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Owners should override Competition Committee on Calvin Johnson rule

calvin-johnson-detroit-lions-04dd2d63b84a684e_large AP

As expected, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay explained to the media on Wednesday that the league’s rule-making body won’t recommend to ownership any substantive changes to the rule regarding pass completions while the receiver is going to the ground.

That’s why the owners need to take the bull by the ball (the football, not the other kind) and come up with a rule that will allow consistent and easy application by the officials, and that will mesh with reasonable fan expectations.

Here’s what McKay said regarding the Competition Committee’s decision to stand pat:

“We spent an awful lot of time on catch-no catch. It’s not the first time that we’ve spent a lot of time on it. We seem to do it a lot. Let me give you a couple of things that we started at. We started in Indianapolis going through it with the committee itself and just watching the plays and asking is that a catch or not a catch – let’s go back through the rules. We came out with the fact that we all see an inherent conflict between what goes on with respect to the scrutiny provided by replay or slow motion and what goes on in live action. I think all of us came out at a point that we have to make sure that we write the rules for what is officiated on the field at full speed in live action, and not what gets looked at in super slow motion. I think what will come out and what will be written in our report is that we’ll confirm the rule that’s really been there for more than 70 years, which basically says there are three elements to a catch: number one, you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands; number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands; and number three, which will be the clarification that we’ll add to the book, we’ll say you must control the ball long enough after A and B, meaning you’ve caught it cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or a body part, and after those two elements then you’ve got to maintain control long enough, and we’re going to use the language we’ve had in the book for a long time, in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game. It doesn’t mean you have to perform the act, but it’s an element of time and you’ve got to write it in such a way where people understand that it’s not just bang-bang and that’s a catch.

“So in our mind, and I think in the coaches subcommittee’s mind when we went back and watched the tape with them, if you asked me the simple question of would Calvin Johnson be a catch in 2011, the answer in our minds would be no. You still wouldn’t have those three elements having been maintained, especially because in his act he is going to the ground in the act of catching a pass, and the way the language will be written this year to make sure that people understand it, it will say if the player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass with or without contact by an opponent, he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. So that’s a lot of verbiage, but that’s kind of how we look at it. There are three elements to the catch and there’s the element of if you’re going to the ground you’re going to have to maintain it throughout the process of contacting the ground. So we looked at I can’t tell you how many plays that probably go back over the span of three or four years just to make sure we’re consistent, and the one thing we’ve come away with is you have to put some responsibility on the receiver and that responsibility is maintaining possession throughout contacting the ground, because otherwise you’re going to have a real issue with respect to how replay conflicts with live action officiating. We’ve got a long part of our report that will be written up that deals with those two issues, so maybe I didn’t explain it as clearly as I could but I think it’ll be written in the report.”

Based on the first paragraph, it sounds like the Competition Committee will potentially be making the process more complicated by codifying the vague “second act” exception that was used, despite not appearing in the rule book, during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught the ball while falling down near the goal line, reached the ball across the plane while falling, lost possession of the ball upon hitting the ground, and ultimately was awarded two points via a ruling that the catch was valid.  Those two points put the Saints up by seven instead of five late in the game.  Knowing that a Colts touchdown could have merely tied the game instead of taking the lead may have made Saints cornerback Tracy Porter more inclined to jump the route that produced a backbreaking touchdown in New Orleans’ eventual victory.

Though the owners have in the past refused to adopt rule changes recommended by the Competition Committee, it’s unusual if not unprecedented (as Eagles president Joe Banner said during today’s PFT Live) for the owners to interject their own rule change that the Competition Committee specifically decided not to suggest.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We see two potential approaches.  First, the owners should adopt a rule that recognizes a catch as a valid completion if the receiver lands with both feet on the ground, or a knee, leg, butt, torso, elbow, shoulder, or head touching the turf, regardless of what happens as the rest of his body hits the deck.  Alternatively, and preferably, the owners should go back to the rule that applied before Bert Emanuel had possession in both hands but the ball touched the ground and the league thereafter decided that under certain circumstances the ball would be allowed to touch the ground as long as it didn’t move.

