Mike Florio breaks down the best news in the NFL including the questions surrounding who will take home each postseason award, how the Texans will fare when their games have much more meaning, and the fate of Josh Brent in a Cowboys’ uniform.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Who will take home the trophy?
Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee testified in court today that he told her he did not murder their friend Odin Lloyd.
Shayanna Jenkins, who prosecutors say helped Hernandez get rid of evidence after Lloyd was shot and killed, testified in front of a judge — but not in front of the jurors — and said that Hernandez said that she asked her fiance directly whether he murdered Lloyd. He told her that he didn’t, and she didn’t press the matter.
“When Aaron got back from the police station, when I had found out that Odin was murdered, I asked him if he did it and he said no. That was the extent of our conversation,” she said.
Jenkins was also asked about a text message from Hernandez in which he wrote, “Go in back of the screen in movie room when u get home an there is the box.” Prosecutors allege that was Hernandez telling Jenkins where he had hidden the murder weapon and that she should get rid of it before police searched the house. Jenkins admits that she took a box from the home and threw it in a dumpster after that, but she says that was just a coincidence and that the text wasn’t an instruction for her to do so.
According to Michele Steele of ESPN, Jenkins mouthed “I love you” to Hernandez as she walked out of the courtroom.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett believes that a better-written NFL rule would have given Dez Bryant a catch at the end of the playoff game in Green Bay — and would have given the NFL an all-time playoff classic.
Garrett pointed out that the Cowboys would have had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, setting up, potentially, a game as memorable as another Cowboys-Packers battle, the Ice Bowl.
“To have the Cowboys inside the 1-yard line at Lambeau Field with 4:45 to go 47 years after Bart Starr had a quarterback sneak is great for our game,” Garrett said, via the Star-Telegram. “To have Aaron Rodgers standing on the other sideline waiting for his opportunity to come back, that’s what we want. And Dez Bryant getting three feet and a forearm down I think should be a catch in in our league. I think we should find ways to make sure it is going forward. It has nothing to do with our game, our team, its about how to right the rule going forward.”
As it is, that game will be remembered more for a great play that didn’t count than for a great ending.
On Thursday, a bomb threat interrupted the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial. On Friday, things could get even more interesting.
The day has begun with Judge E. Susan Garsh individually questioning the jurors, in the presence of the lawyers and Hernandez. Via Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, the jurors were standing two feet from Hernandez while fielding and answering questions.
It’s not known what the jurors are being asked, but it’s entirely possible (if not probable) that the judge and the lawyers are ensuring that each juror will continue to serve without bias or prejudice in the aftermath of Thursday’s events, for which an arrest has been made.
Once testimony resumes, Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, is expected to testify. Via Michele Steele of ESPN, Jenkins has arrived in court wearing her engagement ring. Which suggests that she won’t be flipping on Hernandez today, regardless of the immunity from prosecution that she has received.
Then again, the presence of the ring will make her testimony even more credible, if she provides information that hurts Hernandez’s case. Prosecutors believe Jenkins disposed of the murder weapon.
Both the book League of Denial and the PBS documentary that draws from it devote a great deal of attention to Troy Aikman, who played in a Super Bowl after suffering a serious concussion in the NFC Championship Game, and who retired in part because of concerns about concussions. But 15 years after his playing career ended, Aikman says he’s doing fine.
Aikman told Richard Deitsch of TheMMQB.com that he had a thorough neurological exam that gave him a clean bill of health. Aikman also said he has always felt that he remains mentally sharp and has never had any issues such as memory loss that would affect his ability to work as a broadcaster.
“It certainly gave me some peace of mind,” Aikman said. “But the reason I have never been concerned is that the job that I have with Fox is a mental exercise—recalling numbers and names and things of that nature. I am able to do that pretty readily. I do think broadcasting with Fox keeps my mind active, and I think it helps.”
Aikman says he would neither encourage a child to play football nor discourage a child from playing football, as he views it as an individual decision that may be right for some and wrong for others. But he’s clear that from his perspective, he’s benefited from playing the game.
