The Daily Briefing Tuesday, October 17, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:

 

                                               Overall     Division       Conference

Kansas City Chiefs     ACW      5-1               1-0                3-1

Pittsburgh Steelers      ACN      4-2               2-0                3-1

New England Patriots  ACN      4-2               1-0                2-1

Tennessee Titans        ACS      3-3               2-1                2-3

Buffalo Bills                 WC        3-2               1-0                 2-1

Miami Dolphins            WC       3-2               0-1                 2-1

Denver Broncos                        3-2              2-0                 2-1

Jacksonville Jaguars                 3-3              1-1                 3-2

Baltimore Ravens                      3-3              2-1                3-2

New York Jets                           3-3              1-2                 3-3

Houston Texans                        3-3              1-1                 3-3

 

So –

 

* 11 teams either in the playoffs or within a half game of the playoff line.

 

* Tennessee wasn’t even on this chart last week, now the “leader” in a 3-way tie for AFC South lead.

 

* NFL’s website standings list the Broncos last in the 3-way tie for the 2 Wild Card berths.

 

* At the beginning of the season, you would have been surprised that the Raiders (now 2-4) were not one of the top 11 teams (listed 15th in NFL’s standings).  So everyone but the Browns is 1½ from the playoffs.

– – –

The Packers go to the top of this list from Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com of the 5 teams most impacted by injury so far in 2017:

 

During the first six weeks of the season, five of the NFL’s best players (J.J. WATT, AARON RODGERS, ODELL BECKHAM, Jr., DAVID JOHNSON and ERIC BERRY)  have been lost to injury. They are either out for the season or will miss the majority of it. Their injuries have dimmed the league’s star power; all were ranked among the top 13 players in ESPN’s NFL Rank project this season. In some cases, these players have sparked a reshuffling of how we stack competitiveness across the league landscape.

 

Which teams have been the most affected by injuries? It’s a bit early in the season to start making dramatic projections, but tough times call for tough measures.

 

1. Green Bay Packers (4-2)

In some ways, it’s difficult to argue that a 4-2 team has been impacted too negatively by anything. However, in addition to replacing Rodgers, new quarterback Brett Hundley must fend with an offensive line that has been ravaged and hope that a similarly wrecked defense can mend its way to health.

 

Injuries have forced the Packers to start a different offensive line combination in every game this season. The upheaval is likely to continue; left tackle David Bakhtiari aggravated his hamstring Sunday in Minnesota, and right tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered a concussion. Meanwhile, the Packers played the Vikings without three starting defensive backs: Davon House, Kevin King and Morgan Burnett.

 

The Packers already were going to have to change their approach without Rodgers. This season, they have dropped back on 62 percent of their plays when holding a lead. That’s the third-highest percentage in the NFL and something they almost certainly won’t want to do with Hundley. They’ll have to switch that up while indoctrinating new and/or different personnel up and down their lineup. It will be a tall task.

 

2. New York Giants (1-5)

The Giants lost four wide receivers — three for the season — in a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris were all moved to injured reserve. The injuries left the Giants with only two receivers who had more than 15 career receptions on the roster, but most importantly, the situation robbed the Giants of the player around whom they had built their entire offense.

 

The Giants looked great in Sunday night’s victory over the Denver Broncos. But Beckham has been a safety net for quarterback Eli Manning throughout his brief career. On the plays that Beckham has sat out since 2014, Manning has been much more conservative (an average of 1 yard fewer downfield per pass) and much more prone to interceptions (2.3 percent interception rate with Beckham on the field; 3.7 with him off).

 

The Giants had six players on their active roster Sunday night who were ruled out because of injury two days before kickoff. The loss of Beckham alone is enough to merit inclusion on this list. Over time, Manning and the Giants will struggle to score points without him.

 

3. New England Patriots (4-2)

I won’t try to argue that the preseason loss of receiver Julian Edelman has contributed to the Patriots’ somewhat wobbly 4-2 start. Their offense is averaging an NFL-high 28.7 points per game, not including defensive or special-teams touchdowns. And they have managed to achieve the league’s fourth-highest third-down conversion percentage (44.3), a role that had become one of Edelman’s specialties.

 

The true impact of Edelman’s torn ACL might not come until the playoffs. (I’m operating under the assumption that the Patriots will get there.) Simply put, Edelman has been the NFL’s most productive postseason receiver since his rookie year of 2009.

 

In playoff games in that period, during which the Patriots reached three Super Bowls and won two, Edelman has 28 more receptions, 45 more targets and 14 more first-down receptions than any other player, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. It’s true that the Patriots have played in a bunch of postseason games, giving Edelman more opportunities than most players around the league, but there is no doubt that he is quarterback Tom Brady’s crutch in those clutch situations.

 

One of the Patriots’ biggest challenges of the regular season will be to identify someone to fill that role for when they inevitably reach the playoffs.

 

4. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)

Sometimes it’s fair to wonder how the Ravens have won three games. They lost nine players for the season between June 1 and the end of the preseason, including running back Kenneth Davis and tight end Crockett Gillmore. Since the season began, they have placed All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, defensive end Brent Urban and running back Danny Woodhead on injured reserve. Quarterback Joe Flacco missed the preseason because of a back injury, and nose tackle Brandon Williams has played in only two games.

 

It’s fair to wonder if injuries and departures along the offensive line have been particularly damaging. In addition to losing Yanda, the Ravens were hit by John Urschel’s summer retirement and Alex Lewis’ summer surgery. Urschel and Lewis combined to start 11 games last season and would have provided important depth.

 

In a 27-24 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bears, the Ravens failed to score an offensive touchdown. Overall, their offense is averaging 15.3 points per game, third-lowest in the NFL.

 

5. Detroit Lions (3-3)

Two key members of the defensive line are already lost for the year: defensive tackles Kerry Hyder (Achilles tendon) and Haloti Ngata (biceps). But the domino effects of left tackle Taylor Decker’s offseason biceps injury developed into a massive issue the past few weeks.

 

 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked 17 times in his past three games, two of them losses, and he himself is beaten up with hamstring and ankle injuries. Replacement left tackle Greg Robinson has struggled and was benched during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

 

With guard T.J. Lang (back) already sidelined, it got ugly when right tackle Rick Wagner was banged up. For the game, Stafford had nine passes batted down at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Lions also finished the game without safety Glover Quin (concussion) and receiver Golden Tate (shoulder).

