With dreams of being like Mike and Kobe Bryant posters plastered on his walls, Justin Hunter realized early on that football, not basketball, is his future. After a devastating knee injury took away his sophomore year at Tennessee, Hunter has been working double time to make his NFL dream a reality.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Adversity can’t stop Justin Hunter
The NFLPA has made its initial filing in a New York federal court in the case involving Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. Filed with the main document was the lengthy transcript of the 10-hour appeal hearing.
PFT has obtained a copy of the transcript, and the resident lawyer has been assigned the responsibility of reading and digesting it. (Hooray?)
The process began with the testimony from the first witness called by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler: Tom Brady.
In response to questions from Kessler, Brady said all the things that would be expected. He didn’t know about any effort to deflate footballs, he didn’t direct anyone to do it, and he wasn’t even aware of the limits for air pressure inside footballs until after the 2014 game against the Jets, when Brady became “very pissed off” because the balls used in that game were “very hard.”
It turned out that the balls somehow had been inflated to 16 PSI. This prompted Brady to look up the relevant rule. He said that he then learned for the first time about the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, and he told Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld to “make sure when the referees get the balls, give them this sheet of paper that highlighted” the minimum and the maximum. Brady specifically said at that time that the balls should be inflated to 12.5 PSI.
On cross-examination, Lorin Reisner asked Brady how he arrived at 12.5 PSI as his preferred inflation.
“We basically just picked a number at that point, I guess, historically, we had always set the pressure at — before John Jastremski took over, it had been historically set at, like, 12.7 or 12.8,” Brady said. “That’s what I learned after the fact. And I think based on the Jets game, I said why don’t we just set them at 12.5, bring this [copy of the rule] to the ref and I didn’t think about it after that.”
Then Reisner asked again why Brady would pick 12.5 PSI.
“Ball pressure has been so inconsequential, I hadn’t even thought about that,” Brady said. “I think at the end of the day, the only time I thought about it was after the Jet game and then after this was brought up, after the [AFC] championship game. It’s never something that has been on my radar, registered. I never said ‘psi.’ I don’t think I even know what that meant until after the [AFC] championship game. It was something that never crossed my mind.”
And then Reisner asked again why Brady picked 12.5 PSI.
“We looked in the rule book,” Brady said.
And then, one more time, Reisner asked Brady why he picked 12.5 PSI.
“I don’t know exactly how we did it,” Brady said. “I don’t remember how we came to that other than the experience I had in the Jet game when they were grossly overinflated and then they showed me the rule book or the copy of the page in the rule book. And I said, why don’t we just set them here, 12.5, and not think about it ever again.”
Reisner then posed the obvious question that Brady apparently didn’t want to directly answer: “Did you pick 12.5 because it was toward the lower end or the lower end of the permissible range?
“I’m not sure why I picked it in particular,” Brady said, “other than having to put some — I think John [Jastremski] said he did either 12.5 or 12.6. You know, we had to pick some number that we were ultimately going to set them to, so I said why don’t we just set them all to 12.5 and that was it.”
Then came the direct point that Brady’s prior answers were trying to avoid: “Is it fair to say that you prefer the footballs inflated to a pressure level at the low end of the range?”
“Like I said, I never have thought about the ball, the air pressure in a football,” Brady said. “The only time I have ever thought about the air pressure in a football was after the Jets game when they were at the level of 16.
“So whenever I went to pick the game balls, I never once in 15 years ever asked what the ball pressure was set at until after the Jet game. So whether it’s 12.5 or 12.6 or 12.7 or 12.8 or 12.9 or 13, all the way up to the Colts game, I still think it’s inconsequential to what the actual feel of a grip of a football would be.
“So the fact that there could be a ball that’s set at 12.5 that I would disapprove of, there could be a ball at 13 that I could approve of. It all is depending on how the ball feels in my hand on that particular day.”
Reisner kept at it, trying to get Brady to admit he wanted as little air as possible in the balls, with the implication being that he’d take even less than the minimum, if he could get it.
