The Daily Briefing Wednesday, October 3, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

NFL Justice has fined a pair of Vikings for plays in the big loss to the Bills.  Chris Thomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

 

Vikings defensive stalwarts Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph both have been fined by the NFL.

 

Barr, a linebacker, was fined $20,054 for a horse collar tackle and $10,026 for a facemask penalty in a 27-6 loss to Buffalo on Sept. 23. Joseph, a nose tackle, was fined $20,054 for in the same game getting a personal foul for lowering his helmet.

 

 

The fines were revealed Tuesday on Barr, who has made three straight Pro Bowls, and Joseph, who has made two in a row.

 

The Vikings have incurred fines in each of their first three regular-season games. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was fined $20,054 for a roughing-the-passer penalty in Week 1 against San Francisco and safety Andrew Sendejo was fined $53,482 after having an unnecessary roughness penalty in Week 2 at Green Bay.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

Tim McManus says the 2-2 Eagles are at a critical juncture of their title defense:

 

The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles find themselves at an early crossroad.

 

The dreamlike state that fell upon this city following the first Super Bowl championship in team history has been replaced by the harsh reality of a new season in which nothing is guaranteed and everyone is coming for the crown.

 

Coach Doug Pederson warned as much, even pushing the mantra “Embrace the Target” beginning early this offseason to drill home that they are going to get their opponent’s best shot week after week.

 

That theory has largely held up through four games. The Eagles haven’t always been ready for it, or maybe equipped to handle it, and sit at 2-2 as a result. Next up is a desperate Minnesota Vikings team with revenge on their mind following the 38-7 pummeling in Philly in the NFC Championship Game.

 

“First of all, we have to understand that we are champions, and you have to play, you’re expected to play a certain way,” Pederson said. “When you don’t live up to that expectation, we need to just zero down on it and figure out why. The sense of urgency from players and coaches needs to heighten just a little bit. It’s not a panic mode, but it’s a heightened awareness of who we are as a football team, where we want to get to.”

 

Right now, the Eagles are a .500 football team with an offense that ranks 26th in points per game (20.5) and third in penalty yards (343). The offensive line, touted as one of the best in the sport, has been leaky at times and was partly responsible for the 11 hits and four sacks Carson Wentz absorbed last week in an overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. The defense has been unreliable on the road and is coming off a performance in which it allowed three fourth-down conversions on a single drive in overtime.

 

Injuries are piling up. The loss of safety Rodney McLeod (knee surgery) arguably cost them the Titans game (his replacement, Corey Graham, was out of position on the defining fourth-and-15 conversion) and leaves them vulnerable on the back end. He is the fourth Eagles player to hit injured reserve this season, joining wide receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins and tight end Richard Rodgers. Jay Ajayi has a fracture in his back, and his running mates, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, haven’t been able to stay on the field consistently.

 

Add the fact that Wentz (ACL/LC), defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) and receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) are just getting back onto the field/rounding into form, and you can see where some of the issues are stemming from.

 

On the bright side, some of those key players such as Wentz and Jeffery are now back in the fold, and with the arrow pointing up. That’s the way right tackle Lane Johnson chose to look at it while discussing the state of the team on Tuesday.

 

“We’re starting to get everybody back,” he said. “It was only Carson’s second game. We’re getting Jordan Matthews back, getting Alshon Jeffery back, so it takes time for a cohesive group to get back into a rhythm. Sometimes it’s not pretty, and that’s the way it is.

 

“Around here, we expect to win, the people demand us to win, and when we don’t we have to go back in the mirror and look at ourselves.”

 

Long playoff runs come at a price. Surgeries are delayed, as they were with Jeffery and Graham. Injuries have less time to heal, and minds have less time to refresh. Opposing teams become hyperaware of what you’re doing, and they dig hard into the tape to figure you out. Every game is a measuring stick game for the team you’re playing.

 

The Eagles are dealing with all of that, all at once. And there isn’t much give in a schedule that still includes tilts against the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.

