Mike Florio breaks down trending topics around the NFL. Alfonzo Dennard will almost certainly miss some of the 2013 season after being convicted of assault, more evidence surfaces that Mike Wallace could be headed to Miami, and Lauren Silberman is set to be the first female ever to compete at the scouting combine.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Patriots’ gamble ultimately doesn’t pay off
Richard Sherman’s premise is possibly being tested. The Seattle cornerback on Sunday expressed skepticism about potential punishment of the Patriots for #DeflateGate, based on the friendship between Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. At this moment, one of the most influential owners in the NFL isn’t feeling very friendly about the office over which Goodell presides.
“If the [Ted] Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the League would apologize to our entire team and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure this past week,” Kraft said in a defiant statement written on the plane from Boston and delivered in Arizona. “I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”
As Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reported in the aftermath of Kraft’s remarks, “As one source close to the Patriots told me, this was Robert Kraft reminding Roger Goodell who he works for.”
Goodell already has shown a willingness to impose discipline on the team Robert Kraft owns, more than seven years ago in Spygate. In the aftermath of that incident, Goodell pushed for the owners to permit rules violations that undermine the integrity of the game to be proven with reduced evidentiary requirements.
“Too often, competitive violations have gone unpunished because conclusive proof of the violation was lacking,” Goodell wrote to the NFL’s Competition Committee in advance of the 2008 league meetings. “I believe we should reconsider the standard of proof to be applied in such cases, and make it easier for a competitive violation to be established.”
Therein lies the dilemma for Goodell. He ultimately obtained the power to determine violations with something other than direct evidence, such as a Patriots employee caught with a camera containing video showing he was videotaping defensive coaching signals. But Kraft wants something other than “circumstantial” evidence, even though plenty of men over the years have ended up imprisoned for life or executed based on circumstantial proof. (Eventually added to that list could be former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who faces murder charges based largely on circumstantial evidence.)
“[Y]ou’re trying to balance the due process with making sure you’re protecting the integrity of the game,” Goodell said in October regarding the challenge of determining the best way to deal with players facing serious criminal charges. “My No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game, and I will not relent on that.”
If, as the NFL already has concluded, the proper inflation of footballs represents a game-integrity issue and if, as the NFL already has concluded, the footballs used in the first half of the AFC title game were underinflated, the question becomes whether Goodell will authorize significant sanctions against the Patriots without a smoking gun — even if it means that his friendship with Robert Kraft will go up in smoke.
The Colts blocked assistant coach Rob Chudzinski as long as they could.
And then they gave him a promotion.
The Colts announced that they had agreed to a new contract with the former Browns head coach to make him the associate head coach.
“We’re excited to keep Chud in our family,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s been a critical part of our operation and we’re looking forward to sharing even more success in the future.”
The Colts brought him in this year as a special assistant to the head coach, and there were teams that wanted to interview him for coordinator jobs. They refused requests, but his contract expired this week.
They obviously want to keep him around, and he gives them depth on the offensive side of the ball, with coordinator Pep Hamilton a possibility for head coaching jobs in the future.
As the #DeflateGate controversy continues to overtake Super Bowl XLIX, the first tangible evidence other than footballs being underinflated (which the NFL has acknowledged) emerged Monday, when Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that a Patriots employee took a bag of football that had been inspected and approved by officials into a separate area. That individual has become, per Glazer’s report, a “serious person of interest” as to the question of how the footballs came to be underinflated.
As PFT reported last night, adding to Glazer’s bombshell, the separate area was a bathroom in which the employee spent approximately 90 seconds. The red state/blue state nature of the debate has caused those predisposed to assuming the Patriots are guilty to say it’s enough time to deflate the footballs. Those predisposed to assuming that this is a league- and/or media-driven witch hunt say the only leaking came from the guys urinary tract (or perhaps elsewhere).