 

The Lions’ upcoming bye week will help some of those players get back on the field. But when the franchise quarterback has taken a beating six games into the season, in part because of an injury-ravaged offensive line, it’s a situation worth monitoring.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

The Lions say that P SAM MARTIN, out all year so far with an off-season ankle injury, will be back at practice this week and should be good to go when the team returns to action after this week’s bye.

 

There are other reasons to think the Lions will be better off after the bye.  Dave Birkett in the Detroit Free Press with the update:

 

Jim Caldwell wasn’t kidding. The bye week is coming at the perfect time for his injury-depleted roster.

 

Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and Glover Quin were among 12 Lions who sat out practice Monday, the team’s last workout before leaving for their bye.

 

Stafford played through an ankle injury in Sunday’s 52-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints and took several crushing blows to his ribs that had him playing in pain.

 

Stafford, who’s made 102 consecutive starts at quarterback, said he never considered coming out of the game and he nearly led the Lions back from a 35-point deficit.

 

Jake Rudock took every rep at quarterback during the open portion of practice today for the second time this year.

 

Stafford also was held out of practice in late August on the day he signed his record five-year, $135 million contract.

 

Along with Tate, who’s expected to miss multiple weeks with a shoulder injury, and Quin, who suffered a brain injury against the Saints, the Lions were without wide receivers Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and TJ Jones, offensive linemen T.J. Lang (back), Emmett Cleary (ankle) and Greg Robinson (ankle), defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah (knee), Anthony Zettel and A’Shawn Robinson, and linebacker Paul Worrilow (knee).

 

Golladay, who’s missed three straight games with a pulled hamstring, spent the open portion of practice running on the side with trainers.

 

Punter Sam Martin practiced Monday for the first time this season. Martin suffered a summer ankle injury and has been on the non-football injury list all year.

 

Left tackle Taylor remains on the physically unable to perform list. He will have a three-week window to practice once he returns to the field.

 

The Lions (3-3) are off until Oct. 29, when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Looking at it, the DB thought that the takedown of QB AARON RODGERS that injured his shoulder was avoidable and probably worthy of a flag even under the current rule.  Seems like Mike McCarthy and the Packers agree.  Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

 

Rodgers broke his right collarbone after Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hit him in the first quarter Sunday. The quarterback was rolling out to his right with Barr pressuring him. As Rodgers threw, Barr hit him in the midsection and drove him into the turf, where Rodgers landed on his shoulder.

 

McCarthy took issue with Barr’s hit.

 

“He’s out of the pocket, he’s clearly expecting to get hit,” McCarthy said. “To pin him to the ground like that, I felt it was an illegal act. To sit here and lose any of your players on something like that, it doesn’t feel very good. Yeah, I didn’t like the hit. It was unnecessary … totally unnecessary, in my opinion.”

 

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer thought the hit was clean.

 

“We’re playing football,” Zimmer said. “It’s unfortunate that he got hurt but I think everything was above board. We’re not a dirty football team. We’ll never be a dirty football team as long as I’m here. We’re going to play within the rules and sometimes things happen.”

 

Rodgers missed seven starts in 2013 when he broke his left collarbone. This time he is expected to be out longer because it’s his throwing shoulder. Rodgers did not have surgery four years ago.

– – –

When Colin Kaepernick’s name escaped a reporter’s lips on Monday, McCarthy launched a spirited defense of BRETT HUNDLEY and someone named JOE CALLAHAN.  Andrew Joseph of USA TODAY:

 

“Did you just listen to that question I just answered? I got three years invested in Brett Hundley. Two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be. OK? We’re fortunate to have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. We’re committed to the path that we’re on. We need to play better as a football team.”

 

McCarthy did say that the team would look to add a third quarterback, but given that harsh pushback to a reporter’s question, it won’t be Kaepernick, who was born in Wisconsin and grew up a Packers fan.

 

As ProFootballTalk pointed out, McCarthy has been among the more outspoken coaches when it comes to the national anthem. He delivers a presentation to his team each season about the importance of the national anthem.

 

Via Packersnews.com:

 

McCarthy said he has used the same PowerPoint presentation each year since his first as the Green Bay Packers coach in 2006. Before the Packers’ exhibition opener – this year it was before the Family Night practice, McCarthy said – players are taught the national anthem’s meaning. They learn about its connection with sports, why it has been played before kickoffs and tip-offs and first pitches and puck drops since World War II.

– – –

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com has a look at Hundley who takes over for Rodgers.

 

Brett Hundley is filling the biggest shoes in the NFL.

 

The third-year quarterback will make his first NFL start for the Packers this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in place of Aaron Rodgers, whose broken collarbone will require surgery that could end his season.

 

Here’s a look at the 24-year-old on and off the field:

 

Draft-day disappointment: Rodgers isn’t the only quarterback in the Packers’ locker room to experience a draft-day disappointment. Rodgers’ drop from the possible No. 1 overall pick to No. 24 at least kept him in the first round in 2005. Hundley thought he would come off the board well before the fifth round in the 2015 draft after a highly successful career at UCLA, where he finished as the school’s career touchdown leader (75). Hundley didn’t leave school a year early to slip all the way to the fifth round, and he didn’t hide his disappointment. “I have a chip on my shoulder, and I’m coming in to work, and that’s what I’ve come down to do,” he said shortly after the draft. “It’s a blessing in disguise.”

 

Preseason sensation: If there’s a team that knows something about what Hundley can do, it’s the Saints. It was in the 2015 preseason finale against them when Hundley threw four touchdown passes to finish off what was perhaps the most impressive display of summer quarterbacking that season. In that game, Hundley completed 16 of 23 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns to finish with a 142.4 rating. Hundley led the NFL with 630 passing yards that summer, while throwing seven touchdowns and one interception. “He’s picked it up quickly,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the time.

 

Mentor-protégé relationship: Hundley’s locker at Lambeau Field is right next to Rodgers’, and the two can be seen chatting during times when the locker room is open to the media. From the start, Rodgers has served as a mentor and a friend to Hundley. They’re both ultracompetitive, even in meetings when it comes to answering QB coach Alex Van Pelt’s quizzes or away from the stadium, where they’ve been known to battle on the pingpong table. If there were questions about whether Brett Favre helped Rodgers when Rodgers was the backup, there are none of those when it comes to Rodgers and Hundley. “He learns from the best,” Packers receiver Davante Adams said. “He’s in there. He does the same thing in practice all week. He tries to take full control of the huddle, making sure guys know where to be, adjustment and things like that. His ears are open.”