So what’s wrong with requiring the player to catch the ball and to not allow it to touch the ground at any point in the process of making the catch?  If the player is going to the ground while catching the ball, the ball should not touch the ground.  If it does, the catch is not a catch.  Though some may think that it’s not “fair” to take away a good catch simply because the pigskin grazes the grass, at least there would be no room for ambiguity or inconsistency.

At a time when the owners are surely feeling like they don’t have control over much of anything, this would be a great opportunity for them to take charge of their game — and to give the fans a clear rule that widely will be regarded not only as fair but sufficiently clear to allow folks who in varying degrees of intoxication to understand when a catch is a catch, and when it isn’t.

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Mark Davis: Paid leave should follow domestic violence charges, allegations

Mark Davis AP

An NFL owner believes paid leave from league activities should follow an arrest or allegation of domestic violence.

In a story published Wednesday, Raiders owner Mark Davis told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that “if somebody’s accused or arrested in a domestic violence case, they should be suspended with pay.”

Davis’ remarks come as the NFL and its clubs have come under major criticism for their treatment of and reaction to domestic and family issues. The remarks also come on a day where Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Cardinals tailback Jonathan Dwyer were asked to stay away from their clubs as their legal issues were resolved, a marked change in how teams have responded to off-field issues in the past.

In the Mercury News interview, Davis also weighed in on the 49ers’ decision to allow defensive lineman Ray McDonald to continue playing after his August 31 arrest on domestic charges, telling the newspaper he believed a suspension would be a better policy but that he understood the Niners’ position.

“I see what the 49ers and [owner] Jed (York) are going through and what they’re saying, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ and that’s the American way. But I think we have to get this right, and suspension with pay in those cases (while the investigation moves forward) is the only thing that makes sense to me right now,” Davis said, according to the Mercury News.

If nothing else, Davis’ suggestion — if made a policy — would at least be a standardized approach to an issue that has riddled the league and its teams.

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Richard Sherman says he didn’t reufuse to speak to media after loss to Chargers

Sherman Getty Images

After the Seahawks fell to the Chargers on Sunday, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman reportedly refused to speak to the media.  Sherman disputes that contention.

“When I got done taking a shower and everything Earl [Thomas] was being interviewed and I stood there for a while and nobody came to me,” Sherman told reporters on Wednesday.  “I put my stuff on and walked out.  I signed a few autographs and then there was a guy who asked for an autograph and then asked for an interview after the autograph and I though this guy can’t be serious.  That might have been the guy that said I wasn’t talking to media, but I didn’t really consider him media.”

After later in the Wednesday press conference about the subject, Sherman reiterated his position that he was available.

“I was literally standing in my locker,” Sherman said.  “Earl [Thomas] was being interviewed.  When you come off the field in a 120-degree game, and the locker room is about 90, you probably don’t want to stand there for an extra hour waiting for everyone to get done for interviews.  I’m tired and I’m hot.  I’m trying to get cool.  So I sat there though, I was available. . . .   I didn’t sneak off.  I was standing there and they just happened to be interviewing other people, nobody called for me and said, ‘Hey Sherm.'”

It’s unclear whether members of the media who were covering the game dispute Sherman’s account.  If they do, those with Twitter accounts may have something to say.

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Vernon Davis doesn’t practice on Wednesday

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

One of the 49ers’ top pass catchers didn’t take part in the club’s first major on-field work of the week.

Tight end Vernon Davis (knee, ankle) didn’t practice Wednesday, according to the injury report. However, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Wednesday the club believed it had “dodged a bullet” with Davis, who was injured on a fourth quarter tackle in the Niners’ 28-20 loss to the Bears on Sunday.

Harbaugh also said he was optimistic that tight end would “be a healthy position by the end of the week,” according to a transcript of his remarks from the club.

