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PFT Live: Ross Tucker, Lions/Browns to-do lists

Detroit Lions' Stafford looks for his receiver while being pressured by the Chicago Bears defense during their NFL football game in Detroit Reuters

It’s the time of the year when teams are making their plans for free agency and the meaty part of the offseason, which means that it is time for PFT Live to help the set the stage for what’s to come.

Ross Tucker of NBC Sports Network will help Mike Florio do that during Wednesday’s edition of the show. The two of them will run through some of the bigger decisions teams have to make in order to get their houses in order for next month’s free agent feeding frenzy and give their thoughts on what moves teams should or shouldn’t consider during that period.

Florio will pay special attention to the Lions and Browns, the next two teams up in our series of offseason to-do lists. The Lions decided to stick with the status quo in the front office and at head coach while the Browns are going with new faces all over the regime. Each team hopes that their approach bears fruit and we’ll discuss which moves they need to make in order to bring that fruit to their basket.

You can watch it all live at noon ET.

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Week Two power rankings

Seahawks AP

1.  Seattle Seahawks (No. 1 last week; 1-1):  They lost in San Diego.  I guess that means they now suck.  And they’ll suck just enough to win the Super Bowl again.

2. Denver Broncos (No. 2; 2-0):  With the No. 1 team on the docket for Week Three, the opportunity is there to not lose by 35 points.

3. New England Patriots (No. 4; 1-1):  Cries of “the Pats are done” became “the Pats done kicked Minnesota’s ass” on Sunday.

4. Green Bay Packers (No. 3; 1-1):  They lose a spot for flirting for too long with a lesser team, but the Packers are still a top-five franchise.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 6; 2-0):  Maybe when James Harrison said “ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun,” he was referring to the Bengals turning tables in the AFC North.

6. Carolina Panthers (No. 9; 2-0):  In a year when everyone thought they’d fade, the Panthers apparently are tightening their grip on the NFC South.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 11; 2-0):  Undefeated despite playing at an average level at best, if this team ever finds the gas pedal, they could be the biggest threat to a Seattle repeat.

8. Arizona Cardinals (No. 12; 2-0):  It’s hard to remember this team is 2-0, probably because they should have lost both of their games.

9. San Francisco 49ers (No. 5; 1-1):  Who’s got it better than us?  Anyone who opened a brand new stadium by winning the first game there.

10. Baltimore Ravens (No. 14; 1-1):  The Ravens took refuge last week in football.  The Steelers wish they hadn’t.

11. New Orleans Saints (No. 7; 0-2):  Does anyone really think this team won’t have a seat at the postseason table?

12. San Diego Chargers (No. 17; 1-1):  For those who say the Chargers created the recipe for beating the Seahawks, it helps to have access to ingredients like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and Keenan Allen.

13. Chicago Bears (No. 19; 1-1):  The Bears provide Exhibit A for the idea that no one really knows what’s going to happen in any given game, in any given week.

14. Atlanta Falcons (No. 10; 1-1):  Who scored more points this week, Roddy White’s fantasy team or his reality team?

15. Indianapolis Colts (No. 8; 0-2):  The AFC South is the Colts’ division to lose.  And they are.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 13; 1-1):  Mike Tomlin needed to trip a bunch of guys other than Jacoby Jones for the Steelers to have a chance in Baltimore last Thursday.

17. Detroit Lions (No. 15; 1-1):  Apparently, Donkey Kong Suh couldn’t get his flaming barrels through airport security.

18. Buffalo Bills (No. 26; 2-0):  The organization’s best week since January 1994 could become the best two weeks since January 1994.

19. Houston Texans (No. 24; 2-0):  Beating a mediocre franchise quarterback one week and a worse-than-mediocre franchise the next hardly means the Texans have fixed all their problems.

20. New York Jets (No. 16; 1-1):  An ill-timed timeout has helped obscure the fact that the Jets blew a huge lead.

21. Cleveland Browns (No. 31; 1-1):  If this team is still in the hunt after Josh Gordon comes back, things could get very interesting in December.

22. Washington (No. 25; 1-1):  With a defense capable of generating 10 sacks, maybe Joe Theismann could play quarterback for this team and win.

23. Dallas Cowboys (No. 27; 1-1):  After years of saying they’ll run the ball more, they finally did.  Maybe they should keep doing that.

