The Daily Briefing Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

Jerry Jones may continue to express defiance to the commitee of NFL owners seeking to silence him over the lucrative contract extension for Roger Goodell, but his surrogates at Papa John’s take a different tack.  Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:

 

NFL sponsor Papa John’s apologized Tuesday, two weeks after its founder and CEO, John Schnatter, questioned league leadership for its handling of player protests during the national anthem.

 

In a series of Twitter posts, the official pizza company of the NFL reiterated that the business challenges related to the league did impact its own business, but the company backtracked on Schnatter’s opinion at the time that player protests “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

 

@PapaJohns

The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention. (1/3)

 

@PapaJohns

We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe together, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both. (2/3)

 

The company went on to tweet that it “will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to ideas from all.”

 

The apology came two weeks after Schnatter, during an earnings call for the company, expressed disappointment about the league’s ongoing player protests during the national anthem.

 

“The NFL has hurt us,” Schnatter said then. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership didn’t resolve this.”

 

“We posted this today because it became obvious over the last week people didn’t understand our position,” Papa John’s spokesman Peter Collins said Tuesday. “We should have followed our gut from the beginning, but followed advice not to speak up — it’s time we are clear.”

 

Company executives declined to disclose exactly how much money in projected sales Papa John’s lost from its association with the NFL and declining ratings, which mean fewer people are ordering their product for game days, they said. Papa John’s president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie has said that research has found that Papa John’s has been the most recognized sponsor associated with the NFL for two years running, which he said means the company’s performance can track with that of the league.

 

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com looks at the landscape:

 

If Jerry Jones is truly itching for a fight with fellow NFL owners, the league’s compensation committee has let the Dallas Cowboys owner know that he will get it.

 

The NFL has given Jones an unambiguous message that it will vigorously defend itself against any legal maneuvers attempted to delay the extension of commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract, a source familiar with communications between the Dallas Cowboys owner and members of the compensation committee told Yahoo Sports.

 

The source said Jones was informed both in written communication and also verbally by at least one member of the committee that plans to extend Goodell are moving forward regardless of legal threat. However, the source declined to say whether the communications could be classified as “cease and desist” notices. The New York Times previously reported that Jones was sent a cease and desist letter from the compensation committee.

 

The source familiar with the communications within the committee said two concrete themes have emerged: That the NFL’s league office and compensation committee members have been galvanized by the perceived “bullying” attempts of Jones; and that the NFL’s “conduct detrimental to the league” threshold will be considered in some fashion if Jones significantly escalates the fight. What is unclear is how Jones would be penalized by his fellow owners if the situation spirals. It’s unthinkable that the NFL team owners would consider stripping the Cowboys from Jones – but a fine or forfeiture of draft picks could be in line with previous wrist-slaps delivered to owners.

– – –

“I speak to a lot of owners and I know them to be really supportive of the idea of being able to – on their part, see and guide and give input to the [compensation] committee,” Jones said. “Particularly the chairman, [Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank]. I have well over half this league that is very interested in not only being a part of what is negotiated [with Goodell] but having it come back to them for approval.”

 

The NFL continues to maintain that Goodell’s contract extension will be finalized “soon,” although a timeframe beyond that is unspecified.

 

When The Commish prevails, Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated looks at the major tasks ahead of him in his next term:

 

These days, Roger Goodell is accustomed to boos when he’s introduced to a room. Last Wednesday the NFL commissioner drew polite applause as he walked onto a stage in front of about 200 CEOs and senior executive types.

 

The event was Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead Summit; Goodell’s participation made sense. During a season in which TV viewership is down, and the NFL has drawn criticism from a major sponsor and the President of the United States for a fraction of players demonstrating during the national anthem, it was one business leader avowing to a room of business leaders that his brand is still strong. Goodell wore a sharp blue suit and pitched the strength of the NFL’s big events like the Super Bowl, and the league’s growing popularity outside the United States, and pro football still offering “the greatest content.”

 

It was toward the end of the 20-minute Q&A when Goodell addressed the topic of the moment: his future. The specific question asked by Bloomberg’s David Westin: What is it that you feel you need to accomplish before you leave?