 

Photography, music and philanthropy: Away from football, Hundley is an amateur photographer who this summer had the chance to shoot an IndyCar race from the pits at nearby Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

 

His wife, Dawnielle, is an R&B/Pop singer and songwriter who performs under the stage name Dionne Anylah. Hundley was recently named an ambassador for “Athletes vs. Epilepsy” — a cause that he became involved with because his sister, Paris, suffers from epilepsy.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

An update on what RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT and his lawyers are trying to do to keep him on the field.  Will Brinson of CBSSports.com

 

The NFL Players Association went to federal court in New York on Monday on behalf of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction that would put Elliott’s suspension on hold and allow him back on the field.

 

Elliott sued the NFL on Sept. 1 in the  Eastern District of Texas and the league filed a lawsuit of its own against Elliott five days later in the Southern District of New York. That’s where Elliott’s legal team was Monday, to answer the NFL complaint and file a motion seeking the restraining order, a copy of which was obtained exclusively by CBS Sports Radio legal analyst Amy Dash.

 

“In addition to the restraining order to stop the suspension, the NFLPA is also asking the New York court to vacate the decision by NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson, which would do away with the suspension altogether,” Dash said.

 

In court documents, the NFLPA says that the NFL has informed the team that Elliott will not be permitted to participate in practice Tuesday and cannot play in Sunday’s game. The NFL’s decision will stand unless the players association can get an injunction by 4 p.m. Tuesday, before rosters are set. Elliott’s representatives asked for the restraining order to be put in place before that 4 p.m. deadline.

 

“The NFL follows a procedure in which it requires teams to set final rosters (listing active player employees) for that week’s game at 4:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, so for this week’s game, on Tuesday October 17,” the union wrote. “Thus, the NFLPA respectfully requests an immediate order from the Court enjoining any suspension until such time as this Court or the Texas district court, depending upon the outcome of further proceedings, renders a final decision on the NFLPA’s vacatur claim (in Texas) or counterclaim (in New York).”

 

After Elliott had previously been granted an injunction by a Texas court to put a hold on the suspension, the NFL won a 2-1 legal victory in front of a three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit to vacate the injunction and the league announced Elliott’s suspension was reinstated. The NFLPA has asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the injunction on hold until it has a chance to file for a rehearing in front of the entire panel of appellate judges. That decision could come any day. Meanwhile, the NFL stands by its statement that the suspension will stand.

 

“The suspension is in place. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not accurate,” spokesman Joe Lockhart said. 

 

Because the Texas case is now in limbo, the NFLPA said in court papers it has no choice but to request a restraining order in New York to allow for Elliott to play Sunday. According to Dash, a hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in New York.

 

“A request for an emergency restraining order can be granted on the same day as the hearing, so it’s very possible that by the end of this week Elliott’s suspension could be back on hold again if the NFLPA wins,” Dash said. “But now we have two lawsuits going on at the same time in two states. The district court in Texas has not dismissed the case to New York yet, so it’s possible the New York judge refuses to give a restraining order until the Fifth Circuit issues its decision. That would mean Elliott would be suspended for Sunday. So it’s anybody’s game.”

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

A nice story about DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL, the Man with 3 First Names, from The Daily Snark:

 

Jason Pierre-Paul busted out a sack dance against the Broncos during Sunday Night Football that may have looked strange to some. Now we know why.

 

After getting to Denver QB Trevor Siemian, Pierre-Paul stood up and celebrated with a dance a 7-year-old boy named Hayden battling cancer taught him during practice earlier in the week.

 

What a cool gesture.

 

See it here.

– – –

Although they didn’t need him in Denver, the Giants are celebrating the return of CB DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE:

 

The Giants’ suspension of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t last long.

 

Rodgers-Cromartie will be back with the team when they return to work tomorrow, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

 

Giants coach Ben McAdoo and Rodgers-Cromartie had a disagreement about playing time that got heated last week, and McAdoo decided to suspend Rodgers-Cromartie. That led to some talk that there were big problems within the Giants’ locker room, although that dissipated when the Giants played by far their best game of the season in Sunday night’s win over the Broncos.

 

Whatever issues there were between coach and player, they’ve now been resolved well enough that the suspension is coming to an end, and Rodgers-Cromartie’s indefinite suspension has turned out to last just one game.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

An unofficial official injury update from the Panthers from NFL.com:

 

The Carolina Panthers won’t release an official injury report Tuesday, but if they did, linebacker Luke Kuechly would have been listed as a non-participant, the team announced.

 

The Panthers’ superstar defender suffered a scary head/neck injury in a collision with Philadelphia Eagles guard Brandon Brooks in last week’s loss and he did not return to the game. The Panthers announced Sunday that Kuechly was in the concussion protocol.

 

The fact that Kuechly was out at practice, though not in pads, was at the very least an encouraging sign for Carolina.

 

The Panthers got better news on the Ryan Kalil front. The offensive lineman, who’s been out since Week 2 with a neck injury, showed up to practice in full pads and worked out, giving the team hope he’ll be available for this weekend’s tilt with the Chicago Bears.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Brett Whitefield of ProFootballFocus.com with this on CB PATRICK PETERSON:

 

The Arizona Cardinals got a big-time performance from cornerback Patrick Peterson in their Week 6 win versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before leaving the game in the third quarter with a quad injury, Peterson earned a game grade of 85.1, completely blanking the Buccaneer’s offense on 28 cover snaps.

 

Shadowing Mike Evans for most of the game, Peterson didn’t give up a single catch to him while being targeted four times. Peterson also came up with a pass breakup while defending Evans. It’s no surprise Evans didn’t catch his first pass until after Peterson left the game.

 

On the season, Peterson has allowed just seven receptions on 219 coverage snaps for an incredibly low yards per cover snap allowed of 0.37 that ranks second in the NFL among cornerbacks that have played at least 125 cover snaps.

– – –

This from Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on RB ADRIAN PETERSON:

 

The Saints had built a 45-10 lead only to see it whittled down to seven in the fourth quarter. Payton was annoyed about the way his team struggled to finish. So when someone asked about what Peterson was doing in Arizona and whether it gave him pause about trading the old warhorse five days earlier, Payton wasn’t having any.

 

“That’s a dumb question,” Payton said. “We’re trying to win games, and I’d love to have that player. But it’s hard to have that many and get into a rhythm. I thought Mark [Ingram] and Alvin [Kamara] had some big plays, and I would hope we would have had that type of rushing output if Adrian was a part of it.”

