The Daily Briefing Wednesday, October 24, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Up until today, parts of the NFL’s Week 15 and Week 16 schedule were up in the air. Now we know which two games will go to Saturday in Week 16 and when they will kickoff. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The broadcast antitrust exception that allows the NFL to sell TV rights in a 32-team bundle prohibits the league from broadcasting games on Friday or Saturday from early September through early December. This year, the NFL will play four games on back-to-back December Saturdays.
The specific timing of the start of the games has now been set.
On Saturday, December 15, the Texans and Jets will play in New Jersey at 4:30 p.m. ET. The Browns and Broncos will square off in Denver at 8:20 p.m. ET. The following Saturday, December 22, Washington-Titans will start at 4:30 p.m. ET in Nashville, and Ravens-Chargers will kickoff in L.A. at 8:20 p.m. ET.
The quartet of games will be televised nationally on NFL Network as part of the arrangement that allows the league-owned broadcast operation to justify the fees charged by cable and satellite providers. By parking four of those games on Saturdays, more Thursday night games can be simulcast on FOX.
The Week 15 decision seems curious on the surface, given that the Texans may be the only playoff contender playing on that Saturday. But the Baker Mayfield effect may have attracted the league to put the Browns in primetime.
Both of the Week 16 games could be highly relevant to postseason positioning, with the Ravens-Chargers contest possibly an elimination game between a pair of franchises that teams like the Patriots and Chiefs would love to see eliminated from the postseason field.
Jaguars at Dolphins and Giants at Colts had also been ticketed for a possible Week 16 move, but they will stay on Sunday, no networks assigned at just this moment (we’re thinking CBS for the former, FOX for the latter but who knows these days).
The four Saturday games will be produced by FOX.
See NEW YORK GIANTS for a possible trade involving the Lions.
It appears that the knee of QB AARON RODGERS has been healing even as he continues to play. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:
Aaron Rodgers still hopes to play without the brace he’s worn on his left knee since his Week 1 injury, but he couldn’t say yet whether that will be the case in Week 8 — even after the benefit of a bye week. The Green Bay Packers quarterback is looking for any edge he can find entering what might be the toughest stretch of his NFL career.
The Packers begin a stretch of four road games in five weeks on Sunday at the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, where the Packers are the biggest underdogs (8.5 points) they’ve been since Rodgers became a starter in 2008. It continues at the New England Patriots and also includes road games at the Seattle Seahawks (on a Thursday night in a short week) and at the Minnesota Vikings. The lone game at Lambeau Field, against the Miami Dolphins, comes between the games at New England and Seattle.
With or without the knee brace, Rodgers said the Packers (3-2-1) are “going to have to play better, we’re going to have to play a lot better than we have to win those games.”
Rodgers said Tuesday that he could not remember a tougher stretch of games during his career.
“This is three division winners on the road and some tough tests for us,” Rodgers said. “This week, obviously, a really hot team and then going against Tom [Brady] and Bill [Belichick] and those guys, fantastic organization that’s obviously won a lot of championships, coming home and playing a tough Miami team, going on the road to one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and then obviously a big division rival game. It’s a tough stretch.”
The Packers’ next five opponents have a combined record of 23-10-1, and only the Seahawks (3-3) don’t have a winning record.
“This is an important stretch in our season,” Rodgers said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to define our season, but it’s definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks on where we’re at in the race and what we’re playing for.”
Rodgers did not practice on Tuesday — a day the Packers treated like a Wednesday because they’re leaving for Los Angeles on Friday. Rodgers hasn’t practiced on a Wednesday since the injury, but he hopes to do so on Thursday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team is flying out early because of the tough travel it’ll face over the next five weeks.
Still no RB DALVIN COOK for the Vikings this week as the Saints come calling.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The 1-6 Giants jettison another player. Herbie Teope of the NFL.com:
The Detroit Lions needed help on the defensive line and made a move Wednesday to bolster the interior ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline.
The Lions acquired defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants in exchange for a fifth-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Harrison, a first-team All-Pro selection in 2016, has proven durable on his seven-year career, appearing in 87 games with 86 starts since the 2013 season.
The 29-year-old Harrison’s arrival should help out a Lions run defense that enters Week 8 ranked 30th in the league (139.3 yards allowed per game), and it comes at a good time.
Detroit is set to square off against three of the Top-10 rushing offenses in the NFL in the next four games: Seattle Seahawks in Week 8, Chicago Bears in Week 10 and Carolina Panthers in Week 11.
Meanwhile, the Giants sit on a 1-6 record and appear to be in a rebuild mode under first-year coach Pat Shurmur following Monday night’s 23-20 loss, which marked the team’s fourth consecutive defeat.
On the heels of the loss, the Giants have now traded away two essential defensive players in the past 24 hours with a view to stocking up on future draft picks. On Tuesday, the team shipped cornerback Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2019 and a seventh-round pick in 2020.
