The Daily Briefing Wednesday, August 8, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The case of G RICHIE INCOGNITO. Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com:
If the Minnesota Vikings end up looking to the free-agent market for help with their injured offensive line, there’s a good chance that Richie Incognito won’t be getting a call.
On Tuesday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer denied Incognito’s claim that Minnesota had reached out to the former Buffalo Bills guard this offseason in hopes of potentially signing him.
“No interest and totally false,” Zimmer said. “Tweet that.”
Incognito later issued a profanity-laced tweet directed at Zimmer, calling the Vikings coach a “liar.”
Later Tuesday, Incognito took to Twitter to apologize.
I would also like to apologize to Coach Mike Zimmer. My bad dude! Tony was a father figure to me. Still dealing with his loss ✝️
Incognito, a four-time Pro Bowl guard, abruptly announced his retirement in April after 12 seasons in the NFL. Six weeks later, Buffalo released Incognito from its reserved/retired list, making him free to resume his playing career.
In May, Incognito was placed in a mental hospital following an outburst at a South Florida gym. He allegedly threw weights and other items at gym employees and customers and claimed the government was monitoring him.
In early June, Incognito told The Associated Press in a text that he was interested in resuming his career, and he thanked the Bills and owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
During an interview with TMZ Sports last week, Incognito discussed a litany of topics, including wanting to someday run for public office and “empower as many minorities as I can.” When the conversation shifted to football and whether the 35-year-old guard would suit up this season, Incognito noted apparent interest he had received from two teams.
“I’m training five days a week, two-and-a-half hours a day, still in great shape,” Incognito told TMZ Sports. “Just waiting on that call. I’ve had calls from Minnesota, Seattle. I really just don’t want to go to training camp, so we’ll see.”
Hours after Zimmer addressed Incognito’s claim, the offensive lineman took to his Twitter account to post a series of screenshots from an alleged text conversation with late Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who coached Incognito in Miami from 2010 to 2011.
Incognito informed the recipient of the texts that he wanted to be traded in March, after the Bills asked him to take a pay cut. In one text, Incognito said that he could come to Minnesota to “talk to everybody make sure everyone is comfortable” and that “Kirk [Cousins] can sling it. Needs protection.”
Nowhere in the texts did the man alleged to be Sparano tell Incognito that the Vikings are interested in acquiring him.
“Wish I could get u going, never know,” a response to Incognito read.
NEW YORK GIANTS
He doesn’t have a new contract yet, but WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. has a pricey new asset in his mouth. TMZ.com:
Odell Beckham is taking training camp ice baths to a whole ‘nother level … ’cause the NY Giants star just got a handful of diamonds implanted onto his tooth!!
OBJ had the procedure done a few days ago … and it wasn’t cheap — coming in at around $5,000 — and his dentist tells TMZ Sports it wasn’t exactly easy to do, either.
“I got my ceramist to make a porcelain veneer that looked just like his tooth,” New York dentist Dr. Lee Gause says.
“And then, on that porcelain veneer, I got a diamond cross made from Odell’s jeweler that he actually made on a 3D rendering that I printed and sent to his shop.”
Gause tells us he then locked in the jewels on Odell’s canine tooth … and they ain’t removable unless Beckham returns to the dentist’s chair.
QB CARSON WENTZ is not ready to play actual games yet. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Eagles are taking it slow with Carson Wentz‘s return from a knee injury. He has participated in every practice of training camp, but the Eagles have held him out of full-team drills since July 28.
“It’s frustrating,” Wentz said after practice Tuesday, via Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Obviously, getting a chance to get out there and everything, I felt great, it was fun to be out there, but again just trusting what the doctors are saying.
“But without a doubt it’s tough to just sit there and watch. I did it last season and now getting your feet wet and going in and out, it’s not what I’d like. But I’m making the most of it.”
