The Daily Briefing Thursday, November 9, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

The gloves are off according to Ken Belson of the New York Times.  Jerry Jones is going after Roger Goodell and his fat pending contract. 

 

The N.F.L., the $14 billion-a-year sports juggernaut that dominates TV ratings as well as the national conversation most Sundays, has ascended to its position of supremacy in recent years with an ownership group that often works in lock step. The men and women who control the league’s 32 teams might disagree sometimes, but rarely do they publicly reveal any discord.

 

Now the league, already wobbling under the strain of presidential and public aggravation over players’ kneeling during the national anthem, is coping with what amounts to an all-out war between one of its most powerful owners and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has been rewarded for the N.F.L.’s success with annual compensation that has topped $40 million.

 

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has escalated a feud with Goodell, threatening to sue the league and some fellow team owners over negotiations to extend Goodell’s contract, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

 

Jones told the six owners on the league’s compensation committee last week that he had hired David Boies, the high-profile lawyer under fire in the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case, according to the people, who declined to speak publicly about internal league matters.

 

Through a team spokesman, Jones declined to comment. An N.F.L. spokesman declined to comment, and a spokesman for Boies’s law firm referred all questions to the Cowboys.

 

The dispute between Jones and Goodell stems from Jones’s anger over the commissioner’s suspending of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys’ star running back, who was accused of domestic violence by his former girlfriend. Goodell gave Elliott a six-game suspension, though no charges were filed in the case.

 

The suspension, announced in August, has since undergone a dizzying array of rulings and court appeals that has, for now, kept Elliott on the field. Jones has called the suspension an “overcorrection,” a gibe at Goodell, who has been criticized for his handling of player discipline.

 

Jones appears intent on holding up Goodell’s contract extension and potentially pushing him out. He is in the minority among owners. While some are unhappy with how the commissioner has handled issues related to player conduct and the national anthem controversy, only a few owners are prepared to replace Goodell, who has been commissioner for more than a decade and has worked at the league since the early 1980s.

 

The battle within the league is unusual for an organization that prides itself on order and unanimity and oversees the most popular sport in the country. But the N.F.L. is in the middle of one of its most tumultuous seasons because of players kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice, a wave of injuries to star players, and a television ratings dip that has fed debate over whether football is declining.

 

Jones said in a conference call last Thursday with the six owners — those of the Chiefs, Falcons, Giants, Patriots, Steelers and Texans — that legal papers were drawn up and would be served this Friday if the committee did not scrap or delay its current plans to extend Goodell’s contract.

 

As of Wednesday, the owners and the league had not been sued.

 

Jones, who has owned the Cowboys since 1989, has been a nonvoting member of the committee that is considering Goodell’s contract, which expires at the end of the 2018 season. He has fought to have a say.

 

After Jones’s conference call last week, the six owners revoked his status as an ad hoc member of the compensation committee, which decides on pay packages for the top league officials.

 

David Boies, right, helped the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, behind him, execute a contract with a private investigation firm. Credit Hal Horowitz/WireImage for the Weinstein Company

Over the past several days, the six owners have been speaking to the other 25 owners who are not on the committee to notify them of what Jones had said.

 

At a meeting in May, all 32 owners — including Jones — voted to extend Goodell’s contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details. But after Elliott was suspended, Jones began lobbying the committee to undermine the deal.

 

Jones, known for brassy talk and bold moves, may be making his most audacious maneuver yet in taking on fellow owners, with whom he normally holds considerable sway in matters like the relocation of teams and how the league spends its money.

 

Jones’s threat is reminiscent of steps taken by Raiders owner Al Davis, who successfully sued to the league in the 1980s to win the right to move his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. Jones has also sued the league, in the 1990s, over sponsorships.

 

But his latest move is potentially more volatile because he has not only threatened to sue the league, but also is trying to prevent the commissioner from getting a new contract.

 

Boies is a prominent lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court and represented corporations and executives in high-profile cases.

 

He drew widespread criticism this week after The New Yorker reported on the legal work Boies did for Weinstein, the movie mogul facing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The article reported that Boies helped Weinstein’s effort to use private investigators to help block a negative article about him in The New York Times while Boies’s firm was providing outside legal counsel for The Times.

 

Boies denied there was any conflict of interest with his work for the newspaper. In a statement, he said he believed the investigators had been hired solely to determine the facts related to the accusations against Weinstein, which Boies believed would be to The Times’s benefit.