Obviously, the report from Glazer shows an opportunity for foul play existed. And Glazer’s report became the first clear indication since this issue first arose of a chance by someone to do something to the “perfect” footballs as hand-selected by quarterback Tom Brady to make them even more perfect.
A separate question has emerged regarding whether a team employee should have even been taking the footballs on his own to the field without supervision. One source said it’s normal; another source believes it’s entirely abnormal. Regardless, Glazer’s report puts a Patriots employee in a room with a locking door alone with the footballs for, based on PFT’s addition to that report, approximately 90 seconds.
So can 12 (or in this case 11) footballs be deflated in that amount of time? One league source with extensive knowledge and experience in the NFL believes that 90 seconds provides enough time to do it — especially if the type of bag allowed the valves to be accessed without individually removing them. (The bag in the photo, for example, has a large zipper that when open permits quick access to the balls.)
The source called it as “easy” thing to do. “Needle in each ball for a couple of seconds,” the source said.
Indeed, if this is something that had been going on for some period of time, the employee would have developed a certain expertise in this regard, allowing him to do it quickly — which in turn would allow for the plausible argument to be made that there was no deflation but merely urination.
Is it conclusive evidence of tampering? Not without a camera in the bathroom or an admission from the employee. But it also becomes difficult to declare innocence, given that the contents of the surveillance video as first reported by Glazer reveal an employee of the Patriots taking the footballs into a place where, in theory, something could have been done to them.
That’s the most important thing to remember from Monday’s report. Whether it was 90 seconds or longer, whether it was the Patriots who surrendered the video or the NFL who found it, Glazer’s report shows an opportunity for tampering that had not previously been disclosed.
Questions about facing Gronkowski were waiting for the Seahawks in Arizona on Monday and linebacker Bobby Wagner was willing to call Gronkowski a “great player.” Head coach Pete Carroll said Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-time tight end” and that the team would utilize various approaches to slow him down on Sunday.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor will be a big part of those approaches and he said Monday that he thought his physical play would serve him well in the matchup.
“He definitely is a big, physical guy, but it’s just big-on-big. Just play big-on-big,” Chancellor said.
It won’t come down to just Chancellor, but the Seahawks Defense is going to have a hard time if he isn’t able to keep Gronkowski from breaking loose when the Patriots do look his way.
It feels like Bill Belichick has been coaching the Patriots forever, but he hasn’t. There was a coach of the Patriots before Belichick was hired in 2000, and that coach was Pete Carroll.
Carroll, who is preparing to coach the Seahawks against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, was fired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft after going 8-8 in 1999. And although things didn’t end well for Carroll in New England, Carroll still has warm feelings for Kraft, and Carroll actually called Kraft after the Seahawks and Patriots won the conference championship games.
“I think we’ve remained in a good relationship and it’s been very consistent,” Carroll said. “Whenever we bump into each other, whenever there is a time for us to cross paths, we always check in and that’s just been the way that it has been. So, in calling him, it was just a matter of just checkin in with him and saying, ‘Hey, didn’t know if we would bump into each other here but I wanted to make sure to say hello.'”
Carroll thinks he’s a much better coach now than he was when he coached in New England.
“I’ve been through so many experiences since then, so many challenges and it’s really just about evolving as a coach and as a man,” Carroll said. “But, you know, there were a lot of days back in those years when, man, I was just winging it and trying to do the best I could in figuring it out.”
Whatever Carroll hadn’t figured out when he was in New England, Carroll has it figured out now.
The Jaguars continue to shuffle their coaching staff, though it’s unclear if they’re making upgrades.
Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have fired running backs coach Terry Richardson, and are interviewing Raiders position coach Kelly Skipper for the vacancy.
That makes sense, in that he’d have experience with new Jaguars coordinator Greg Olson.
But the influx of Oakland influence is curious, given that the Raiders had the only offense in the league worse than Jacksonville’s, edging the Jaguars by 7.4 yards per game for the 32nd spot on the list.