 

“I’ve studied this for a long time having been in the NFL for 36 years, and I watch other sports,” Goodell said, three sentences into his response. “I think there’s always a risk that people stay too long, and I don’t want to be in that category.”

 

It was an intriguing answer, considering that some would say Goodell has already stayed too long, particularly now that he has made an enemy of the owner most willing to go rogue, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones. What’s become clear over the last few weeks, as Jones works to halt negotiations over a contract extension for Goodell through 2024, is that Goodell’s hold on his job is the most tenuous it’s been since he took over in 2006. The MMQB’s Peter King reported on Sunday that Jones is working to “overthrow” Goodell, an about-face in his support of the commissioner that coincides with Jones’ displeasure over the levying of a six-game suspension against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for allegations of domestic violence.

 

Goodell’s re-signing through 2024 is still the most probable outcome, despite Jones’ threats of litigation against other owners if a Goodell extension as currently proposed is inked. In May the 32 NFL team owners voted unanimously to extend Goodell’s contract, authorizing the compensation committee to lead negotiations. Yesterday, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chair of the compensation committee, released a statement that the committee is “continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the Commissioner.”

 

How the owners, including Jones, proceed is out of Goodell’s hands. But Goodell’s own wariness of staying “too long” in the job does not mean he’s ready to walk away now. In fact, the rest of his answer at the Bloomberg summit jibed with a specific timeline, one that’s been commonly expected in league circles over the past few years: That Goodell will serve one more term as commissioner.

 

“You want to have an impact; you want to be able to meet the challenges that we have ahead,” Goodell said.

 

The three challenges Goodell said he and the owners have named, in the order he presented them:

 

1. Negotiating deals with new media

2. Extending the current labor deal

3. Setting up a succession plan

 

The NFL’s current broadcast deals with its four major TV partners are up for renewal in 2021-22, and as the way viewers consume the NFL continues to change, maximizing digital platforms will be increasingly important. The current collective bargaining agreement, on which Goodell got high marks from owners, expires after the 2020 season. And, there is currently no known succession plan in place; or, at the least there are no leading candidates at the league office being groomed for the position. An extension through 2024 would cover each of these areas, which is probably why it was drawn up exactly that way.

 

It’s possible that Jones gets his way; the NFL long ago learned never to underestimate the power he wields. The same could also be said for Goodell’s stubbornness. Just a week ago, as speculation about his future swirled around him, he was on stage noting the pivotal work awaiting the NFL in the next few years and the time and effort that would need to go into setting up a succession plan. It’s not for him to decide how long is “too long,” but it wasn’t hard to decipher his answer—or the underlying message.

 

So it sure sounds like this will be Goodell’s final contract.  Goodell, whose middle name we just learned is Stokoe, will be 65 in 2024.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants did some roster shuffling on Tuesday per Pat Leonard in the New York Daily News:

 

The Giants signed free agent linebacker Akeem Ayers and offensive guard John Greco on Tuesday, as well as wideout/return specialist Kalif Raymond off the practice squad, and placed linebacker Keenan Robinson (quad) on injured reserve.

 

The Giants need reinforcements at both linebacker and on the offensive line with several starters injured, and they needed an upgrade in the return game, which has produced nothing with both specialist Dwayne Harris and star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season since Week 5.

 

The club waived its punt returner for the last several weeks, Ed Eagan, and also defensive end Devin Taylor, while re-signing tight end Matt LaCosse and O-lineman Nick Becton to the practice squad.

 

Ayers, 28, has played in 91 career regular season games for Tennessee, New England, St. Louis and Indianapolis and won Super Bowl XLIX with New England in 2014. But after appearing in all 16 games with no starts for the Colts last season, he has not played yet this year.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Tim McManus of ESPN.com with a good look at how and why GM Howie Roseman re-built the Eagles in just over a year:

 

At the close of the 2016 season — a campaign that saw the Philadelphia Eagles finish last in the NFC East with a 7-9 record — executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman used a question about the team’s lack of wide receiver production to highlight a greater point about the hand he had been dealt when he reassumed command the year prior.