“And the request that 12.5 was your preferred pressure level was because you like the balls inflated at the low end of the permissible range; is that fair?” Lorin Reisner asked.
“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Brady said.
“You didn’t just pick 12.5 randomly, correct?”
“No, we picked 12.5 because that was — I don’t know why we picked 12.5. We could have picked 12.6. I don’t even remember it being part of the conversation; I really don’t. I don’t remember exactly how we set it other than I had this experience at the Jet game where the balls were at 16.
“I didn’t like that. That’s the first time I ever complained. So when I say 12 and a half and 13 and a half, I made the determination let’s just set them at 12 and a half.”
“And that wasn’t chosen randomly,” Reisner later asked, “but it was chosen because you preferred that inflation level, fair?”
“I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin” Brady said. “I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.”
Brady later explained that none of it matters; “I think the irony of everything is I don’t even squeeze a football,” he said.
“I think that’s something that’s really important to know is I grip the ball as loosely as possible. I don’t even squeeze the ball and I think that’s why it’s impossible for me to probably tell the difference between what 12.5 and 12.7 and 12.9 and 13 because I’m just gripping it like a golf club. I’ve tried to explain it. It’s like a golf club. You don’t squeeze the golf club. You handle it very gently. And that’s the same way I handle a football.”
Brady never directly admitted what his decision to go with 12.5 PSI necessarily conveys — that he preferred the footballs to be inflated at 12.5 PSI because that was the lowest permissible amount. That kind of evasiveness can make people think he’s wary of that next logical step is, if he likes 12.5 PSI, he possibly loves 12.3 or 12.0 or 11.5.
The truth could be that Brady simply allowed him competitive nature take over during the questioning, which caused him to fight as hard as he could to avoid conceding a point that could be used against him. What Brady didn’t realize is that the effort to fight the point he should have just conceded does even more potential damage.
When I practiced law (and while reading through the 456-page transcript I’m more and more grateful I no longer do), I always told my witnesses to concede whatever they had to concede, without resistance. Resistance always comes off worse than just agreeing with the undeniable point the lawyer is trying to make, and moving on.
The Lions want to lock up a pair of key defensive parts, including one which hasn’t taken a snap for them.
Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew said he was working on new deals for both linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who are entering the finals years of their respective contracts.
The last time Mayhew talked much about negotiations, they centered on now-Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, so the G.M. is probably a little gun-shy about talking about such things.
“We’re in discussions with DeAndre at this time,” Mayhew said. “That’s about all I’ll say about it.”
Levy is one of the most productive 4-3 outside linebackers in the league, though he hasn’t drawn Pro Bowl recognition because of the all-star game’s almost exclusive choices of 3-4 pass-rushers at that position. But he’s had 270 tackles the last two years, and the Lions recognize his value.
“He’s a heck of a football player, just a playmaker on our defense versus the run and the pass,” Mayhew said. “The guy’s an impact player, so we definitely want to keep him on our defense. It’s very important to our football team. His leadership is also excellent and professional in every sense of the word, so he has a lot of value to us and he’s one of our own guys so we want to definitely keep him around.”
Ngata hasn’t practiced yet because of a hamstring strain, but he’s fills a big need for them after both Suh and Nick Fairley were allowed to leave in free agency.
Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy has bounced from the Packers to the Patriots and Chiefs over the last two years as he’s tried to find a home in the NFL and now he’ll look for an extended stay in the same state where he played his college ball.
Worthy has been claimed off of waivers by the Lions a day after the Chiefs parted ways with him. Worthy played at Michigan State in college and became a second-round pick of the Packers in 2012 after making the All-America team in his final year in Lansing.
Worthy saw action with Green Bay as a rookie, but tore his ACL at the end of the year and played in only two games during his second NFL season. The Packers traded him to the Patriots and he wound up on the Chiefs practice squad last year after failing to make the Pats out of camp.