The Saints slumped to a 7-9 record in 2014, well below the expectations that most people had for them coming into the season.
Quarterback Drew Brees thinks he knows why the team fell short. After the Pro Bowl, Brees told Greg Bedard of MMQB.com that he’s met with coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis and that the three men “identified the problems or the things that got us beat or the things that didn’t allow us to be as good as we know we can be.”
Brees didn’t go into great detail about what those problems or solutions are, but suggested that a lack of leadership and grit played a role. He said he hates when people talk about talent, because every team has it and things like work ethic and adaptability determine who ultimately succeeds.
“The thing you can’t lose track of is those guys in the locker room,” Brees said. “Those guys as leaders, their presence. Especially when you have young players. Listen, every team is going to have youth. It’s just the nature of the league. A majority of your team is going to be made up of first- to fourth-year players. So that leadership and guidance and institutional knowledge are very critical.”
The Saints have said goodbye to many veteran leaders of successful teams from the past and the replacements weren’t able to reach the same heights in 2014. They’ll need to do a better job of finding the right players in 2015 or the demands for explanations for a poor record will be even greater this time next year.
Jim Schwartz rebounded quickly after losing his job as the Lions head coach to become the coordinator for one of the league’s best defenses in Buffalo, but that success won’t have him back with the Bills this year.
Doug Marrone’s departure led to Rex Ryan’s arrival and the two defensive gurus decided not to work together in the 2015 season. Schwartz hasn’t found himself in the mix for any other coordinator openings around the league, something he says is fine with him as he waits for the right opportunity to continue his coaching career.
“Coaching is still in my blood and I’m just fortunate at this time of my career where I can be selective about opportunities. Where it goes from here, I don’t know. But you always have to be aware of certain dynamics that may come with it,” Schwartz said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I saw the opening up in Buffalo as a good opportunity, so I took it. But no, right now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Coaching is something I love, something I have a passion about. Another opportunity will present itself. I’m not too concerned.”
Assuming Schwartz remains unemployed for the 2015 season, it will be the first NFL season since 1996 that he won’t be on a coaching staff somewhere in the league. Given his success with the Bills and elsewhere during his career, it would be surprising if that absence extended to a second year.
It looks like the Broncos are getting the band back together.
According to Ed Werder of ESPN, veteran coach Wade Phillips is in Denver today to interview for the Broncos vacant defensive coordinator job.
He has plenty of background there, having been the head coach there in the 90s (with a quarterback named John Elway). He’s also got more recent experience with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, having worked as his defensive coordinator in Houston.
The Broncos were interested in Bengals assistant Vance Joseph, but Phillips is far from a fallback position, as he’s one of the more successful coordinators in the business.
Kevin Williams waited 11 years to try free agency.
Turns out, he’s pretty good at it.
The veteran defensive tackle’s two choices last offseason were the Seahawks and Patriots, the teams that happen to be meeting for the Super Bowl.
“Guess I couldn’t have gone wrong,’’ Williams said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
Williams said he chose the Seahawks because “I just felt more comfortable coming here versus there.’’
The longtime Vikings defensive tackle never enjoyed this kind of success, and he’s playing a much bigger role than he envisioned now.
After Brandon Mebane’s season-ending injury, he’s back in the starting lineup for one of the best defenses in recent memory.
“Mebane’s the best nose in the game,’’ defensive end Michael Bennett said. “That’s why it’s hard to come in and play at the level Mebane’s been playing at the last couple of years. But Kevin’s done a great job. The yardage has been the same since Mebane left and still been playing great run defense.’’
And come Sunday, we’ll see if Williams made the right choice.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was probably hoping he buried #DeflateGate with Saturday’s Mona Lisa Vito press conference.
And upon arriving in Arizona last night, he gave a hint of what he’s going to be saying a lot today.
Via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com, Belichick insisted that he’s said his last about the relative air pressure of footballs.