 

“It seems like a long time ago, we were leading the National Football League in 20-plus [yard] plays, and I don’t have a DeLorean time machine to go back in time and get some of those guys back,” he said.

 

The not-so-subtle-point: Receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, as well as running back LeSean McCoy, all exited when former head coach Chip Kelly was at the height of his powers. Roseman was removed from the personnel side of the operation in 2015 in favor of Kelly. During that one season, the roster was stripped down and disjointedly rearranged. There was a sizable mess to clean up.

 

“It was a challenging situation, and it starts with the quarterback position,” Roseman said. “We didn’t have a starting quarterback under contract. [Sam Bradford] was a free agent. We were picking 13th [in the 2016 draft] with no [second-round pick].”

 

It was the ability to turn that No. 13 pick into Carson Wentz and the extremely high batting average in the trades and free-agent moves that followed that made for a quick repair and sped the Eagles into the future, leaving a trail of fire in their wake (a la Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”). Here is a look at how Roseman & Co. transformed the Eagles, now 8-1, into serious contenders in just two years:

 

March 2016

Acquired the eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft from Miami in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell and the 13th overall pick in 2016: The Eagles shed two Kelly players (and Maxwell’s large contract) and slid up five slots in the draft, the first of two moves that positioned them to land Wentz.

 

Acquired a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft from Tennessee in exchange for RB DeMarco Murray and a fourth-round pick in 2016: Murray and Philly were oil and water from the jump. It was a necessary parting of the ways, with the Eagles moving up 13 slots in the draft in the process.

 

Agreed to terms with G Brandon Brooks, S Rodney McLeod, LB Nigel Bradham: A primary objective was to build along the offensive and defensive lines. Brooks has played at a Pro Bowl level since he came to Philly from the Texans in free agency. Malcolm Jenkins got a steady and reliable dance partner in McLeod, while Bradham has proved to be a sneaky important signing.

 

April 2016

Acquired No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the No. 8 overall pick in 2016, a 2016 third-round pick, a 2016 fourth-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick: Roseman knew the Rams were selecting Jared Goff with the first overall pick. Confident that they could get Wentz at No. 2, the Eagles pulled the trigger on a blockbuster and selected Wentz eight days later. A legit MVP candidate this season, Wentz is first in TD passes (23) and third in QB rating (104.1) through 10 weeks.

 

September 2016

Traded QB Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018: Cleared the way for Wentz while recouping resources lost in the deal to move up to No. 2.

 

March 2017

Agreed to terms with WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith: Just like that, the wide receiver corps is formidable again. The Eagles had 46 offensive plays of 20-plus yards last season; this season, they’re on pace for 69.

 

Agreed to terms on a two-year deal with DE Chris Long and a one-year deal with CB Patrick Robinson: These are two low-cost signings who have played meaningful roles for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

 

April 2017

Acquired DT Timmy Jernigan and a 2017 third-round pick (99th overall) from Baltimore in exchange for a 2017 third-round pick (74th overall): Jernigan is the team’s co-leader in tackles for loss (eight), with 1.5 sacks and five hurries. The Eagles have been so pleased that they just locked him up to an extension that runs through 2021 and includes $26 million fully guaranteed.

 

May 2017

Signed RB LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal: The reigning rushing touchdown champ has provided the team some big, bullying runs.

 

August 2017

Acquired CB Ronald Darby from Buffalo in exchange for WR Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick: He has been sidelined since the opener with a dislocated ankle, but Darby is expected to return this week against Dallas and could be key down the homestretch.

 

September 2017

Agreed to terms with K Jake Elliott and placed K Caleb Sturgis on injured reserve: Elliott hit a 61-yard game-winning field goal against the Giants in his second NFL game and has booted five field goals of 50-plus yards this season.

 

October 2017

Acquired RB Jay Ajayi from Miami in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick: Ajayi broke off a long TD run just days after being traded to the Eagles. The Pro Bowl back has a chance to make a major impact in the second half of the season — and beyond.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Will folks cut the Redskins some slack for 2017?  A tough, tough schedule and a long run of injuries have really put the team behind the eight ball.  John Keim of ESPN.com on the latest in the injuries.