Wentz, who tore the LCL and ACL in his left knee in a Week 14 game against the Rams, expects the Eagles to hold him out of team drills next week, too. He participated in the first three 11-on-11 sessions of the summer before the team put him in bubble wrap.
All signs point to Wentz sitting out all four preseason games, too, according to Frank.
“I don’t think it’s a big hurdle for me,” Wentz said. “Would I love to be out there on Thursday? Absolutely. I’d love to be out there every day. But I think for me personally, I think I’ll be fine if I don’t get out there for preseason.”
Since his injury, Wentz has targeted the season opener, and he still expects to do just that.
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Can the Eagles keep it up?
Finally, it’s also worth wondering whether the Eagles can keep producing division-winning seasons with this strategy. For now, I think they can. Wentz is still going to be a relative bargain for two more seasons, as his salary will more than double in 2020 as a result of either his fifth-year option or an extension. The scenario under which Wentz isn’t worth paying a significant amount of money in 2020 is both remote and even more worrisome for Philadelphia.
Once Wentz gets his raise from $8 million to more than $20 million per season, the Eagles will have to make some allowance elsewhere. Their offensive line will be in line for a refresh — Peters will be 38 and likely out of football, while Kelce will be turning 33 — but I don’t think Pederson and Roseman will want to play it cheap along the line of scrimmage. The core of this team is going to be Wentz and the big boys up front on either side of the ball.
At that point, then, the Eagles will have to cut some of their luxury spending elsewhere. Jeffery will have just $1 million remaining in guarantees on his deal, although cutting him could be complicated if the league doesn’t negotiate a new CBA before then. Jenkins and McLeod will both be entering the final year of their respective deals, and the Eagles could move to save money there. It’s tough to see Nigel Bradham on the roster with a $9 million cap hold in 2020.
The key to any plan in the NFL, of course, is drafting and developing young talent. Look at the Seahawks, who looked to be in a dominant position after winning the Super Bowl during Russell Wilson’s second season in 2013. They made it back to the Super Bowl the following year, but the wheels slowly came off as they whiffed on a number of trades and draft picks. Once Wilson and the rest of Seattle’s stars got expensive, there were no rookie-contract players coming through at a similar level to fill in the holes in the roster. Now, with most of that core either retired or playing elsewhere, the Seahawks’ plan to save money along the offensive line and invest in their defensive stars looks like a mess. We won’t know whether the Eagles can keep this up as a long-term proposition until we get there.
Offensive linemen are going down left and right in Charlotte. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
Before he knew that left guard Amini Silatolu needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said “fingers crossed” when asked about his sudden lack of depth on the offensive line.
But when asked if he was worried, the typically upbeat Rivera admitted an important caveat.
“If we lose anybody else,” Rivera said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “If they come back with bad news [on Silatolu], obviously we’ll be concerned. We like where we are right now. We think we’ve got solid depth and we’ve got a couple of young guys we really have high hopes for, as well. So we just have to be really smart and hopefully lucky a little bit, too.”
The Panthers aren’t saying much beyond “week-to-week” on Silatolu, but it’s reasonable to think he won’t be ready to start the regular season. And with All-Pro right tackle Daryl Williams going down early in camp with a torn MCL and dislocated patella (he’s not having surgery), the Panthers have already endured two losses to projected starters.
That comes after free agent Andrew Norwell left in free agency (they didn’t really try to stop him, after paying guard Trai Turner last year), making it easy to panic. Also, center Ryan Kalil is entering his final year, after missing 18 games the last two seasons with injuries.
“It’s always something that’s going on. We’ve just got to keep on fighting,” Turner said. “Don’t know exactly what’s going on with [Silatolu]. Hopefully it’s not serious. We have some guys in the room that just have to step up.”