According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions website, Worthy will compete for snaps at tackle, where Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Caraun Reid and 2015 fourth-round pick Gabe Wright are already in the mix for playing time.
The Panthers signed cornerback Chris Houston in June in hopes that he was recovered from the toe injury that kept him out of the league last season and could help their secondary, but that hope will go unfulfilled.
Houston has been able to practice with the team, but sat out Sunday after hurting his toe on Saturday. Houston returned to the field Monday, but it appears he’s lost the desire to continue pursuing professional football as a career. Houston announced that he’s retiring from the NFL on Tuesday.
Houston spent seven years with the Falcons and Lions and was a starter for most of his time with both teams. He ends his career with 376 tackles, 13 interceptions, three touchdowns and four forced fumbles.
His departure leaves the Panthers with the same collection of cornerbacks they had before taking a flier on Houston — Charles Tillman, Josh Norman, Bene’ Benwikere and Melvin White are the experienced names — and makes two retirements from the Panthers roster in as many weeks. Tackle Jonathan Martin also walked away from the game rather than try to resume his career after recovering from a back injury.
Full transparency is coming to the Tom Brady appeal process.
Judge Richard M. Berman, who strongly hinted on Friday that he won’t be inclined to allow the NFL and NFLPA to keep the transcript of the 10-hour Tom Brady appeal hearing secret, has ordered the parties to not submit materials under seal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
It means that the transcript of the Brady appeal hearing will soon be made public.
The NFLPA previously attached the transcript as an exhibit to the filing made under seal in federal court in Minnesota. With that case transferred back to New York, the union soon will be re-filing its initial submission, with the transcript as an exhibit.
And the transcript at that point will be a matter of public record. Which means that it’ll be time to brew some coffee and put on the cheaters, because anyone paid to comment on this case will be compelled to read every word of every page of the transcript.
As he continues to defend himself against claims of racism, Eagles coach Chip Kelly acknowledged the reason may be because of the way he handled a guy who actually committed some.
According to Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com, Kelly was asked Tuesday if he saw a connection between his treatment of wide receiver Riley Cooper after his videotaped racial slur and remarks by former players including Brandon Boykin and LeSean McCoy.
“There could be,” Kelly said. “I literally don’t spend time trying to connect Y to X to Z. We have other things to do.”
Of course, the other “grown men of our culture” might feel differently about it than Kelly, especially after Cooper was rewarded with a $22.5 million contract extension after the 2013 season.
“I think that Riley made a mistake,” Kelly said. “That’s part of it. We all backed him. Michael [Vick] backed him. Jason Avant backed him. I think that’s part of being in an organization and on a team. I look at that as a specific incident where he was 100-percent wrong. Those are things that should never be said.
“I hope he learned his lesson. I think he regrets what he did that day, every single day. I see that in him. Do I regret what I did in terms of how we handled Riley? No, I don’t.”
Kelly also defended himself against Boykin’s clarification that he thought Kelly struggled to communicate, rather than implying a more sinister motive.
“We have an open-door policy,” Kelly said. “I had a long talk with Brandon last spring when he came in and sat down and talked to me. You can come talk to me whenever you want to come talk to me. We also have a pretty structured day where guys are in meetings. I don’t just walk around and say, ‘Hey, let me go grab him and sit down and have a coffee together.’ When they get here, they’re doing stuff.
“In the offseason, we’re limited with our time. You get guys for four hours, there’s not a time when we’re all sitting around, holding hands, singing ‘Kumbaya’ together. We’re in meeting rooms, getting stuff done. They’re in the training room, getting stuff done. They’re on the training field, getting stuff done. I don’t think it’s any different from any other head coaches in terms of where you are.”
Of course, other coaches are more personable, or at least not so painfully uncomfortable in the public eye than Kelly, so interpersonal communication might not be so much of a struggle.
But to ignore the connection between sheltering/paying Cooper and the scorn of those who didn’t continue to receive checks from the Eagles seems naive. While many were able to forgive Cooper and move on, others were never going to be able to, and from that standpoint, what Kelly is dealing with now may have been inevitable.