 

The Washington Redskins lost two more starters for the season. They placed running back Rob Kelley and linebacker Will Compton on injured reserve on Tuesday.

 

Kelley suffered a high ankle sprain and also sprained his left MCL in the first half of Sunday’s home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He had missed two other games and also parts of other contests because of various injuries this season. Kelley had only carried 62 times for 194 yards, with three touchdowns, for an average of 3.2 yards per carry.

 

The Redskins signed running back Byron Marshall off the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad to take his place. Washington will use Samaje Perine as its primary back, with Chris Thompson remaining in his third-down role.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

The Panthers cleared out WR KELVIN BENJAMIN to Buffalo to allow WR CURTIS SAMUEL to flourish.  Now, Samuel is done for the year.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel is out for the season after suffering ligament damage in his left ankle during Monday night’s win against Miami, the team announced Tuesday.

 

He will have surgery on the ankle, but no date has yet been set for the procedure.

 

The second-round pick out of Ohio State was just coming into his own after spending most of training camp and a portion of the first month of the season dealing with a hamstring injury and later an injury to the right ankle.

 

Coach Ron Rivera said earlier Tuesday there was concern that Samuel’s injury would be season-ending, but he was awaiting MRI results.

 

“They weren’t very optimistic,” Rivera said.

 

Samuel had a season-high five catches on seven targets for 45 yards against Miami before suffering the injury, which occurred when a defender rolled over the ankle on a pass into the end zone. He had only 10 catches for 70 yards before Monday night.

 

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Samuel will be replaced by committee, referring to Kaelin Clay, Russell Shepard and even running back Christian McCaffrey.

 

“Is there anybody as fast as him?” Shula said of Samuel. “… We’re going to try hard to find ways to put guys in what they do best and then have them go do it.”

 

The good news for Carolina is Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen (broken foot) is set to come off injured reserve after this week’s bye. He should be ready for the Nov. 26 game against the New York Jets.

 

Also, speedy receiver Damiere Byrd (broken arm) is set to come off injured reserve after the Jets game.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on the rise of the Saints:

 

What in the name of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush is going on in New Orleans? The Saints are on pace for 2,275 rushing yards. The last time they hit 2,000 in a season was 2011, a season in which they went 13-3 and lost to the Alex Smith 49ers in a wild playoff game. The time before that was 2009, when the Saints won the Super Bowl. Yes, it’s a fun little secret of the Drew Brees era that the Saints have been title contenders whenever they’ve had a running game and a decent defense, and hoo boy, do they have those things this season.

 

Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have combined for 1,089 rushing yards in the first nine games. Ingram is seventh in the league with 864 total yards from scrimmage. Kamara is 13th with 790. Brees didn’t even have to throw a touchdown pass Sunday in a 47-10 victory over a Buffalo team that was 4-0 at home before the Saints showed up. (However, he did get in on the act and run for one of the six.)

 

I could make some New Orleans party crack here, but what the Saints are doing is no joke. They’ve already matched their win total (seven) from each of the previous three seasons, and they have seven games left to play. You and I might have thought Brees was crazy last summer when he signed that contract extension because he wanted to try to win one more with this team before it was all over, but a brilliant 2017 draft and a recommitment to the formula that has always worked best for Brees and Sean Payton have the Saints back in first place. An NFC South team has been to the Super Bowl each of the past two years, and these Saints think it could be their turn.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Ever the tease, Jon Gruden won’t close the door on coaching for the two teams that have worn (at some point) bright orange.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden isn’t ruling out a return to the sideline.

 

Gruden said on Mike & Mike that he is happy working for ESPN as a Monday Night Football commentator, but he also said he isn’t going to declare that he wouldn’t coach again.

 

“I haven’t talked to anybody,” Gruden said. “All I really have in my life is my family and football. That’s about it. I’m real sensitive to the coaches that are out there coaching, so I don’t speculate. I just love football. I’m trying to hang onto the job I have. I’m very fortunate to be with the people I’m with. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. I just know this: I’m gonna continue to give my best effort to the game, stay prepared, and I love Monday Night Football and don’t plan on leaving but, as you know in life, you never say never to nothing.”