While losing a player of Williams’ caliber is always tough, they at least had a ready replacement in 2017 second-rounder Taylor Moton. Replacing Silatolu will now heighten the competition at left guard. Undrafted rookie Brendan Mahon got some work with the starters after Silatolu left, and they could use free agent Jeremiah Sirles there. But the reality is a group already faced with questions is now getting thinner, and Rivera might be crossing those fingers for months to come that no more injuries happen.
There is more to DE AKEEM SPENCE this year, a lot more. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:
When Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence reported to training camp last summer, he was a chiseled 228 pounds — lighter than tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Mike Evans.
This year, with a new approach to his diet — including eating 9-10 meals a day — Spence has managed to put on a whopping 35 pounds in his quest to become a more complete player, to remain on the field for all three downs and, specifically, to hold up better against the run.
The Noah Spence Diet
Here’s a look at a typical day for the Bucs defensive end during training camp:
Meal 1: Two protein shakes. Each shake has two scoops of vegan protein powder, two scoops of peanut butter, a banana, and two scoops of sugar-free coconut-milk ice cream (1,400 calories)
Meal 2: Breakfast, pre-practice. Cream of wheat, almond milk, brown sugar, three pieces of french toast and two heaping scoops of potatoes (700 calories)
Meal 3: Post-practice. Two protein shakes in the locker room (1,400 calories)
Meal 4: At the facility. 6 oz. grilled chicken, broccoli, mashed cauliflower, two pieces of bread covered in Sriracha Ranch dressing (600 calories)
Meal 5: 500 g pasta, 6 oz. ground turkey, peppers, onions, in sauce (1,300 calories)
Meal 6: Two protein shakes after the team’s walk-through (1,400 calories)
Meal 7: 6 oz. steak, 4 oz. shrimp, 500 grams potatoes, zucchini and squash (1,000 calories)
Meal 8: Snack. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of chocolate almond milk (500 calories)
Meal 9: One shake before bedtime (700 calories)
Total = 9,000 calories
Note: Calories are approximate values
“Today was the heaviest I’ve ever been and I felt great. I was 263 today,” said Spence, 24, whose goal was to put on the weight cleanly, with minimal gain in body fat. “I kind of just started playing with it [in the offseason] to see what works. I felt like if I just don’t stop eating or drinking, I won’t lose weight.”
New defensive-line coach Brentson Buckner didn’t tell him he needed to gain weight. But when showing him tape of Yannick Ngakoue, Dwight Freeney, Tamba Hali — all players with similar body types but bigger — it was clear to Spence that technique alone wasn’t going to help him.
“If he’s just out there in his pads, people are gonna run at him,” Buckner said of Spence. “I said, ‘Sooner or later, you’ve gotta show them that you can play the run.’ So he made a conscious decision to do that and it’s paying off for him right now.”
The change in diet has meant guzzling down seven protein shakes a day, hiring a personal chef and stocking up on coconut-milk ice cream. It’s also meant a new approach to eating — it’s part of the job, just like watching film and going to the training room.
“I don’t really look at food like I like it anymore. I’m just eating, man,” Spence said.
“I told him, ‘It has to consume you,'” Buckner said. “When you get into the NFL, football becomes your life. You have to live it. And he’s living it now.”
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Later in the afternoon, he’ll have one of two meals prepared by his personal chef, Matthew Lovell, who measures out everything precisely according to Spence’s specifications. Today, he’ll have 500 grams of pasta with 6 ounces of ground turkey, peppers and onions, which comes out to about 1,300 calories.
“I cook for him every day, fresh,” said Lovell, who started working with Spence this offseason. “He really loves pasta, he loves Alfredo, but what I do now is I do the cauliflower … I put that into the Alfredo sauce [instead of heavy cream, to keep it healthy].”
Spence then heads back to the facility for a walk-through, and after that, he has two more shakes before another meal from Lovell — this time it’s 6 ounces of steak and 4 ounces of shrimp with 500 grams of potatoes, zucchini and squash, which comes out to 1,000 calories.
