Will playoff seeding be affected by the ‘Fail Mary’ call from Week 3? Who has the edge in Sunday’s matchup between the Cowboys and Redskins? The PFT guys discuss this and more as they break down the NFC playoff picture.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Previewing the NFC playoff picture
Add defensive end Chris Canty to the list of newly unemployed veterans around the league.
The Ravens announced Friday that they have released Canty, who joins wide receiver Jacoby Jones as newly minted members of the former Ravens club.
Canty missed time with wrist and ankle injuries in 2014 and finished the season with 33 tackles, a forced fumble and a half of a sack in 11 starts. It was Canty’s second year with the Ravens and the stop in Baltimore came after productive stints with the Giants and Cowboys in the first eight years of his NFL career.
Canty said at the end of the season that he wasn’t sure he’d return to the field for the 2015 season and coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier this week that the 32-year-old was still mulling over that decision. He was effective enough when he played last season that there’d likely be some interest in his services around the league, although it obviously takes two to tango.
In late-summer 1989, when fantasy football owners drafted their teams as “Batdance” played on a loop until the person closest to the boom box flipped over the cassette tape, there were no such things as regular-season bye weeks. Owners didn’t have to worry about whether John L. Williams and Neal Anderson were both getting the same week off. They could draft both, and happily so.
But on this day in 1990, the 16-games-in-16-weeks schedule was scrapped — and likely for good. Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added one week to the 1990 and 1991 regular seasons and two weeks to the 1992 and 1993 slates.
The schedule change came as the NFL was putting together its next television contract, and the economic benefit of being able to offer more weeks of regular-season football content to networks “was an obvious factor” in the decision, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, according to the Associated Press.
However, Tagliabue, per the AP, also noted that the byes afforded “greater schedule flexibility, ease the player injury factor, and reduce team travel burdens.”
Ever since, the NFL has had at least one scheduled bye per team per regular season. The league also gave a second bye to all clubs in the ’93 regular season but has not gone back to that system since. (The planned second bye in ’92 was cancelled.)
Like them or not, byes seem likely to be a part of the NFL’s framework for the foreseeable future. Given the rigors of the sport, at least one week off per club is prudent. (The 1990 Lions, pictured here, were about to get their bye after having to try and tackle Christian Okoye 23 times.) And, of course, there is the financial upside to selling a 17-week, 16-game slate.
So happy anniversary, regular-season bye weeks. And happy anniversary, fantasy football owners having to keep track of those bye weeks. At least you don’t have to tally scores by hand and via newspaper box score anymore.
Thursday was a busy day on the Adrian Peterson front as the NFL appealed Judge David Doty’s ruling that the league overstepped its bounds by punishing Peterson with an indefinite suspension under the new personal conduct policy.
Peterson is back on the Commissioner’s exempt list while waiting for the legal matters to run their course and Mike Florio will talk to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press during Friday’s edition of PFT Live about the holding pattern the team and running back are in as a result. We’ll find out if Tomasson thinks Peterson will wear a Vikings uniform again among other things during his visit.
Florio will also continue the rundown of offseason to-do lists. The Lions and Cardinals are up next as we look at what they need to do to return to the playoffs.
We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.
Not only will Michael Sam be needing his dancing shoes next month, but he’ll also need his overnight bag.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Sam has been invited to the league’s inaugural veteran combine on March 22.
That’s within six days of the start of filming for Dancing With The Stars, in which he’s participating this season.
Sam said this week his first priority was football, and the show was flexible enough to accommodate him if he need to attend the event in Arizona or other workouts for NFL teams.
It’s a big step for him in his goal to get back to the NFL, as he takes steps on the dance floor at the same time.
The Dolphins have paid receiver Mike Wallace $27 million since signing him nearly two years ago. Due to make $9.85 million in 2015, Wallace reportedly isn’t willing to take a penny less.
Via Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Wallace won’t restructure the contract.
