The Daily Briefing Friday, August 10, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
In the early going, the new helmet rule has not been pervasive. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The topic took over the offseason, as players complained and coaches worried and officials panicked.
But after the first full night of preseason games, the NFL’s new lowering the helmet rule hasn’t been called as often as some feared.
According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, through the first 13 preseason games played so far, a total of 18 penalties have been called under the new rule.
That average of 1.38 calls per game is less than half the rate of offensive holding calls last season (3.2 per game).
Of course, it’s early yet, and officials could call more as the preseason goes along, to emphasize the rule early in the year so everyone gets used to its enforcement and can modify their behavior.
Colts safety Shamarko Thomas was ejected last night for a helmet-to-helmet hit, but the “lowering the helmet” language was not used.
Not a good preseason debut for Coach Matt Nagy, QB MITCHELL TRUBINSKY and the Bears offense. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Mitchell Trubisky saw his first preseason action in Matt Nagy’s new system. The second-year Chicago Bears quarterback wasn’t thrilled with how it looked.
“Our standards are higher that we expect to be better,” Trubisky said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “No excuse for first preseason game. We have a bunch of experienced guys from last year, so there shouldn’t be any jitters. Maybe guys were excited, but it’s very simple — come out here, do your job, do exactly what we were doing in practice. We practiced our butts off this week. We just came out here and were sloppy.”
Trubisky finished the night 2-of-4 passing for a measly four yards in two penalty-filled drives. He had an eight-yard scramble negated by a flag and picked up just one first down via penalty. Additionally, the Bears needed to use a timeout on the opening drive on a third-and-long
“It’s going to be changed, because that’s not who we are or who we want to be,” Trubisky said.
The first play from scrimmage, Trubisky aired out a deep shot to Kevin White that landed just beyond the wideout’s hands. It’s the type of aggressive style Trubisky expects to employ this season under Nagy.
“We’re going to be aggressive all year long,” Trubisky said. “Everyone’s got to buy into that mentality that we’re going to take shots (downfield), and we just got to make them work. … We just got to connect on those, and we will. We have in practice, so we just got to keep getting better.”
First-time head coach Matt Nagy downplayed the uninspiring night for his starting unit.
“This is so early right now, it really is,” Nagy said. “… It will be fun as we go here to get them some more snaps, let them get into a rhythm and, really, for all the guys to get into a rhythm offensively. He’s going to have eight snaps to take a look at and see what was right and what was wrong, but it’s hard to judge off of eight plays.”
Nagy is correct. We’d be foolish to make drastic assumptions based on a handful of plays.
Yet, it’s a positive that Trubisky was honest with himself, teammates, and the media about his performance, however brief, and his expectations. The young player could easily have swept the game under the rug, brushing it off as a no-big-deal preseason game. His open admission that he and the entire offense must improve shows the young signal-caller is becoming a leader.
“You get limited to so many plays, so you go out there and try to do the best you can with it,” Trubisky said. “It’s gotta be better. It will be better.”
Is it too early to reserve a spot in the Ring of Honor for WR MICHAEL GALLUP? Kevin Patra of NFL.com doesn’t seem to think so.
We’ve heard every possible angle discussed, from the current corps offering diverse options, to the Cowboys adding more speed to the receiver corps, to the lack of a go-to allowing Dak Prescott to spread the ball around.
After hearing about the possibilities for months, we finally got to see it in action on Thursday night, albeit briefly.
The Cowboys opening drive in a preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers ended with a gorgeous 30-yard strike from Prescott to rookie receiver Michael Gallup. The third-round pick burned veteran Jimmie Ward on the route.
“You’ve got to be able to do it. Coach tells us all the time that you’ve got to be able to win nine routes,” Gallup said. “If they’re going to load the box, you’ve got to have wide receivers that are putting out production.”
Gallup owns the size, route-running ability, quickness from set, and back-shoulder acumen to become the Cowboys leading receiver in 2018. With a plethora of targets up for grabs in Dallas this season, Gallup should get every opportunity to shine.
Thursday night’s flash was just the beginning.
Rookie RB DERRIUS GUICE left Thursday’s game with a torn ACL and will miss all of 2018. A tough loss of a promising 2nd round draft pick.
CB VERNON HARGREAVES hurt his groin. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets:
In a best case scenario, the #Bucs are hopeful CB Vernon Hargreaves will miss 2-3 weeks with a groin strain he suffered in Thursday’s game vs Miami. It’s a setback but maybe not that serious. It’s a setback because Hargreaves was playing well.