 

Stated simply, the Eagles are very average so far in 2018 – 2-2 with four close games against four average teams.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com on QB DREW BREES, on the precipice of history:

 

Brees, 39, is just 200 yards from the NFL’s career passing yards record, which he is likely to break next week on Monday Night Football against Washington, at home in New Orleans. David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will be on the sidelines, ready to accept and deliver to Canton the football used to make the throw that breaks Peyton Manning’s mark of 71,940 passing yards. And to think, 12 years ago there was a question of whether or not Brees should throw another NFL pass.

 

Brees’s fifth NFL season and final one in San Diego, in 2005, ended when he was diving for a fumble and a defensive tackle landed on his right shoulder. He’d already taken his share of lumps—he’d been benched multiple times, struggling so badly in 2003 that the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers that spring, and Brees was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2004 despite not having suffered an injury the previous year, customary for the recipient of that honor. With Rivers in waiting, things were really up in the air when Brees’s shoulder popped out of its socket, fully tearing the labrum and partially tearing his rotator cuff.

 

The Chargers moved on from him. One of his suitors in free agency, the Dolphins, flunked him on his physical. The Saints, however, decided the risk was worth it, marrying Brees and new head coach Sean Payton in the hopes of reviving a franchise that hadn’t won much, in a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.

 

It all started with another throw etched into Strief’s memory, this one in the regular-season opener of the 2006 season. Brees connected with Marques Colston on a back-shoulder toss; for the first time since his shoulder surgery, the quarterback looked confident letting it loose. The rest is, quite literally, NFL history.

 

In 2001, when Brees was a rookie second-round pick in San Diego, the team’s second preseason game—and the first of Brees’s career—was at Miami. A favorite story he has told through his 18-year career is the awe he felt looking up at Dan Marino’s name and career feats hanging in the stadium’s ring of honor.

 

“You look at the numbers and you say, ‘How long do you have to play in order to achieve that?’ ” Brees said on Sunday, after drawing closer to the mark with his 217 passing yards against the Giants. “As a kid growing up, watching guys like Marino, Montana and Elway and others, those were the guys. To be in the stadium in my very first preseason game, taking it all in, looking around at the ring of honor, and there’s his name. He’s basically the benchmark. At the time, I was just hoping to maybe become a starter some day.”

 

Four quarterbacks have since eclipsed Marino’s 61,361 career passing yards: Manning, Brett Favre, Brees and Tom Brady. It’s a pass-happy league today, but Brees has become the new benchmark. There have been nine 5,000-yard seasons in NFL history; Brees is responsible for five of them. He has three of the top four season completion percentages (each over 70 percent) and broke Brett Favre’s record of 6,300 completed passes earlier this season. Johnny Unitas’s mark of 47 consecutive games with a TD pass stood for more than a half-century, until Brees surpassed it in 2012.

 

Brees and Payton have been a perfect match, “co-offensive coordinators,” as Saints receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. puts it. Teammates describe the two of them as being in their own little world during the pre-practice walk-throughs, adjusting receiver splits and motions and discussing ways to pull a safety down in a certain coverage, while everyone else stands around waiting to get on with practice. Tight end Ben Watson recalls working out in the weight room, and looking through the glass windows to the indoor fieldhouse where Brees was on the field by himself going through his reads and progressions. Each week’s game plan, Brees says, is “completely different” than the last, pulling a new set of calls, shifts and formations to stay one step ahead of defenses.

 

There’s both a physical and mental fortitude required to achieve these feats in a league where opponents are intent on identifying and attacking your every weakness. Tom Brady’s TB12 clean eating and pliability regimen is infamous, but like the Patriots QB, Brees also believes he could play until age 45—though he thinks he’ll choose to retire before then. “If there’s another QB outworking Drew Brees,” says former teammate Adrian Peterson, “I need to see what they are doing. Because being around him and seeing the work that he put in, I know most other QBs are not doing that on a daily basis.”