It’s unclear whether that means he won’t take less money or whether it means he won’t take a large chunk of his salary now as a signing bonus, allowing the cap dollars to be spread over future years of the deal. His cap number currently is scheduled to be north of $12 million.
For the Dolphins, there’s no specific deadline for action before Week One of the regular season. Of the $9.85 million salary, $3 million is fully guaranteed. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there’s no roster bonus or other trigger in March that would entitle Wallace to cash in hand or to more guaranteed money.
If Wallace won’t reduce his salary, and if the Dolphins aren’t willing to spend $9.85 million in 2015 in the hopes of justifying $27 million spent in 2013 and 2014, a trade makes sense — if the Dolphins can find a suitor. At $9.85 million in base salary with plenty of options on the free-agent market and a trend toward rookie receivers making an impact right away, that’s unlikely.
If a trade isn’t possible, the Dolphins would be wise to cut Wallace sooner rather than later. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the $3 million guarantee has offset language, meaning that the Dolphins will avoid the obligation if he gets at least $3 million from someone else. The sooner he’s on the market, the more likely he’ll exceed that number.
The NFL is on a bit of a losing streak in the judicial branch of government lately, but they’re hoping to do a bit better in the legislative.
Toward that end, the league is hiring Nicole Gustafson as its chief Republican lobbyist, according to The Hill.
Gustafson is an established Capitol Hill presence, working for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and previously for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Her title will be vice president for public policy and government affairs, a new position in the league’s Washington office.
“Anyone who knows me knows that my passion for politics is only trumped by my love of football. I’m so excited to merge the two in this new opportunity with the NFL, and to be able to work with an amazing team on a diverse set of issues,” she said in an emailed statement. “It is bittersweet to be leaving such a great team here, but I look forward to continuing to work with them and all my Hill friends in this new capacity.”
The NFL needs all the help it can get in Washington, as they face challenges on issues as diverse as player safety, drug policies, their tax-exempt status and blackout legislation.
The report says the league has spent “about $10.12 million” lobbying since 2007, and $1.22 million last year, a number that will certainly continue to climb.
The fastest receivers at the Combine rarely become productive NFL players, but former UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson has a fallback plan if the NFL doesn’t work out for him.
Nelson, whose 4.28-second 40-yard dash was the fastest at this year’s Combine, told Yahoo Sports that if he’s not drafted and doesn’t sign on as an undrafted free agent, he would like to turn his attention to track and see if he can make the Olympics.
“I have a lot of interest in that,” he said. “Whatever happens with football, I was considering running in the Olympics.”
Realistically, that’s a long shot. Nelson is obviously fast but being fast enough to make it the U.S. Olympic team is a whole other level of speed. Nelson was a good track runner in high school, but he didn’t run track in college.
Still, it’s worth thinking about, especially considering that Nelson weighed in at just 156 pounds at the Combine. He might simply be too small for the NFL. The Olympics would be a nice fallback plan.
They’ll cut him.
According to agent Drew Rosenhaus, the Dolphins have said Hartline will be released on Friday.
Hartline was due to earn a base salary of $5.9 million this year, the third of a five-year, $30 million contract. He received $7 million to sign; $4.2 million must still be accounted for on the salary cap.
In his first season under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Hartline had the lowest yardage output of his career with 474, despite starting all 16 regular-season games in 2014. He surpassed 1,000 yards in 2013 and 2012.
The move gives the 28-year-old a 10-day head start on the open market. It’ll be interesting to see how much teams are willing to pay for veteran receivers, given that rookies seem to be making a bigger impact right out of the gates.
The Falcons are no longer wild about Harry Douglas.
PFT has learned, via a league source, that the team has released the veteran wide receiver as they continue to get their house in order ahead of the start of the new league year. The move comes a day after the Falcons parted ways with running back Steven Jackson.