24. Miami Dolphins (No. 20; 1-1):  Another win over the Patriots chased by another 19-point loss to the Bills.

25. St. Louis Rams (No. 28; 1-1):  Just think of how good this team could be if it had a quarterback.

26. Tennessee Titans (No. 21; 1-1):  At least no one pulled an Albert Haynesworth during the Cowboys’ return to Nashville for the first time since Andre Gurode’s forehead was shredded.

27. Minnesota Vikings (No. 18; 1-1):  For a franchise that has provided its fans with 50-plus years of disappointment, embarrassment, humiliation, and heartbreak, Monday was the lowest point yet.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 22; 0-2):  “At least we’re not the Raiders” may be the best they can say this year.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 29; 0-2):  “At least Greg Schiano’s not the coach” may be the best they can say this year.

30. New York Giants (No. 23; 0-2):  Seven years ago, the Giants reversed an 0-2 start with a Super Bowl win.  Seven years ago, the Giants had a lot more talent.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 30; 0-2):  Maybe Blake Bortles isn’t playing because they’re concerned the bubble wrap would screw up his throwing motion.

32. Oakland Raiders (No. 32; 0-2):  The Raiders aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be.  Somehow, they’re worse.

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PFT Live: Vikings talk with Chris Tomasson, PFT Planet calls and tweets

MINNESOTA VIKINGS PETERSON AP

It’s another week where the off-field conduct of NFL players is causing discussion about the league well outside of the sports pages and the Vikings’ decision to play running back Adrian Peterson this week is one of the big reasons for that crossover.

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press will join Mike Florio on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the choice that the Vikings made on Monday and the reasons why they have shifted away from deactivating Peterson like they did last Sunday against the Patriots. We’ll also get Tomasson’s take on how the Vikings’ handling of the situation is being accepted locally.

We also want to know what PFT Planet thinks about Peterson and everything else going on in the league right now. Florio will be responding to your tweets — @ProFootballTalk — and calls to 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Native American group asks owners to force change on Snyder

Snyder Getty Images

Daniel Snyder says he will never change the name of his football team. A group of Native Americans is asking the other 31 owners to take that decision out of Snyder’s hands.

The coalition of Native American organizations, called Change the Mascot, has sent a letter to the other 31 owners asking them to use a provision in the NFL bylaws that can punish an owner who is guilty of misconduct that damages the league.

“Clearly, Washington team owner Dan Snyder’s continued promotion of this racial slur represents such conduct,” reads the letter, via the Washington Post. “Put simply, Mr. Snyder is jeopardizing the welfare of the league by promoting an epithet against people of color.”

Although there was a time this year when the Washington name controversy felt like the biggest off-field issue facing the NFL, it has been put on the back burner by the cases involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and Adrian Peterson. Snyder may be the one person in the NFL who has seen a silver lining to the mess of the last couple weeks, as he’s no longer the focal point for the outrage at the NFL.

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Marty Mornhinweg: I’ve got to trust Geno Smith

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets Getty Images

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson took the blame for calling a timeout just before the Jets threw what looked like the game-tying touchdown pass in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg absolves Richardson of the responsibility.

Mornhinweg had been yelling and waving his arms in an attempt to call time, which led Richardson to make the request to the official on the Jets sideline and Mornhinweg to say that Richardson bore no responsibility for stopping the play. Mornhinweg explained Monday that he saw something he didn’t like in the team’s alignment, but that quarterback Geno Smith fixed it on his own and that he’s learned that he needs to trust Smith in similar situations as the season moves forward.

“I want to make it crystal clear everything that goes on offensively is my responsibility. Period. So I’ve got to do a better job of communicating,” Mornhinweg said, via Newsday. “And then trusting Big Geno. I’ve got to trust Geno to get everything fixed before the 40-second clock [expires].”

It was an unfortunate turn of events for the Jets, but they went on to convert the fourth down after the timeout so they still had an opportunity to tie the game. They also had an 18-point lead in the second quarter that they couldn’t protect. If they had, there wouldn’t have been many consequential plays in the fourth quarter in the first place.

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NFL hires new D.C.-based lobbyist

Capitol Getty Images

At a time of unprecedented public scrutiny that will serve only to attract further interest of the folks who have a habit of looking for causes to support that will score points with the public, the NFL has hired a new lobbyist.