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The Buccaneers have had a number of inauspicious kicking performances recently, especially in preseason. PK CHANDLER CATANZARO joined that list in his debut Thursday night, missing a PAT and a FG try (admittedly a 53-yarder). He did hit a pair of short field goals, including the game-winning 26-yarder in the final seconds.
TE GEORGE KETTLE, who the DB kind of likes, has avoided a serious shoulder injury per this tweet from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
Good news for the #49ers on TE George Kittle: No tears or structural damage on his separated shoulder after tests. Not serious
The slow romance between WR DEZ BRYANT and the Browns is starting to heat up. Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
Dez Bryant is coming to Cleveland.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday the Browns are expecting a visit from the free-agent receiver during the middle of next week, per a source, adding that Bryant is likely to swing by Thursday.
“He’s been waiting for the right fit, so this visit could be as important as whatever contract offer may come,” Rapoport tweeted. “They have to mesh well.”
Rapoport noted the ex-Cowboys star is “waiting for the right fit,” which lines up with Bryant’s tweet from Thursday, in which he announced: “I’m going to play … just whenever I get ready.”
Bryant took to Twitter after Browns general manager John Dorsey told reporters he wanted to meet with the 29-year-old pass-catcher, but couldn’t get a hold of him.
“He won’t return any phone calls,” Dorsey said. “… Maybe he’s still thinking about other stuff.”
Bryant responded on Twitter, saying: “For real … I wouldn’t mind playing for the [Browns] … I just want to be right first.”
Two hours later Bryant tweeted again: “Starting my visits next week … I’m coming to the Land to see you Mr Dorsey.”
The Browns are hunting for help while Josh Gordon stays away from the team to address his health. He promised coach Hue Jackson on HBO’s Hard Knocks this week that he’d return “soon,” but Dorsey on Thursday acknowledged there’s “no timetable” for Gordon to surface.
Cleveland also traded away Corey Coleman to the Bills hours before learning that fourth-rounder Antonio Callaway was cited for marijuana possession. The Browns believe the rookie’s account — that the marijuana discovered in his car during a traffic stop was not his — but it remains to be seen how the NFL feels about the incident.
Either way, the Browns appear to have found something in Callaway, who piled up 87 yards off three catches Thursday night, including a dazzling, 24-yard sideline grab and a 54-yard touchdown lob from first-overall pick Baker Mayfield.
With Keystone State pride on the line, the Steelers were spotted using a significantly under-inflated ball. But apparently skullduggery was not afoot. Lauren Kirschmann of PennLive.com:
The NFL is investigating a deflated football used by the Steelers in the third quarter of Thursday’s preseason game against the Eagles, Howard Eskin of WIP reported.
Eskin was working as the sideline reporter for the Eagle’s broadcast. He said he saw the football, which he described as looking “like a marshmallow.” Mason Rudolph was playing quarterback for the Steelers at the time, Eskin reported.
During #Eagles #steelers pre season game their was at least one Pittsburgh football found that was VERY deflated . The #NFL has the Football and is investigating. I saw the FB after incompletion and it was like a marshmallow. @SportsRadioWIP
11:10 a.m. Friday update: The NFL has released a statement on the deflated ball:
“All footballs were in compliance with NFL rules following the pregame inspection process and all proper procedures were followed,” NFL vice president of football communications Michael Signora said in a statement. “In the third quarter, a football that was found to be defective was removed from play, will be sent back to Wilson for review.”
In any case, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says the NFL will never let it get involved in another inflation episode as convoluted as its assault on Tom Brady.
More than 30 years later, a Top Gun sequel is coming. The #Deflategate sequel likely will take a little longer.
As evidenced by the two occasions on which irregularities were found in footballs used by the Steelers since the first air-pressure controversy resulted in a four-game suspension for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the removal of a first-round and fourth-round draft pick, and a $1 million fine for the team, the league has no interest in further spelunking as to the inner workings of a football.
The league will never admit this, but it knows that #Deflategate I never should have happened. The fumes of Spygate collided with the reckless allegations of teams that resent the Patriots’ success, making league officials predisposed to assume the worst when measurements taken at halftime of an outdoor game played in mid-January. And so they didn’t bother to consider that the balls may have lost some air pressure due to the elements, not skullduggery.
Caught between underlings who insisted that the PSI readings were proof of foul play and overlords who thought the Patriots got off too easy when last caught cheating, the Commissioner let nature take its course, resulting in an unnatural, square-peg/round-hole effort by Ted Wells to give the league what it wanted: A conclusion that cheating had occurred, even if the evidence was inconclusive.