 

There’s been increasing talk recently that Gruden could return to the Buccaneers, and there has also been talk that the University of Tennessee would love to hire Gruden for its coaching vacancy. If he wants to coach again, he’ll have opportunities.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

WR MARQUISE GOODWIN is quite moving as he speaks about the loss of his son.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Marquise Goodwin and the 49ers did something extraordinary Tuesday: Bob Lange and Dan Beckler of the 49ers’ communications staff set up a conference call with Goodwin, who agreed to talk despite his grief.

 

Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area expressed condolences from team’s beat writers before the call began, and Goodwin shared his story in his first public comments since the passing of his unborn child.

 

“Never stop believing,” Goodwin said, via Maiocco. “The reward will last longer than the pain. Just because something that you wanted your whole life didn’t quite work out as you planned it to — a lot of times it’s not supposed to work out how you wanted it to. It will grow you as a person and make you better. And I know my wife and I will be better after this situation.”

 

Goodwin and his wife, Morgan, lost their baby boy due to complications during pregnancy. Hours later, he played in Sunday’s victory over the Giants, only because his wife insisted.

 

“Really, it was my wife’s decision,” Goodwin said. “I asked her if she would like me to stay with her, and she insisted that I go play in the game because she felt like my team needed me.

 

“She knows how I feel about the game and what impact I may have on my teammates and the outcome of the games, so it was solely my wife’s decision.”

 

Goodwin caught an 83-yard touchdown, his first of the season, and then knelt in the end zone and pointed the football skyward. It was the most meaningful touchdown celebration in the NFL this season.

 

“I just felt like it was all God in that situation I was able to score a touchdown,” Goodwin said. “And all the pain I was feeling at the time came over me at once.”

 

Goodwin and his wife are spending the team’s bye week in Texas, grieving with family.

 

“Morgan and I appreciate all the love we’ve gotten,” Goodwin said. “We do have a lot of people that are following us through our journey, so we can maybe help people who’ve dealt with similar things that we have gone through or learn things from people who’ve been through our situation.”

 

Perhaps it is important to note that Goodwin’s wife is herself a competitive athlete.

 

Morgan Sannett Goodwin-Snow (born July 26, 1993) is an American hurdler who specializes in the 100 metre hurdles. She was a 9-time All-American at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Snow attended Southwest DeKalb High School. She was the 2011 USA Junior Olympic Champion in the 100m Hurdles and the 2011 AAU Junior Olympic Champion in the same event. She won two gold medals at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Athletics. She won the 2013 Big 12 Outdoor championships in the 100m Hurdles and the 2015 Big 12 Indoor championship in the 60m Hurdles.

 

After college, she tried out for the 2016 United States Olympic team in the 100 meter hurdles, but finished 14th.

 

When Marquise and Morgan do have children, there is a great chance they will be very fast.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on the scoring of the Rams:

 

The Rams’ sixth game with at least 30 points

That’s the most by any team this season, and the Rams are 6-0 in those games. (Which sounds like a “yeah, duh” kind of stat, but the Texans have scored 30 five times and are 2-3 in those games, and the Cowboys are 2-2 when they score 30.)

 

There are five teams — the Giants, Browns, Bears, Chargers and somehow the Steelers — that haven’t scored 30 in a game this season. The Giants, Browns and Bears didn’t do so last season, either. Seriously, the Browns haven’t scored 30 points in a game since Oct. 11, 2015, when they beat the Ravens 33-30 in overtime. (They’re 2-34 since that day.)

 

The Rams score 30 in their sleep. They’ve done it three games in a row, and before that, they scored 27 against the Jaguars (though two of their three touchdowns that day were on special teams, and I promise I’m done with the parentheses now).