 

Ingram and Kamara combined for 189 yards on 35 carries in the Saints’ win on Sunday. And while they couldn’t salt away the game by running it late, they won it by running it early and often, which makes you realize the Saints were loaded at running back and just couldn’t come up with anything for Peterson to do.

 

“I told you all, he’s still got the juice,” Ingram said after hearing what Peterson was doing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first game as a Cardinal.

 

He does, or did on this one day, and who’s to say that at age 32 a player as freakishly dominant and resilient as Peterson can’t possibly resurrect his career and the Cardinals’ season at the same time? Arizona’s offensive line has had a rough year, but Peterson in his prime was one of those running backs the old coaches like to say “brings his own blocking.” This is no longer his prime, but what if he has enough motivation to muster three good months?

 

Saints players with whom I spoke last week talked in near-reverential terms about Peterson and the impression he made on them in six months as their teammate.

 

“He’s a freak,” wide receiver Michael Thomas said. “He takes care of his body really well, that’s one thing I took from him, just the way he’s always doing his shakes, he’s always lifting, he’s always taking care of his body, always trying to find an edge, that’s just one thing I took from him. He’s just professional. No matter what happened, no matter how many times he didn’t get the ball, he really never brought that in here or, you know, pointed fingers or anything. He just put his head down and came to work the next day. So I appreciate that, and I have tons of respect for him.”

 

Saints players were loving the news of Peterson’s performance in Arizona, while also happy about what they still have at running back. This could be the kind of thing that works out well for everyone, if Peterson helps rescue the Cardinals and the Saints’ backs blossom in their opportunities. Hey, the NFC is wide-open, folks. Go run through that hole.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

We endorse this idea from Eric Williams of ESPN.com:

 

One of the best looking and most recognizable uniforms in sports, the Los Angeles Chargers’ powder blue alternate uniforms will be worn for the first time this season for a Sunday contest against the Denver Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

 

And in a battle to win more fans in Los Angeles, the Chargers should make the powder blues their permanent home uniform. It makes no sense to have one of the most iconic uniforms in the sports world and only wear them a couple times a season.

 

The powder blue uniforms got their start in Los Angeles when the team began as a franchise in 1960, so the Chargers would be re-establishing a tradition in Los Angeles.

 

Riding a two-game win streak, the Chargers are looking for their first home victory this season. They’re 0-3 at the StubHub Center.

 

“We love the powder blue,” Chargers president of business operations A.G. Spanos told the team’s website. “It is obviously a color our fans identify with and is an important part of the Chargers’ rich history. It has worked out well that we can still wear the powder blue for certain games during the year, especially during special occasions like honoring our alumni. The current system has worked out great.”

 

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos has said in the past he’s open to the possibility of rebranding. NFL rules allow teams to change their uniforms only once in a five-year period. The last time the Chargers made any changes to their uniforms was in 2012.

 

Along with wearing the powder blue uniforms at home on Sunday, the Chargers also will wear them on the road against the Dallas Cowboys for a Week 13 contest on Thanksgiving Day.

 

First reappearing in 1994, the Chargers have worn their alternate powder blue uniforms 32 times, posting a 16-16 record.

 

Going beyond what Williams writes, the Chargers current colors are almost a match with their fellow L.A. migrants, the Rams.  The powder blue would establish a clearly different color scheme from any other L.A. pro sports team and any other NFL team – although of course there would be a bit of a link with UCLA.  But the white helmets would differentiate from UCLA’s gold ones.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The Ravens OC Marty Mornhenwig is under attack, but Coach John Harbaugh has his back.  Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:

 

John Harbaugh deflected some of the criticism aimed at offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg on Monday, saying no one should point the finger at him even though the Baltimore Ravens rank among the worst offenses in the NFL.

 

The Ravens are the only team with an offense that ranks in the bottom five in yards and offensive points per game. Baltimore also failed to score an offensive touchdown in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears.

 

Mornhinweg, who was promoted to coordinator about this time last year, is the playcaller for an offense that ranks 29th in yards per game (289.2) and 30th in offensive points per game (15.3).

 

“I think anytime you try to pin the blame on any one person in a team sport like this, that’s always going to be a mistake. That’s nonsensical,” Harbaugh said. “It just doesn’t work that way. But I understand that’s how it works. We all understand that.”

 

Harbaugh has twice fired offensive coordinators during the season in his 10 years in Baltimore. In December 2012, he dismissed Cam Cameron and hired Jim Caldwell, who helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl that season. In October of last season, Harbaugh made the change from Marc Trestman to Mornhinweg, who has failed to turn around the offense.

 

In 21 games under Trestman, Baltimore ranked 15th in total yards and 25th in scoring. In 17 games under Mornhinweg, the Ravens are 23rd in total yards and 23rd in scoring.

 

The Ravens have been held to one or no offensive touchdowns in seven games under Mornhinweg. That’s 41 percent of the time.

 

The one area where the Ravens have significantly improved is running the ball. Baltimore has the sixth-best ground attack in the league, although a large part of the credit for this goes to senior offensive assistant Greg Roman.

 

Harbaugh surprisingly chose to retain Mornhinweg as his playcaller at the end of last season. He didn’t sway from that decision as the offense has played a major role in Baltimore’s 3-3 start this season.

 

“I think Marty is a great coach. There’s no question in mind about it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen him over the years, I know what he can do. I know what he’s trying to do. You do everything you can to put your guys in position to make plays and you’re in it together.”

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com with this on WR MARTAVIS BRYANT:

 

The truth on the Martavis Bryant story, regardless of what the player is saying publicly, is that Bryant and his agent have expressed unhappiness with the way he’s being used in the offense and, some weeks ago, told the Steelers that Bryant would prefer to be traded if his current role is all they have in mind. Multiple sources say Bryant’s agent has spoken with Steelers management since the season began to express these sentiments, and that Bryant himself spoke with coaches during the week leading up to Pittsburgh’s Week 5 game to ask about being a bigger part of the offense. That has not materialized, though Bryant isn’t exactly being ignored. He has played 71 percent of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps, second among Steelers wide receivers to only the incredible Antonio Brown (93 percent) and slightly ahead of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (66 percent), though Smith-Schuster saw the field more in Week 6. Bryant has been targeted 34 times, which is third on the team behind Brown (74) and superstar running back Le’Veon Bell (39). Smith-Schuster has 24 targets.

