After bringing in a great football mind like Ron Wolf to consult the front office, Peter King and Erik Kuselias break down the new direction San Diego is headed in.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: What’s next for San Diego?
Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his prison cellmate.
Phillips, who is currently serving a 31-year sentence at Kern Valley State Prison for crimes including auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon and spousal abuse, is accused of murdering a convicted murderer named Damion Soward. Authorities say Soward (a cousin of former NFL player R. Jay Soward) was strangled in the cell he shared with Phillips.
The 40-year-old Phillips is not facing the death penalty but could be sentenced to life in prison.
Off-field problems have always overshadowed Phillips’s career, dating to his days as a college star at Nebraska. Despite questions about his character, the Rams selected Phillips with the sixth overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft. In addition to his legal problems in the NFL, Phillips was a bad player on the field and averaged just 3.4 yards a carry in his NFL career.
There’s a team in Canada that would like to sign Justin Blackmon. But the team in America that holds his rights doesn’t seem inclined to let him go.
According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, the Jaguars would “most likely not” release the former No. 5 overall pick from his contract to pursue a career in the CFL.
Sportsnet.ca reported that the Toronto Argonauts added him to their “confidential” negotiating list in August (though it didn’t stay that way for long). That would give them Blackmon’s exclusive rights if he ever played in the CFL.
But before that would happen, the Jaguars would have to release him, and the NFL would have to reinstate him. He’s still serving a substance abuse suspension that has kept him off the field since 2013. The CFL has agreed to honor any NFL suspensions since people howled about Ricky Williams playing there in 2006.
So while the Jaguars aren’t banking on getting anything from Blackmon — which is smart — they’re also not just washing their hands of him yet either.
For much of the offseason, it was believed that 2013 first-round quarterback EJ Manuel faced the loss of his roster spot if he couldn’t regain his starting job. Now, the Bills could end up getting rid of the veteran for whom they traded in March.
The Bills already paid Cassel a $500,000 roster bonus, but they would avoid a $4.15 million base salary by moving on before Week One.
The Bills sent a 2015 fifth-round pick and a 2016 seventh-round selection to the Vikings for Cassel and a 2015 sixth-rounder. Cassel lost the starting job to Tyrod Taylor, a free agent the Bills signed to a three-year, $3.35 million contract. He has a base salary of only $750,000 this year.
If the Bills cut Manuel, they’d still owe him $1.2 million for 2015 and $1.6 million for 2016. However, the Bills would get credit for any money Manuel earns elsewhere.
Usually, the chatter about Nick Saban being unhappy happens at the point on the calendar approaching the opening of the window for getting more money from his current employer. The near-annual accounts of Saban’s misery have arisen sooner than usual.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead shares an account that Saban may be on the way out of Alabama, due to apparent misery and frustration. (Then again, Saban isn’t happy unless he’s miserable and frustrated.)
If Saban is somehow trying to position himself for his inevitable next job, it’s not a surprise. The excellent biography of Saban from Monte Burke paints the picture of a tortured perfectionist who still strives for the approval of a long-deceased father, who apparently was even more tortured and even more of a perfectionist. Saban has achieved ridiculous success at the college level, winning national championships at LSU and Alabama and almost making Crimson Tide fans drop their collection of houndstooth hats into the “yard sale” box.
Faced with the choice of trying to climb once again the same mountain he has mastered on many occasions or taking care of unfinished business — like the spots Saban used to obsessively remove while washing cars at his father’s filling station — Saban could choose a return to the NFL.
Sure, Saban was miserable in Miami, leaving after only two seasons. But he was miserable because the salary cap and the draft kept him from stacking the deck the way that his recruiting skills allow him collect as many first-round picks as he can convince to come to Tuscaloosa. What if he were hired by a team that already had a stacked deck at the most important position in the game?
Bob Kravitz of WTHR recently wrote that the pressure is indeed on Colts coach Chuck Pagano in 2015. Adding to the pressure has to be the reality that the presence of quarterback Andrew Luck would allow owner Jim Irsay to lure any coach he wanted to town. If Irsay wanted Saban, would Saban listen?
Saban would want control over the operation, which means that G.M. Ryan Grigson would have to be fired, or at least neutered. An effort by Irsay to hire Saban in 1998 (the year Peyton Manning was drafted) went nowhere because G.M. Bill Polian wouldn’t have given up his authority.