 

Things are about to get tougher for Sean McVay, Jared Goff and the crew. Four of the Rams’ next five opponents rank in the top half of the league in total defense, including Minnesota at No. 5 and New Orleans at No. 8 the next two weeks. But the Rams showed Sunday that they can make in-game adjustments when things aren’t going their way. They had 131 total yards in the first half against Houston and busted out with 312 in the second. They hold a one-game lead in the division over Seattle, which beat them once, and don’t see the Seahawks again until Week 15. If the Rams can slug out a couple in the meantime against some of the league’s better defenses, it could be a fun December at the Coliseum.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills have thought it over – and TYROD TAYLOR heads to the bench.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The struggling Bills have made a change at quarterback.

 

Bills‏ head coach Sean McDermott announced this morning that Nathan Peterman will start at quarterback on Sunday and Tyrod Taylor will go to the bench.

 

“We are in the playoff hunt and we are always focused on becoming the best team possible. We were made for better than 5-4,” McDermott said.

 

McDermott benched Taylor for Peterman late in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Saints, and Peterman played reasonably well, although that was in garbage time, and after the game McDermott said he was sticking with Taylor. Apparently a few days of thought led to McDermott changing his mind.

 

The Bills got off to a hot start this season but have been blown out two weeks in a row, first to the Jets and then on Sunday to the Saints. Taylor has hardly been to blame for all of it — the Bills’ defense has struggled mightily as well — but he bears enough of the blame that McDermott wants to see what the young backup can do. On Sunday in Los Angeles, Peterman will start against the Chargers.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

If you think that when Jerry Jones ousts Roger Goodell and installs his puppet commissioner that will mean the end of Thursday night football – think again.  Drew Davison of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger became the latest high-profile player to rip Thursday Night Football games.

 

Roethlisberger said players need a full week to recover, describing Thursday games as “miserable” and “terrible.”

 

“They need to get rid of this game,” Roethlisberger said, on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. “Just play on Mondays and Sundays. It’s so tough on guys, you’re beat, you’re banged up. It’s a very violent, physical game we play. … You’ve got to let your body recover a little bit.”

 

Roethlisberger joins a list of players who have voiced their dislike for the game. Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin made similar comments earlier this month after several of his teammates, including star defensive back Richard Sherman, were injured.

 

But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones refuted that premise during his 105.3 The Fan radio show on Tuesday. The Cowboys are set to play consecutive Thursday games this month – against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thanksgiving and the following Thursday night, Nov. 30, against the Washington Redskins.

 

“Not one shred of statistics show that to be a disadvantage, inordinately challenging physically for the players,” Jones said. “We’re the poster child of playing on Thursday and, as a result, what it does to the demand for players being rested or being healthy.”

 

Jones went on to defend Thursday Night Football from a league standpoint. After all, the networks are paying top dollar to broadcast the games and it’s an additional night to attract viewers.

 

“Thursday Night Football, to be direct, has increased the number of eyeballs that watch television,” Jones said. “I can understand network’s issues over … each network wants the highest quality game and the NFL does too. But the way for the most eyeballs to see the game is to have Thursday Night Football.”

 

Jones seems to be implying that the Thursday night eyeballs only watch NFL football on Thursday – or at the least that eyeballs that have never watched NFL football find the game on Thursday night and then watch NFL football on other days and nights as well.

 

We would say that the same old eyeballs that watch on Sunday and Monday watch on Thursday.  And we would agree that more total eyeballs will be watching Pittsburgh and Tennessee on Thursday night than if that game had been tucked into the CBS package to 20% of the country.

 

 

AWARDS

The NFL announces the 32 nominees for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award:

 

One player from each team is nominated by current NFL players. A panel of former players selects eight finalists, four from each conference. That panel includes Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, Warrick Dunn, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.

 

Those eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot when players vote on Dec. 15. As for the Pro Bowl, a team can’t vote for its own player.

 

The award will be presented on Feb. 3, the night before the Super Bowl, at NFL Honors, when The Associated Press hands out its individual league awards. The recipient will receive a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice.

 

Past winners have been Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Woodson and Frank Gore.