 

The Times said it was ending its relationship with his firm.

 

“We never contemplated that the law firm would contract with an intelligence firm to conduct a secret spying operation aimed at our reporting and our reporters,” The Times said in a statement. “Such an operation is reprehensible.”

 

Boies has also worked for the N.F.L., representing the league in federal court in 2011 after the players association decertified as a union. Boies has worked with several owners, some of whom now feel blindsided that he agreed to help Jones potentially sue the league.

 

Jones has publicly questioned Elliott’s suspension as well as the commissioner’s role in handing down player penalties.

 

“Zeke is a victim of an overcorrection,” Jones said in a radio interview in October, a day after Elliott lost his bid for a preliminary injunction that would have stayed the six-game ban for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

 “Even this judge said it shows that very reasonable people could possibly come down on both sides of this,” Jones added. “Well, under our legal system it has to be stronger than that for someone to have done it.”

 

Jones has also been the most vocal owner to urge players to stand for the national anthem. Jones and other owners are upset that Goodell has not done more to stop players from kneeling or sitting during the anthem. The issue exploded into a national debate when President Trump took aim at the owners for not forcing the players to stand.

 

The DB has looked at the above several times – and we don’t see any mention of a possible legal theory that Jones would rely on to prevent his fellow owners from giving Goodell his huge contract.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

The Packers have parted ways with TE MARTELLUS BENNETT.  Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

 

– Mike McCarthy would not directly connect the dots between tight end Martellus Bennett’s retirement talk and what led to his unexpected release Wednesday.

 

Instead, the Green Bay Packers coach called it “an injury situation.”

 

The Packers waived the veteran tight end with the designation that he “failed to disclose a physical condition.”

 

The move ended a rocky stretch that began with Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone, which occurred on a pass that Bennett dropped, and included Bennett’s surprising bye-week announcement on social media that he was “pretty sure” he would retire after this season combined with an unexplained shoulder injury that popped up following the first practice after the bye.

 

“Well, I mean you can’t deny the facts of your timeline and how everything went down,” McCarthy said Thursday. “I mean, really, to tie all that together, you’re asking me to get inside somebody else’s feelings, conversation, more on a personal level. I think this all started obviously coming out of the bye week. Everything leading up to that, I can’t really comment on it. And then we went down this injury path, and then here we are today. So, I mean it’d be all speculation.”

 

McCarthy said he never had a conversation with Bennett about retirement.

 

That the Packers released him with that designation could give them grounds to try to recoup the unamortized portion of his $6.3 million signing bonus — something they almost certainly would have done had Bennett retired after the season. They signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract in March and could be entitled to $4.2 million of that bonus.

 

Bennett took part in one practice after the bye week and appeared on the injury report the next day because of his shoulder. That’s the injury the Packers contend that Bennett failed to disclose.

 

“He practiced, and then he had concern about his shoulder, and that’s really it,” McCarthy said. “Outside of the conversation about starting the process of collecting the medical information that he needed and I know they did a thorough research there, so far as what his decision is moving forward, I can’t really answer that.”

 

According to the collective bargaining agreement, players must disclose previous medical history even though teams have their doctors perform physical exams before signing them to contracts.

 

It’s detailed in Appendix A (8) of the CBA under the title “Physical Condition” and states: “Player represents to Club that he is and will maintain himself in excellent physical condition. Player will undergo a complete physical examination by the Club physician upon Club request, during which physical examination Player agrees to make full and complete disclosure of any physical or mental condition known to him which might impair his performance under this contract and to respond fully and in good faith when questioned by the Club physician about such condition. If Player fails to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition to the satisfaction of the Club physician, or make the required full and complete disclosure and good faith responses to the Club physician, then Club may terminate this contract.”

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson finds some Giants willing to anonymously pile on Coach Ben McAdoo:

 

Two New York Giants players told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that head coach Ben McAdoo no longer has the support of his 1-7 team.

 

“McAdoo has lost this team,” one player who asked to remain anonymous told Anderson. “He’s got us going 80 percent on Saturdays before we get on a plane to play a game. It’s wild. Changed our off day. He’s dishing out fines like crazy. Suspended two of our stars when we need them the most. Throws us under the bus all the time. He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got.”

 

A second player who also requested anonymity told Anderson: “Guys are giving up on the season and nothing’s being done. Guys just don’t care anymore.”