The press release doesn’t describe former Deputy Assistant to the President and Counsel to the Vice President of the United States Cynthia Hogan as a lobbyist.  But that’s what she’ll be.  And lobbyists work their contacts aggressively within the political universe to advance the causes of their clients.  (Officially, Hogan is the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs.)

As further evidence of the siege mentality currently engulfing the precipice of the NFL’s organizational chart, the announcement was made not by Commissioner Roger Goodell, but by executive V.P. of communications and public affairs Paul Hicks.

“We are pleased to welcome Cynthia to our leadership team,” Hicks said.  “Cynthia’s broad experience on a wide-range of public policy issues will help advance our initiatives in Washington and around the country.”

On some issues, such as ensuring that the league’s sensitivity to concussions will trickle down to all lower levels of the sport, that’s a good thing.  On other issues, such as getting Senator Rockefeller off the NFL’s back on the question of domestic violence or pushing back against the effort to scuttle the blackout policy or the effort to change the name of the Washington franchise or a potential assault on the league’s tax-exempt status or the ever-present threat that Congress will decide that the NFL no longer should enjoy a broadcast exemption for the antitrust rules, Hogan will be serving the self-interests of 31 billionaires and a publicly-owned (sort of) billion-dollar corporation.

Given the current sense of gloom that has transformed 345 Park Avenue into 1313 Mockingbird Lane, some will assume that Hogan’s job directly will entail improving the NFL’s handling of issues of domestic abuse and other misconduct.  The truth is that she’ll be in charge of making sure that the political fallout from such scandals won’t be as bad as it otherwise could be.

Last week, Politico reported that the NFL was moving toward hiring a new chief lobbyist, explaining the complex issues that the eventual hire will confront.  While the seas may eventually calm for the league, Hogan definitely will be earning her salary in the first several weeks she’s on the job.

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Washington cuts safety Baccari Rambo

12223622 AP

Washington drew First Blood.

With safety Brandon Meriweather back from his suspension, they needed to clear a roster spot.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, that spot was created by releasing safety Baccari Rambo.

The Redskins chose Rambo in the sixth round last year out of Georgia, and immediately installed him as a starter.

But he mostly gave up big plays, and was benched quickly, starting just one more game (when Meriweather was suspended last year) the rest of the way.

 

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Jake Matthews expects to play this week

Jake Matthews AP

Falcons rookie tackle Jake Matthews was forced to the sideline for the team’s loss to the Bengals last Sunday because of a sprained ankle and the prospect of another missed game loomed with Atlanta scheduled to face the Buccaneers this Thursday.

Matthews is hoping things don’t play out that way. He was able to practice in a limited fashion on Monday and is expected to be a full participant on Tuesday as the Falcons ramp up quickly during the short week. Matthews said it will take “a lot more healing” before he’s definitely ready to play, but it is something he expects to happen in time for him to return to the lineup on Thursday.

“I’m expecting to play,” Matthews said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I know that I personally think I’ll be ready to play. But we’ll see how the week of practice goes and we’ll see what coach [Mike Smith] has to say.”

Gabe Carimi played in Matthews’s place against Cincinnati in what was a rough day for the entire Falcons offense after they sparkled in the season-opening win over the Saints.

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NFL could intervene soon in Hardy case

Hardy Getty Images

As the Panthers struggle with the question of whether to let defensive end Greg Hardy play in the wake of a judge’s finding that he committed domestic violence, the Panthers may soon be off the hook.

Per a league source, the NFL could soon be intervening in the Hardy case, suspending Hardy without pay for violating the personal-conduct policy.

Previously, the NFL had decided not to penalize Hardy because Hardy’s legal case has not been resolved.  He still hasn’t had a trial before a jury; his trial before a judge was under North Carolina criminal procedure was so preliminary and cursory that a transcript isn’t prepared unless the defendant chooses to hire a court reporter.  (In this case, Hardy did.)

As of Monday, the transcript hadn’t been prepared.  It would be prudent for the NFL to see the transcript before making a decision about Hardy.  But Hardy may not get that luxury as the post-Rice NFL struggles with the balance between due process in court and taking decisive action against misconduct.