“I use three oils — grapeseed oil, avocado oil and I use sesame oil — those are the only oils I use,” Lovell said. “And I had to cut back on vegetables and quinoa because he was losing weight from them!”
Spence will have a snack in the evening — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of chocolate almond milk for about 500 calories, and then one final protein shake before bedtime.
He drinks a gallon of water each day. It keeps him hydrated and helps his stomach process such large quantities of food, which he doesn’t recommend others trying at home.
“You don’t want to do that,” Spence said. “You’ll throw up. You’ll throw up.”
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says Spence’s weight has “fluctuated a lot for a guy that has way less body fat than I have.”
More from Koetter: “If you look at Noah, that guy’s all muscle and he’s worked very hard. Two shoulder surgeries — he’s worked very hard to come back from that and he’s lived in the training room and the weight room. I think he’s got the same motor and the same speed that he always had. We’re anxious to see him get out there and do it in real football.”
Now that coach has weighed in, what do his teammates think of Spence’s crazy eating habits?
“Listen, I just stay away from him … have a gas mask,” defensive end Vinny Curry joked. “Nah, I’m just kidding. But it’s crazy, man. He looks like a fitness model now. It helped him out actually.
WR DOUG BALDWIN is loving the 2018 version of QB RUSSELL WILSON. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin is dealing with a knee injury that is expected to keep him off the field for much, if not all, of the summer and that’s given him plenty of time to observe the rest of the offense in training camp.
One of the observations that Baldwin has made is a positive one about quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson may join Baldwin as the rare holdover from the teams that went to two straight Super Bowls, but the wideout believes that his teammate has reached a different level.
“Well, the biggest thing is I think Russell’s better,” Baldwin said, via Michael Dugar of The Athletic. “This is the best I’ve seen Russ since he’s been here. I’m really excited and happy for his progress, because obviously that makes us a lot better. It makes it easier on us.”
Baldwin credits offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for the growth. He sees Wilson “really being drilled on how to dissect” opposing defenses and how that can benefit the entire offense, including an offensive line that has not performed well in recent years.
Getting Baldwin back to health by the regular season would also benefit the Seahawks and it would probably be a boon to Baldwin’s numbers if he’s right in his read on Wilson.
Will the Raiders impulsively deal DE KHALIL MACK? Is there a cash flow issue? Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Last week, after Raiders coach Jon Gruden took a backhanded shot at holdout defensive end Khalil Mack, it was suggested in one specific corner of the Internet that maybe the Raiders haven’t given Mack the long-term deal he wants not because they won’t but because they can’t — and that maybe the Raiders should consider trading Mack to a team that can and will pay him what he deserves.
On Tuesday, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com explained that, of all the players on the Oakland roster who could be traded in the preseason, Mack could be the one to watch. Gutierrez suggests that the Raiders “would be silly to not at least listen” to an offer of a first-round pick for Mack, which could be an indirect way for the Raiders to put out the word that they’d perhaps consider accepting a first-round pick for Mack.
The better approach would seem to be to squat on Mack until he shows up, to pay him at a rate of more than $800,000 per week for the balance of 2018, to apply the franchise tag next year, and to see whether anyone signs him to an offer sheet. A team drafting late in round one may indeed by inclined to give up a pair of first-rounders to get Mack, which obviously is much more than the single first-round pick that Gutierrez suggests the Raiders should consider right now.
There continues to be no evidence that the Raiders and Mack are talking about a long-term deal, and Gutierrez’s blurb includes a reference to G.M. Reggie McKenzie asking Gutierrez in March whether he had an extra $100 million to devote to the effort to pay Mack. So it quite possibly comes down to whether the Raiders can fund the contract, which will start with a requirement to cut a large signing bonus check and to place into escrow most of the fully-guaranteed money to be paid out in future years.