 

The nominees:

 

Arizona Cardinals        CB Patrick Peterson

Atlanta Falcons           S Ricardo Allen

Baltimore Ravens       QB Joe Flacco

Buffalo Bills                 LB Lorenzo Alexander

Carolina Panthers       LB Luke Kuechly

Chicago Bears            RB Benny Cunningham

Cincinnati Bengals      DE Carlos Dunlap

Cleveland Browns       T Joe Thomas

Dallas Cowboys          C Travis Frederick

Denver Broncos           LB Von Miller

Detroit Lions                DT Haloti Ngata

Green Bay Packers      S Morgan Burnett

Houston Texans           P Shane Lechler

Indianapolis Colts        WR T.Y. Hilton

Jacksonville Jaguars    LB Paul Posluszny

Kansas City Chiefs       QB Alex Smith

Los Angeles Chargers   TE Antonio Gates

Los Angeles Rams        G Rodger Saffold

Miami Dolphins              G Jermon Bushrod

Minnesota Vikings         DE Brian Robison

New England Patriots    WR Matthew Slater

New Orleans Saints       QB Drew Brees

New York Giants            T Justin Pugh

New York Jets                QB Josh McCown

Oakland Raiders            QB Derek Carr

Philadelphia Eagles       TE Brent Celek

Pittsburgh Steelers         DE Cameron Heyward

San Francisco 49ers       T Joe Staley

Seattle Seahawks           DE Cliff Avril

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy

Tennessee Titans           QB Marcus Mariota

Washington Redskins      TE Vernon Davis

 

Meanwhile, GQ scans the 50 states for its Citizen of the Year – and deems an unemployed NFL player to be most worthy. Ironically, GQ’s piece announcing the selection of Colin Kaepernick is titled “Colin Kaepernick Will Not Be Silenced” even though Kaepernick would not provide the magazine with any direct quotes:

 

When we began discussing this GQ cover with Colin earlier this fall, he told us the reason he wanted to participate is that he wants to reclaim the narrative of his protest, which has been hijacked by a president eager to make this moment about himself. But Colin also made it clear to us that he intended to remain silent. As his public identity has begun to shift from football star to embattled activist, he has grown wise to the power of his silence. It has helped his story go around the world. It has even provoked the ire and ill temper of Donald Trump. Why talk now, when your detractors will only twist your words and use them against you? Why speak now, when silence has done so much?

 

At the same time, Colin is all too aware that silence creates a vacuum, and that if it doesn’t get filled somehow, someone else will fill it for him. In our many conversations with Colin about this project, we discussed the history of athletes and civil rights, and the indelible moments it called to mind, and we decided that we’d use photography—the power of imagery and iconography—to do the talking.

 

Of course, plenty of Kaepernick’s followers are quoted and you can read their effusive praise for the man and his citizenship (as well as view the awesome photos) here.

 

Carron J. Phillips of the New York Daily News is among the members of the media hailing the selection of Kaepernick – as he challenges Sports Illustrated to do the right thing:

 

It’s been two days, and the buzz is still in the air from Monday morning’s bombshell from GQ magazine when they named Colin Kaepernick as their Citizen of the Year.

 

Merriam-Webster defines a citizen as, “one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.”

 

And no matter if you love him or hate him, Kaepernick is that. He has used the rights he’s entitled to as a freeman, even though they have led to him being blackballed by all of his previous and potential employers.

 

Forget Citizen of the Year, Colin Kaepernick is the American of the Year.

 

In contemporary culture, there are only a few names that are so polarizing that their names can instantly evoke emotion or cause a debate.

 

O.J.

 

Clinton.

 

Obama.

 

Trump.

 

And now, Kaepernick.

 

If you want to understand how a person thinks, ask someone his opinion of those individuals, and you’ll be sure to get an answer.

 

In the last few years, we’ve seen Kaepernick evolve from a football player to a lightning rod that’s either beloved or despised. But if you pay attention, you can see that very same divide in how certain magazines view him.

– – –

The culture and news magazines just seem to “get it.”

– – –

So, my question is: If the editors at GQ and Time get it, then why hasn’t the editorial staff at Sports Illustrated figured it out yet?

 

Last year, Sports Illustrated chose LeBron James to receive its illustrious Sportsperson of the Year award, which is arguably the most prestigious and iconic award in sports outside of the Heisman Trophy.