In the end, the Panthers may get the luxury of not having to continue to tiptoe through a P.R. minefield, and they may not have to pay Hardy to not play.

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Gruden predictably claims he didn’t prefer Cousins to Griffin

Gruden Getty Images

At his Monday press conference, Washington coach Jay Gruden displayed a moment of candor, opting not to insist that Robert Griffin III definitely will be reinstalled when healthy.  Instead, Gruden addressed the hypothetical that backup Kirk Cousins could play his way into a quarterback controversy by saying, “We’ll cross that bridge when that comes.”

Gruden was predictably less candid after the press conference, when asked about the notion that the coaching staff wanted Cousins over Griffin in the first place.

“As far as the idea that Gruden somehow preferred Cousins over Griffin,” ESPN’s John Keim said on SportsCenter this morning, “I asked the first-year head coach about that after his press conference Monday and Gruden said, ‘That’s just not true.’  I told him, ‘I assume if it had been the case, he would have already been in there.’  To which Gruden replied, ‘It’s funny how that works.'”

That exchange implies that Gruden could have chosen to go with Cousins instead of Griffin, if that’s what Gruden wanted.  And that ignores the reality that Gruden simply didn’t have that luxury.  Gruden took the job knowing that Griffin is the guy.  The organization has made a huge investment in Griffin, and the organization wasn’t ready before Week One to even entertain the possibility of using Cousins instead of Griffin.

That was Joe Theismann’s point; the organization didn’t allow a quarterback competition to exist, but if a competition had existed, Cousins would have won it.

In the immediate aftermath of the Griffin injury, we reported that the coaching staff believes Cousins provides the better option to win.  Despite Gruden’s words and Keim’s unusual effort to vouch for Gruden’s position, we stand by that.

After all, pretty much everyone not on the coaching staff feels that way, too.  Moving forward, we’ll all see whether Cousins can prove that everyone was right.

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Dennis Allen: We’ve got to get better fast

Oakland Raiders v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Raiders were pummeled by the Texans on Sunday, dropping them to 0-2 and leading safety Charles Woodson to sum up the state of his team by saying “we suck.”

Coach Dennis Allen didn’t frame things in the same way Monday but said that he understood Woodson’s frustration with the way the team is performing. Allen said that the team is going to look at “everything” as the team tries to make some quick improvements.

“We’re two weeks into the season,” Allen said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “At the same time, you don’t want to bury your head in the sand. We’ve got to get better. We need to do it fast.”

Allen may not be around much longer if that doesn’t happen. A report out of Oakland on Monday has the Raiders already making contingency plans if they fire Allen, who is 8-26 in two-plus years as the team’s coach, during the season.

There are easier ways to kick off a turnaround than a road game in New England, but the Raiders have to take what the schedule’s given them and make the best of it because more of the same is going to make for another ugly season.

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Lions lose another cornerback

Detroit Lions Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

It’s two weeks into the season and the Lions have already lost two nickel cornerbacks.

Nevin Lawson, who stepped in for Bill Bentley after Bentley tore his ACL, had surgery on dislocated toes in Charlotte after Sunday’s loss to the Panthers and coach Jim Caldwell said Monday that the team is not expecting to have Lawson back in the lineup this season.

“Now how long it’s going to be, I’m not certain as of yet,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “The doctors say they’ll look at him before they release him. He’s still there. He’ll be back in a day or so. They’ll give us a prognosis on the injury. I would not anticipate that he’ll be back this year. But hopefully, he’ll heal quickly.”

Lawson’s injury leaves the team with just three healthy cornerbacks and Caldwell said that there will be additions to the roster. They could come from the practice squad, where they have Mohammed Seisay, or it could come from the signing of a veteran like Champ Bailey or Dimitri Patterson. There’s an open roster spot after the team dropped safety Nate Ness and putting Lawson on injured reserve would open up another one as the Lions try to keep a full complement of cornerbacks on the depth chart.

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Rihanna is not a fan of CBS pulling her song last week

Rihanna AP

Rihanna apparently does not love the way CBS lies.

The pop singer said this morning on Twitter that she did not appreciate the league pulling her song “Run This Town” from last week’s pregame show.

“CBS you pulled my song last week, now you wanna slide it back in this Thursday? NO, F— you! Y’all are sad for penalizing me for this,” she wrote.