 

Those comments from both players came last week, before the Giants lost 51-17 to the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium in one of the worst home losses in the team’s history.

 

On Wednesday, the two players reiterated the comments, with one saying the coach “didn’t really have anything for us” at halftime of that game, and the other saying, “I feel like we really don’t got a leader in Coach McAdoo.”

 

On Wednesday, Giants safety Landon Collins disputed the notion that McAdoo had lost the team.

 

“McAdoo has been leading the same way he led last year. So, I don’t knock the way he has been doing things,” Collins said. “Fining people like crazy? If you don’t follow the rules, you get in trouble because you got to pay the consequences. I wouldn’t say he lost the team. I have the utmost respect for him. He’s been doing a great job. Just trying to figure it out like we all are.

 

“McAdoo has it all. He can lead men. He can do whatever you say. He has the ability to do those things. It’s not McAdoo … it’s everybody. Everybody has to look in the mirror — the coaching staff, the coordinators, the players, everybody.”

 

Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was suspended by McAdoo on Oct. 11 after a sideline altercation, agreed with Collins that McAdoo hadn’t lost the team. He also said that the players needed to look at themselves.

 

“I’m an old head. I seen a lot of locker rooms, and I know for a fact this locker room ain’t lost. I seen a lost locker room. I know what guys do,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “They come to practice lackadaisical. They don’t have a care. Nothing really matters no more. And I don’t see that happening.

 

“I’ll say that we are still trying to find our identity — who we want to be. … At times, we show the team that we know we are, and at times, we don’t; and we got to figure out why is that.”

 

One of the two anonymous Giants players said Wednesday that he thinks the organization is still in the midst of being at rock bottom.

 

“I would say this last week [against the Rams], even after the game, a lot of guys were like at their wit’s end,” the player said. “You could tell even on the sidelines. I just got the vibe; you can tell when the team has quit, and it just felt like we did. It felt like nobody wanted to be there, and the whole week [McAdoo] didn’t give us the day off last week [after players returned from the team’s bye]. Guys were a little upset about that — even though we did get a bye week — so the morale was kind of shaky.”

 

The player also said that some players did not like that McAdoo characterized the drubbing by the Rams as one of the Giants’ worst losses in history.

 

“I think a lot of the guys watched the press conference after the game like a lot of guys do just to see what [McAdoo] says,” the player said. “When [McAdoo] said ‘um’ to the question ‘What did you tell the team at halftime?’ and [McAdoo] just said ‘um,’ he didn’t really have anything. Man, he didn’t really have anything for us when we came back in the locker room, too. It was just kind of like the same old, same old. You can just see guys were like — you can just tell that nobody was kind of following it.”

 

The other anonymous player also said Wednesday: “I’m going to keep it 100 and I’m going to tell it like it is, and it’s terrible, man. I feel like we really don’t got a leader in Coach McAdoo. Going from Coach [Tom] Coughlin, a leader who just had that presence. Like if you were doing something wrong, like on the phone in the hallway walking by, like [Coughlin] is going to say something to you. Coach McAdoo, on the other hand, would see you on the phone in the hallway, walk by you and then fine you.”

 

Rodgers-Cromartie is taking the view of a player who has been through a lot.

 

“At the end of the day, we have eight more games to get it right. [The game against the Rams] was terrible. I ain’t never seen nothing like that in my life. In that game, you had people running wide open. Ain’t no way in hell anybody expected us to come off a bye and play like that.”

 

“But I’m telling you, [McAdoo] has our support,” Rodgers-Cromartie added. “It’s just been a tough season. It is what it is.

 

“It’s everybody’s fault. It’s not just one person to blame. Can’t just blame Coach McAdoo. Can’t blame [general manager] Mr. [Jerry] Reese. Can’t blame the offensive staff. It’s everybody.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

The Panthers say they really did give QB CAM NEWTON a lesson in nautical history.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton offered one of the strangest analogies of this NFL season after Kelvin Benjamin was traded away, suggesting that the team was like the Titanic.

 

“Yeah, we just lost a great player but nevertheless, the Titanic still has to go,” Newton said.

 

Was Newton unaware that the Titanic sank? If so, he’s aware now.

 

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said on PFT Live that teammates made sure Newton won’t make that comparison again.

 

“Absolutely. You know we definitely did that. We gave him a hard time about that,” Davis said. “We’re not trying to be that ship that sinks.”