 

I can see the reason for Bryant’s frustration. He views himself as a difference-making player whose size/speed combination is unique and who, if given the opportunity, can do serious damage downfield or in the red zone. He has worked extremely hard to come back clean, healthy and in better shape than ever following his one-year drug suspension. By all accounts, he looks incredible in practice. On a representative number of current NFL teams, he’d have a claim on the title of No. 1 wide receiver.

 

But the Steelers aren’t just any team. They have Brown and Bell, otherworldly talents who have established themselves as key cogs in the offense while Bryant has missed time on suspension during his four-year career. The Steelers would love to use Bryant to his full potential, score 60 points a game and dominate the NFL through sheer force of will and athleticism. But it’s not that simple, and there are many mouths to feed, including that of Smith-Schuster, the talented second-round pick whose opportunity has surprised Bryant. Something’s still off with the connection between Bryant and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it seems that, plus Bryant’s anxious desire to make up for lost time, is creating an issue.

 

Bottom line, the Steelers aren’t going to trade Bryant, who still has more value to them as a member of their team than he does in trade. As brilliantly talented as he might be, he has yet to establish himself as an NFL dominator, and until he does, the Steelers aren’t likely to get a team to offer them sufficient return for his still-latent potential. There’s still likely a breakout coming, and when it does, the Steelers want to benefit from that with points and wins.

 

A victory Sunday over previously unbeaten Kansas City has the Steelers feeling better. And the production and opportunity Brown and Bell are getting has those guys placated for the moment at least. Bryant’s day will come, and while it’s easy to understand his impatience, the Steelers have no reason to act on it.

 

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

The Titans are singing the praises of QB MARCUS MARIOTA for gutting out Monday’s win.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

You know those days when you wake up, sore, feeling like garbage, and the last thing you want to do is go to work, but you do anyway because people are counting on you?

 

Marcus Mariota had a day like that, sort of.

 

On Monday night, the Tennessee Titans’ quarterback was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out last week. Mariota clearly isn’t 100 percent. He didn’t move well in or out of the pocket Monday night. The elusive playmaker couldn’t even attempt to run, which is one of his most electric traits. It was obvious why he didn’t play the previous game (if this was after rest, what would he have looked like before?). Yet it was obvious even a 57 percent Mariota is 100 times better than a 100 percent Matt Cassel.

 

So Mariota gutted out a 36-22 must-have home win over division rival Indianapolis Colts. His teammates love the QB for putting it on the line for them.

 

“Credit to Marcus,” Titans running back Derrick Henry said, via the team’s official website. “Now that’s a leader. That’s a tough guy. To come out here not even 100 percent, and to play against a good division opponent, that shows what type of leader he is, what type of guy he is.”

 

“The guy is a complete stud,” tackle Taylor Lewan added of his quarterback. “That guy is pretty all-time.”

 

Despite not looking healthy, Mariota finished 23-of-32 passing (71.9 completion percentage) for 306 yards, including a gorgeous 53-yard touchdown bomb to Taywan Taylor, and an interception, while taking just one sack. The Titans called for Mariota to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and the quarterback made smart reads as Tennessee rallied from a second-half deficit.

 

To succeed in the NFL, teams must win games in less-than-optimal conditions during a grueling regular season. Having your elusive quarterback hamstrung certainly qualifies as suboptimal. Yet Mariota and the Titans made enough plays to scrap their way to 3-3 and a tie atop the AFC South. If the quarterback’s hamstring continues to progress, the division title is theirs for the taking.

 

This week, Mariota’s 2015 draft partner JAMEIS WINSTON of the Buccaneers may have to gut one out himself at Buffalo.

– – –

Titans PK RYAN SUCCOP quietly set an NFL record on Monday night.  The AP:

 

Tennessee kicker Ryan Succop set an NFL record with his 47th consecutive successful kick inside 50 yards on a 48-yard field goal in the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game between the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts.

 

Succop came into the game tied with Matt Bryant, who connected on 46 straight field goals inside 50 yards between 2013 and 2015 for the Atlanta Falcons.

 

The kicker capped the Titans’ opening drive with his record-breaking field goal. Succop then made a 32-yard field goal late in the first quarter and a 40-yarder with 4:10 left in the second quarter. In the third quarter, he hit another 48-yarder and a 23-yarder en route to a 36-22 Tennessee win.

 

Succop’s current streak started in 2014, and he topped the franchise record of 24 straight set by Al Del Greco from 1995 to 1996.

 

So he’s up to 51 straight from under 50.

 

Succop’s accuracy does not extend to the 33-yard PAT established in 2015.  He’s missed four of those (82-86) for a percentage of 95.3% that ranks 13th in the NFL among the 32 kickers with 50 PATs in that span.

 

Succop is 7-12 on 50+-yd FGs during his streak.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS thru Week 6

There is a shakeup atop the Aikman Combined Ratings compiled by STATS after Week 6, as the Chiefs relinquish their season-long position in first to the rising Eagles who were in 2nd last week. 

 

Kansas City fell to 4th while losing to the Steelers, with the surprising Jaguars moving to 2nd.  Jacksonville lost to the Rams, but two of the biggest plays that led to the defeat occurred on special teams which falls outside the range of Aikman Ratings measurement.

 

The Vikings jumped from 6th to 3rd in the Aikman Combined while defeating the Packers.

 

The Chiefs did retain their lead in Aikman Offense, a position they have held since Week 1. 

 

The idle Bills also continue to stand in 1st place in Aikman Defense.

– – –

One trend to note is a decline in 2017 in Aikman Offense ratings on a leaguewide basis.  Originally designed where 75 would represent the average score on both sides of the ball, the Aikman Offense Ratings have moved steadily upwards in recent years.  On a league-wide basis they passed the 80 mark in 2013 and have stayed their since, reaching a high of 81.9 last year.

 

But in 2017, with over a third of the season complete, the NFL has an average Aikman Offense rating of 79.7, compared to 82.4 at this point last year.