 

Despite his accomplishments, Brees has never been named a league MVP. In 2009, the Saints’ Super Bowl season, he received 7.5 of the 50 MVP votes. In 2011, when he broke Marino’s single-season passing record with 5,476 yards (also on Monday Night Football) he received two votes.

 

“I 100 percent think he’s underappreciated,” says Strief, who retired earlier this year after 12 seasons with the Saints. “He’s kind of stuck in that world of—and I even hate to use the word—that it’s a system, that he’s in this place where they let him throw the ball every play, and if he was in another place it wouldn’t happen. This is what I know: All the QBs in the NFL go on the field, and they play against professional players, and try and complete every pass they throw. And nobody in the history of football has done that better than Drew Brees.”

 

He remains so prolific that the Hall of Fame sent a curator to last week’s game against the Giants. It seemed unlikely Brees would throw for the necessary 417 yards, but you can understand why the Hall wanted to be there just in case. After all, when you consider how he was floating passes with a bum shoulder that first summer in New Orleans, everything that’s happened since seems unlikely in retrospect, and even more remarkable.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

QB RYAN FITZPATRICK has some thoughts about his limited standard for failure.  Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

According to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com, Fitzpatrick didn’t love the idea of being told he is ceding his starting job to Winston, but also knew what the proposition was entering the season.

 

“What I said to my dad after how Week 1 went, and Week 2 and Week 3, was basically… ‘I’m either gonna win the NFL MVP this year or I’ll be back at the bench at some point.’ That’s just the reality of the situation,” Fitzpatrick said. “I wish I could still be out there but that’s the way that it goes and I’ll accept my role.”

 

Fitzpatrick has generally outplayed Winston at every opportunity since joining the Buccaneers last season. Winston has thrown for over 400 yards just once in his career while Fitzpatrick has done it three times this season already. But Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 and the Buccaneers still hope he can become the franchise quarterback they envisioned when selecting him four years ago.

 

That doesn’t make it any easier for Fitzpatrick to swallow.

 

“It’s not necessarily something I wanted to hear, just in terms of getting that taste back, that feeling of being out there and having fun, enjoying myself, kind of creating some momentum at the beginning of the season with the guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “But Jameis is back and he’s the guy. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s gonna do a great job. But it’s not like it’s a happy day for me. I enjoy being out there.”

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

NFL Justice has decided not to let LB MYCHAL KENDRICKS play any more as he awaits his sentencing hearing that is likely to involve a stint in federal prison.

 

The NFL has suspended Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks indefinitely after he pleaded guilty last month to federal insider trading charges.

 

Kendricks had been appealing the suspension. He is not scheduled to be sentenced until Jan. 24, when, based on federal guidelines, he could be facing 30 to 37 months in prison.

 

The Seahawks expected to receive word from the NFL by Tuesday on whether Kendricks would be available for Sunday’s game at home against the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams.

 

The 28-year-old Kendricks has been filling in for K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker. Wright has yet to play this season following arthroscopic knee surgery he had in late August, and coach Pete Carroll said Monday that it could be a couple more weeks until he’s ready. Rookie Shaquem Griffin is an in-house option at the weakside spot until Wright returns.

 

The Cleveland Browns, who signed Kendricks as a free agent during the offseason, released him in August after his involvement in insider trading surfaced.

 

As he looks into it, including the fact that the suspension is only being announced after Kendricks lost his pro forma “appeal,” Mike Florio is unimpressed with the NFL’s tactics:

 

The NFL has broad power under the Personal Conduct Policy. Which makes it easier for the NFL to abuse that power without consequence. In the case of Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks, that seems to be exactly what is occurring.

 

The indefinite suspension imposed on Kendricks on September 13 and upheld on appeal by Harold Henderson on October 2 represents not the ending but the beginning of the disciplinary process. In lieu of imposing a finite and clear punishment on Kendricks based on his admitted violation of federal white-collar insider trading laws, the NFL has tried to buy time, getting Kendricks off the field while the NFL figures out what to do.