By parting ways with Harrison, who has three years remaining on his contract, the Giants also freed up more than $8 million under the salary cap in 2019.
As we go to press, the Lions aren’t saying the deal is done.
Anyone who wants to hear from Lions head coach Matt Patricia about the team’s trade for defensive tackle Damon Harrison will have to wait until his next media session on Friday.
Multiple reports about the Lions sending a fifth-round pick to the Giants in exchange for the former All-Pro surfaced on Wednesday morning and Harrison has said goodbye to New Jersey (and hello to Detroit) after spending his entire career with the Jets and Giants, but Patricia’s lips remained sealed at his press conference. Patricia acknowledged talks about a deal, but wouldn’t say anything else.
“I know there’s a lot of information out there right now as far as a potential trade between us and the Giants,” Patricia said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “But unfortunately for myself, I’m not going to comment on any situation that is not official or is not complete. There is a process that’s involved with all this. We have spoken to the Giants, that is true. But unfortunately nothing there is official and nothing is really anything that I can comment on right now. So we’ll see what happens with the process and if it goes through, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and we’ll just go from there.”
Birkett reports that the teams are “ironing out” details of the trade, but there’s no word on what those details are and whether any of them could actually derail a move that should be an instant upgrade to Detroit’s unimpressive run defense.
If all you knew was the name TAYSOM HILL (and the fact that he has 4.3 speed) you might reach some incorrect conclusions. He is a guy with so much talent, the Saints can’t keep him off the field. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
Drew Brees laughed when he was asked how much fun Sean Payton is having with Taysom Hill this season.
“He loves it. Oh, he loves it,” Brees said. “A new toy. That’s Sean’s new toy.”
Can you blame him?
Payton is one of the NFL’s all-time great innovators. And he is suddenly getting the chance to add new pages to his playbook because of the New Orleans Saints’ do-everything quarterback who has been compared to everyone from Tim Tebow to Kordell Stewart to Michael Vick to Jim Thorpe.
We’ve seen Hill line up as a read-option quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, kickoff returner and special-teams coverage specialist. He has converted two fake punts (one passing and one running). And he has run the ball 18 times for 125 yards and a touchdown for a 5-1 team that is gaining steam.
During one practice session, Payton practically looked like he was drawing up a new play in the dirt (or the artificial turf, anyway), moving players around like chess pieces.
“It’s kind of a learning process, you know. And I think having this weapon now is really intriguing, because Taysom is so versatile, he can do so many things,” said Brees, who is now lining up as a wide receiver a few times a game — though the ball hasn’t been thrown his way yet. So for now, the Saints’ starting quarterback has one career TD reception, from LaDainian Tomlinson with the San Diego Chargers in 2003.
But the season is young.
“We’re still just kind of scratching the surface,” Brees said. “We’re still just kind of learning what we can do with all that stuff.”
When Payton was asked recently if he has always had all those wrinkles in his mind or if he has been designing them to specifically utilize Hill, Payton joked, “I hadn’t given it much thought with Drew, to be honest with you, in 12 years.”
Payton isn’t alone.
Hill is a rare athlete at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds who reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at BYU’s pro day in 2017. Teammates and coaches marvel at his weight room prowess. Apparently coaches in college told him he wasn’t allowed to squat more than 700 pounds. Saints punter Thomas Morstead said when Hill squats 500 pounds, he looks like he’s just casually standing up out of a chair.
So when coaches see him, they all think, “What can I do with this guy?”
That’s how longtime special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff felt when he joined the Saints’ staff last season and asked to borrow Hill for his own purposes. (Hill finished the year with four special-teams tackles and has three more this season.)
That’s how Packers coach Mike McCarthy felt when Green Bay signed Hill as a 26-year-old undrafted rookie last year. Hill missed the 53-man roster cut; Green Bay wanted him back on the practice squad, but the Saints claimed him off waivers instead.
And that’s how Bronco Mendenhall, Hill’s first college coach at BYU, felt when Hill joined the Cougars in 2012 after a two-year church mission.
Mendenhall, who is now the coach at Virginia, said the Cougars rewrote their playbook to design an attack around Hill’s abilities as both a runner and passer — with a heavy emphasis on the read-option.
“When we saw him it was, ‘OK, he can throw it. But let’s research and design and develop this other component.’ So it was enough to change an entire style of play,” said Mendenhall, who laughed as he heard a list of everything Hill has done with the Saints this season.
“It doesn’t surprise me, it just makes me smile. It’s just like, ‘Yeah, totally. What else can he do? Is that all they’re doing with him? There’s gotta be something else,'” Mendenhall joked. “I wish during my career I could have him again, because you’re always trying to figure out how else you can innovate and be creative to get him on the field in a way to help you win.”
Although Mendenhall can’t work with Hill specifically anymore, he has forever shaped the coach’s perception of the type of quarterback he’s looking for:
A superhero type.