Without a chance to scrutinize the Raiders’ books, it’s impossible to know whether they have that kind of cash on hand — and it’s possible that they simply don’t.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
An injury, seemingly minor, to DE JOEY BOSA. Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com:
Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa suffered a left foot injury during the 11-on-11 team drills in practice on Tuesday.
Afterward, Bosa hobbled off the field on his own and spent the rest of practice receiving treatment from the team’s training staff.
Bosa is “fine,” and the injury is “nothing serious,” a source with knowledge told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The No. 3 overall selection of the 2016 draft, Bosa led the Chargers in sacks last season with 12.5, and he is one-half of the Chargers’ talented pass-rush tandem that includes Melvin Ingram, who finished with 10.5 sacks last year.
Bosa played a full, 16-game season for the first time in his NFL career in 2017, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. The Ohio State product missed the first four games of his rookie season with a hamstring issue after sitting out of training camp because of a contract dispute.
WR JARVIS LANDRY was the star of the first episode of “Hard Knocks” according to Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
Jarvis Landry starred in the first episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday night.
The receiver, acquired in an offseason trade with the Dolphins, not only mesmerizes General Manager John Dorsey and teammates with his hands, but he delivers a speech that steals the show.
An HBO spokesman promised Adam Schefter of ESPN earlier Tuesday that Landry’s speech would rank among the top five all time for Hard Knocks. The claim wasn’t overstated.
Exactly halfway through the show, Landry asked to talk during a receivers meeting.
“I don’t know what the [expletive] has been going on here,” Landry said to his teammates, “and I don’t know why it’s been going on. But if you’re not hurt, like if your hamstring ain’t falling off, [expletive] gone; your leg ain’t broke. Like you should be [expletive] practicing. Straight up. Like that [expletive] is weakness, and that [expletive] is contagious as [expletive], and that [expletive] ain’t going to be in this room, bro. That [expletive] been here in the past, and that’s why the past has been like it is, bro. That [expletive] is over with here, bro. If you’re going to [expletive] practice, [expletive] practice. You can’t get no better. Ain’t nobody going to get better by being on the [expletive] sideline if you ain’t [expletive] hurt. If you’re not [expletive] hurt, you’ve got to [expletive] practice. Because you make other [expletive] work even [expletive] harder. Now they’re at more [expletive] risk of getting hurt, because you don’t want to [expletive] practice, because you’re being a [expletive]. Straight up, man. That [expletive] is [expletive] real, bro. That [expletive] ain’t happening here. I’m just letting y’all know. That [expletive] is not [expletive] happening here. I’m hurt and I’m tired just like every [expletive] body in this room, but I ain’t taking no [expletive] days off, because I can’t be [expletive] great that way. That’s got to be the [expletive] attitude and the mentality all the [expletive] time. All that ‘me’ [expletive] don’t [expletive] live here no more. That [expletive] don’t exist. It’s contagious, bro. Like it’s really [expletive] contagious. It’s contagious.”
In an interview with the NFL Films crew later, Landry said the speech was somewhat out of character for him.
“You know I’m not really much of a talker,” Landry said. “When I do talk, it takes a lot before it comes out. At the same time, I try to talk with the best interest of the team and not just myself, pushing the guys, holding the guys accountable and just going and leading by example.”
Landry impressed the Browns just as much on the practice field.
During the team’s scrimmage, Landry makes a one-handed catch, prompting Dorsey to excitedly say, “Oh, my Lord. Did you see that? One hand. One hand.”
A teammate yells, “We got us a playmaker.”
The death of Hue Jackson’s brother and mother within two weeks of each other also plays a big part in the first episode. Jackson tells his sister, Kimberely, on the phone, that “it’s only me and you now, girl.”
The coach later shares a group hug with Dorsey, director of football operations Simon Gelan and senior vice president of communications Peter John-Baptiste before breaking down in tears as the three exit the room.