 

That’s the current posture of the case; Kendricks is indefinitely suspended until the NFL determines the length of his suspension. He’s suspended indefinitely even though the NFL has everything it needs in order to fashion a definite and final punishment of Kendricks.

 

The handling of the case suggests that the league hopes to keep Kendricks off the field until he’s sentenced in January, at which time the situation could take care of itself, with Kendricks physically unable to play because he’ll be in governmental custody. But regardless of the amount of time he spends behind bars, the notion that he’ll potentially miss up to 12 games while the NFL waits to see what will happen results in Kendricks being treated far worse than a player who commits domestic violence or any other crime involving physical harm or injury to a specific person.

 

In 2014, the NFL established six games as the baseline punishment for domestic violence or other crimes of violence. Kendricks, if the NFL indeed hopes to kick the can until he’s sentenced, will miss 12 games, without pay.

 

Placement on the Commissioner’s Exempt list would have allowed the league to keep Kendricks off the field with pay, but that option applies only when the player has allegedly committed a crime of violence. Kendricks instead will be kept off the field without pay, until the NFL figures out what it will do with Kendricks. Even though the NFL already should be able to figure that out.

 

There’s a chance that the league will move quickly, finalizing the punishment, giving Kendricks credit for time served, and letting him return to the Seahawks while he awaits sentencing. But the P.R.-obsessed league office presumably doesn’t want him to play at all while awaiting sentencing, which means that the league office quite possibly will continue to drag its feet, issuing final punishment after Kendricks’ fate is fully determined by the criminal justice system.

 

The NFL often gets accused when it comes to matters of discipline of making up the rules as it goes. In this case, that’s precisely what appears to be happening.

 

The league can prove that perception wrong by issuing a quick decision on Kendricks’ punishment (four games would make sense, given that it’s not a crime of violence), give him credit for the games he misses in the interim, and let him return to the field during the window between paying his debt to the league and paying his debt to society. If the league does nothing until after Kendricks is sentenced in January, the entire process will have been a sham.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Neil Greenberg likes the Ravens as a gambling pick going forward:

 

Trending up

 

Baltimore Ravens

Preseason over/under: 8 wins

Now: 11-5 projected record in 2018

 

Any discussion of the Ravens’ success has to start with the play of quarterback Joe Flacco. The 33-year-old is not quite playing at an elite level, but he is the 13th best passer per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, performing well enough to earn his team a 10-6 record based on his quarterback play alone (62.3 QBR). His most recent outing, a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, saw him complete 28 of 42 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of deep throws — a 33-yard touchdown and another 71-yard completion — to wideout John Brown. Flacco ended Sunday’s victory over the Steelers with successful throws to 11 different receivers, leading the Ravens to the seventh-best scoring rate in the NFL (2.4 points per drive). Baltimore is also making the most of its red-zone opportunities (77 percent result in touchdowns, fourth-best in 2018) with a minimal amount of drives going three-and-out (28 percent, tied for ninth).

 

Red-zone touchdown rate in 2018

The Ravens’ defense is even better. According to the game charters at Pro Football focus, Baltimore owns the third-best overall defense in the league, made up of an above-average run defense (12th), a top-10 pass rush (eighth) and the third-best secondary in 2018. Linebackers Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and Tim Williams each have at least two sacks, as does defensive back Tavon Young. Linebacker Kenny Young leads the team with 13 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Overall, Baltimore is allowing 1.3 points per drive, third-best in the NFL, while allowing a mere 44 percent conversion rate in the red zone. It also leads the league in forcing opponents to go three-and-out (48 percent).

 

“These ain’t the same old Ravens,” safety Eric Weddle declared after the win on Sunday, and based on the early results it’s hard to argue.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com on the slow start of WR ANTONIO BROWN in 2018:

 

The frustrations of wide receiver Antonio Brown were one of the storylines from a drama-filled opening month for the Steelers and he capped the first quarter of the season with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Ravens.