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff knows something’s coming. But he says he just doesn’t know what it is yet.
Via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dimitroff said during a radio interview on 680 The Fan that he’s bracing for bad news, after the team admitted piping in artificial crowd noise.
“We are just so full of scenarios and that’s kind of how we approach the offseason as it is,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve been very detailed on how we are going to approach things if in fact we have availability at certain points in the draft.”
During the league meetings, the team was informed their penalty was likely to be announced next week, and that the team was privately told what it would be, but Dimitroff said he hadn’t heard yet.
“I do not know at this point, officially,” Dimitroff said. “I have not gotten word from the league. I believe that we’ll be expecting something. Usually, when you get indication from the league it is via print. . . .
“I’m reading the same things that you are. Obviously, it’s been a process for us.”
And for a team that’s still trying to rebuild a defense, losing what could be a second- or third-round pick would be a significant hit.
Plenty of institutions that pump millions into Indiana by staging events there have expressed concern about the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing law that ostensibly protects religious freedom by giving business owners the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. The NFL inexplicably has not.
Last year, the NFL spoke out as Arizona closed in on passing a similar law. Arizona eventually opted not to proceed with a plan to legalize the shunning of people who live their private lives in a way that others feel compelled to care about, and to condemn.
This time around, the NFL has said nothing. The league office had no comment on Thursday when PFT specifically asked for a reaction to the new Indiana law, and in nearly 24 hours since then, nothing has emanated from P.R.-obsessed 345 Park Avenue regarding the passage of a law that provides a license to discriminate in a state where an NFL franchise is located, where the Super Bowl has been played and likely will return, and where the Scouting Combine is staged every February.
Others have opted for something other than silence. The NCAA, which soon will hold one of its marquee events in Indianapolis, had this to say about the situation: “The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
Likewise, the major gaming convention known as Gen Con threatened to take its business elsewhere if the law passes: “Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”
So why has there been nothing from the NFL? “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the league said last year regarding the Arizona proposal.
The NFL’s failure to reiterate that position in relation to the Indiana law suggests that maybe the NFL’s position has changed. If that’s not the case, the sooner the NFL says so, the better.
The Bears didn’t get much out of Jared Allen last year after a bout with pneumonia, and now they’re shifting to a defense he’s not really suited for.
But since they’re on the hook for an $11.5 million roster bonus anyway, they’re trying to figure out how to maximize his talents.
According to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace met with Allen this week, and they’re hoping to see a jump in production.
“It was good to touch base and share some ideas,” Fox said. “He’ll get that opportunity to compete, and he can be one of those guys who makes a big jump.”
Allen turns 33 next week, and he’ll be playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense new coordinator Vic Fangio will be installing. Allen has always said that’s something he’s not comfortable with, but they’ll also use enough four-man fronts in sub packages to allow him to rush the passer the way he’s comfortable.
But being sick last year kept him from showing it, and Fox said he thinks that explains the dip to a career-low 5.5 sacks.
“Physically, he had a rough year last year,” Fox said. “In particular for big guys or really any position, your weight, your strength level, all those things physically have a lot to do with how you perform on Sundays.
“In his case, he got pneumonia and lost 19, 20 pounds, and in the middle of a marathon, that is hard to recover from. That’s an analogy I use for a football season. So I don’t know if it was his best season. [But] there are reasons [for his struggles], not excuses.”
The Bears also brought in Pernell McPhee in free agency, and have Lamarr Houston to play outside linebacker. Allen’s obviously not playing as a base 3-4 end, so they’ll have to adjust on the fly, and see how much he has left.
Lynch, who has received a $5 million raise for returning to the Seahawks, gone to Turkey to promote football, and has a movie about him (although pretty much everyone — including Lynch — thinks it’s not very good), will now appear in the video for Beast Mode, a new song from Ludacris.