Since then, it’s no mistake that the league has guarded the random pressure measurements more zealously than any/every other piece of confidential information entrusted to the employees of 345 Park Avenue. If those numbers ever were disclosed (especially numbers taken during games played in cold weather), it would become immediately obvious that the Keystone Cops-meets-kangaroo court realities of the NFL investigative process fueled the Patriots’ punishments.
A second #Deflategate could do the same thing, which is the main reason why the NFL (like Balboa and Creed at the end of Rocky) wants no rematch. Of course, if the Patriots are ever again suspected of taking the top off a football or two, the Enforcer could be goaded out of retirement.
Until that unlikely eventuality, don’t expect the league to ever rev up the investigative engine no matter whether the footballs used by any of the other 31 teams seem like marshmallows, beach balls, or old balloons.
The DB had used skullduggery in the first sentence of this piece before seeing Florio also utilize this word.
Colts RB MARLON MACK is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring strain. But even worse, WR DEON CAIN is done for the year. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Cain will miss his entire rookie season after suffering a torn ACL during Thursday night’s preseason game.
Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich announced this afternoon that Cain is done for the year.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Clemson, Cain had gained significant attention during training camp as a player who was impressing the coaching staff. The Colts were expecting Cain to be a contributor on the offense as a rookie.
The 22-year-old Cain, a very talented player whose draft stock slipped because of some off-field issues, was hurt after the first catch of his preseason debut.
Cain was one of two highly regarded rookie playmakers in the NFL who suffered torn ACLs on Thursday night. Washington also lost rookie running back Derrius Guice for the year with a torn ACL.
Panthers QB CAM NEWTON appeared to have some choice comments for WR KELVIN BENJAMIN – his one-time buddy who recently bad-mouthed Newton’s accuracy. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said he was not “even trying to listen” to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during what appeared to be a tense pregame interaction Thursday before the teams’ preseason opener.
Benjamin also reiterated after the Bills’ 28-23 loss to the Panthers that he was “moving on” from critical comments he made last week to The Athletic in which Benjamin said he would have been better off the first 3½ years of his career had he been with a quarterback with better accuracy and “knowledge” of the game than Newton.
During individual warm-ups about an hour and a half before the game, a photographer from The Charlotte Observer captured Newton approaching Benjamin as he spoke with former teammate and current Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. At one point, Newton motioned to Davis to leave before Newton, with his hands folded behind his back, followed Benjamin around the field.
Newton later waved off Benjamin in apparent frustration before the two parted ways for the rest of warm-ups.
Newton declined to speak to reporters after the game. Benjamin answered questions about the exchange by saying he was “moving on,” although when asked what Newton said to him, Benjamin responded, “I don’t know. I wasn’t even trying to listen.”
In brief action Thursday for both players, Newton went 6-for-9 passing for 84 yards, and Benjamin caught four passes for 59 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown.
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RB LeSEAN McCOY continues to be a member in good standing of the Bills despite whispers and innuendo about an assault and theft in Georgia. But on Friday, victim Delicia Cordon, an ex of McCoy’s says that the matter is not closed. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
Things have gone quiet regarding the case involving Bills running back LeSean McCoy, but his ex-girlfriend spoke out on social media this morning saying she’s not letting it go and wants “justice to be served.”
Delicia Cordon was injured during a July 10 home invasion at the Georgia property McCoy owns. McCoy was in Florida training at the time and has denied involvement, but Cordon said during her 911 call she though McCoy might have orchestrated the attack.
Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, the message from Cordon thanked those who supported her and those who had been “arguing in [her] defense with the most ignorant individuals ever.”
The league said they were investigating the situation, but no word has come from New York. Police in Georgia haven’t named any suspects in the case. McCoy was in uniform last night but didn’t play int he Bills’ preseason opener.
Bills owner Kim Pegula told The Athletic earlier this week: “Like we’ve said, it’s an investigation that’s going to be ongoing. Actually, I’m surprised we really haven’t heard anything more from it, but it’s kind of out of our hands right now.”
The team has said they’re comfortable letting McCoy practice, and he said he was confident he’d play in the regular season opener.
No QB TOM BRADY on Thursday and they are attributing it to a “sore back.” Nicole Yang of Boston.com:
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not play in New England’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins because he is dealing with a sore back, the Boston Globe‘s Jim McBride reported late Thursday evening.
Brady did not take any snaps against the Redskins — which is not necessarily unusual, sore back or not — but the 41-year-old has had a noticeably lighter workload during recent practices. He rested both last Friday and Saturday, the team had off days Sunday and Monday, Brady took just seven reps Tuesday, and the team had a walkthrough Wednesday before playing Thursday.
McBride did not include the origin of the injury, nor did he say how long Brady is expected to be sidelined. The Patriots host the Eagles next Thursday.