Then she followed with “The audacity…”

Rihanna has something in common with Janay Rice, in that she was the victim of a high-profile domestic violence case.

That, coupled with the need to give the opening week broadcast a more serious tone, led CBS to pull the musical number.

Apparently, they won’t be going back to it.

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Brandon Meriweather returns, says he’ll hit within rules

Brandon Meriweather AP

When Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather returned from a suspension last season, he said that he would “just play and whatever happens happens” when asked about altering his game to account for the league’s rules against hitting defenseless receivers in the head and neck.

That approach didn’t quite work out for Meriweather this summer as he drew a two-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith during the preseason. Meriweather’s suspension has come to an end and now he’s signing a different tune about what he needs to do to avoid a third suspension for the same kinds of infractions.

“I have no choice but to consciously tell myself to do it now,” Meriweather said, via the Washington Post. “It’s nothing I’m willing to chance. I’m not trying to get kicked out of the league just to hit somebody hard. It’s just something I’m going to have to do.”

Meriweather also said that he wouldn’t tone down his aggressiveness and it may be hard to combine that mentality with hits that avoid the strike zone that the league wants Meriweather and other defensive players to avoid.

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Tom Brady is not interested in your social activism

Tom Brady AP

It’s not hard to find an image of Tom Brady, whether it’s in his role as the quarterback of the Patriots or on one of his many advertising opportunities.

But he said Monday he’s not interested in using his platform as an agent of social change.

During an interview with WEEI, Brady did his best to avoid saying much of anything about Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, or anything else.

I try to stay in my lane. All of those things, none of it’s really my business or my control,” Brady said, via Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal. “I’ve just been focusing on the games and what I can do better. The things that are taking place on other teams or league-wide decisions, those are a different pay grade than me.”

Asked if he could be a spokesman for any of the issues for the players, Brady said that wasn’t his role.

“I certainly have a lot of personal feelings toward all those things, but it’s just, there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “If I make a comment about it, there’s nothing I can do to make a difference. The owners of the league, the commissioner of the league, the teams themselves, the players that are involved, they’re the ones that are speaking on it. It’s not really my responsibility to speak out about those things, because there are a lot of other people doing the talking.

“I really don’t want to be involved in any of those things. I try to live and make the best decisions possible on and off the field and represent our organization and represent my family as best I can. Those things are happening. I just don’t want my name mentioned in any of those situations that are happening.”

While Brady’s certainly within his rights to mind his own business, the idea that there’s nothing he can do is well short of the truth.

Athletes have used their platforms for causes in the past, with tremendous results. And if the league was serious about changing its image as it relates toward domestic violence or other issues, they’d be wise to ask players such as Brady to help spread the word that putting your hands on women and children was not OK.

It’s one thing for a player such as Terrance Knighton to speak out, but when the players with the loudest voices stay silent, it’s easy for the message to be lost.

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Chuck Pagano: It “sure looked like” a penalty on key interception

Chuck Pagano AP

The Colts faced a third-and-9 from the Eagles’ 22-yard line with just over five minutes left on Monday night, which seemed to leave them with at least a chance to kick a field goal and go up 30-20.

They never got that chance. Andrew Luck’s pass to T.Y. Hilton wound up in the hands of Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles went down to tie the game and ultimately wound up as 30-27 winners in a game that the Colts once led comfortably.

There were questions about the play call after the game, but also about contact between Hilton and Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin that left Hilton on the turf as Jenkins grabbed the ball. On a weekend when illegal contact, holding and pass interference calls loomed large in many games, there was no flag and Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he thought there should have been one after the game.

“I think I had the same view as you did. It sure looked like it on the Jumbotron. We’ll look at the tape,” Pagano said in comments distributed by the team.

The ensuing Eagles drive featured a horse collar penalty on safety LaRon Landry for a tackle on LeSean McCoy that led to spirited disagreement from Colts defenders who thought Landry only grabbed McCoy’s jersey.

Hilton said he felt he would have caught the pass without the contact, although safety Mike Adams focused on his own failure to stop Darren Sproles when asked about the impact that the officiating decision had on the final outcome. The Colts also got the ball back later in the quarter and were forced to punt before the Eagles drove for the winning kick and they’ll have to deal with being 0-2 just the same as if they’d been beaten without any questionable calls.

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