 

Just one of those catches came after halftime of a game that was tied 14-14 at the break and the Ravens would score the only 12 points of the second half on their way to the win. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the blame for the offensive flameout and said after the game that he’s not on the “same page” with anyone right now.

 

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he remains confident that “the cream rises” over the course of a long season and that will wind up applying to Brown as well.

 

“We missed some opportunities in that game no doubt, particularly on possession downs,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’ve seen that tandem a lot of the years. They’ll smooth it out. They’ll find their rhythm.”

 

Brown hasn’t lacked opportunities as he’s seen the second-most targets in the league, but he hasn’t done much with them. He’s caught 29 of the 52 balls thrown his way for 272 yards, which works out to under 10 yards a catch and leaves Brown on pace for a career-low in that category.

– – –

Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com thinks we’ve seen the last of RB Le’FEON BELL in the Black-and-Gold of the Steelers.

 

The Le’Veon Bell saga continues to take some interesting turns, given the running back’s comments earlier this week, but I continue to believe he won’t be playing football for the Steelers ever again, though he may be staying within the state of Pennsylvania.

 

Bell now says he wants to return in the bye week (Week 7) and play for the Steelers beyond this season, but in his heart he has to know how remote a possibility that truly is. The wound between him and the Steelers now runs deep, and nothing he has said or done will alter the fact that he remains a very strong candidate to be dealt by the end of this month. Much damage has been done, and there isn’t much time to repair it.

 

And if I am the Eagles, who have been mulling the potential of a Bell trade for a while now, nothing I saw last Sunday would curb my interest. In fact, it would only heighten my desire to acquire a player of this impact given the way the defending Super Bowl champions have limped through the first quarter of the season. A year ago they stirred things up and dealt for Jay Ajayi; a Bell trade midseason this year could boost them even further.

 

Watching Carson Wentz get tossed around and toppled and crunched on play after play couldn’t possibly sit well with the Eagles’ brass. They have struggled to sustain much on offense – whether it was Wentz or Nick Foles under center – the offensive line looks shaky and the run game has been very hit or miss. Ajayi is a pending free agent dealing with a back issue, Alshon Jeffery was great in his return from injury – but staying healthy has long been a problem for him – and they are always ready and eager to shake things up and make bold moves.

 

Bell may be the best pass-protecting running back in the NFL. That alone would be big for the Eagles. With Darren Sproles hampered again, and Wentz under fire, the screen game could be crucial. No one is better than Bell in that capacity. His presence would immediately alter the way defenses approach the Eagles, and at a time when protecting Wentz’s surgically-repaired knee has to be the single biggest goal of the entire organization, Bell makes a lot of sense.

 

Philadelphia ranks 22nd in the NFL with 82 offensive points scored. Wentz is getting sacked on 9.4 percent of his drop backs.

 

As reported previously, finding a taker for Foles would make executing a transaction like this more feasible, and perhaps that market grows between now and the trade deadline after Week 8. Regardless, I don’t see the Eagles backing away. And as of right now, the list of potential other suitors isn’t exactly expanding.

 

With each loss, and mounting tension, it’s hard to see the Bucs diving in on an expensive, rental running back. Bell would be a natural with the Pats … but there is no way in hell the Steelers would trade him there. The Jimmy Garoppolo injury takes the 49ers basically out of it, while, now at 1-3 and still rebuilding, the Jets seem unlikely to push for Bell after some initial exploratory phone calls.

 

It will take a contending team suffering a major injury to alter the scope of the market. Green Bay remains the team I believe actually needs Bell the most from a football standpoint, but the Packers have made no overtures for him to this point. Perhaps that changes in the coming weeks.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

A Texans QB stands 1st and 3rd on the all-time list for most sacks in a season.  The current Houston QB, DeSHAUN WATSON, is on an early pace to challenge that mark.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Please bow your head in prayer for Deshaun Watson.