“I met him and literally within like two minutes I felt like we were family,” Ludacris a/k/a Chris Bridges told ESPN earlier this week. “I don’t know what it is. He’s real cool, real laid back guy. He was a fan. He was talking about how much his mom was a fan, so I told him I’m a fan of his.
“We inspire each other. That’s why it was great for us to get together. When everybody sees the video you’ll think it’s a great, great concept to put these two things together — music and football.”
The song isn’t the only thing that carries Lynch’s nickname. In Seattle, the “Beast Mode O.G.” marijuana strain has been followed up with “Beast Mode 2.0″ (or “Beast Mode Blue Fire”). But even though Lynch lives in one of the two states in which marijuana is legal, noted marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg says Lynch doesn’t partake.
“My homeboy got a career to play,” Snoop Dogg recently told TMZ, via seattlepi.com. “He’s still in the NFL. He’s got a Commissioner to deal with. Somebody named it after him.”
So Marshawn doesn’t smoke at all?
“No, he does not. I do it for him,” Snoop Dogg said.
For any player not in the drug-testing program, the reality is that he can smoke at will after taking his annual test for street drugs. But with the window for testing opening on April 20, any player inclined to sample the Beast Mode blend should have stopped last week, since it takes 30 days for the metabolites to exit the system.
Michael Sam was going to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, when he was drafted by the Rams last year.
But he said he quickly found out he’d have been far from the only gay player in the league.
During an appearance at an event in Dallas last night, Sam declined to offer a number, but said there were many players who reached out to him last offseason to thank him.
“I am not the only gay person in the NFL,” Sam said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.
“Was it a risky move? Yes. But at that moment, the reason why I came out is I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal. Maybe I was naive. Maybe I thought it was 2014, and people will understand that there’s gay NFL players. There’s gay athletes everywhere. But I was clearly wrong. It was a huge deal.
“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are [on]. I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”
Of course, Sam’s not an NFL player at the moment, and after his subpar showing at last week’s veteran combine, he might not be one anytime soon. But he said he was confident he’d play this season, indicating a stint in the CFL might be in his future.
Sam had a stint on the Cowboys practice squad after the Rams cut him, and doesn’t have anything pending this season. He said he didn’t think the reason was his sexual orientation, but thinks his unemployment could be the reason others haven’t made the decision to come out.
“Hopefully I’m not being discriminated [against] because I’m gay,” Sam said. “I don’t believe that I’m being discriminated [against] because I’m gay. I just want to know if I’m truly not in the NFL, it’s because of talent. Let it be because of my talents. But you’ve got to prove that I can’t play this game. If you look at the film, clearly I can. So, I’ll leave it at that. . . .
“Dancing with the Stars is my employer. That’s my main source of income. … I’m unemployed, and I don’t believe I’m out of the NFL because I’m gay. But if it was a reason, it can hurt their livelihood, and you don’t want to take that chance.”
Regardless his personal life, Sam’s lack of prototype size and speed is the primary reason he doesn’t have a spot on an NFL roster at the moment. He was a good college pass-rusher (11.5 sacks and the SEC defensive player of the year), and a stint in Canada might help him put together enough game tape to get another shot at the NFL.
And if he does, perhaps others will join him in his openness.
The Bears are on the hook to pay Jay Cutler a guaranteed $15 million this year and $10 million next year. But that doesn’t mean Cutler is their long-term starter. It doesn’t even mean Cutler is the Bears’ Week One starter.
“It’s all an open competition,” Fox said, via CSNChicago.com. “Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it. But we’ve got to start the race with some kind of lineup. We have not discussed that in depth. We have not presented it to our players yet. I kind of have it in my brain and then they compete.”
Cutler was benched for Clausen late last season, but it’s awfully hard to believe that Clausen could win the starting job this year. Fox may say he wants everyone to compete in training camp, but the Bears aren’t paying Cutler all that money to hold a clipboard.
When LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans made plans to attend a fundraiser last night, they were Eagles. Since then, they became former Eagles, part of a flurry of offseason activity that sent them all packing, along with quarterback Nick Foles.