“I appreciate the questions but I’ve covered everything I can cover in the previous week,” Belichick said. “My attention is focused on the Seattle Seahawks.”
Several attempts were made to revisit the topic, but they were met the same way.
“This week,” Belichick said, “it’s all about Seattle.”
He’ll have an opportunity to reprise that answer a few dozen times today at media day. And in fairness to and solidarity with my media brethren, there are still plenty of questions to be asked.
Because as much as Belichick wants to think it’s over, there have been plenty of developments in the case since Saturday’s filibuster, including our report that there’s video of a ballboy taking a dozen footballs to the bathroom with him.
How can the Dolphins create cap space for the offseason?
The Patriots believe they can run the ball on the Seahawks.
Assessing the Texans’ chances of making a Super Bowl trip in the near future.
The Broncos want more takeaways from their defense in 2015.
Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett would like to play for Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is expected to announce a Chargers stadium advisory group this week.
A suggestion that Eagles coach Chip Kelly take a page from Pete Carroll.
Discussing the pros and cons of trading Redskins WR Pierre Garçon.
The recently deposed members of the Bears coaching staff have found new jobs quickly.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s brother Joseph was laid to rest on Monday.
Previewing the Vikings’ offseason plans at cornerback.
The Falcons coaching staff keeps taking shape while the team waits for prospective head coach Dan Quinn’s season to come to an end.
Seven Senior Bowl prospects that the Saints were keeping an eye on in Mobile.
Cardinals players had the unusual experience of playing the Pro Bowl on their home field.
The Rams will be in St. Louis in 2015, but everything’s cloudy after that.
New 49ers special teams coach Thomas McGaughey likes the team’s trophy case.
The Patriots ball boy who took the footballs to the bathroom is going to have to make room in the doghouse.
Because the guy in charge of wake-up calls at the Patriots’ team hotel is going to be in there with him.
Via Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, the fire alarm at the Patriots hotel went off in the middle of the night, forcing everyone up for about 10 minutes.
The hotel was not on fire, thankfully.
But the Patriots might not be as well-rested today as they’d have otherwise hoped.
The Bears fired defensive coordinator Mel Tucker after his unit followed up a dismal 2013 season by being as bad or worse in 2014, all of which combined to deal a blow to his reputation as a coach.
He’s headed to the college ranks to turn things around. Thayer Evans of SI.com reports that Tucker will be the defensive backs coach for the University of Alabama in 2015.
Tucker and Alabama coach Nick Saban have worked together in the past. Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State and coached the secondary for a year when Saban was at LSU, jobs that helped propel him to a defensive coordinator job at Ohio State and then a move into the professional ranks.
Tucker may be trying to make the same kind of jump after his latest stint with Saban and should have plenty of talent on hand to help him do it in Tuscaloosa.
The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make the playoffs this season, but they had a major impact on the playoffs.
Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that he felt his team’s play in the second half of a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in Week Four was a turning point for the team. That loss led to a week of questions about how good the Patriots were this season, questions they answered by winning seven straight games and establishing themselves as the best team in the AFC.
On Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said something similar about his team’s 24-20 loss to the Chiefs on November 16. The Seahawks haven’t lost a game since then and Carroll credited a team meeting his players called for galvanizing the change of fortunes.
“There’s no question that the change took place the night we got together and the days to follow because of the leadership of the 12 guys that were in that meeting. They took the thought, they took the messaging and delivered it to the club. I told them I will do our best to keep us on topic, but you guys are going to have to embed the thoughts that are going to give us a chance to adjust at this point and they did a remarkable job,” Carroll said during a press conference. “There’s no doubt that our team has changed and we’ve grown. In essence we really recaptured something that we had understood earlier and we just needed to get back in touch with it.”
The Chiefs don’t get any extra credit in the standings for being a common thread between the two Super Bowl participants, but 2015 will bring better results if they can find a way to extend that success across a full schedule.