The Browns want Terrelle Pryor “1000 percent” focused on playing wide receiver, but it doesn’t look like they’ll mind opposing defenses worrying about the possibility that he’ll be throwing passes this season.
Pryor threw a couple of passes during Tuesday’s practice, one of which came off an end-around during 11-on-11 drills. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com described the toss as a “wobbling duck down the right sideline” which Travis Benjamin was able to catch after cornerback Pierre Desir. Pryor poked some fun at himself after practice.
“They said it was wobbly and ugly,” Pryor said. “They said I lost my QB skills. I told them I never had them.”
Coach Mike Pettine suggested that this won’t be the last time the team tries a bit of trickery with Pryor on offense this season.
“Special plays are going to be part of our plan each week,” Pettine said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “You want to have those up, the sooner the better. I’m just a firm believer of always having that option. If it’s there, you have a couple practiced and ready to go. If you get into a game where there’s a lull on both sides offensively, you need something to break it open. Having a guy like Terrelle certainly gives us that ability.”
Any use of Pryor will be contingent on him being healthy enough to be on the field, something that wasn’t the case for all of Tuesday’s session. Pryor tweaked his hamstring, which he iced while watching practice. Pettine said that he didn’t believe it was serious, but that Pryor would undergo further evaluation.
Safety Darren Woodson stayed with the Cowboys long enough to play for five different head coaches and he played well enough for those coaches to earn a spot among the best players to wear the star on their helmets.
The Cowboys announced Tuesday that Woodson will enter the team’s Ring of Honor during the team’s November 1 game against the Seahawks. He’s the 21st inductee and the first since Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley were enshrined in 2011.
Woodson spent his entire 13-year career in Dallas and was selected to five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams during a tenure that also saw him earn three Super Bowl rings. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles and intercepted 23 passes during his career.
“He’s the ultimate warrior. There’s no more like him,” former teammate Nate Newton said, via the team’s website. “He never left the field. He played all the special teams. He only left the field with the offense. He made everyone better. He was the back end to our defense.”
Woodson was a semi-finalist in the voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2015 class and remains eligible for consideration for that body in 2016.
The break is over. And we’re coming back with a bang.
After three years of a format that included a lot of different people (all of whom did a great job — except for perhaps one former offensive lineman with an affinity for candy), Pro Football Talk on NBCSN returns for the 2015 season with a new format. And a new, permanent, daily member of the show.
Two-time Super Bowl champion safety Rodney Harrison joins the program every weekday. He’ll contribute on most days from his home in Atlanta. I’ll contribute on most days from my home in West Virginia. And Paul Burmeister will be caught in the crossfire from the NBC Sports Group studios in Connecticut.
If you’ve seen over the years some of the segments Rodney and I have done as web-only features during Sunday Night Football, you already know that we have very good chemistry. The relationship works primarily because Rodney’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind, and because I’m afraid of Rodney.
In this format, I won’t be as afraid. Because he won’t be able to kick me under the desk or punch me above it. (At least not at that moment. But I still have to see him on Sundays.)
Rodney seems to be looking forward to the new arrangement.
“Finally adding a football expert to the show,” Harrison told me via text this afternoon. “I got tired of listening to a fraud. Who listens to a guy who never had jock itch or made a tackle?”
(In my defense, I’ve had jock itch.)
“The only thing you ever hit hard was a mosquito,” Harrison added.
Can someone with NBC remind me why I thought this would be a good idea?
It definitely will be a good idea for you to join Rodney, Paul, and me when Pro Football Talk returns to NBCSN next Monday, at 6:30 p.m. ET. The next day, we settle in to our normal time of 6:00 p.m. ET.
In early September, we’ll do a show or two live from Gillette Stadium. Side by side. Where Rodney played for the Patriots. Right on the very edge of the field where Rodney used to apply hard hits to organisms far larger than mosquitoes.