With Luck running the offense and Saban crafting his NFL-style defense, it could work, and it could work well.
Saban clearly has what it takes to coach at the NFL level. As former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck told Monte Burke for the unauthorized Saban bio, “His meetings were so focused. I had Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher in the pros, and their meetings were jokes compared to Saban’s.”
Saban’s recruiting skills also overshadow his eye for talent.
“He’s like someone who can identify a Thoroughbred racing horse at a young age,” former Saban assistant Glen Mason told Burke. “He can just look at a high school player and say, ‘That guy is a winner.'”
At LSU, Saban spotted a high-school player named Jacob Hester, an undersized, two-star prospect. Saban turned Hester into a contributor at the college level, and Hester went on to play six years in the NFL.
For the Colts, the defense continues to be the problem. Who better than Saban, the guy Irsay wanted to hire at the outset of Peyton Manning’s career, to engineer the kind of defense to go along with the kind of quarterback who already can run the offense like a coach on the field?
There’s a long way to go before Saban would ever declare publicly that he’s not going to be the Indianapolis coach. But if Saban ever were going to return to the NFL, it surely would happen only with a team that has a franchise quarterback. And there’s no better team with a franchise quarterback than a team with a franchise quarterback on the front end of the prime of his career.
In the NFL, the team that best fits that description right now is the Colts.
Kelly says that he now knows the NFL allows quarterbacks to get hit after handing the ball off, if the defender isn’t sure if the quarterback still has the ball.
“Those are the rules, so if you’re handing the ball off, you can be hit,” Kelly said this week. “Whether you’re underneath the center, it doesn’t matter what run play you have. It was explained to us that you could have your back turned to the defense and if there’s potential for you to bootleg out of it, then you can be hit.”
Kelly said that whether you call the play a zone read, a read option, a shotgun handoff or anything else, the rule is the same.
“It has nothing to do with the play; that was the biggest thing that we came away from it with,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t matter what play you’re running — if you’re handing the ball off and there’s a potential that you could keep it on a bootleg or whatever, you can be hit. So, those are the rules. We’ll practice with the rules they got.”
It’s hard to blame Kelly for being confused at first, considering that the referee working the Ravens-Eagles game was confused as well: Suggs was flagged for “roughing the passer” on the play, even though the league has since confirmed that Suggs’s hit was legal, and roughing the passer is only to be called on plays when the quarterback presents a passing posture.
Kelly doesn’t seem to like the rule, but now he gets it.
After the dramatic conclusion to Super Bowl XLIX, when the pendulum swung sharply toward an inevitable Seattle win (after the latest uncanny catch on a potential game-winning drive in a title game against the Patriots) and then flew just as sharply the other way with an uncanny interception at the goal line, it was clear that the Seahawks would have a hard time getting over it.
It wasn’t nearly enough for coach Pete Carroll to display his usual effervescent confidence within the locker room after the game. Carroll took his case to the Today show, in the apparent hope that family members of players to whom he would have no access until the middle April would understand why Carroll did what he did — and in turn would prevail upon players having a hard time getting over the decision to pass instead of run to put it behind them.
In March, quarterback Russell Wilson did what Carroll couldn’t do. Wilson organized a large group of veteran players and took them to Hawaii for informal workouts.
Everyone knew about the Hawaii trip when it happened, thanks to the social media accounts of some of the players who went. Greg Bishop of SI.com has provided more details that reveal how bad it had gotten.
“[T]here was tension,” receiver Doug Baldwin told Bishop. “People thinking we should have done this, we should have done that [in the Super Bowl]. There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. And a lot that needed to be asked.”
First, Wilson had to convince players to go on the trip. He persuaded Baldwin to help, and they then recruited safety Kam Chancellor.
“Kam was pivotal,” Baldwin said. “He’s like the godfather of the locker room. Any problems, any issues, you go to him.” (By the way, Chancellor is currently holding out, with no end in sight.)
Chancellor helped persuade more defensive players to attend the carefully-planned retreat that included daily workouts, outings, and dinners. As Bishop explains it, however, “the tension endured” throughout the trip, with some of the players skipping “a handful” of workouts.