Also of note: Offensive coordinator Todd Haley questioned Jackson on the veteran days off philosophy, arguing the team had too much to do to have players sitting around doing nothing when they weren’t hurt; and Baker Mayfield had $14.2 million of his $22 million signing bonus paid up front.
THIS AND THAT
Falcons owner Arthur Blank is part of a group of slightly-woke owners trying to placate the players. ESPN.com:
– Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes players should have the right to speak out on important issues even though he isn’t expecting national anthem protests from his team this season.
Blank says just like last season, Falcons players have been asked to stand for the national anthem.
He said the Falcons are “very committed to the military.” He also says he believes players have “very significant rights” and appeared to say he wouldn’t fine players for exercising those rights.
Blank said players should be allowed to make their own decisions on what he described as the “complex issue” of standing or kneeling for the national anthem.
“So if you have players who still feel that’s the way they have to express themselves, they will,” he said, adding, “I don’t think you’ll see” protests.
“But it’s far better in my opinion to have somebody make those decisions themselves than to hit them over the head with a hammer,” he said.
Blank’s comments came as the NFL and NFLPA, the players’ union, held what they said in a joint statement was “a constructive meeting” about the anthem policy. They said their talks will continue.
Last season, two Falcons defensive linemen — Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, now with Carolina — knelt during the anthem before the team’s game at Detroit on Sept. 24. After the game, coach Dan Quinn described the action as a “one-off.”
The Falcons held a team meeting and decided players would stand together during the anthem for other games.
Quinn said that decision was not a written policy “but more one that was really based on the heart of brotherhood to say, ‘What we do, we’ll do it together.'”
No players took a knee during the anthem the remainder of the season.
“When you have a president, with the biggest mic in the room, who can take this issue into many different directions, for his own reasons, it makes this very difficult,” Blank said. “We’re going to do the right thing for our flag, the right thing for our players, the right thing for our fans; and it starts with, we’ve asked our players to stand for the national anthem … and they’ve done that nearly all of last year.”
Social justice activists on the Eagles are saying they are undecided whether to defy Donald Trump or not. Marcus Hayes of Philly.com eggs them on:
Thursday night, we find out what comes next.
Malcolm Jenkins’ leadership and the Eagles’ Super Bowl success have made Philadelphia the epicenter of player protests for social justice — an issue that was healing nicely, if imperfectly.
Then, in May, in a move that showed remarkable idiocy even for the NFL, the owners tore the scab from that still-seeping wound by instituting draconian penalties for protesting during the national anthem. For a workforce that operates under a collective bargaining agreement, the rules seemed to clearly violate labor laws. Worse, the rules ruined any hope that the protesters — most of whom had stopped protesting — would ever trust the NFL again.
When the Eagles host the Steelers on Thursday night, we’ll find out what comes next.
Will Jenkins, the movement’s foremost spokesman, raise his fist again?
“I’m not sure yet,” Jenkins said Monday after practice, sweating freely in the 90-degree shade. “I honestly haven’t thought about it.”
Will former Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, now an Eagle, continue to sit out the anthem? That’s how this all got started; 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was spotted sitting during the anthem before a 2016 preseason game.
“I haven’t thought about it, either,” Bennett said. “Ask me another day.”
That day will be Thursday, since both Jenkins and Bennett said they won’t decide what they will do until Wednesday at the earliest. Players are not available to the press after Tuesday.
They should protest, of course. It would cause a new headache for the NFL, and it’s a headache the NFL deserves.
After Jenkins and Players Coalition cofounder Anquan Boldin negotiated an $89 million commitment from the NFL in November to further social change, the league tried to implement an anthem policy that was not collectively bargained. The Players Association filed a grievance in July, and both sides agreed that the league would not enforce its new policy while the sides negotiated. That’s where things stand.
Jenkins said the Players Coalition might make a statement concerning the matter.
“We will probably have an op-ed or something drop Wednesday,” he said. We? “The Players Coalition.”
That sounds juicy.