 

The Houston Texans quarterback has taken an absolute beating through four games.

 

Coming off a torn ACL, Watson has been sacked 17 times, second-most in the NFL behind Buffalo Bills rookie Josh Allen (18).

 

Playing behind a porous offensive line, Watson has been pressured 57 times this season, tied for second-most in the NFL. Per Next Gen Stats, 34.5 percent of his dropbacks result in pressures.

 

“He’s a very tough guy,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “You know, some of it can be concerning, but it’s some of the design of the plays. That’s what we do. He’s got good physical strength. There’s certain things that we do not want him to take a hit on. There’s other things that we do that he loves to do, and we like to call them and that’s part of the way he plays.

 

“I think he’s really smart about it for the most part when you look at how he deals with those plays. He gets his pads down or he ducks out of bounds. He’s a very, very smart runner. So, that’s something we try to build around.”

 

Watson is currently on pace to be sacked 68 times and hit 172 times. Last season the Texans allowed 54 sacks, second-most in the NFL. Houston benched right tackle Julién Davenport (eight penalties) in favor of Kendall Lamm in Sunday’s overtime win over Indianapolis. Watson was sacked seven times by the Colts.

 

Credit Watson from wiggling free from defenders often to get rid of the ball, or the numbers would be even worse than they currently portend.

 

The Texans quarterback will likely be on the run again this week when Houston takes on Demarcus Lawrence and the Dallas Cowboys pass rush.

 

Here are the top four seasons for QB abuse in NFL annals:

 

David Carr                     2002           HOU            76

Randall Cunningham    1986            PHI              72

David Carr                     2005          HOU            68

Jon Kitna                       2006            DET             63

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

With a short week in the works, WR T.Y. HILTON is said to be very unlikely to recover from a hamstring pull in time to play against the Patriots in New England on Thursday night.

 

And a family tragedy for T DENZELLE GOOD.

 

The Colts are giving starting right tackle Denzelle Good as much time as he needs to be away from the team after his younger brother was shot to death in South Carolina on Tuesday.

 

Overton Deshan Good, 23, was struck by a bullet and killed during an apparent drive-by shooting at a mobile home, according to the Cherokee County (South Carolina) sheriff’s officials.

 

“The Indianapolis Colts family is so saddened to learn of the passing of Overton Good, brother of our very own Denzelle Good, in South Carolina,” the team said in a statement. “This tragedy is unimaginable for his loved ones and friends, and our heartfelt prayers go out to Denzelle and his entire family during this trying time.”

 

Denzelle Good did not participate in the Colts’ walk-through practice Tuesday and was listed on the team’s injury report as a nonparticipant due to a personal matter. The team plays Thursday at New England.

 

The Cherokee County cops have the perpetrator.  This from the Indy Star:

 

Overton Deshan Good, 23, was struck about 8:30 a.m., according to Cherokee County, S.C., sheriff’s officials and a coroner.

 

Overton Good and a friend were at a double-wide mobile home when multiple bullets were fired into it, coroner Dennis Fowler said in a news release.

 

“He was pronounced dead at the scene,” Fowler said.

 

Jermaine Jefferies, 20, was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder.

 

Overton was with the Good family in Indianapolis on Sunday for the Colts’ game against the Houston Texans.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

Herbie Teope of NFL.com with this update on Jacksonville’s injury situation:

 

The Jacksonville Jaguars will enter Sunday’s showdown against the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs without two of their top players.

 

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) will not play Sunday.

 

 

Fournette’s status doesn’t come as a big shock. The second-year running back aggravated the injury in Week 4, and Marrone said Monday he didn’t know how much time the running back would miss.

 

Hayden’s injury will put more pressure on a Jaguars secondary that has the unenviable task of trying to contain the Patrick Mahomes-led offense.