Mendenhall said he couldn’t remember who it was, exactly. But someone on BYU’s staff referred to Hill as a “Thor-terback,” and the name immediately stuck because “he’s part superhero and part quarterback all in one.”
“There’s really nothing you could tell me that he’s done on the field that would surprise me. He leaps tall buildings in a single bound and he stops locomotives. And he does basically anything physically that I could ever imagine,” said Mendenhall, who said it wasn’t just Hill’s athleticism, but the combination of power and speed, great decision-making and his character as a role model that made the “superhero” idea so fitting.
And now, Mendenhall said, “That is our brand.”
“We have a player now in Bryce Perkins that is a little more Flash Gordon than Thor, but it’s still the superhero idea. That’s what we’ve been looking for,” Mendenhall said. “That’s probably the greatest compliment I could pay Taysom, is we want as many of those guys as we can, and he was the one that set the mold.”
Payton is likewise enamored with Hill’s “total package” skill set. Although he has standout speed for the position, he also has a great deal of power and physicality.
“Look, he does so many different things. He’s a football player,” Payton said. “When his game is over with, and it’s a grass field, [his uniform] is gonna be dirty.”
According to NFL Next Gen stats, Hill has covered 3.1 miles on the field this season — the most of any quarterback in the league because of his special teams coverage snaps.
Unfortunately, injuries were Hill’s kryptonite in college, so to speak.
He could have been a much bigger star if he hadn’t suffered three season-ending injuries during his five years at BYU.
He actually was touted as a Heisman Trophy contender heading into his first senior season in 2015 before he suffered his most devastating injury in the season opener against Nebraska — a Lisfranc injury that included fully torn ligaments in the middle of his foot.
He also suffered a knee injury in 2012, a broken leg in 2014 and a hyperextended elbow in 2016.
Yet Hill still managed to end his BYU career with 6,929 passing yards, 43 TD passes, 2,815 rushing yards and 32 rushing TDs.
“It’s completely gratifying [to see what Hill is doing today],” Mendenhall said. “His fortitude and his resiliency and his grit and his determination coming back from injuries, I think that just made him stronger and stronger and stronger.
“That almost works now to the opponents’ detriment — because he just became stronger through those than he already was before — which is almost not even fair.”
Hill never gave up — and still hasn’t given up his dream of being a NFL quarterback, even though he is already a 28-year-old NFL sophomore.
But in the meantime, he’s embracing every opportunity the Saints throw at him. He said he is “a competitor first.”
“No, I did not picture my career going this way in the NFL,” Hill said with a smile. “Look, at the end of the day I want to have an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. But if I can help in the meantime, I’m all for it.
“I love to compete. I love to be on the field. And I’ll tell you what, it has been so much fun to be in the huddle with Drew, to be on the field with Drew, to learn from him. It’s been a highlight of my career.”
Payton was so enamored with Hill’s potential last year that he apparently told the Fox broadcasting crew during their production meetings that Brees’ heir is “in the building.”
However, Hill wasn’t consistent enough as a passer this offseason to lock down the No. 2 job behind Brees — which led New Orleans to trade a third-round draft pick for the more experienced Teddy Bridgewater.
So Payton just tweaked his vision for Hill.
Not everything the Saints have done with Hill this season has turned to gold. His attempted pitch to running back Alvin Kamara on a read-option play from the Baltimore Ravens’ 4-yard line resulted in a fourth-down fumble this past Sunday. Hill also decided to keep the ball himself two weeks ago on a play when the tape later showed Kamara could have easily broken free up the middle for a long TD run. And Hill’s only NFL catch so far went for a 4-yard loss.
But the progress — and the growing faith the Saints have in Hill — is impossible to miss. He played a career-high 26 snaps in that critical Week 7 slugfest at Baltimore, including an 11-yard run during the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter when he was lined up as a true running back and took the pitch from Brees.
According to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, Brees and Hill have been on the field together for eight of the Saints’ 24 offensive touchdowns this season. The rest of the NFL has scored a total of three touchdowns with two quarterbacks on the field.
Two superhero quarterbacks on the field at the same time. Apparently Payton is stealing some of his ideas from the Marvel movie universe.
No wonder he’s having so much fun.
The Broncos have given QB CHAD KELLY the heave-ho. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
The Denver Broncos aren’t giving Chad Kelly another chance.
The Broncos released backup quarterback Chad Kelly on Wednesday following his arrest on suspicion of first-degree criminal trespassing on Tuesday.
Mike Klis of KUSA in Denver first reported the development.
The team later announce the move.
“This was a decision that we made as an organization,” Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement. “After reviewing all the information and in talking with [coach] Vance [Joseph] and [Broncos president] Joe [Ellis], we agreed that releasing Chad was the right thing to do.
“Even though Chad’s no longer part of our team, we’ve offered to help him however we can and are supportive of him in every possible way.”