 

Newton was only 8 years old when James Cameron’s movie came out, so perhaps he didn’t see it in the theater. But one would hope that it’s just general knowledge that the Titanic sank. It it wasn’t general knowledge in the Panthers’ locker room before, it is now.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints will no longer wait for CB DELVIN BREAUX.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Delvin Breaux, who was expected to be the Saints’ top cornerback for the 2017 season, will not play at all during the 2017 season.

 

Saints coach Sean Payton announced today that Breaux has been ruled out for the rest of the year. He initially suffered a fractured fibula in August and recently experienced a setback.

 

Breaux has had a long and injury-filled journey to the NFL. He earned a scholarship to LSU but never played there because of a severe injury in high school. He then played for a couple of minor league pro teams, then went to the Canadian Football League and became an All-Star, and finally signed with the Saints and started all 16 games in 2015. Unfortunately, leg and shoulder injuries forced him to miss 10 games in 2016, and now he might miss all 16 games in 2017.

 

The good news for the Saints is that their pass defense has improved significantly over the course of this season, thanks in large part to rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The Saints’ defense is doing fine without Breaux, even if they’d love to have him back.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

The DB didn’t like the selection of WR JOHN ROSS with the 9th overall pick and as Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com reports – to this point it is not working out:

 

The Bengals’ last-place offense needs a spark, but No. 9 overall pick John Ross doesn’t appear to be the player who will provide it.

 

With the offense struggling, why can’t the rookie wideout get on the field?

 

Ross has played only 11 offensive snaps this season and was a healthy scratch against the Jaguars last week.

 

As he stood on the sidelines in sweatpants on Sunday, Ross wished he could help after star wideout A.J. Green was ejected.

 

“When A.J. is down … you’re like, ‘Now I’ve got to step up,’” Ross said. “But it’s hard for me because I’m sitting on the sidelines and I can’t. … In my head, I’m letting him down.”

 

It’s been hard for Ross to understand why he can’t contribute like the other rookies, but he’s done his best to understand and make the improvements to get on the field.

 

“I think I could help contribute,” Ross said. “It’s tough for me to say what I think I can do, because I don’t like talking like I’m some type of ‘a guy’ where I can just do whatever I think can do. I live in the moment, I work hard, and I’d rather just show you more than I can tell you.”

 

It’s likely nobody in the Bengals’ facility anticipated they would still be waiting on Ross at this point, even though the coaches understood that drafting him would require patience. The Bengals pondered other options at No. 9, but one of their top needs was a vertical threat who could stretch the field and inject speed into a listless offense.

 

Ross, who set a record at the NFL scouting combine with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash, seemed like that guy. He was ranked among the top wide receivers in the draft despite some concerns regarding his durability. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Ross was coming off shoulder surgery and had torn both his meniscus and ACL in 2015, but the Bengals felt comfortable with his medical history after he passed their examinations.

 

“We’re really excited,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said after selecting Ross. “He’s obviously a guy who had surgery and should be ready to go right about the start of the season. That would be the only question mark going in with him.”

 

It would be easy now to call Ross a reach at No. 9 overall, but Lewis said no other teams were interested in trading up in the draft at the time.

 

Ross headed to Cincinnati after the draft, but wasn’t allowed to participate in OTAs while he finished his degree at Washington. When he came back for veteran minicamp in mid-June, he still wasn’t medically cleared. He was only allowed to watch practice and couldn’t even lift weights.

 

Ross spent most of the summer easing into things before fully participating for the first time on Aug. 14. He made his debut in the third week of the preseason and, because he badly needed the work, played in the final preseason game as well.

 

That game shaped his season. Ross went down with a knee injury after just a few snaps. It caused him to miss the season opener, and perhaps limited him to just five snaps in Week 2. It didn’t help that Ross fumbled in that game and later re-injured his knee.

 

The setback cost him weeks of development and put him behind the other six wide receivers.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

The DB was a big fan of Steelers rookie QB JOSHUA DOBBS even before we saw this.  It’s worth 7 minutes of your time to learn about his friendship with cancer patient A.J. Cucksey.

 

Dobbs has had a special relationship since 2014.  He literally has become A.J.’s big brother – and the kid from Knoxville recently visited Dobbs in Pittsburgh.

 

Here is a story on the duo from last April from WATE in Knoxville

 

– A.J. Cucksey and Josh Dobbs shared a special moment at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Friday, the two handed out ice cream to staff, visitors and patients, along with the owner of Cruisin’ Cone, a retro ice cream truck.