 

Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 6, 2017

 

                                ——— Aikman ——–       ——- NFL ——–

 Rank  Record   Team             Combined     Off      Def       Off    Def Combined

   1     5-1    Eagles             167.5     90.7     76.8         3     20     23 

   2     3-3    Jaguars            164.4     83.9     80.5        18      9     27 

   3     4-2    Vikings            162.3     82.6     79.7        10.5    5     15.5

   4     5-1    Chiefs             162.0     96.3     65.8         2     29     31 

   5     3-2    Bills              159.9     78.5     81.4        31     13     44 

   6     3-2    Saints             159.9     88.2     71.7         7     26     33 

   7     3-3    Texans             159.4     86.2     73.2        15      7     22 

   8     3-2    Seahawks           157.1     77.5     79.6        16     15     31 

   9     3-2    Falcons            155.2     87.4     67.9         5     10     15 

  10     3-2    Broncos            154.9     77.0     77.9        12      1     13 

  11     4-2    Steelers           154.1     78.2     75.9        13      3     16 

  12     4-2    Patriots           153.1     92.6     60.4         1     32     33 

  13     3-3    Lions              152.7     78.0     74.7        28     18.5   46.5

  14     4-2    Packers            152.7     87.0     65.7        22     14     36 

  15     2-3    Cowboys            149.7     87.2     62.5         9     21     30 

  16     3-3    Ravens             149.1     70.1     79.1        29     16     45 

  17     2-4    Chargers           149.0     80.2     68.8        14     18.5   32.5

  18     4-2    Rams               149.0     81.1     67.8         8     24     32 

  19     2-4    Raiders            149.0     79.3     69.7        30     23     53 

  20     3-2    Redskins           148.8     79.4     69.4         6     12     18 

  21     3-3    Titans             147.6     82.4     65.2        17     17     34 

  22     4-2    Panthers           146.0     79.2     66.8        19      4     23 

  23     2-3    Buccaneers         145.3     82.1     63.3         4     30     34 

  24     1-5    Giants             144.0     75.4     68.7        23     27     50 

  25     0-6    49ers              142.6     77.3     65.3        20     28     48 

  26     3-3    Jets               142.4     73.1     69.3        21     25     46 

  27     2-4    Bears              142.2     72.1     70.1        26      6     32 

  28     2-3    Bengals            142.1     66.3     75.8        24      2     26 

  29     3-3    Cardinals          138.7     73.7     65.0        10.5   22     32.5

  30     3-2    Dolphins           137.2     66.5     70.7        32     11     43 

  31     2-4    Colts              137.0     74.6     62.4        27     31     58 

  32     0-6    Browns             125.0     63.8     61.2        25      8     33 

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 6, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1       2      Chiefs              96.3

   2       1      Patriots            92.6

   3       3      Eagles              90.7

   4       7      Saints              88.2

   5       5      Falcons             87.4

   6       9      Cowboys             87.2

   7      22      Packers             87.0

   8      15      Texans              86.2

   9      18      Jaguars             83.9

  10      10.5    Vikings             82.6

  11      17      Titans              82.4

  12       4      Buccaneers          82.1

  13       8      Rams                81.1

  14      14      Chargers            80.2

  15       6      Redskins            79.4

  16      30      Raiders             79.3

  17      19      Panthers            79.2

  18      31      Bills               78.5

  19      13      Steelers            78.2

  20      28      Lions               78.0

  21      16      Seahawks            77.5

  22      20      49ers               77.3

  23      12      Broncos             77.0

  24      23      Giants              75.4

  25      27      Colts               74.6

  26      10.5    Cardinals           73.7

  27      21      Jets                73.1

  28      26      Bears               72.1

  29      29      Ravens              70.1

  30      32      Dolphins            66.5

  31      24      Bengals             66.3

  32      25      Browns              63.8

 

NFL Average                           79.7

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 6, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1      13      Bills               81.4

   2       9      Jaguars             80.5

   3       5      Vikings             79.7

   4      15      Seahawks            79.6

   5      16      Ravens              79.1

   6       1      Broncos             77.9

   7      20      Eagles              76.8

   8       3      Steelers            75.9

   9       2      Bengals             75.8

  10      18.5    Lions               74.7

  11       7      Texans              73.2

  12      26      Saints              71.7

  13      11      Dolphins            70.7

  14       6      Bears               70.1

  15      23      Raiders             69.7

  16      12      Redskins            69.4

  17      25      Jets                69.3

  18      18.5    Chargers            68.8

  19      27      Giants              68.7

  20      10      Falcons             67.9

  21      24      Rams                67.8

  22       4      Panthers            66.8

  23      29      Chiefs              65.8

  24      14      Packers             65.7

  25      28      49ers               65.3

  26      17      Titans              65.2

  27      22      Cardinals           65.0

  28      30      Buccaneers          63.3

  29      21      Cowboys             62.5

  30      31      Colts               62.4

  31       8      Browns              61.2

  32      32      Patriots            60.4

 

NFL Average                           70.3

 

Ratings Courtesy of STATS

 

 

KAEP’S CASE

SI.com’s legal analyst Michael McCann explores whether or not Colin Kaepernick can prove collusion over his failure to be re-employed as an NFL quarterback. 

 

1. Collusion requires actual cooperation between teams (or cooperation between a team or teams and the league)

Here’s a scenario that has probably played out in recent months: Officials on one NFL team meet to discuss the team’s need for a quarterback. Kaepernick is one player they discuss. The officials then decide, without the involvement of any other team, to not sign Colin Kaepernick. Instead, the team signs a quarterback who, by objective metrics, isn’t as good as Kaepernick. These officials even admit to taking such an approach because they believe that Kaepernick would be a distraction. They also openly disagree with his political views and are offended by his kneeling during the national anthem.

 

Sounds suspicious, right? It’s not, at least not for purposes of collusion.

 

The scenario I just described is not collusion because it involves only one team. To be sure, those officials might regret not signing the “better” player. That’s not the point. It is lawful for one team to not want Kaepernick on grounds that team officials don’t like him. Along those lines, no NFL team is legally obligated to sign Kaepernick.

 

For Kaepernick to prove collusion, he would need to show that two or more teams, or the league office and at least one team, conspired in some way to deny him an opportunity to play in the NFL.

 

2. Kaepernick needs evidence of collusion

Kaepernick needs more than mere supposition or belief that he has been victimized by a conspiracy. Perhaps he has an email, text, social media message, video, audio recording, hand-written note or sworn testimony from a witness. Maybe his agents, Jeffrey Nalley and Sean Kiernan, are in possession of such evidence. Regardless, the evidence must clearly show that two or more teams, or the NFL and a team or teams, conspired to deny Kaepernick of an opportunity to play in the NFL.

 

So where might Kaepernick have uncovered evidence that he believes proves collusion? We know that if it occurred, it must have been within the last 90 days, as under Article 17 of the CBA a player has that long to file a grievance. We also know that Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, has issued a statement expressing that “athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government.”

 

Otherwise we are left to speculate.