Jenkins is the Eagles’ representative to the Players Association, but he is not part of the 11-player executive board, which is involved in negotiating an anthem policy. Jenkins said he was not privy to the state of the negotiations. However, he will make a few calls before he makes his decision Thursday night.
“I definitely want to know where they stand,” Jenkins said.
A protest by the most-decorated members of the world champion’s defensive unit certainly would spark a little movement in the talks, especially if Chris Long, who is white, continues to stand alongside Jenkins and support him. Jenkins is a diplomat, more comfortable talking about these issues while wearing a bow tie than a neck roll, and so he is especially dismayed by this moment. Before the league betrayed them, Jenkins and most of the players in the coalition didn’t consider protesting to be an issue this season.
“It wouldn’t be,” Jenkins said.
He shifted his helmet to his left hand to free his right to gesture and stroke his beard — a sign he was warming to a subject that irritates him.
“It would have moved to a point where we were working together to draw some awareness to these issues and put some more action to the effort to amplify what players are taking about,” he continued. “Talking out of both sides [of their mouth] on behalf of the owners has put players in a place where we don’t trust the league’s intentions, and we don’t trust the intentions of the owners.”
All eyes will look to Philadelphia this week. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said last year that he supported players who protest with a clear plan in mind, which perfectly describes Jenkins, Long and, now, Bennett — though Lurie has not followed the lead of Jets and Giants executives, who say they will not punish protesters if the league’s new rules stay in place. Then again, courage isn’t exactly a hallmark of NFL ownership.
The league’s strong-arm posturing happened even as some owners, the Players Coalition, and several independent players took steps to chip away at the social injustices that are the target of the protests. Several players cooperated with league-produced public-service announcements this offseason, Jenkins said. Both sides were involved in endorsing social reform legislation in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio — even as the owners tried to bring the players to heel.
“Obviously, it’s hard for players to buy in to what they’re doing,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins’ pet project this summer involved highlighting the importance of fair-minded district attorneys, and that meant sending coalition representatives to races in California, Maryland, and Massachusetts. But Jenkins’ activities are just a drop in a very large bucket. Players from all over the league have begun following the lead of Jenkins and the coalition.
“Guys have been very active. Guys are starting to find different avenues, different ways they can contribute,” Jenkins said. “People are beginning to see this is bigger than just the two minutes of the national anthem.”
They were beginning to see things more comprehensively — until the NFL decided, for no good reason, to shake the hornets’ nest.
Now, we’ll see what’s next.
And this from QB AARON RODGERS who begs his fellow players to ignore the noise. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
Aaron Rodgers loves that LeBron James ignored President Donald Trump’s criticism, which included mocking the NBA star’s intelligence. The Packers quarterback called James’ non-response “absolutely beautiful.”
“At a time where he’s putting on display his school, which is changing lives, there’s no need [to respond],” Rodgers told Michael Silver of NFL Media. “Because you’re just giving attention to that (tweet); that’s what they want. So just don’t respond.”
Rodgers suggests the NFL could learn a thing or two from James. The best response, Rodgers said, is no response to President Trump’s shots at the league and its players over the national anthem.
“I think that the more that we give credence to stuff like that, the more it’s gonna live on,” Rodgers said. “I think if we can learn to ignore or not respond to stuff like that — if we can — it takes away the power of statements like that.”
Rodgers has never taken a knee during the anthem, but he said critics have unfairly and inaccurately cast NFL players who have protested during the anthem as unpatriotic or anti-military. Players have protested to raise awareness about social injustice.
“I don’t know how many times we can say, as a player and as a group, how much we love and support and appreciate the troops, and the opportunities this country allows us,” Rodgers said. “But this is about equality and something bigger than ourselves, and bringing people together, and love and connectedness and equality and social justice, and putting a light on people who deserve to have the attention for their causes and their difficult situations that they’re in. You know, people have their opinion — you shouldn’t do it during the anthem, you shouldn’t do it during this — that’s fine. But let’s not take away from what the real issue is.”