This on Friday as covered by Mike Florio:
To the surprise of no one, coach Bill Belichick opted not to address the situation in a session with reporters the day after the team’s preseason opener.
“No,” Belichick said. “Sorry, Tom. I don’t.” (It’s nice to see Curran finally asking some hard-hitting, Shaughnessy-style questions.)
Teams have no obligation whatsoever to provide any information about injuries during the preseason. The requirement arises only in the days preceding the preseason opener, and even then the mandate is minimal.
So get used to knowing nothing until the Wednesday before Week One, at which time we’ll find out whether and to what extent Brady practices, and which body part may be hindering him.
THIS AND THAT
Heath Evans is among those who NFL Network is dumping in the aftermath of Jamie Cantor’s lawsuit. He’s not a willing dumpee. TMZ.com:
In her suit, Cantor claimed Evans sent her nude pics on at least 2 occasions — but now, Evans says it was definitely a 2-way street.
“My accuser and I had exchanged mutual flirtations that included her sending me and me sending her pictures of a sexual nature,” Evans wrote in a statement.
“I regret having engaged in the picture exchange. Nothing ever came of the mutual flirtations and we remained friends during and after her employment ended at the network.”
Evans says he has text messages that prove his story.
But, despite his apparent evidence, Evans says the NFL Network pressured him to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the case … which would bar him from telling his side of the story publicly.
Evans says he refused — so the NFL Network fired him on July 27. Now, he’s sounding off on social media.
Still, Evans says he has no hard feelings towards Cantor — “While I certainly wish she hadn’t falsely included me in the series of allegations she made, I understand better than most that people who have been mistreated and hurt, often hurt other people.”
Evans also says the NFL Network settled the lawsuit with Cantor — we’re making calls to see if that’s true.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com”
A public back-and-forth is playing out between NFL Network and former analyst Heath Evans.
In response to the league’s response to Evans’ opening salvo from Thursday morning, Evans continues to peel off the gloves.
“Your 180 degree change in position now that you settled the lawsuit is astonishing,” Evans said in response to a statement from the league that Evans was terminated for misconduct to which he has admitted. As Evans sees it, it’s not that simple, given that the league was aware that Evans and Jami Cantor exchanged photos before Evans’ name came up in Cantor’s sexual harassment lawsuit.
“The NFL Network kept me on air for a month and a half (46 days) after you knew about the picture exchange,” Evans said. “The NFL Network only suspended me (with pay) after the false allegations were made public. . . . The NFL Network continued to pay me for 9 months (nearly $400K) while it used my evidence in the lawsuit. . . The very first time the NFL Network ever mentioned terminating me was after it settled the lawsuit in an effort to threaten me and silence me. Coverup never looks good . . . even on the NFL.”
The timeline isn’t all that surprising, given the manner in which many companies handle lawsuits alleging workplace misconduct. The company often defends the employee accused of wrongdoing while the case is pending, in order to ensure that the employee will cooperate with the lawyers and will testify, if needed, in a way that assists the cause. Then, when the underlying lawsuit is settled, the employee accused of wrongdoing can safely be cut loose.
That’s what Evans seems to be saying — that the league had no issue at all with his conduct until it became public, that it took him off the air but paid him while the sexual harassment lawsuit was pending, and that it then fired him after the case was settled and after Evans no longer had value to the NFL as an employee who would help the league present its best possible defense at trial, if needed.
Really, why else would the league fire Evans now for conduct about which the league had known for months? In hindsight, Evans should have insisted on clarity regarding his employment status while the original lawsuit was still pending, and when the league had a clear incentive to ensure that Evans would be willing to help the league avoid losing in court.
Evans can still get a pound of flesh. He already has promised to shed light on “experiences not only pertaining to my accuser but also other women who work at the NFL Network and what they have been subjected to and have had to endure in order to keep the jobs they have worked their entire careers for.”
So, basically, this one may get even uglier.
Various NFL players were less than compliant with Donald Trump’s preferred behavior during the National Anthem on Thursday night and Ken Belson and Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times keep score for us.
The morning after a handful of N.F.L. players renewed their protests against social inequality and police brutality by raising fists or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, President Trump renewed his criticism of their actions.
The N.F.L.’s 2018 preseason began in earnest on Thursday with the first full slate of games, and the question that has dogged the league all summer — will players continue social justice protests during the playing of the national anthem — was answered loud and clear.
Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most outspoken players in recent years, was joined by his teammate De’Vante Bausby in raising a fist while the anthem was played. As had been customary in the past, Chris Long, a veteran defensive end, stood next to Jenkins with a hand on the defensive back’s shoulder.