According to a news release from the Englewood (Colo.) Police Department, Kelly stands accused of illegally entering a home before being chased out. A short time later, officers searching the area spotted a man matching the suspect’s description inside a black SUV. The man, identified as Kelly, was then placed under arrest.
Kelly posted a $2,500 bond and was released from custody.
NFL Network’s James Palmer added that prior to the arrest, Kelly was involved in a physical altercation with a guest while attending a party hosted by Broncos teammate Von Miller on Tuesday. He also got into an altercation with security at the party while being escorted out.
From what I’ve gathered, Broncos players are not happy with Chad Kelly. They’re upset he behaved to a level that required him to be escorted out of at a party that is meant to bring the team together and has been going on for a several years now.
Kelly fell to the seventh round of the 2017 NFL draft due to injury and a litany of off-field issues that plagued him throughout his college career, including being dismissed from Clemson in 2014. Following an altercation outside of a Buffalo nightclub in 2014, Kelly was charged with resisting arrest, menacing, and several other counts, for which he served 50 hours of community service as part of the non-criminal charges.
Steelers QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER would know as well as anyone that some guys cry, others don’t. Jacob Klinger of PennLive.com:
Ben Roethlisberger had not seen or heard about Derek Carr reportedly having lost the backing of some Oakland Raiders teammates, in part due to crying on the field, he said.
But the Steelers quarterback, when asked about the matter, said it was OK, generally and specifically.
“I think as men in general we all need to show emotion. I think there’s a misconception that as men we shouldn’t show emotion. And I think that’s wrong. I think we need to show emotion, whether it’s at a movie if you want to cry if it’s funny, if it’s sad. If want to be around your wife or girlfriend, just because you cry doesn’t mean you’re any less manly. I think that, that’s a false narrative.
“And so when it comes to football, if something hurts I mean he might’ve been hurting, who knows? I know I’ve cried in the locker room before from both joy and pain. You lose a football game, if you’re not showing emotion, if he’s not — or if he gets up from something like that and he’s laughing then he’s going to get chastised for not showing enough emotion. So, I don’t know exactly the story you’re talking about, but I don’t think it makes us any less manly to show emotion.”
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Meanwhile, if Jon Gruden’s goal was to lose his 2018 locker room, to be reviled by his players, he seems to be succeeding. ESPN.com:
A number of Oakland Raiders players are unhappy with the way coach Jon Gruden handled this week’s blockbuster trade of star receiver Amari Cooper, according to a report by The Athletic.
Multiple players, speaking to The Athletic under condition of anonymity, expressed frustration that they didn’t hear about Monday’s trade of Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys from Gruden, instead learning about the deal from media reports.
The Raiders, who received a first-round draft pick from the Cowboys, dealt away Cooper less than two months after trading star pass-rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears in a deal that sent two first-round picks back to Oakland.
“The Mack trade was a real stiff jab,” one player told The Athletic. “But the Cooper one was like a knockout punch, especially because we had just walked back in the door from the bye. We didn’t want to believe it was coming, and Coach said we weren’t going to trade him.”
Gruden is expected to address the team Wednesday before the Raiders (1-5) resume practice. One player wondered whether he would even be with the Raiders next week. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday.
“I think many of us realize we won’t be here next year,” the player told The Athletic. “We are just waiting to see if we will be here next week.”
Another player questioned whether a rebuild for the Raiders wasn’t always the long-term plan for Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $100 million deal to return as Oakland’s coach earlier this year.
“You have to wonder if we haven’t been playing for draft picks all along,” the player said. “Despite everything the coaches told us at training camp.”
Tight end Lee Smith was willing to discuss the trades on the record, saying he was concerned that a number of his teammates may lose interest in the 2018 season. Smith said players are more concerned about winning now than in future years and are wondering how to balance that with the Raiders’ trades.
“Nobody was happy when we traded Khalil. And nobody is happy that we traded Amari. How could you be?” Smith said. “You never ever want to trade elite, homegrown talent. But Coach Gruden is thinking long term. It’s no secret that he got a 10-year contract. And having five first-rounders in the next two years is pretty good.”
– – –
Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com is the only one freaking out about the 2019 Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas and play in a palatial $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium with natural grass and a see-through roof with a view of the Strip in 2020.
They have five games left at the Oakland Coliseum this season.
They do not have a lease to play anywhere in 2019.
And that’s really all we know for sure at this point. Questions? Yeah, there are a few, and here are some educated guesses to those queries.
Seriously, where will the Raiders play next year?