GREG HARDY UPDATE
Another first round knockout for Greg Hardy. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has won yet another UFC fight by first-round knockout.
Hardy needed just 17 seconds to knock out opponent Tebaris Gordon at the UFC’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He has now won two UFC fights by first-round knockout, and previously won three amateur mixed martial arts fights, all by first-round knockout. He has not faced any particularly strong competition.
The UFC has faced criticism for giving Hardy a chance at all, given the domestic violence accusation that has led NFL teams to steer clear of him. But it appears that the UFC is ready to move forward with Hardy and put him in bigger fights going forward.
Hardy said after his fight that he’d love another chance in the NFL, however unlikely that is.
“If the Cowboys or the Panthers call, I’m on my way,” Hardy said.
THE CASE OF T.O.’s JACKET
How did Terrell Owens have his golf Hall of Fame jacket when he did his rogue speech in Chattanooga? Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:
Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens, a two-sport athlete who also played college basketball, received quite an assist just hours before his Saturday induction speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Owens’ longtime friend, Dave Brown, traveled from the Pro Football Hall of Fame headquarters in Canton, Ohio, to Chattanooga via Atlanta on Saturday to deliver Owens’ gold Hall of Fame jacket in time for his 3:17 p.m. speech. Brown, who is friends with Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, as well, was partying with Lewis in Canton, which gave Brown the opportunity to pick up Owens’ jacket.
“I was like, ‘Don’t worry about you, I got you,’ and T.O. was like, ‘I trust you, baby,'” Brown told ESPN. “T.O. and Ray, they know who I am. At the end of the day, I’m going to make sure both are well represented.
“I went to the dinner [in Canton] where they gave the jackets out Friday. The Hall of Fame people, I had a conversation with them. They called me after the show and said they didn’t want to give out the jackets until they gave them all out, and I respected it. So they handed out the jackets, and they called me and said, ‘We’re over here at this table.’ I went to the table, and [they] gave me the box.”
Brown, a former basketball player at Morehouse College and current actor who founded the Indie Night Film Festival, said he celebrated with Lewis until 4 a.m. Saturday, then went straight to the Akron-Canton Airport.
“I’ve got to go stand-by coming out of Canton,” Brown explained. “I got the one seat that was left on the plane. The crazy part was that I’m walking around and nobody knew I had the gold jacket.”
Brown’s Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta left at 7:15 a.m. Once he arrived, he ran into another obstacle.
“Went I got to Atlanta, there was no [early] flight from Atlanta to Chattanooga,” Brown said. “Luckily, they thought ahead. They said, ‘Dave, if you don’t get on that flight, we’ve got a driver outside.’ So I went outside, jumped in the car, and drove down to Tennessee.”
The drive from the Atlanta airport to the downtown Doubletree Hotel, where Owens stayed, took about two hours. Once Brown arrived at 12:30 p.m. and connected with Owens, a strange thought entered his mind.
“T.O. was like, ‘Yo, did you open it up?’ And you know what? I didn’t open it up,” Brown said. “So what if the jacket wasn’t in there? But it was in there. [The Hall of Fame] did a great job of making sure that T.O. had what he needed to still honor him in his way. That’s respect.”
Owens, who declined an invitation to Canton as a protest to what he believes is a flawed voting system, mentioned the jacket ordeal during his post-speech news conference.
“I had some dialogue with David Baker, who’s the president of the Hall of Fame, with how to get my jacket here,” Owens said. “Initially, they weren’t going to get it to me unless I was there. They were going to mail it to me on Saturday. I wasn’t really too pleased about it. But we made it work.
“D-Brown, he made it happen. He was there. That just shows you really what true friends that I have. He didn’t have to do it, but he knew this was important for me.”
The DB would say you drive “up” to Chattanooga from Atlanta, but c’est la vie.