 

While Fournette is out for Week 5, the Jaguars have good news with backup running back T.J. Yeldon, who is expected to practice with an ankle injury. The Jaguars, however, don’t expect tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle injury), center Brandon Linder (knee, back) and guard Andrew Norwell (knee) to practice.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW YORK JETS

We’re not sure we wanted to know this.  Darryl Slater of NJ.com:

 

Remember when Jets running back Isaiah Crowell celebrated a touchdown in Week 3 at the Browns by wiping his butt with the football and throwing it into the stands?

 

Of course you do.

 

Well, Crowell turned that strange moment into an endorsement deal for a product called Dude Wipes, which markets itself as a toilet paper substitute.

 

Seriously, he actually has an endorsement deal with a butt-wiping product.

 

Jets coach Todd Bowles was understandably angry with Crowell’s butt-wiping celebration, for which he received a 15-yard penalty in the Jets’ loss at the Browns.

 

Those moments give fans the impression that Bowles has no control over his players, in terms of discipline. So it’ll be interesting to hear what Bowles has to say about this endorsement deal.

 

Crowell expressed some remorse after Jets-Browns for his celebration, which earned him a $13,369 fine from the NFL, officially for unsportsmanlike conduct. .

 

“I can’t do my teammates like that,” he said. “It was spur of the moment. My passion came out.”

– – –

Jets WR ROBBY ANDERSON has dodged the wrath of NFL Justice despite his run-ins with Florida law.  NFL.com:

 

New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson will not be suspended by the NFL for his arrests over the past two years, a league spokesman confirmed to NFL.com.

 

The decision comes after Anderson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving in June stemming from a Jan. 19 arrest. Anderson was sentenced to six months of non-reporting probation in the case.

 

Anderson was initially facing multiple felony counts before Florida prosecutors dropped the charges. Anderson was arrested after he allegedly failed to yield during a traffic stop.

 

In May 2017, he was arrested for allegedly pushing a police officer at an event in Miami, but the charge was eventually dropped.

 

Players who are arrested are subject to potential NFL discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

MATT MILLEN

We’re saying a prayer for Matt Millen and his family after reading this.  Kyle Koster of TheBigLead.com:

 

Lead Big Ten Network analyst Matt Millen is stepping away from the booth for the remainder of the 2018 football season to focus on his health, the network announced Wednesday morning. Millen has been battling amyloidosis, a rare disease in which free protein attacks internal organs, since 2011.

 

“We’re in the fourth quarter of a big football game,” Millen told Sports Illustrated in May. “We’re down 13. Playing defense. It’s getting late.”

 

The 60-year-old joined BTN in 2015 and called the first few weeks of the season with Kevin Kugler.

 

“We will certainly miss seeing Matt this fall, but his health is the clear priority for everyone involved and we plan to support him in any way possible,” BTN VP of production Mark Hulsey said in a statement.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

One piece of fallout from the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada is that our friends North of the Border will be able to watch the Super Bowl.  Mark Maske in the Washington Post:

 

The usually testy relationship between the NFL and President Trump was set aside, at least temporarily, Tuesday when Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed gratitude to Trump for resolving a dispute involving the Super Bowl broadcast on Canadian television to the league’s satisfaction as part of the administration’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

 

“We greatly appreciate President Trump’s leadership and determination in bringing about a resolution to our intellectual property issue in Canada,” Goodell said in a written statement released by the NFL.

 

Canada agreed Sunday to join the trade agreement between the United States and Mexico. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, is the revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump had sought, and it overturns a regulatory order in Canada forcing the CTV network to air American commercials on its Super Bowl broadcast.

 

That ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission prevented CTV from increasing its revenue from its Super Bowl telecast by selling ads in Canada.

 

The NFL, seeking to preserve the value of its Super Bowl broadcasting rights in Canada, opposed the CRTC order and sought a return to the policy of simultaneous substitution, which allows Canadian TV stations with Canadian broadcasting rights to replace U.S. ads with local Canadian ads during imported programming shown simultaneously with the U.S. telecast.