I don’t know. And really, neither do the Raiders, though they would prefer to play one last season at the Coliseum, their home from 1966 through 1981 and 1995 through now. A lease proposal from the team, which already saw its rent tripled to about $3 million two years ago, has been submitted to the powers that be. But no one has acted yet upon the offer, which would purportedly be more than the current $3 million rent, and the threat of a city-backed lawsuit has the team contemplating leaving the Bay Area all together. As in, if the city levels a lawsuit reportedly in the works, Raiders owner Mark Davis would look to play elsewhere in 2019. But it won’t be in Las Vegas. Oakland City councilman Noel Gallo told KPIX CBS 5 in San Francisco that the Raiders moving in 2020 leaves taxpayers with the remaining bill from stadium improvements made upon their return from Los Angeles in 1995. “An investment for over $200 million that the citizens of Oakland made, to have a professional Raider football team,” Gallo said. “The way the Oakland Raiders, under Mark Davis, have treated this city, these residents, has been shameful. If they only play another day here, so be it. … As far as I’m concerned, I represent the citizens and we want compensation.” A part of the lawsuit reportedly could include the Raiders having to leave the team name, colors and history in Oakland, like the Cleveland Browns did when they moved to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. The Raiders had no comment.
Why isn’t anyone freaking out?
Great question, if I do say so myself. Because this game of chicken is a bold one by both parties, considering the Raiders leaving early would cost Oakland about 3,000 jobs at the stadium per game day, Coliseum Authority spokesman Scott McKibben told KPIX, not to mention sales tax and, oh yeah, more than $3 million in rent. And the Raiders have been through this type of uncertainty twice before — once when they left Oakland for Los Angeles in 1982 and again 13 years later for their East Bay return — so there is a feeling of familiarity to all of this. Still, there have to be contingency plans, yes? And there has to be a deadline for the Raiders to decide upon a home for 2019, too, no? Otherwise, the city of Oakland could call the team’s bluff at leaving the Bay Area for Parts Unknown by simply letting the threat of a lawsuit hang over the team until, well, deep into the offseason, and then gouging the Raiders for an even higher rent with nowhere else to go and no time to get there. As Howie Long told Ice Cube in his 2010 documentary on the team’s history, the Raiders are “a ship without a port. They’re not Oakland’s Raiders. They’re not L.A.’s Raiders. It’s in the abyss, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.” All righty then.
Why don’t the Raiders simply move to Las Vegas early?
Yes, Sam Boyd Stadium, the home to UNLV football with a seating capacity that could be expanded to 40,000, could conceivably be a temporary home for the Raiders. But it simply needs too many improvements for a one-year fix: bigger locker rooms, artificial turf that would need to be ripped out in favor of natural grass, and improved NFL-mandated security measures in and around the erstwhile Silver Bowl. It would simply become a money pit. And with UNLV’s football team joining the Raiders at the new stadium, why would anyone want to pour cash into a building that was erected in 1971 that will likely be demolished after 2020? I’ve suggested in the past that the Raiders use the stadium for games, make the necessary improvements and see that money spent as an investment by flipping the property into its team facility. Alas, the Raiders plan to build a compound in neighboring Henderson. Plus, Davis does not want to go into Las Vegas half-cocked (think the Tennessee Oilers playing a year in Memphis’ Liberty Bowl in 1997 and a year at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Stadium in 1998 before rebranding as the Tennessee Titans in 1999). Davis wants to arrive as a Silver and Black army with all the bells and whistles and a red carpet leading up to a gleaming new stadium in the Silver (and Black) State of Nevada.
If Oakland does file a lawsuit and the Raiders do bolt, where might they play in 2019?
The feeling is the NFL would prefer the Raiders simply move their home games some 35 miles south on I-880 to Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014 and was built to house two NFL teams. But while it is not a sure thing the 49ers would welcome the Raiders to Santa Clara, this much is sure — Davis wants nothing to do with it. Even as Levi’s Stadium is actually closer to Oakland than San Francisco, the place is in the middle of nowhere. Rumors of a one-year stay at San Jose State’s CEFCU Stadium (capacity 30,500, and with artificial turf) have been met with derision, while the thought is neither Cal nor Stanford would welcome the Raiders and the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is beautiful for baseball, but not so much for football. Besides, Davis wants out of the Bay Area entirely if Oakland files that lawsuit, right? San Antonio’s Alamodome is so 2014. Plus, artificial turf, which Davis abhors. What about San Diego, which became a second home for the Raiders in recent years anyway with the Chargers angling for Los Angeles? SDCCU Stadium is still playing host to San Diego State football games and would relish the opportunity for an NFL return, if even for one season. The Raiders have almost as much history — Holy Roller, anyone? — as followers here, what with the 13-season sojourn in L.A. creating so many SoCal fans. San Diego is closer to Las Vegas than Oakland is, and, well, Glendale, Arizona, is closer to Las Vegas than San Diego. Thinking out loud here, but might the Raiders taking up residence with the Cardinals for a year make sense? Especially with Arizona’s State Farm Stadium a seeming model for the Raiders’ Las Vegas dome with its fully retractable natural grass playing surface. It would give the Raiders a chance to keep growing its southwest fan base while playing home games in an environment similar to what they will have a year later.
Where would the Raiders practice if their home games are not in Oakland in 2019?