On the sixth day of the trip, a bus took the players to the edge of a cliff for what the Seahawks now call a “come to Jesus” meeting. The 45-minute session included comments from all players in attendance, with “harsh words” uttered and “all grievances” being aired. Players who thought that the decision to pass the ball was aimed at delivering the Super Bowl MVP trophy to Wilson said so, per Bishop. Players who thought teammates had not taken responsibility for their role in the outcome said so, too.
Wilson said the meeting gave him “chills,” but that doesn’t mean all is well.
“We didn’t know if the trip was going to work,” Baldwin said. “We still don’t.”
The Seahawks won’t know whether it worked until the pressures of a new season threaten to refresh the tensions of February. Will the defense be more inclined to grouse about the offense if the offense struggles in a given game, half, quarter, or drive? Will defensive players resent Wilson’s $21.9 million-per-year extension, especially with the Wilson deal (and the one given to linebacker Bobby Wagner) sparking the decision to cut defensive tackle Tony McDaniel and contributing to the refusal to re-work Chancellor’s deal?
Is Marshawn Lynch, who didn’t attend the trip to Hawaii, OK with what happened? He’s the guy who went on TV in Turkey to espouse the notion that someone didn’t want him to be the MVP and, in turn, the “face of the nation.”
Last year, the Seahawks overcame plenty of internal strife to return to the Super Bowl. This year, it will be even harder to do that, since the Seahawks will be trying to overcome disappointment of a magnitude that no NFL team has ever previously experienced.
Rex Ryan is probably going to need his kicker to be good to win some games this year, given the uncertain state of their offense.
And he wanted to make it clear he needed his kicker to be better.
Bills kicker Dan Carpenter has been good the last two years (67-of-74 field goals and 63-of-64 extra points), fourth in the league in field goal accuracy over that span. But he’s missed a pair of field goals and an extra point already this preseason.
Carpenter, however, is now on that list of concerns after a shaky start to the preseason that has featured a pair of missed field goals and one missed extra point from the new distance of 33 yards.
“I am concerned,” Ryan said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. “That is concerning because he missed a lot of camp. We have to see him kick better. Quite honestly, he needs to.
“We’re the only team in the league that keeps a kickoff specialist. With that being said, you do that to make sure you’re giving your kicker a chance to focus on one thing and that’s field goals.”
Carpenter has been dealing with a groin injury, which he said has disrupted his timing. But he’s also been around the league long enough to know that doesn’t matter.
And Ryan took comfort in Carpenter’s track record, as well.
“Hopefully it’s just a matter of time,” Ryan said. “We all know he’s been a big-money kicker. Not everybody can kick in our conditions, so the fact that he’s made them in those times gives you some comfort, but I don’t like seeing him miss kicks, ever.”
For a team that figures to be in close games, being able to trust the kicker is a must, so now it’s on Carpenter to prove himself trustworthy again.
The Giants offense found a good groove, especially in the passing game, as the 2014 season went on but they haven’t been able to carry that over to the preseason this year.
We haven’t seen much explosiveness or sustained success for the starters through three preseason games this summer, but the guy at the controls of the unit says that there’s nothing to worry about. Quarterback Eli Manning said Tuesday that the team’s preseason results have done nothing to damper his optimism for the year to come because the preseason is about laying groundwork rather than being a finished product.
“For me, preseason is just trying to grow within the offense and get the timing of the game,” Manning said, via the New York Daily News. “Obviously you’d like to go out there, have completions and score points, but it’s not going to affect your confidence in any way.”
Manning’s numbers this summer, 20-of-38 for 158 yards and an interception, are very similar to his stats from last offseason and the offense has been missing a key piece of the receiving corps — Odell Beckham last year, Victor Cruz this year — both times. Cruz may not have the impact Beckham did when he does return, but the expected boost he’ll provide and last year’s results are reason to share Manning’s confidence that things will be OK when the bell rings.
“I’m going to keep my reaction to myself,” McCoy said, via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post.
McCoy and Cousins were ostensibly battling for the backup job, at least until the team decided to park Griffin after a recent concussion. So with confusion the norm, it’s only reasonable to wonder how close McCoy might have been to the starting job himself. But pressed as to whether he thought the competition was fair, McCoy passed.
“I’m not going to get too much into that,” he said. “What has been done has been done. We as a team have to move forward, and my focus right now is on doing the best I can to get everyone on the same page and ready to go for Jacksonville.”