 

In any other year, James should have been a lock. What James did as the leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers by coming home to deliver the city its first professional sports title in over 50 years was epic.

 

However, 2016 wasn’t any other year.

 

Trump happened.

 

Hillary did too.

 

And in a year that included what may be remembered as the wildest and most historic presidential election in American history, Colin Kaepernick was able to wedge himself in between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the most important people of the year.

 

But yet, in the same year in which one of greatest athletes of all time died, who also sacrificed the peak of his career to use his rights to protest, the Sportsperson of the Year award went to James.

 

Muhammad Ali died in June.

 

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police in July.

 

Kaepernick kneeled in August.

 

Police killed Terence Crutcher in September.

 

James was honored in December.

 

The editors at Sports Illustrated must have lived under a rock last year. And unfortunately, it seems like their addresses haven’t changed.

 

The recent Oct. 2 cover of Sports Illustrated read “A nation divided — Sports united.”

 

The image featured James, Steph Curry and Roger Goodell locking arms in solidarity in front of a group of other athletic figures that included Michael Bennett, Candace Parker, Steve Kerr and Aaron Rogers.

 

But guess who couldn’t be found on the cover?

 

Colin Kaepernick.

 

As a black man first, and a journalist second, it has been very interesting to see how this entire situation has played out in sports and culture. But, it’s also been very intriguing to see how my fellow colleagues, of all races, have handled and covered this in the media.

 

And from where I’m standing, Time and GQ see Kaepernick for the pioneer, trailblazer, citizen and patriot he is.

 

Sports Illustrated does not.

 

Hopefully, that will change.

 

The magazine has yet to announce its Sportsperson of the Year for 2017.

 

Its decision will speak volumes, especially if it decides to once again overlook the athlete who has changed the conversation without even saying a word.

 

There are always some killjoys with a warped idea of citizenship, those who find the idea that a recluse represents the best America has to offer as it seeks to perfect its democracy.  Ari Gilberg, also in the Daily News, focuses on Britt McHenry:

 

Britt McHenry is taking a stand against GQ naming Colin Kaepernick its “Citizen of the Year” for taking a knee.

 

The former ESPN reporter bashed GQ and Kaepernick on Twitter Monday shortly after the magazine announced it would be honoring the polarizing quarterback.

 

“Wear socks depicting police officers as pigs; wear Fidel Castro as a fashion statement IN MIAMI; sue NFL for collusion when gf compares owners to slave owners…Win Citizen of the Year. Serve in the US military…nothing. What a joke, GQ. #Kaepernick,” McHenry wrote.

 

McHenry has frequently criticized Kaepernick for initiating the national anthem protest movement.

 

McHenry was one of 100 ESPN employees let go by the network in late April. The recognizable sports reporter later said she believed her conservative views had something to do with her firing.

– – –

McHenry later said she does, in fact, understand the underlying reason behind the protests, but believes players such as Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills were more worthy choices.

 

“For those who think I don’t get the reason for protest you’re wrong,” McHenry wrote. “Eagles Malcolm Jenkins met with lawmakers to help community. Dolphins Kenny Stills met with Miami police. More examples of Citizen of the Year.”

 

McHenry also said J.J. Watt would have been a better choice for Citizen of the Year. The Texans defensive end raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.

 

“JJ Watt raised $37 million for Hurricane Harvey victims. 37 MILLION! But Kaepernick refused to stand for our national anthem (a year ago) and is Citizen of the Year. Right…,” McHenry wrote.

 

While McHenry praised Jenkins, Stills and Watt for their contributions off the field, she failed to acknowledge Kaepernick’s.

 

Since sitting, and later kneeling, during the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality and racism, the former 49ers quarterback has participated in volunteer work across the country. Kaepernick has also donated $1 million plus all the proceeds of his jersey sales from the 2016 season to “organizations working in oppressed communities” over the past year.

 

In addition, Kaepernick founded “Know Your Rights Camp,” a youth campaign which strives to raise awareness regarding higher education, self-empowerment and how to properly interact with law enforcement.