In the only reported instance of players kneeling, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins took a knee during the anthem before their team’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while their teammate Robert Quinn raised his fist.
President Trump, who has been vocal in his opposition to using the anthem as a stage for protest, responded on Friday morning with a pair of tweets blasting Jenkins, Stills and others who didn’t stand at attention.
Donald J. Trump
The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love……
Donald J. Trump
…..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!
Stills and Wilson, though, received praise on social media from Colin Kaepernick, the inactive player whose protests as a member of the San Francisco 49ers started this movement.
My brother @kstills continued his protest of systemic oppression tonight by taking a knee. Albert Wilson @iThinkIsee12 joined him in protest. Stay strong brothers!✊🏾
📸 @footcandles#imwithkap #imwithereid #takeaknee
Stills told reporters after the game that he and Wilson had not coordinated a demonstration in advance of the game.
“It just happened that way,” Stills said. “When I’m on a knee, most of the time I’m praying, and thank God for having Albert next to me. Being a part of this protest hasn’t been easy. I thought I was going to be by myself out there. Today I had an angel with me with Albert being out there. I’m grateful he sees what’s happening, and he wants to do something about it as well.”
Elsewhere, four members of the Jacksonville Jaguars (Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon) waited in the tunnel until after the anthem had concluded before their team’s game against the New Orleans Saints, and three members of the Seattle Seahawks (Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson and Duane Brown) did the same before their team’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
In a notable shift, however, the 49ers, who had been one of the more active political teams in previous years, did not appear to have any players kneeling during the anthem before their game against the Dallas Cowboys. Marquise Goodwin, a wide receiver, had his right arm raised for the duration of the song.
Not mentioned in the Times report in DT MICHAEL BENNETT of the Eagles. As Benjamin Solak of Bleeding Green Nation describes it, Bennett’s actions seem particularly slovenly.
Michael Bennett remained in the tunnel at least when the anthem began, but walked onto the sideline while it was underway. He mostly just paced along the sideline for the remainder of the anthem, never standing at attention but also not really doing anything, either.
Stills offered what he sees as a path to peace on the issue. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Kenny Stills kneeled during the national anthem before Thursday night’s preseason game, and he said afterward that if the NFL wants the players to stop kneeling, it should bring back the players who began the movement.
Colin Kaepernick was the first player to kneel during the anthem, and his former 49ers teammate Eric Reid was the first player to join him. Kaepernick and Reid now remain unsigned and out of the NFL. Stills said if Kaepernick and Reid were signed, it would go a long way toward engendering some good will between the players, who are adamant that they have the right to kneel, and the owners, who want every player to stand.
“It would take a lot, but I think a good first step for us as a league would be acknowledging what they’re doing to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. You can’t say as a league that you support the players and the protest and then blackball the players that initially started the protest,” Reid said.
Realistically, it’s hard to see how that compromise could come about. The NFL isn’t going to tell the NFL Players Association, “We’ll stop blackballing Kaepernick and Reid if you’ll all agree to stop kneeling,” because that would require the NFL to admit it’s blackballing Kaepernick and Reid.
But if the owners want to convince the players that their concerns are being heard, one owner agreeing to offer contracts to Kaepernick and Reid would be an action that would speak louder than all the owners’ words.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank has held a hearing this week that will be important to the fate of COLIN KAEPERNICK’s collusion grievance. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalkcom:
Thursday featured a dozen games that didn’t count. Before kickoff, a contest that has major significance to the NFL played out in quasi-court.
As reported by Charles Robinsons of Yahoo Sports, arbitrator Stephen Burbank conducted a hearing regarding the NFL’s effort to defeat Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance via the device known as a motion for summary judgment.
No ruling was issued on Thursday, and that’s usually how it goes. The judge hears argument, and then the judge at some point after the hearing issues a ruling.
In cases filed in civil court, resolving a motion for summary judgment requires the judge to view the allegations as true and to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Ultimately, the case turns on whether a so-called “genuine issue of material fact” exists that would justify a full-blown trial in which competing versions of reality are introduced by the lawyers. For example, a conflict in witness testimony on a key point that would have to be resolved by hearing the stories and determining whose account seems to be more likely to be true typically will keep a defendant from knocking out a case through a motion for summary judgment.
Making the effort more unusual in this case is that the judge is also the jury; Burbank, if he decides to let the case proceed, will be the one to hear the evidence, untangle conflicting evidence, and issue a ruling. The NFL’s likely goal, then, is to smoke out Kaepernick’s case, forcing his lawyer to put all cards on the table in the hopes of making it easier to counter any evidence of collusion when a trial happens.