Bone up on your George Santayana because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The Raiders’ Alameda facility is about six miles from the Oakland Coliseum but were they to play in, say, San Diego in 2019, they are not about to move all of their operations to the Gas Lamp District for a season. Not with Las Vegas on the horizon. No, home base figures to remain in Alameda, with the team practicing there during the week and traveling to “home” games, wherever they may be. Just like they did in 1982, when they practiced in Alameda but home games were at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and in 1995, when they practiced in El Segundo and played home games in Oakland. By 2020, though, all bets are off for Las Vegas (get it?).
In the aftermath of an overtime loss, the NFL indicates it knows its officials missed an obvious penalty that could have damaged QB BAKER MAYFIELD. Pat McManaman of ESPN.com:
The NFL recognizes that Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead should have been penalized for a hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on Sunday, a source familiar with the league’s thinking said Tuesday.
Whitehead could have been flagged for one of two infractions: unnecessary roughness for a hit to the head of a sliding player or unsportsmanlike conduct for using his helmet to hit a player, the source said.
The NFL is not commenting on the hit. Fines are typically announced on Fridays. If the league fines Whitehead, it will be public affirmation that the play should have been penalized.
The hit occurred in the Bucs’ 26-23 overtime win on Sunday. Mayfield slid at the end of a 35-yard run on second-and-26 in the fourth quarter. Shortly after Mayfield’s knee hit the ground, Whitehead’s helmet hit the side of Mayfield’s head.
Whitehead lowered his head to make the hit and used the crown of his helmet. Both are textbook examples of what the league does not want and are included in the descriptions of hits that could lead to a player being ejected.
The Jaguars clarify their intentions vis a vis London to the AP (with an interesting note about the possibility of two Jaguars games in England next year, including Jaguars at Raiders):
– The Jacksonville Jaguars want to be London’s team, at least on a part-time basis.
Playing an annual home game across the Atlantic is imperative to the long-term viability of the franchise in Jacksonville. It boosts local revenue. It increases sponsorships. It masks some of the financial challenges associated with being in one of the league’s smallest markets.
It’s what the Jaguars (3-4) have done each of the last five years and what they will do for the sixth consecutive season Sunday against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia (3-4). It’s also a game they hope to keep on the schedule well into the future.
Jaguars believe familiarity with London trip provides slight edge
Jacksonville hopes its annual game overseas, where it has a set routine and three-game win streak, is the tonic it needs to turn its season around.
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It has nothing to do with the advantage Jacksonville believes it has against opponents unaccustomed to making the lengthy trip that tends to disturb body clocks. It’s about the all-important bottom line.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure we don’t lose London as a key contributor to what we’re doing here in Jacksonville,” Jaguars president Mark Lamping said last week.
Owner Shad Khan tried to strengthen the franchise’s foothold in London by bidding $790 million on Wembley Stadium in April. He withdrew his offer for the English Football Association’s main asset last week after recognizing the extent of opposition to the sale.
Khan and the Jaguars insist the move was never intended to create a potential relocation spot for the NFL team but rather a way to gain more control over American football in the burgeoning British market. It also would have funneled more money back to Jacksonville.
“Owning Wembley was never the silver bullet to financial stability for the Jaguars,” Lamping said. “It was one plank in a very long bridge that we’re trying to build, so we have to find a replacement plank.”
Down-the-road solutions are clear, yet complicated.
Khan has partnered with a real estate developer on a proposed $2.5 billion revitalization/entertainment district outside Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field and stretching along the St. Johns River. The project would require significant financial support from the city, including a massive cleanup of a parking lot built on petroleum-contaminated soil.
If it breaks ground, it would eventually give Khan another revenue source to go along with the 5,500-seat amphitheater the city and the Jaguars constructed outside the south end zone.
Khan already has spent $76 million on Jacksonville’s public-owned stadium, improvements that include renovations to premium seating areas, an indoor practice facility, the amphitheater, the installation of the world’s largest scoreboards, two pools and a revamped locker room and weight room.
The entertainment district could be years away, which is part of what made buying Wembley so appealing.
“The fact that it’s not going to happen, that puts pressure on us to find other ways to generate the revenue that would have come from there,” Lamping said. “I’m confident that we’ll do that. But from a financial standpoint, it’s not necessarily a positive; it’s certainly a negative. It’s a negative that through creativity we should be able to overcome.”
The Jaguars are under contract to play one home game at Wembley every year through 2020. The deal Khan struck with the NFL for those games grants the Jaguars extended territorial rights in the United Kingdom, as well as all the ticket revenue at the 90,000-seat stadium.
That gate accounted for 11 percent of Jacksonville’s local revenue in 2017.
Owning Wembley would have allowed the Jaguars to play there indefinitely and provided them additional revenue from food and beverage sales and suite rentals for any non-NFL events held there.
Other NFL teams have figured out the financial windfall of playing overseas, which is why there’s no longer a shortage of hosts willing to move home games abroad. After Sunday’s game, only three teams — Carolina, Green Bay and Houston — will have never played in London.