Davis wasn’t the only Niners tight end to sit out Wednesday, with Vance McDonald (knee) also not participating.

Other 49ers not working Wednesday were cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe), right tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring), center Marcus Martin (knee) and defensive end Justin Smith (not injury related). Left tackle Joe Staley (knee) was limited, with tailback Carlos Hyde (calf) a full participant.

The 49ers (1-1) face the unbeaten Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday.

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Cardinals deactivate Dwyer after domestic violence arrest

dwyer AP

Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, who was arrested today in a domestic violence incident, has been deactivated by the team.

“We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities. We will continue to closely monitor this as it develops and evaluate additional information as it becomes available.”

The Cardinals are now following the lead of the Vikings with Adrian Peterson and the Panthers with Greg Hardy by excusing the accused player while the legal case plays out. The Cardinals stand in sharp contrast, however, to the 49ers, who are continuing to allow Ray McDonald to play even after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.

Although Dwyer’s arrest came today, it reportedly stems from an incident with his wife in July.

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Dennis Allen won’t address speculation about his job security

allenryan AP

Raiders coach Dennis Allen isn’t in the mood to discuss his job security.

Amid talk that the Raiders may already be making plans to fire Allen and replace him with assistant Tony Sparano, Allen was asked today whether that kind of speculation can weigh on him. But Allen wouldn’t have any of it.

Here’s a partial transcript from Allen’s press conference today, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:

Q: I’m sure you’ve seen or have been made aware of the speculation about your job, the general manager’s job… Does that matter to you? Do you disregard it?

ALLEN: What matters is getting ready for the New England Patriots. And that’s all I’m going to focus on.

Q: Do you think you’re on a short-term time-frame now?

ALLEN: Listen, I’m getting ready for the New England Patriots.

Allen said he has talked to Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie, but not to owner Mark Davis recently. Davis is the man who will ultimately make the decision about how long Allen lasts as the Raiders’ coach. If Allen wants to impress his boss, he’d better take a cue from his boss’s dad, and just win, baby.

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Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer arrested in domestic violence incident

dwyer AP

Another NFL player is facing a domestic violence accusation.

Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been accused of domestic violence stemming from an incident with his wife, according to Tyler Baldwin of 3 TV in Phoenix. That report says the fight with his wife happened “a while ago,” but she kept records of her injuries. Phoenix TV station KTAR reports that Dwyer was pulled from practice today and questioned at Phoenix Police headquarters.

Dwyer was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and preventing someone from calling 911 in a domestic violence incident, according to the CBS Evening News Twitter account. A police spokesman told the Arizona Republic that Dwyer was arrested.

The incident comes at a time when domestic violence cases have shaken the NFL, eroded fans’ trust and threatened the job of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The 25-year-old Dwyer is in his first season with the Cardinals after spending the previous four seasons with the Steelers. He has played in both of the Cardinals’ games this season and has 16 carries for 51 yards. Because he’s not a star player (unlike other accused players like Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson), it wouldn’t be at all surprising for the Cardinals simply to cut him and try to get this case behind them as soon as possible.

Of course, if the Cardinals do cut Dwyer, the next man up on the roster would likely be practice squad running back Chris Rainey — who has had two separate domestic violence incidents, one in college that got him kicked off the team at Florida, and one in the NFL that got him cut by the Steelers. Which serves as a reminder that the NFL has to do a whole lot more to get domestic abusers out of the league.

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Some teams think exempt list isn’t being used as intended

Peterson Getty Images

The Vikings and Panthers both were able to take the heat out of the proverbial kitchen, thanks to the little-used Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list.  It allowed the teams to nudge off the roster a couple of key players with pending legal issues, without having to cut or trade them.

Cutting Adrian Peterson or Greg Hardy would have put the Vikings and Panthers, respectively, on the hook for the balance of their eight-figure salaries, given the Termination Pay provision of he labor deal.  Deactivating them on a weekly basis left the teams with, as a practical matter, only 52 players on the roster.  Also, it required the teams to allow the players to come to practice and, in theory, attend games.