That means their starting quarterback and leading receiver and rusher have all departed in a short time.
“If you would have told me two years ago that that would be the case, I would have laughed,” Maclin said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a business, man. Things like that happen.”
Of course, Maclin made his own business decision, taking a $55 million deal from the Chiefs, of which he said: “It wasn’t really about money.”
As much as anything, it was about coach Chip Kelly’s vision for the team, which Maclin said he still had confidence in.
“I still believe in Chip,” Maclin said. “I think Chip’s going to do great things here. I have the utmost respect for him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get something worked out. But at the end of the day I’m very excited about playing for Kansas City and playing for Big Red [Andy Reid].”
Having a comfortable place to land was a help, because Kelly’s showing there are few sacred cows in his herd, which will lead to many more Eagles becoming former Eagles.
When the Patriots open their offseason program in a few weeks, they’re going to be without a few key players after their Super Bowl run.
But one important part of their defense is up in the air for the start of the regular season.
According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who will miss around six or seven months after surgery to repair a torn right labrum on Feb. 10.
That puts the opener in doubt for Hightower, who played nearly every snap down the stretch for the Patriots. He sat out the finale against the Bills since there was nothing on the line, but played 321 of a possible 327 over the final five games he played, including a touchdown-saving tackle of Marshawn Lynch near the goal-line.
Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer also had surgery to repair a torn labrum, though he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston would love to leave Kansas City in free agency, but the franchise tag makes that a long shot. Which might be why Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is confident that in the end, Houston will stay where he is.
“He knows, and his agent knows, how much we want him back,” Hunt said. “We just all have to be patient, and eventually, we’re going to get him signed to a long-term deal.”
If Houston doesn’t want to play for the Chiefs, he can try to work something out with another team, although that would be hard to do because the Chiefs would have the right to match any offer, and would receive two first-round draft picks from Houston’s new team if they don’t match the offer. Houston could also sit out all of training camp and the preseason and then sign the franchise tender just before Week One and still make his full $13.1 million salary. And if Houston really doesn’t want to play for the Chiefs, he could wait until Week 10 to sign the franchise tag and play just six games while still accruing enough service to become a free agent again next year.
But Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said the team thinks things will work out with some patience, and Hunt echoed that.
“I’ve been very consistent in saying that we not only value Justin as a football player, that we not only value Justin as a person and leader, and we want him to be a Chief for life,” Hunt said. “And the negotiating process in these type of situations, as John has said, takes some patience. You just have to have patience. It will work out.”
The only question is whether Houston agrees. It takes two to sign a contract.
The Wilf family, owners of the Minneosta Vikings, has pledged an additional $19.5 million toward the construction of the new Vikings stadium.
According to the Associated Press, the additional funds will go toward enhancements in the plaza, food service equipment, entertainment areas in the stadium, upgrades to retractable seating and a deck that will overlook downtown Minneapolis.
The extra money brings the total contribution from the Vikings to $551 million, which is approximately 52 percent of the total cost of the project.
The team announced the extra contribution Thursday night.
Next Tuesday, the dispute between the NFL and North Carolina prosecutors over documents introduced into last July’s trial in Greg Hardy’s criminal case had been scheduled to go to court. That now won’t happen.
Via David Newton of ESPN.com, the two sides agreed to delay the effort.
“The hearing was postponed so that we could discuss an amicable resolution of our request for documents,” said Monroe Whitesides, Jr., a Charlotte lawyer hired to handle the case for the NFL.
The NFL wants to review the documents (possibly including photographs of the alleged victim’s possible injuries) before reaching a conclusion regarding Hardy’s punishment, if any, under the personal conduct policy.
Hardy spent 15 games last season on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list, receiving his full base salary while not playing. The criminal charges against him were dismissed after the alleged victim failed to show up for a February jury trial; Hardy reportedly reached a civil settlement with her.
He signed last week with the Cowboys. Owner Jerry Jones told PFT Live on Wednesday that the team received no indication regarding Hardy’s fate before adding him to the roster.