 

A.J. was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors in October 2014. He received a year of chemo treatment at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. His mother, Shannon Cucksey said A.J. is stable, but they still have scans and periodic check-ups to see how he’s doing at the hospital.

 

“When AJ was first diagnosed and was in a wheelchair he was invited to see a UT football practice. So he went and got to meet Josh and it was a great experience, but then they really had a friendship that blossomed from there,” said Shannon Cucksey.

 

This year A.J. was named Tennessee Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion. A.J. and his family will serve as advocates for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Shannon Cucksey said their family has been able to do a lot of cool things, but giving back to the hospital that helped her little boy has meant the most to her family.

 

Shannon Cucksey said Dobbs and A.J. have formed a friendship and generally just love and support each other. Josh has come to their home and the Cucksey family has also met his parents.

 

“We were excited because Josh pursuing his career in the NFL, we obviously haven’t seen as much of him and we know he’s not going to be in Knoxville, so when we heard he was going to be coming today to see A.J. it was a secret that I had a hard time keeping in because I know A.J. was excited,” said Shannon Cucksey smiling. “When Josh did come he snuck in the ice cream truck and I couldn’t see AJ, but I did hear him scream ‘Josh Dobbs!’ whenever he walked in.”

 

To follow A.J.’s journey, visit “Prayers for AJ” on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes a sign that Coach Bob O’Brien may not be all in with QB TOM SAVAGE:

 

One week after rejoining the Texans, backup quarterback T.J. Yates is getting some of the snaps with the first-team offense.

 

Starting quarterback Tom Savage struggled mightily against the Indianapolis Colts.

 

Although Texans coach Bill O’Brien said it wasn’t abnormal for the backup to get some reps, this does raise a few eyebrows on whether there will be a quick hook for Savage should he continue to struggle.

 

O’Brien has a history of yanking his starter if he’s ineffective.

 

When asked if Savage will get all of the first-team reps this week, O’Brien replied: “Not necessarily. Tom’s gotten some reps, T.J. got reps. I’m not saying it was 50-50, but I’d tell you that T.J. got some good reps. He got a decent amount. We’re just trying to get him back into the fold of running the offense and just gave him a decent amount of reps, not more than a normal No. 2.”

 

Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, the one reporter who has conversed with Colin Kaepernick this fall, says the Texans can help their team and end our long national nightmare.

 

Houston, you have a problem.

 

There is no salient, cogent, believable, realistic football explanation for how the Texans are handling their quarterback situation in the aftermath of Deshaun Watson’s horrible season-ending injury. There is no explanation that makes sense for these signings given the obvious alternative to them. There is no amount of salesmanship that would make any discerning fan believe the Texans’ bevvy of recent QB maneuvers is actually about giving them the best roster possible and best chance to win.

 

Instead of simply extending an opportunity for Colin Kaepernick – one of the more productive and least-turnover prone quarterbacks of the last five years – to merely work out for the team, the Texans have opted to take on a much more difficult task: that of continuing to pretend that Kaepernick isn’t actually a free agent. They have decided to continue the league-wide trend of systematically ignoring Kaepernick’s body of work and pretending that he is not an option, outside of the most casual and cavalier exchanges when forced to address him nominally by the media. They seem to be hoping the football watching public will suspend all disbelief about what is going into these ongoing personnel decisions, while far inferior quarterbacks who have been less-than-marginal in the entirety of their careers get chance after chance.

 

Texans owner Bob McNair could end this ongoing saga with Kaepernick – and simultaneously send a signal to his locker room that he is truly trying to salvage this season and do whatever is possible to stay in the playoff hunt – by simply extending a legit contract offer to the former Super Bowl quarterback. But instead, he and his franchise prefer to dabble in ridiculousness and operate in anything but a meritocracy, reaching out to Matt McGloin and TJ Yates and now, Josh Johnson  – long removed from NFL consideration and someone who, like the other two QBs, has never come close to establishing himself as a starting quarterback – while shunning the very premise of Kaepernick on the roster.

 

This is preposterous.

 

And, trust me, Texans coach Bill O’Brien has now joined his owner, McNair, as a central figure in the Kaepernick collusion case. To go on record and proclaim that Kaepernick’s lack of recent playing time is a primary reason why he doesn’t fit their model … and then go out and sign a quarterback who hasn’t played in years and has never been more than a fringe roster signing, will certainly merit further questioning, O’Brien is not on the original deposition list, as McNair is, but he is going to end up being grilled by lawyers, sooner or later – whether through preliminary deposition or at the collusion hearing itself. 