Douglas was set to make $3.5 million in the final year of the four-year contract he signed with the Falcons in 2012. None of that money was guaranteed, so the Falcons will be able to put it toward other uses this offseason.
Douglas battled injuries while playing in 12 games for the Falcons last season and finished the year with 51 catches for 556 yards and two touchdowns. He had 85 catches for 1,067 yards in 2013 as he stepped into a larger role with Julio Jones out of the lineup, but he’s been best suited for a complementary role on offense over the course of his career.
He’ll likely have a few teams interested in giving him a chance to fill one and Douglas is free to sign with them before other free agents flood the market on March 10.
Alonso missed the entire season after tearing his ACL last summer, which cost him a chance to build on a standout rookie season and help a Bills team that missed the playoffs after finishing 9-7. Alonso said the group “played great” last season and he’s certain that he’ll be back on the field to help them turn in another strong year.
“I anticipate being 100 percent before camp,” Alonso said, via the team’s website. “By camp, I definitely feel I’ll be at 100 percent. I feel very good with where I’m at. By camp I’ll be full go.”
Alonso said he’s rehabbing four or five days a week and it will be more than a year since the injury when camp opens, so he should be able to meet his prediction. Given their shared history, Rex Ryan’s defense shouldn’t ask him to do things too differently than he did them while playing for Mike Pettine and that may be part of the reason why Alonso thinks the team is capable of doing big things in 2015.
“I have very high expectations,” Alonso said. “We have a great defense and a great offense as well. I expect nothing less than to go out there and win a lot of games.”
There may not be many people lining up behind Alonso to say the Bills have a great offense, but his healthy return helps make another winning record a realistic expectation all the same.
There were 113 nominees as Modern-Era candidates for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year and none of them were named Simeon Rice.
Rice recorded 122 sacks in 12 NFL seasons, which wasn’t enough for him to be deemed worthy of consideration alongside defensive linemen like Jevon Kearse, Steve McMichael and Ted Washington. Whether you feel Rice should be in the Hall of Fame or not, it’s hard to believe he’s not worth the same thought that voters gave those three men. Rice feels his career was worth a lot more.
“You can’t have a Hall of Fame without me being in it. It’s just not legitimate,” Rice said in an interview with SBNation.com. “There is no Hall of Fame without me in it. It’s just one of those things.”
It’s not the first time that Rice’s Hall of Fame credentials have come up for discussion. His Buccaneers teammate Derrick Brooks called him one of the best, if not the best, pass rushers of his generation. Warren Sapp also banged the drum for Rice a couple of years ago, mostly by comparing Rice’s work against left tackles favorably against that of the since-enshrined Michael Strahan against right tackles.
Rice, who said he “set the standard” for defensive ends in his era, didn’t resist taking a swipe at Strahan.
“I didn’t have nobody falling down to help me get sacks,” Rice said in obvious reference to Brett Favre settling to the turf like an old man easing into a bath as Strahan set the single-season sack record. “I didn’t have that. I had to earn everything I got.”
A head-to-head comparison would go beyond simply pass rushing numbers, but the fact that Strahan’s in the Hall helps make the case that Rice should at least have his name in the mix when voters consider the best players not currently in the Hall.
The man who became the first African-American quarterback to start a regular-season opener and who went on to lead an NFL front office has ended his career in football, 46 years after entering the league through the draft.
Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions senior personnel advisor James “Shack” Harris has retired at age 67.
An eighth-round pick of the Bills in 1969, Harris was a Pro Bowler with the Rams in 1974, the year he led the Rams to the NFC Championship game.
He became a scout with the Buccaneers in 1987. After six years in Tampa, he became assistant G.M. with the Jets. In 1997, Harris was hired as director of pro personnel in Baltimore. From 2003 through 2008, Harris served as V.P. of player personnel in Jacksonville.
Birkett notes that Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew said last week at the Scouting Combine that Harris was instrumental in persuading the team to take defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over Gerald McCoy with the second pick in the 2010 draft.