Jacksonville would be open to having back-to-back games over there, too, but only if one is as a visitor. It could happen next season since Oakland, which is without a home for 2019, hosts the Jaguars.
The Jags have built exceptional relationships locally — with fans, with Wembley and the FA, with local boroughs, with the Mayor of London and the national government,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international and events. “We are thrilled with how their presence reinforces the NFL’s commitment to grow the sport here.”
Jacksonville has several full-time employees in London to handle year-round marketing, including a number of events designed to grow American football abroad, and has seen a 300-percent increase in the team’s London-based fan club over the last five years.
Still, there are no guarantees the team will be able to extend its deal with the NFL after 2020, which is the final season before the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires, or be able to maintain territorial marketing rights.
“Suffice to say their commitment is long-term and they are passionate about it, and we see that reflected in everything they do,” Waller said.
Relocation rumors and reports have been as much a part of the Jacksonville franchise as inaugural coach and current top executive Tom Coughlin has been.
It was Los Angeles for years and London of late. Since agreeing to buy the team for $770 million in 2011, Khan has maintained his commitment to keeping it in Jacksonville and finding creative ways to make it work in a market that ranked 29th in the NFL in population, 30th in per capita income and 30th in gross domestic product.
He took pride in Jacksonville not being mentioned in the conversations about L.A. before the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers landed there and took exception to speculation that buying Wembley would prompt the team to move to logistically challenged London.
“I know it frustrates Shad,” Lamping said. “You don’t do the type of stuff of that’s he’s doing, you don’t invest the type of money that he’s investing, if you’re planning to leave.
“Hopefully, at some point in time, we’ll be judged fully by our actions and not what speculators choose to say.”
Emerging WR ALBERT WILSON is going to IR, so the emergence is abated for now. Sahid Deen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The Miami Dolphins will be without their most explosive offensive weapon for the rest of the 2018 season.
Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson will be placed on injured reserve prior to Thursday’s game, according to a league source, effectively ending his first season with the team.
Wilson will not require surgery for a hip injury he suffered in Miami’s loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday, but the move to injured reserve will give him time to recover.
“Thank you God. No surgery needed! The comeback will be real!!” Wilson posted from his Twitter account Tuesday evening after he was evaluated in the morning.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Monday shared a disheartening conversation he had with Wilson before Wilson left Hard Rock Stadium at halftime following his injury.
“[Wilson] was like ‘I was one step away from taking it to the house,’ ” Gase said.
“I’m like ‘I wish you would’ve because you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in right now.’
Dolphins taking different approach against Texans than previous Thursday night games
The Dolphins had early indications Wilson would be out for the rest of the season, but now it’s a harsh reality.
The coaches of the Patriots, including the normally taciturn head coach, are singing the praises of RB JAMES WHITE.
New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel, who leads the team in rushing, avoided a serious knee injury and is on the mend for now.
Michel’s presence in the backfield will be missed because he has helped the Patriots achieve offensive balance during the team’s current four-game winning streak.
The Patriots, however, have full confidence in fifth-year pro James White’s skillset to help fill the void as a rusher and receiver.
“He’s always been a very hard worker, a very diligent guy, knows his assignments very, very well,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters Tuesday, via the team transcript. “Asks questions like a coach would ask them. Has an ability to think really far ahead of what problems could occur on certain fronts or looks or what have you. He does a great job of that.”
With 40 carries through the first seven games, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound White hasn’t been relied upon as a rusher. Michel emerged as the featured rusher and leads in rushing with 95 carries for 422 yards and four touchdowns.
White, however, has more than proven his worth as a receiver out of the backfield and leads the team in receptions (45), targets (61) and touchdown catches (6) though seven games. And during the team’s past four games, White totaled 31 catches for 255 yards and four touchdowns on 41 targets.
Impressive production for a running back in the passing game, especially when considering quarterback Tom Brady has a plethora of weapons to choose from on any given down.
What has helped White become a trusted weapon and stand out, however, surrounds his versatility, work ethic, experience in the Patriots offensive scheme and ability to absorb information on a weekly basis.
“He does a tremendous job of digesting and jumping into our game plan and knowing it inside and out in terms of his overall preparation,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “There’s not many guys that we’ve had that have done it to the level he’s done it, and we’ve got a lot of great guys that we can talk about. This guy’s a really special guy in terms of how hard he works, the type of preparation he puts in and the type of teammate he is.”
Still, the Patriots will need more than White’s receiving skills out of the backfield for the short term.
With Michel on the mend, the Patriots have just White and Kenjon Barner as running backs on the active 53-player roster.
But whatever the Patriots require of White going forward either as a rusher or receiver, the coaching staff believes he’ll accomplish any task without hesitation by placing team needs first.