 

We are now pushing nine months of transactions in the NFL since the league year began in March, and dozens upon dozens or quarterback singings, without Kaepernick getting so much as a chance to throw for an NFL team. You were never going to convince me this was actually about football, but even the faintest of guise that there were better options for a potentially winning team to consider outside of Kaepernick has long been expunged. In fact, these teams aren’t even trying to pretend anymore.

 

The only reason not to at least give Kaepernick a look-see, as best these teams seemed to suggest, was that those in need of a quarterback for a short period of time (Ravens, Titans, Raiders at various points in time), or those with a long-term need (Packers, Texans, Cardinals) was that they already has their “system” guy in place or found him quickly on the street. But now that we’ve reached this late stage of the year, with seasons on the line and quarterback injuries occurring at a dizzying pace, that hollow argument is ringing even less true. Seems much more to the point that these clubs have decided that his alleged “distraction” factor and his political stand make him a pariah at the very same time so many players inspired by Kaepernick taking a knee continue to embody his demonstration and continue to be employed nonetheless.

 

This is going beyond the bizarre and into the absurd and I can’t help but think it bodes poorly for the league, and many of these owners, as Kaepernick’s collusion grievance plays out.  There are no football arguments left to be made when Johnson – an athletic quarterback who I have long championed but who has been rebuffed by NFL teams over and over, having to take to the defunct UFL to find playing opportunities – is getting a shot before Kaepernick.

 

Let’s be real – Jim Harbaugh is the central football figure in the pro careers of Johnson and Kaepernick. He coached Johnson in college and advocated for him at times in the NFL, and he pushed for the 49ers to draft Kaepernick in the second round. Harbaugh is a quarterback guru and a proven offensive mind and he pushed Alex Smith aside to make Kaepernick his young starter and reached a Super Bowl because of it and he continues to advocate for the quarterback now and he’d never in 100 years try to pretend that Johnson – whom he also feels very strongly for and knows inside and out – should be on a roster before Kaepernick.

 

It wouldn’t happen. Harbaugh had numerous chances to have both quarterbacks and he won, convincingly, with one in the pro game and never played the other. Come on. What the hell are we talking about at this point. We are beyond anyone being able to pretend that this is about finding the best quarterback possible to round out a roster and help a team win football games. Are the Texans trying to do whatever they can to be the best team they can be in the second half of the season to continue to tap into some of the opportunity Watson opened up for them, or are they cool with the ugly offensive display from last week and just accepting that as their new normal? Do they want to win, or is tanking a viable alternative?

 

If the Packers want to keep pretending that Brett Hundley is going to eventually help them win football games – or at least, not directly contribute to their losing on a weekly basis – well, I guess you have to give Mike McCarthy something of the benefit of the doubt. He’s a legit QB guru and he has a lot invested in Hundley in terms of man hours. I think he’s overplaying his hand, and ability to make Hundley NFL-ready on the fly, and signing a quarterback who has actually destroyed his team in the playoffs and run all over the Lambeau turf as if he’d planted the sod himself would actually give Green Bay the best chance of saving the season. But I suppose you could say McCarthy has earned the right to play this out a bit longer.

 

But the Texans? Come on. Prior to Watson they had churned through like a dozen quarterbacks in rapid succession, lacking both the vision to identify the best candidates and the ability to cultivate whatever talent they had accrued. And then they finally found Watson, and discovered an offensive identity predicated on many of the same schematic principles which meld with Kaepernick’s strengths, and yet  they are systematically avoiding and ignoring the obvious signing at a time when their owner has thrust himself deep into the collusion suit with his ill-advised comments during the recent NFL owner’s meeting.

 

It really does take some effort to get this deep down the rabbit hole. You have to really want to stay away from Kaepernick to continue to do so in a dire situation such as what the Texans face.

And, instead of acknowledging the overt potential improvement that Kaepernick’s resume implies that he would provide, instead, they’re going to bring in Larry, Moe and Curly without even acknowledging the existence of a longtime NFL starter, and one who threw for 16 TDs to just four interceptions for a horribly flawed and ineptly coached 49ers team a year ago, sitting right there on their free-agent list.