“The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances,” the NFL’s Player Personnel Manual provides.  “The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit. Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player’s time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List.”

Some other teams are griping about a device that essentially allows the Vikings and Panthers to carry 54 players on their rosters.

“It was really put in place for players coming off suspension to get reacclimated,” one league source told PFT regarding the exemption.

The reality is that today’s unique utilization of the exemption will soon not be.  For players facing criminal charges under circumstances that result in a significant amount of fan, media, and/or sponsor pressure, this specific exemption could become the wave of the future.

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Bill O’Brien: Expect more of J.J. Watt at tight end

J.J. Watt AP

J.J. Watt has done just about everything there is to do as a defensive end for the Texans, so he expanded his portfolio against Oakland last weekend.

Watt played a couple of snaps at tight end during the 30-14 victory and caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watt said Wednesday, via Art Stapleton of the North Jersey Record, that he was “most definitely” ready for more if the coaches want to give it to him.

Coach Bill O’Brien is willing to do that or at least make others think he’s willing to do that. Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that O’Brien said we should expect to see more of Watt at tight end in a future that starts with this week’s game against the Giants.

Watt has a pretty good shoulder to lean on when it comes to moonlighting on offense. Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel caught 10 regular season passes for 10 touchdowns while he was a linebacker for the Patriots and Chiefs. Vrabel added two more in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX that helped the Patriots hold off the Panthers and Eagles and added up to a nice little side business.

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Panthers announce Greg Hardy takes “voluntary leave”

Greg Hardy AP

For the second time today, a high-profile NFL player facing legal trouble has been banished from his team.

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will, like Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, go on the commissioner’s exempt list until is legal case has run its course. Hardy is awaiting a jury trial on a domestic violence charge.

“The Panthers have announced that DE Greg Hardy will take a voluntary leave of absence from team,” a brief statement from the team read.

Presumably Hardy agreed to the voluntary leave because the Panthers told him if he didn’t, they’d give him an involuntary leave. Hardy, who will continue to be paid his salary of about $770,000 a week, released a statement saying he accepts the decision.

“I understand that I need to step away from football right now and take care of this legal matter,” Hardy said in a statement. “I am entitled to due process and my day in court, and that’s where my focus should be.”

Although Hardy was convicted by a judge, the Panthers initially said they would allow him to seek a jury trial, as is his right in North Carolina, before taking any action. However, after harsh criticism following their decision to play him in Week One, the Panthers deactivated Hardy for Week Two. Now he’s done for the foreseeable future.

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Colin Kaepernick will appeal $11,025 fine for language

Colin Kaepernick AP

There seems to be some dispute about what 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did or did not say to Bears defensive end LaMarr Houston.

Now he’ll get a chance to take it up with the league office on appeal.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Kaepernick was fined $11,025 for “inappropriate language” Sunday night, but said he would fight the penalty.

Houston said he didn’t hear anything, but one of the officials must have, as it was flagged on the spot.

He was the first player to be penalized for what he said on the field, so as test cases go, this could be an important one. The league emphasized to players this offseason that officials would be listening, though there is no list of bad words that are automatic flags.

(We should point out that we have offered our services to the league in codifying offensive language, since we consider ourselves experts.)

While the league has bigger fish to fry at the moment, getting this one right will be important, and Kaepernick’s appeal will be interesting to follow.

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Roddy White questionable, Jake Matthews probable for Falcons

Roddy White AP

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Tuesday that wide receiver Roddy White didn’t need to practice in order to play against the Buccaneers on Thursday night, so you wouldn’t expect the fact that White spent another day on the sideline on Wednesday to have much bearing on how he’s listed on the team’s injury report for their game.

It didn’t. White is listed as questionable, which means that the Falcons will make a final call about whether or not White can go on a balky hamstring. Based on Smith’s comments, the best guess would be that White is in the lineup. How close to 100 percent he’ll be after also tweaking his knee in the opener is another question, however.