 

The NFL argued that the 2015 order by the CRTC, the Canadian equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States, was arbitrary and discriminatory by singling out one U.S.-copyrighted program without, in the league’s view, proper notice, comment or evaluation.

 

That order by the CRTC was rescinded in a provision of the new trade deal, prompting the NFL’s praise of Trump.

 

That provision in the trade deal says that “Canada may not accord the program treatment less favorable than the treatment accorded to other programs originating in the United States retransmitted in Canada.”

 

Trump has been sharply critical of Goodell and the league over the NFL’s handling of protests by players during the national anthem. He also has criticized the protesting players in strong terms, beginning last year when he said at a campaign rally that owners should fire any player who protests during the anthem. Trump has returned to the topic regularly over the past year, prompting the league and owners to take his public reactions into account as they deliberated over how to deal with the protests.

 

 

DRAFT 2019

The successor to BAKER MAYFIELD at Oklahoma is KYLER MURRAY, who is also a hot baseball prospect.  Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Jr. ponder if he could also have an NFL future:

 

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is going to play professional baseball. He has nearly five million reasons to do so, after the Oakland Athletics took him No. 9 overall in the MLB draft in June. “Kyler’s baseball career has a very defined path, which includes playing football at OU for only the 2018 season,” agent Scott Boras said in August.

 

But what if Murray weren’t committed to baseball in 2019 and beyond? What if he decided to give football a shot long-term? We asked ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay to evaluate Murray, a fourth-year junior for the Sooners, as a football prospect.

 

Murray’s NFL potential

Kiper: Murray is one of the best dual-threat college quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. He just has rare athleticism, and there’s a reason he was once one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. But Murray is so much more than a runner. He goes through progressions as a passer, he has a quick release, and the ball jumps out of his hand.

 

McShay: The arm talent has surpassed my expectations, no question. Murray is just naturally gifted with touch and ball placement. The numbers so far are incredible: 21 total touchdowns and just two picks in five games. He leads FBS in yards per attempt (13.4), and the Sooners rank first in yards per play (8.9).

 

Kiper: Size is the obvious question for his NFL future. Oklahoma lists him at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, which is 3 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Baker Mayfield, whom he backed up in 2017. There just hasn’t been any recent pro success for quarterbacks under 6 feet, other than Russell Wilson.

 

McShay: And Wilson has a totally different body type than Murray. He’s stronger and thicker, though Murray is the better overall athlete. Could Murray hold up physically as an NFL quarterback? We also had a 50-start college sample for Wilson. Murray has started only eight games so far, including three at Texas A&M in 2015. He is raw.

 

Kiper: The closest comp, physically, is Doug Flutie, who was 5-foot-9, 175 pounds coming out of Boston College in 1985. Murray is the superior athlete, but Flutie had a long pro career as an undersized signal-caller. He’s really the only one who has come close.

 

McShay: Let’s not forget that if Murray were serious about football, he has another year of eligibility to use. I’d love to see him get more starts in 2019 under coach Lincoln Riley, one of college football’s brightest offensive minds. There are few coaches better than Riley at scheming open pass-catchers. He’ll make Murray better.

 

Kiper: Totally agree. Right now, with a limited sample, I’d put Murray in the third-round range as a draft prospect. Maybe a creative team could take him earlier on Day 2 and use him situationally in his first season, like the Ravens are doing with Lamar Jackson. What do you think, Todd?

 

McShay: Again, just eight career starts. But my best early guess is there’s no way this type of natural talent would get out of Round 2.

 

Kiper: It’s also not crazy to think that Murray could come back to football in a few years. It has been done before with quarterbacks such as Drew Henson, Brandon Weeden and Chris Weinke. Keep in mind that Murray’s $4.66 million signing bonus from Oakland is a lot of money. For reference, Raiders offensive tackle Brandon Parker, the first pick of the third round in April’s draft, got $1,058,424 guaranteed in his deal.