 

But make no mistake, as much as the Texans would try to tell you there is nothing to see here – it took mere minutes last week, once Watson was diagnosed with a torn ACL, before the team had let their beat writers know they were signing McGloin, who played for head coach Bill O’Brien in college – it comes with caveats. It won’t fly in their locker room, where McNair is already embroiled in controversy, and it won’t fly with discerning fans and it wont fly in the standings if they actually end up having to play any of the QBs they’ve reached out to lately.

 

Bottom line, the NFL has long ago run out of even quasi-half-competent quarterbacks to continue to sign, and with each new injury and each reach of a free-agent signing, Kaepernick’s arguments for why he is being shunned would seem to grow stronger. And this scenario seems to have little to do with how far he can throw a football and how accurately he can throw a football and how effectively he can run an offense in comparison to the barely-journeymen who continue to be awarded with opportunity after opportunity to enjoy an NFL paycheck while Kaepernick cannot land so much as a return phone call from an NFL team.

 

The DB, no fan of Kaepernick the activist or the player, has to agree that on a football level there is no longer any legitimate reason not to sign him.  But, what writers like LaCanfora don’t recognize, is that there will be a tremendous backlash against the brand of whatever team makes the football decision to sign Kaepernick at the fan level.  As someone piped up when the idea the Texans might logically sign him – “If they do, they become my least favorite team.”

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

CB VONTAE DAVIS opts for season-ending surgery as the Colts are caught handling his situation with less than total honesty.  Mike Wells of ESPN.com:

 

After seeking second medical opinions, Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis will undergo season-ending groin surgery, a source confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday night.

 

The recommendation that Davis undergo surgery was first reported by the Indianapolis Star.

 

The surgery will end Davis’ season and likely his time with the Colts because he’ll be a free agent during the offseason.

 

The need for surgery capped off a bizarre five days between Davis and the Colts.

 

Davis said earlier Wednesday that he felt disrespected by how the Colts handled how he was left behind for last weekend’s game at Houston.

 

The Colts sent out a surprising announcement Saturday saying that Davis would not make the trip for their game against the Texans the next day. The email said Davis’ situation was “non-injury related.” Coach Chuck Pagano repeated several times after the game that leaving Davis behind was a coach’s decision.

 

Davis had a different version of the events. Davis said he hasn’t played well this season because he’s still dealing with the groin injury he suffered against Pittsburgh in the third preseason game that caused him to miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

 

“I had a groin tear that I dealt with,” Davis said. “I got different opinions on it. One doctor said I should have had surgery, other doctor told me to let it heal. I took the let-it-heal approach. I came back and probably came back a little too early and in the process I probably hurt my teammates.”

 

When asked why Pagano said it was a non-injury situation, Davis said, “I can’t really control what Coach P said.”

 

Davis made his comments inside the locker room after Pagano had already addressed the media Wednesday.

 

Davis has been listed on the injury report just twice since Week 4, both days listed as “rest days.”

 

“They could have come at me way earlier than now. ‘Vontae, you’re not yourself,'” Davis said. “I told the trainers all week that my groin is not responding. That’s the whole process. I was coming in every week and it had been bothering me.”

 

Pierre Desir started in Davis’ place against the Texans and is expected to continue to start with Rashaan Melvin at cornerback.

 

Davis was told last week that he was being demoted by defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and defensive backs coach Greg Williams, not by Pagano.

 

“It’s a disagreement because I feel like I was demoted because of my health instead of my ability,” Davis said. “The agreement is I take full responsibility. I’m not myself. I’m not Vontae Davis. Obviously I know what level I can play at. I’ve been working trying to get back like with previous injuries, but it’s not working.”

 

Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler, acknowledged that he probably shouldn’t have returned at Seattle in Week 4.

 

The Colts failed to trade Davis, who is in the final year of his contract, prior to the trade deadline last week. He has only 16 solo tackles with just two passes defended this season.

 

“I’ve been here six years, I’ve played hurt, we’ve had similar situations where these things happen and I never got confronted that [my] play slipped or none of those things,” Davis said. “Obviously I was playing at a level that was acceptable [before], so now my play slipped.”

 

In the aftermath of the above, the Colts have cut Davis.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Vontae Davis is done in Indianapolis.

 

The Colts announced today that they have released Davis, after a bizarre week in which he was made inactive with the team claiming it was not injury related while Davis said his groin injury continued to be a problem.