The man who would have been ultimately responsible for prosecuting any crimes that may have been committed in the early morning hours at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart on July 11, 2011 says he no knowledge of the incident.
Via Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said that he “had no knowledge of there being an incident, let alone a video tape.”
“Because there was no arrest and no complainant, the incident never comes to the District Attorney’s office,” Watkins said. “I never saw a video tape and I have serious doubts that one exists.”
The current Dallas County District Attorney has not addressed the issue, from the potential existence of any video to the preservation in 2011 of any video that Wal-Mart surveillance cameras would have created to the possible existence of video created by a bystander with a cellphone to the question of whether, based on the police report published Thursday by NFL Media, the police officer who responded to the scene should have inspected the Wal-Mart surveillance system to determine whether the alleged victim’s claim that she was not assaulted “in any way” meshes with whatever prompted someone to call police at 6:08 a.m. local time on a Monday morning and say a woman was being pulled from a car registered to Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and dragged to another car.
Wal-Mart, which would have created and could have preserved the video, has not addressed the situation.
Likewise, the various witnesses named in the police report have not yet addressed the situation beyond the things they told the responding officer, including Carl King, Christopher Mitchell, Alex Penson, and the alleged victim.
While the situation may be news to the former Dallas County District Attorney, reports continue to emerge that the Cowboys have known about it. The report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media indicated that the Cowboys know about the situation. Per Fisher’s sources, the Cowboys have known about the incident since it happened.
Former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick became a historical footnote (and a former Packer) by mishandling an onside kick in the NFC Championship Game.
And the now-Vikings tight end said yesterday that another player with a famous mistake, Earnest Byner, had helped him through the last few weeks of guilt.
For Byner, the decision to reach out was an easy one, after the years he’s lived with “The Fumble.”
“I felt like I had to speak to him,” Byner said, via Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The legendary Browns running back got in touch with his old friend Sam Gash, the Packers running backs coach, to exchange numbers with Bostick. A week after the game, the two spoke by phone, with Byner pointing out all the many factors that led to the loss that weren’t Bostick’s fault.
The empathy was appreciated, even if Bostick had no recollection of why Byner was being empathetic.
“He was like ‘I wasn’t even born yet,'” Byner said with a laugh of the Jan. 17, 1988 AFC Championship Game, which was just over 16 months before Bostick came into the world.
Byner too changed teams, being traded to Washington, which he said was necessary.
“I needed the change at that time,” Byner said. “[The Fumble] grew and it was weakening me emotionally and spiritually. . . .
“When we talk he listens very intently. But I need to meet him to feel his spirit. We’re going to go about making this connection. We might do some training. I want to get into his mind a bit so I can help him best.”
Byner has certainly already done that, and his willingness to help others through his experiences shows that while some Cleveland fans might define him by a fumble, his recovery has been far more impressive.
Defensive tackle will be a spot to watch in free agency for the Dolphins.
What should the Jets do in the first round if they don’t take a quarterback?
Checking out the Ravens’ offseason plan at tight end.
The Bengals should feature the same two running backs that they did last season.
The home of the Texans needs some sprucing up before Super Bowl LI.
The Colts need defensive line help in free agency and/or the draft.
Jaguars VP Tony Khan purchased a sports analytics company that counts the team among its clients.
Waiting for the Titans’ makeover to stop looking like the same old thing.
The Raiders have money to spend and a mandate to use it.
If the Chargers want a running back in the draft, they may not need to go after one early.
Richmond has come up with the money needed to keep Redskins training camp in town.
Jon Gruden thinks it is time for a new quarterback with the Bears.
Breaking down the Panthers’ cap situation ahead of free agency.
Do the Saints need to change the look of their helmet?
The Cardinals need better red zone running options.
Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis talks up his plans with the 49ers.
The Seahawks are hosting a team-themed cruise to Alaska.