 

One possibility: Given the public uproar over players engaging in a form of protest during the national anthem, could officials on different teams have exchanged emails about the topic and, in doing so, pin the blame on Kaepernick? Sure. After all, Kaepernick began the controversy last season.

 

Yet even if Kaepernick is in possession of those kinds of emails, they may not prove collusion. He would need to show that he has been deprived of a collectively bargained right—namely, the right to sign with a team. Emails from officials on different teams merely criticizing him might not rise to the necessary level.

 

3. The fact that Kaepernick is probably “better” than some quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters does not prove collusion

In recent weeks, various media commentators have opined that quarterbacks inferior to Kaepernick are on NFL rosters. Some of those quarterbacks are even starting NFL games.

 

Collusion?

 

No. As mentioned above, some teams might not want Kaepernick simply because they don’t like him. They might prefer an inferior quarterback as the backup since he would not attract controversy or draw attention away from the starting quarterback, or he better fits the team’s offensive scheme. Whether such an approach is in the best interests of a team can be debated. But for purposes of collusion analysis, Kaepernick’s superior talent compared to some NFL quarterbacks doesn’t—by itself—prove anything.

 

4. Kaepernick proving that owners or team officials are racially insensitive would not prove collusion

If Kaepernick can prove he has been the victim of racial discrimination by NFL owners, such discrimination would not necessarily advance a collusion grievance. As noted above, Kaepernick would still need to show that teams conspired.

 

That said, other legal claims might become available for Kaepernick in such a scenario. For instance, he could file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is entrusted with guaranteeing that employees are not subject to illegal forms of discrimination.

 

Kaepernick and the NFLPA could also pursue potential remedies available through the National Labor Relations Board. To that end, Kaepernick might insist that the NFL is in violation of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act by denying him a chance to engage in a concerted activity—anthem protest. Such protest, it could be argued, would advance the union’s bargaining interests.

 

6. Kaepernick proving that owners or team officials are “colluding” with President Trump would not prove collusion

On several occasions, President Donald Trump has leveled sharp criticism against Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. Trump has even urged NFL owners to cut players who do not stand during the national anthem. By implication, Trump has signaled that he’d prefer teams not sign free agents who would kneel during the anthem. I have written about the legal implications of Trump’s NFL-related comments here and here.

 

Could the President of the United States be a key person in a collusion grievance brought by Kaepernick?

 

Probably not.

 

An NFL owner agreeing with Trump, or even communicating with Trump about Kaepernick, would not constitute collusion under the CBA. Trump is an external actor for purposes of collusion analysis. That is, he is not a party to the CBA and is therefore not governed by it.

 

If, however, multiple NFL owners have communicated through Trump about Kaepernick, perhaps there would be evidence of collusion. But Trump would not be the collusive party—it would be the owners.

 

At least in theory, there may be other legal recourses for Kaepernick against Trump. One federal criminal statute, 18 U.S. Code § 227, has attracted some attention because it prohibits the President from “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions.” If the President is charged and convicted of violating this statute, he would be disqualified from office and face up to 15 years in prison.

 

This statute, however, is limited in crucial ways that make it virtually inapplicable to any real-world situation. One key way: To gain a conviction, a prosecutor would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump acted “with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation” (emphasis added). Logically, it seems almost impossible to imagine a prosecutor proving that Trump directed NFL owners to not sign Kaepernick—who reportedly didn’t vote in the 2016 election—solely because of partisan political affiliation and no other reason whatsoever.

 

6. Kaepernick opting out of his San Francisco 49ers contract doesn’t disprove collusion

Much has been written about the fact that Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March. He was scheduled to make $16.9 million in salary and bonuses in 2017, though the 49ers would not be on the hook for that if they cut him, and various media reports suggest Kaepernick opted out after learning the 49ers were going to do so.

 

Some have reasoned that because Kaepernick opted out of his contract, he somehow waived any potential collusion claim.

 

That is incorrect. In fact, there is no connection between the two. If teams conspired against Kaepernick in recent months, he would still be a victim of collusion. His opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March would be irrelevant.

 

7. Kaepernick turning down free-agent offers wouldn’t disprove collusion

Some have speculated that Kaepernick might have told teams, or at least implied to them, that he wants to start. It’s also possible that Kaepernick has turned down overtures—perhaps even offers—from teams that want to sign him.

 

None of that would prevent Kaepernick from proving collusion. Why? Because an alleged conspiracy might have involved other teams and their officials. If two teams colluded against Kaepernick, and the 30 other teams did not collude, Kaepernick would still have been victimized by collusion.

 

8. The arbitrator will be neutral for Kaepernick’s grievance

Kaepernick’s grievance falls under Article 17 of the CBA. It dictates that a “system arbitrator” will preside over the proceedings. Such an arbitrator is neutral and selected by both the NFL and the NFLPA. This is, of course, a very different system of dispute resolution than that experienced by NFL players who challenge player conduct suspensions under Article 46 of the CBA. Under Article 46, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is the presiding officer (arbitrator) unless he delegates that responsibility to someone of his choosing. Kaepernick, in contrast, will have an impartial person review his claim.

 

9. Kaepernick must satisfy the “clear preponderance of the evidence” burden

The system arbitrator will not decide the grievance based on whether Kaepernick has “probably” proven the case. Kaepernick must be somewhat more convincing: He must persuade the arbitrator through a “clear preponderance of the evidence” that collusion occurred and caused him economic injury. The word “clear” in conjunction with “preponderance of the evidence” is noteworthy. Legal commentators who have studied this burden find that the evidence must be compelling in order for the burden to be met.

 

10. An arbitration hearing isn’t as worrisome to the NFL as would be a trial

The hearing for Kaepernick’s grievance will be a private arbitration hearing—not a public trial. Although the federal rules of evidence will apply, NFL arbitration does not involve nearly the same degree of pretrial discovery as found in a trial. No subpoenas or warrants will be available in such a forum, and witnesses cannot be compelled to testify upon threat of being jailed. These dynamics could limit the ability of Kaepernick to force the NFL to answer to his claims or theories.

 

11. If Kaepernick wins, he could receive many millions of dollars

If Kaepernick can prove collusion, he stands to receive a sizable amount of money. His damages would be trebled: hypothetically, if Kaepernick proves that collusion cost him $10 million, he would be awarded $30 million in damages.

 

This is because Kaepernick would be awarded two types of damages. The first would include compensatory damages for the money he lost due to collusion. Under the penalty scheme for collusion, Kaepernick would also receive non-compensatory (or punitive) damages of twice the value of his compensatory damages (thrice if the team is a repeat offender, though no team is likely in such a category).