 

Davis will now go on waivers, where any team can claim him, although if the reports that he needs season-ending groin surgery are true, that may make teams decide there’s no reason to claim him.

 

Also important to any team considering claiming Davis is that he is in the final year of his four-year, $36 million contract, and his base salary this season is $9 million. It’s hard to believe any team would want to pick up the balance of that salary if Davis isn’t even healthy enough to play.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com on QB TOM BRADY’s unique locker room chair:

 

Not all stories coming out of the New England Patriots’ locker room are hard-hitting, and this one certainly doesn’t fall into that category.

 

Soft-sitting is more like it.

 

Quarterback Tom Brady has taken some good, old-fashioned ribbing from his teammates since the day a few months ago that he wheeled a padded office chair from the quarterback meeting room and parked it in front of his locker. It’s the only one of its kind around.

 

“That’s the king’s chair,” joked receiver Danny Amendola.

 

Brady smiled when the topic was brought to his attention earlier this week, pointing to the other chairs throughout the locker room, which are silver metal with a blue padded seat, and have the Patriots logo on the padded back support.

 

“These chairs are like 17 years old, original to the stadium,” he said with a touch of humor.

 

Brady, 40, is the only player on the active roster to have pre-dated the opening of Gillette Stadium in 2002, so no one is contesting his chair-based facts. But teammates have enjoyed razzing him about it, with best pal Julian Edelman apparently the leader of that brigade.

 

It’s all in good fun, which in part reflects how Brady — even with his standing as the star quarterback — has developed connections with teammates young and old that they feel comfortable needling him. At one point, the jokes extended to linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who once hid Brady’s robe from him.

 

Running back James White said it didn’t take long for players to notice Brady’s new chair earlier this year. At the end of each day, all chairs are folded up and placed inside the lockers to create more space, which makes Brady’s computer chair on wheels, which can’t be folded, stand out that much more.

 

“When he first got it, we all gave him a hard time, asking ‘Why do you have that?’ And he’d be like, ‘It’s comfortable. I’m getting old,'” White relayed.

 

You actually would think that billionaire owner Bob Kraft could come up with better chairs for all of his players. 

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

NBC is going to try a radically different presentation next Thursday in Nashville – fog or no fog.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When dense fog in New England blocked made the standard camera angles unusable for this year’s Falcons-Patriots game, NBC switched to SkyCam as the primary camera angle. Some fans considered that an improvement.

 

Now fans will see a full game with the SkyCam angle: NBC announced today that next Thursday’s Steelers-Titans game will be shown primarily with the SkyCam — or SkyCams, plural, as NBC will have two of them above the field.

 

“We are excited to present a game with the majority of live-action coverage coming from SkyCam,” said executive producer Fred Gaudelli. “After pivoting out of necessity to SkyCam in the New England fog, we’ve been aggressively planning and testing with the intent of utilizing the system for a full game. Younger generations of NFL fans have grown accustomed to watching football from this angle through their love of video games. This telecast will have a look and feel akin to that experience. We’ll still have our full complement of cameras and will revert to traditional coverage when situations dictate, but the primary viewing experience of the game will come from the SkyCam angle.”

 

Mike Florio notes the networks, especially those not televising on Sunday afternoon, have reasons to experiment with new approaches:

 

Last year, the ratings decline subsided after the presidential election. This year, there was no presidential election, which means there likely will be no post-election bounce in the ratings.

 

With the final eight weeks of the regular season beginning tonight, there’s no reason to think this year’s troubling trend will change, because there’s no reason for people to return to following football after the various debates and town halls and other political shows and specials that sucked people away from watching football before November 8, 2016. And with, as Darren Rovell of ESPN noted on Wednesday, total ratings are down 5.5 percent through the first nine weeks of 2017 in comparison to the first nine weeks of 2016, the absence of a post-election bounce means the gap is about to get bigger.

 

It’s unclear what the NFL can do on the fly to avoid that. It’s unclear whether the NFL is trying to. One solution would be the aggressive use of flexing to ensure that the best games will be played in the biggest Sunday spots, rules that limited flexibility be damned.

 

Creativity will be needed to fix this one, and it needs to be applied not after the season ends but in real time. For a league that has grown accustomed to smooth sailing and ever-rising numbers, there may be no mechanism in place for dealing with this kind of crisis. There should be; otherwise, the other kinds of crises the league is confronting will continue to take precedence.