“He’s extremely unselfish, he’ll do anything you ask him to do, doesn’t matter what it is,” McDaniels said. “He wants the team to win and he always puts the team first. He comes to work every day ready to go, notepad open, takes notes, makes sure he understands what’s being asked of him and then goes out there and practices hard every single day to make sure that he’s on top of his assignments and he’s doing the things that he has to do in our game plan to help us win. So couldn’t ask anything more from a teammate than James White.”
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets have put valuable RB BILAL POWELL on IR. He has a neck injury.
The tailback exited Week 7 with the neck issue that will shelve him for at least eight weeks, likely ending his season.
The 29-year-old veteran, who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Jets, is set to be a free agent in 2019.
Losing Powell is the latest injury to the Jets’ offense.
In the backfield Isaiah Crowell is the lead runner — he too has been dealing with a foot/ankle injury — with rookie Trenton Cannon slated for a backup role. Elijah McGuire has been practicing and is eligible to come off IR next week if fully cleared. McGuire could return to a hefty role soon.
THIS AND THAT
MERRIL HOGE AND CTE
The former Steelers RB is swimming upstream against conventional wisdom on CTE. Kyle Koster of TheBigLead.com:
Former NFL running back and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge has penned a book where he promises to present The Other Side of the concussion and CTE conversation. Take everything you’ve heard from scientists, the medical community, and former players and throw it in the garbage can because Hoge, who won a $1.55 million lawsuit in 2000 against a doctor for not forewarning him about the dangers of concussions, will set you straight in Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football.
There is a very specific market for this content. It’s the group that reads Hoge’s accompanying op-ed/sales pitch and nods along, happy that someone is “asking the questions” and hitting the oh-so-familiar anti-science and anti-media notes. It’s not surprising that there are consumers to be targeted. What is a bit surprising is the amount of people willing to go on the record trumpeting the merits of such a book.
Here are some of the testimonials trumpeted by Hoge.
“Brainwashed is a must-read for any parent who has a young kid who wants to play football or is playing football already. Having two young boys who are already talking about playing football, we are always trying to gain knowledge and educate ourselves on the head issues involving football. Merril really opened our eyes to the truth of head injuries and CTE.
As a professional football player, combined with my wife’s medical background as a physician assistant, we realize there is still so much unknown in the realm of head injuries and concussions. We both feel more educated after reading Merril’s book.”
— Ben Roethlisberger and Ashley Roethlisberger
“Brainwashed turns discussions [about CTE and concussions] upside down and gives them a good hard shake. A very interesting read.”
— Cris Collinsworth
“Merril Hoge has written an important book regarding the issues of concussions in sports, with particular emphasis on football. Whatever your position on the subject of CTE may be, you should read this book. It contains information every parent and athlete should carefully review.”
— Bill Polian
“If you are a parent grappling with whether or not you should allow your child to play youth football, I urge you to read Brainwashed. Thank you, Merril, for presenting us with perspective and taking to task the people who have owned the narrative of CTE. They have played on our fears, but with Brainwashed, we are armed with comprehensive and compelling arguments for why diet and lifestyle are as big a part of the equation as playing a contact sport.
As one of the first little girls to ever play youth football, I agree with Merril that the sport’s positives greatly outweigh the negatives. The strength I gained from just stepping out on that field helped pave the way for my future. Perhaps it will for your child as well.”
— Suzy Kolber
“Reading Brainwashed was an eye-opening experience. It exposes the hidden agendas at play and bad science at work. We are thankful to Dr. Cummings and Merril for their research.”
— Trent Dilfer and Cassandra Dilfer
“In a climate where misinformation has led to misunderstanding, the game of football has come under attack. Through careful analysis, Merril Hoge has emerged as a strong defender of this great game that has given so much to so many.”
— Solomon Wilcots
“My wife and I have discussed the articles on head trauma many times. It seemed to us that the press had jumped the gun on the subject of head trauma and that the reported science on the subject did not follow the scientific method. Because we love football, we yearned for an authentic explanation. Merril Hoge and Dr. Peter Cummings have provided that in Brainwashed.”
— Bruce Arians
“Merril does a fantastic job of exposing the biased science and half-truths that capture the headlines and dominate the media in regard to CTE. Brainwashed is a must-read if you want the real story and unbiased science behind CTE.”
— Mark Schlereth
Take careful note of how many of these testimonials come from people whose livelihood depends on either not understanding or, more charitably, remaining agnostic about the overwhelming problem facing the NFL now and clouding its future.
There’s a gulf between the praise that takes direct aim at the media narrative and so-called junk scientists and the praise cloaked in the safe blanket of “interesting” and “insightful.” But they both have the same end: elevating Hoge’s fringe position to an equal footing with the mainstream ideas surrounding concussions and CTE.
Being “interesting” and wrong has some merit in discussing World Series lineups or a fourth-down strategy. The consequences for those discussions, however, pale in comparison to the real-world consequences for those who take their medical advice from the uninformed, or parents who trust this text over their own physicians.
Happy reading, everyone.