 

How could an arbitrator be sure as to the appropriate amount of compensatory damages for Kaepernick? It would clearly be a difficult analysis. The arbitrator would have to envision a world that never occurred and then surmise what Kaepernick, at age 29, would have earned in it.

 

One way to help the arbitrator would be through “comparables”—salaries of other free-agent quarterbacks who signed with NFL teams in 2017. To that end, it is worth noting that 27-year-old Mike Glennon signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears for $45 million, 31-year-old Brian Hoyer signed a two-year deal with the 49ers for $12 million, 34-year-old Jay Cutler signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins for $10 million, and 37-year-old Josh McCown signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets for $6 million. As I wrote earlier this year, football experts could argue that Kaepernick, who threw 16 touchdowns against four interceptions in 2016, was superior to those players: He enjoyed a higher QB rating (90.7) than McCown (72.3) in 2016 and a higher career QB rating than that of Hoyer this year (74.1).

 

12. If Kaepernick loses his grievance, he could appeal to federal court—but he would probably lose again

Just like other players who lose NFL arbitrations, Kaepernick would be able to sue the NFL (and any colluding teams) in a U.S. District Court. In doing so, he would petition a federal judge to vacate the arbitration decision.

 

As evidenced by recent lawsuits that ultimately failed, players have not experienced a great deal of success in suing over arbitration awards. This is in part due to the high level of deference judges owe arbitrators under federal law—even when, as stipulated by Article 46 of the CBA, the arbitrator is the NFL commissioner or a similarly non-neutral designate. Challenging an Article 17 collusion decision might prove even more problematic for Kaepernick given that the arbitrator would be a neutral and presumably more credible figure.

 

13. The NFL has experienced limited interaction with collusion claims

Only once in recent years has the NFL battled a collusion claim. In 2011, the NFLPA claimed that teams conspired to cap player salaries during the uncapped 2010 season. The matter was ultimately heard by a federal appeals court, which was tasked with resolving several matters related to the collective bargaining relationship between the NFL and NFLPA. The court did not find evidence of fraud.

 

14. Baseball has a longer history of collusion

On several occasions Major League Baseball players have proven that the league and its owners conspired to unlawfully restrict player salaries.  In the 1980s, owners were shown to have reached a “gentleman’s agreement” to not bid for each other teams’ free agents—a clear violation of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Players learned of such plots through their agents, who were able to gain statements from baseball officials that in turn proved collusion.

 

Not all collusion matters against baseball have been resolved favorably for the players. In 2015, an arbitrator rejected a collusion grievance brought by Barry Bonds on grounds that Bonds—who offered to sign with any team for the league minimum—lacked evidence of collusion.

 

15. Kaepernick has retained a well-known attorney for his grievance

As first reported by Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, Kaepernick has retained Mark Geragos, a high-profile attorney, to litigate the grievance. Although perhaps best known for representing such Hollywood stars as Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, Geragos also has sports law expertise. He represented NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield in his attempt to defeat a drug suspension.

 

16. If Kaepernick is signed by an NFL team, he could—but not must—drop his grievance

With quarterback injuries and underperformance, calls for teams to sign Kaepernick continuously surface. The latest example concerns the Green Bay Packers. In Sunday’s Packers-Minnesota Vikings game, Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken right collarbone. The injury could cause Rodgers to miss the entire season. Backup quarterback Brett Hundley took over for Rodgers in the Vikings game. Hundley struggled at times, throwing three interceptions and completing only 18 of 33 passes. While it’s too early to draw any conclusions on Hundley, who until Sunday had only thrown 10 passes in the regular season, the Packers will be on the market for another quarterback to join Hundley. Perhaps they will consider Kaepernick.

 

If Kaepernick signs with the Packers or another team, he might decide to drop the grievance. His focus would presumably be on adjusting to a new playbook and helping his team win. A grievance procedure might become a distraction.

 

Kaepernick, however, would not be obligated to drop the grievance if he signs with a team. He could still attempt to prove that he was victimized by collusion.

 

Will Levith of RealClearLife.com says indications are that Kaep’s lawyers will seek to persuade the arbitrator along the line of number 6, that the owners have illegally colluded with Donald Trump:

 

President Trump’s Twitter-finger and vitriolic soundbites-manship may prove damaging for the National Football League in a way even he didn’t expect.

 

The key aspect of that grievance Colin Kaepernick filed, claiming that NFL team owners colluded to keep him unemployed, will be Trump’s influence over the owners, according to CBS Sports, who cited just a single source.

 

Under normal circumstances, Kaepernick would need to prove that teams conspired with the league to keep him off of a team, but there is a wealth of evidence—tweets and remarks during speeches—”where Trump expressed his influence over owners in this manner.” That is, the president specifically said that he’d been in contact with owners and league representatives, working “to restrict decision-making regarding signing Kaepernick.” So in a sense, Trump caused an environment where collusion could take place.

 

There’s also evidence that Trump has spoken with at least two team owners directly, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.

 

 

THE ANTHEM

It’s a big day in the annals of football and social justice as The Commish leads a meeting that will try to put the National Anthem part of the protest by a segment of NFL players behind us.  The price will apparently be the NFL aligning itself with various social justice causes and providing NFL-sponsored platforms for selected causes.

 

A first step in that direction would seem to be Roger Goodell adding his name to a letter with Seattle WR DOUG BALDWIN demanding reduced sentences for drug dealers and other felons.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Responding to players whose anthem protests shined a spotlight on criminal justice in America, the NFL has come out in support of sentencing reform.

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin jointly signed a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which would reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

 

“Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all,” Goodell and Baldwin wrote. “Last season, as part of our My Cause My Cleats initiative, several players chose to highlight equality and justice on their cleats, while others chose causes related to supporting the difficult work of law enforcement. These expressions of player advocacy aptly capture the challenges we currently face as a nation – ensuring that every American has equal rights and equal protection under the law, while simultaneously ensuring that all law enforcement personnel have the proper resources, tools, and training and are treated with honor and respect.”

 

The bill has not made it to the floor for a vote in Congress despite having bipartisan support. The NFL and its players are lending their voice to that support.

 

ESPN has compiled a list of visible protestors in Week 6 that you can read here.  We count a total of 20 players either staying out of sight, raising a fist, sitting or kneeling.  The Saints knelt as a team before the Anthem and there were some other signs of social justice activism, including pregame tee-shirts and locked arms that we do not include in the count of 20.