wanted to do it. It brought light to the situation, but at the same time, it’s headed in a negative direction with people getting in trouble for it now.
“The league should’ve just stayed in their place where they were before and allowed people to do whatever it was that they were doing.”
To be clear, players won’t be fined if they violate the policy (which requires any player on the field to stand for the anthem, but allows them to stay in the locker room if they choose). Teams would incur the fines, and while that might have a chilling effect on the marketplace, it doesn’t reach to players directly.
Tight end Lance Kendricks sat on the bench last fall after Trump’s remarks, saying he wanted to bring awareness to disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico. But after the initial flurry, the Packers stood together with arms locked. Cornerback Kevin King also sat in September, and he said this week he was frustrated by the continued twisting of the meanings of the protests, which happened during the anthem without being protests of the anthem.
“People are stubborn,” King said. “Like, if you ask somebody why they’re doing something, and they give you the answer, and then you say, OK, and you change the answer, what’s the point in even asking them the question in the first place? How are you going to tell somebody else why they’re protesting? It’s been time and time again guys will say it has nothing to do with the flag, it’s police brutality and racial inequality and all this stuff, but then it’s a matter of disrespecting the flag.
“In their head, they’re mad because of what they think somebody else is doing. And I could see that if it was still up to speculation, if players haven’t talked about the reasons. But nobody has come out and said, ‘I’m sitting or I’m kneeling to disrespect the flag.’ So not one person has said that, but the issue is still about disrespecting the flag.”
That’s because the President realized it was a winning play for him, which means he’ll continue to run it against an NFL defense which hasn’t been able to stop him yet.