McCoy actually had a better completion percentage than Cousins, and the highest preseason passer rating of the three (79.2 percent, 142.4 rating). And unlike the rest of them, he wasn’t benched for performance last year, with a neck injury taking him out.
So not saying much now is probably the prudent play, since it seems inevitable that he’ll be back on the field at some point this season.
Like every other team in the league, the Patriots spent Tuesday dropping players from their roster in order to get to the 75-man limit.
Unlike some other teams, they also used the day to make additions to the roster. They made a trade with the Saints for wide receiver/kick returner Jalen Saunders, who they got an up-close look at during joint practices and a preseason game. They also claimed wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who they never saw in person with the Vikings but who they presumably scouted when he was at Notre Dame.
The tapes are a bit dated at this point since Daniels didn’t play in 2014 because of an investigation into academic misconduct. Daniels had 46 catches for 720 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2013 season and had one catch for the Vikings in the preseason.
The Patriots waived Josh Boyce with an injury, leaving them with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell (still on the PUP list), Reggie Wayne and Aaron Dobson as experienced wideouts. Daniels and Saunders join Zach D’Orazio and Chris Harper as callower options for the roster.
In other moves Tuesday, seventh-round cornerback Daryl Roberts landed on injured reserve and offensive lineman Chris Barker and linebacker D.J. Lynch were released. Defensive lineman Chris Jones and linebacker Dane Fletcher will open the regular season on the PUP list.
Sony wasn’t afraid to stand up to Kim Jong-un. Sony chose not to pick a fight with the NFL.
The studio whose 2014 holiday-season project depicting assassination of the North Korean leader sparked a hack into Sony’s servers followed by an email mega-dump has walked on eggshells (sort of) regarding a 2015 holiday-season look into the NFL’s past culture of denying the long-term impact of mild, repetitive head trauma. The evidence, of course, comes from the hack that sparked the email mega-dump.
Via Ken Belson of the New York Times, emails exchanged by Sony executives in 2014 reveal concerns on the part of lead actor Will Smith regarding the potential for unduly angering the NFL, along with possible legal and overall credibility concerns regarding the specific accusations made as to the league’s handling of concussions.
“Will [Smith] is not anti football (nor is the movie) and isn’t planning to be a spokesman for what football should be or shouldn’t be but rather is an actor taking on an exciting challenge,” a top Sony exec wrote in August 2014. “We’ll develop messaging with the help of [NFL] consultant to ensure that we are telling a dramatic story and not kicking the hornet’s nest.”
Belson shares pieces of a separate emails in which someone wrote that “unflattering moments for the [NFL]” were deleted or changed, and that a Sony lawyer supposedly took “most of the bite” out of the film “for legal reasons with the [NFL].” This suggests a concern that the telling of a “true” story could lead to a potential defamation lawsuit, if the effort to dramatize actual events included blatantly non-actual assertions regarding the way the NFL handled the situation.
Peter Landesman, the director of Concussion, told Belson that the email exchange doesn’t reflect “bowing” to the NFL but an effort to tell the story accurately in order to prevent claims by the league that the line was crossed from fact into fiction. He said that changes made by Sony lawyers make the story “better and richer and fairer.”
“We’re just being smart because any large corporation will design a response to something it considers to be a threat to its existence,” Landesman told Belson, a quote that possibly says too much about the potential agenda of the film. “We don’t want to give the [NFL] a toehold to say, ‘They are making it up,’ and damage the credibility of the movie.”
The concerns don’t go simply to credibility but to potential liability. If, for example, the movie had included an express or implied suggestion that Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encelepathy, had received any sort of express or implied threat to his own health from someone connected to the league when no such thing ever happened, that could expose Sony litigation.
“There were things that might have been creatively fun to have actors say that might not have been accurate in the heads of the [NFL] or doctors,” Landesman said. “We might have gotten away with it legally, but it might have damaged our integrity as filmmakers. We didn’t have a need to make up anything because it was powerful and revelatory on its own. . . . There was never an instance where we compromised the storytelling to protect ourselves from the [NFL].”
Landesman’s insistence that the film was never compromised doesn’t fully mesh with his own efforts to involve the NFL in the process, and in turn to potentially compromise it. Via Belson, Landesman attempted to set up a meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the film. Sony executives slammed the door on the planned meeting after learning that Landesman had independently reached out to the league.