The Falcons have more certainty when it comes to left tackle Jake Matthews. He missed last week with an ankle injury, but he’s practiced this week and got a probable tag from the team. That should mean he’s back in the starting lineup with Gabe Carimi going back to his third tackle role or spelling Lamar Holmes on the right side.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Prince Shembo (knee) are also listed as probable for Atlanta.

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New substance-abuse policy may help LaVon Brazill, not Darryl Washington or Justin Blackmon

LaVon Brazill AP

It’s already known that Browns receiver Josh Gordon will have his suspension reduced from a year to 10 games under the new substance-abuse policy.  It’s not known whether other players will receive any type of relief once the new substance-abuse policy is implemented.

Per a league source, the new policy is likely to reduce the suspension imposed on former Colts receiver LaVon Brazill (pictured), who was cut by the Colts and headed to the CFL.  The new policy won’t help Cardinals linebacker Darryl Washington, who has been suspended for a year, or Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon, who was suspended for a large chunk of the 2013 season and who has not yet been reinstated.

Only the new PED policy has been announced.  The new substance-abuse policy is expected to be announced soon.

The new PED policy resulted in the lifting of ony three player suspensions — Broncos receiver Wes Welker, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and Rams receiver Stedman Bailey.

 

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Vontaze Burfict diagnosed with another concussion

Vontaze Burfict, Paul Guenther AP

The Bengals were unsure whether or not linebacker Vontaze Burfict would be able to play in Week Two after suffering a concussion against the Ravens in the season opener.

Burfict was able to get clearance through the league’s concussion protocol and took the field against the Falcons, only to see his day come to an early end with what the team called a stinger at the time. Burfict missed practice on Wednesday, but he wasn’t listed as having a stinger.

Burfict is listed as suffering from another concussion. Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that Burfict began having concussion symptoms after being diagnosed with the stinger and he’ll now reenter the protocol before he can be cleared to practice or play in a game. After a second concussion in such a short amount of time, Burfict may need to wait a bit longer before the green light comes this time.

Wide receiver A.J. Green, who hurt his foot in the Falcons game, also didn’t practice, but said he’ll try to give it a go on Thursday. Guard Kevin Zeitler was in a boot after injuring his calf and Hobson believes he’s doubtful to be on the field against the Titans this week.

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Joe Flacco Has a Cold

Joe Flacco AP

A starting quarterback who’s never missed a regular season game has missed his team’s first practice of the week.

Ravens starter Joe Flacco didn’t participate in the club’s workout on Wednesday, according to the team’s official Twitter feed. The Ravens (1-1) play at Cleveland on Sunday.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not elaborate on Flacco’s absence, the club said.

However, it appears that Flacco may just be a little under the weather. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Flacco has a cold. Also, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reported that “word is” Flacco isn’t feeling well.

This sounds like a story right in Gay Talese’s wheelhouse.

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Scandrick and Spencer at practice in Dallas, Romo out

tonyromo AP

There was good news for the Cowboys’ defense and bad news for the offense at practice today.

Dallas got back cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was on the field thanks to the NFL ending his suspension. Although Scandrick had been suspended for the first four games of the season under the old drug-testing policy, when the league and the players formally agreed to a new drug policy today, one of the byproducts was that Scandrick’s suspension was reduced to time served. Scandrick is back and from all accounts ready to go.

Also back, though perhaps not ready to go, is defensive end Anthony Spencer. Today was Spencer’s first time on the practice field since microfracture surgery a year ago, which is a positive step in his recovery. But Spencer isn’t ready to go through a full practice just yet, which probably means it’s going to be a while longer before he’s ready to play in a game.

Tony Romo, whose 2013 season was cut short because of back surgery, had to miss practice today to rest his back.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was at practice but not doing much as he continues to rest the shoulder he injured on Sunday. Bryant returned to Sunday’s game after the injury and is expected to play this week, but the Cowboys are taking it easy on him on the practice field.

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