The NFL has to date slammed the door on commenting about Concussion, with the exception of a general statement issued to Belson when asked for comment: “We are encouraged by the ongoing focus on the critical issue of player health and safety. We have no higher priority. We all know more about this issue than we did 10 or 20 years ago. As we continue to learn more, we apply those learnings to make our game and players safer.”
If that’s the case, the NFL should welcome efforts to study its past failures to fully acknowledge the long-term risks of head trauma. Of course, it’s one thing to study its past failures via an internal memo marked “confidential.” It’s quite another to have that study displayed via celluloid to the people on whom the NFL relies to buy tickets to game and to watch them on TV.
The Bills made a series of cuts, including running back Fred Jackson, to get down to 75 players and then they made a couple of moves to further shuffle up the roster.
The team claimed two players — center Dalton Freeman and linebacker Kevin Reddick — off of waivers after they failed to make the first cut with their previous teams. They waived linebacker Jimmy Gaines and tackle Tyson Chandler to make room for the new arrivals.
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley reportedly went “rogue” with the decision to cut Jackson, but Freeman’s arrival likely came with Ryan’s seal of approval. Freeman played 16 games for the Jets last season and also played at Clemson with Ryan’s son, which could help his chances of making the 53-man roster despite the short time he’ll have with the Bills before cuts are due on Saturday.
Reddick was waived by the Panthers after playing three games for them last year. He also played two games with the Chargers and saw action in all 16 games for the Saints in 2013. He’ll be in the mix for a depth role after the Bills lost Ty Powell for the season and Tony Steward for a while because of knee injuries.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not spoken much publicly since the release of the Ted Wells report in May, making a paid appearance at Salem State University just after the report was released and otherwise keeping his thoughts to himself.
Brady was back in front of a microphone on Tuesday night when the Patriots gathered for a gala supporting the team’s charitable foundation at Gillette Stadium. Brady took part in a panel discussion moderated by former Patriot and current radio voice Scott Zolak with a few teammates. There wasn’t any detailed discussion of the report or of Judge Richard Berman’s pending decision in the court case challenging Brady’s four-game suspension, although Brady’s reference was clear when he responded to Zolak’s question about something fun he did this offseason.
“Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason,” Brady said, via the Boston Herald.
It wasn’t Brady’s only quip of the night. He also compared talking to young teammates to talking to his kids because you have to repeat things over and over again until the information sinks in. That left owner Robert Kraft to directly address Deflategate as the most “overblown” story in recent history as we draw closer to finding out what Berman rules regarding Brady’s punishment almost eight months after the AFC Championship game.
The Bills are confident they’ll be able to run and stop the run.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is taking some criticism for his demeanor.
Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin discusses the process of cutting down to 53 players.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien says he wishes he could have kept a few of the guys who didn’t make the 75-player cutdown.
Colts DT Art Jones would be a big loss if he has to miss the first half of the season.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is avoiding talking about the Super Bowl.
The Packers’ special teams still need to improve.
The Buccaneers are looking for answers on special teams.
The Saints spent much of the offseason with Junior Galette, Anthony Spencer and Ronald Powell in line for roles at outside linebacker, but none of them will be on the team come the start of the regular season.
Galette was released before camp started and Spencer and Powell were both excised from the roster on Tuesday as the the Saints went to 75 players. Spencer is headed to injured reserve and Powell, a fifth-round pick in 2014, was waived/injured to leave rookie Hau’oli Kikaha and second-year player Kasim Edebali with a lot of responsibility this season.
Injuries were the big story of the Saints’ first round of cuts. This year’s third-round cornerback P.J. Williams joins Spencer on injured reserve while wide receiver Nick Toon, a 2012 fourth-rounder, and safety Vinnie Sunseri, a 2014 fifth-rounder, have also been waived with injuries. With Toon’s contract expiring after this season, he may be done with the Saints even if he does go unclaimed and revert to injured reserve.
The Saints also traded wide receiver Jalen Saunders to the Patriots, claimed defensive back Sammy Seamster off waivers and released wide receiver R.J. Harris, wide receiver Lance Lewis, fullback Erik Lorig, offensive lineman Antonio Johnson, guard Cole Manhart, linebacker Chris Young, defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, defensive tackle David Hunter, cornerback Terrence Frederick and cornerback Travis Manning.