What could go wrong?
It appears the Texans will be without their most important offensive player when the season begins.
That could mean the injured reserve/designated for return list could be in play, though there are no details yet as to the extent of the damage.
As to the damage for the Texans’ offense, it’s hard to overstate that.
The Chargers have high hopes for running back Melvin Gordon after taking him in the first round of the NFL draft and there will likely be some Chargers fans wearing his jersey during games this season, but one interested party is going to be waiting a while before throwing on No. 28.
That party is Gordon’s mother Carmen, who is described as thinking “she’s a coach” by her son. Like many coaches, Carmen Gordon isn’t going to put the cart before the horse when it comes to a player who still needs to prove himself at the professional level.
“You’ve got to show me a little something, but it won’t be this year,” Carmen Gordon said, via ESPN.com. “So you might see me in the stands, but I won’t have the jersey on. I did the same thing in college because I just want to hear what people are saying.”
Gordon’s arrival in San Diego will also force her mother to root against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who she says she likes because “he was a bad boy back in the day.” If her son shows more than a little something as a rookie, it would help the Chargers in their quest to succeed the Broncos as AFC West champs and perhaps convince Mom to start wearing his jersey.
The Cowboys and Broncos had to be backed against a wall and a deadline before reaching deals to keep their young wide receivers.
The Colts may be a little more proactive.
While he also noted that “nothing is imminent,” the fact they’re talking could be meaningful.
The Colts have effectively said they’re not going to address quarterback Andrew Luck’s deal until after the coming year. They’ve already picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal to carry him through 2016, which may be why they’ve taken such a casual approach to what is going to be a huge deal whenever it is signed.
Hilton has already noted the four-year, $70 million deals signed by Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas as setting the bar. He’s currently working out the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $1.542 million this year.
Of course, the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round this year, so it will be interesting to see if Rosenhaus’s visit creates any momentum toward a deal.
The NFL has asked venues in Los Angeles to let them know by tomorrow if they’re interested in being temporary hosts of a professional football team.
And mostly, what they’re hearing is “No, thanks.”
According to Nathan Fenno and Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, there isn’t a land rush to offer the Chargers, and/or Raiders and/or Rams a place to play before a new stadium can be built in Carson and/or Inglewood.
The Coliseum is the only venue to publicly admit interest.
The 27,000-seat StubHub Center, home of the MLS L.A. Galaxy, is the latest venue to pull out of the running, joining the Rose Bowl as expressing no interest.
“We’ve really just begun,” NFL L.A. point man Eric Grubman said. “Aug. 5 was a date that helped us know what venues might be available in a traditional sense and I think that has sorted itself out. . . . Other, more complex opportunities could very well present themselves as the picture becomes clearer.”
That seems to point to the baseball stadiums of the Angels and Dodgers, and those facilities aren’t expected to submit proposals on the NFL’s timeline, on account of the whole maybe hosting playoff games of their own thing.
But Grubman remains confident, saying: “In any event, I think this works itself out by the end of this year.”
Of course, the NFL has been expressing that kind of optimism throughout. Whether the buildings of Los Angeles have any more interest than the citizenry remains to be seen.
During an appearance on the Zaslow and Joy Show on 104.3 The Ticket in Miami, Incognito admitted that he’s circled those games in red on his calendar but says it’s not because of any hard feelings about the team suspending him in the wake of bullying allegations during the 2013 season.
“Not one bit. I don’t have one hard feeling about anybody I ever played with in Miami,” Incognito said. “I still got a lot of love for those guys, a lot of respect for those guys, still got a lot of close friends on that team. What went down went down and it was a crazy time and things were said, but I really don’t have any hard feelings toward anybody.”
If there’s another reason to pay special attention to the meetings with the Dolphins, it could be the arrival of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in South Florida. Incognito said that the Bills are going to have their hands full dealing with Suh, Cameron Wake and the rest of the Dolphins defensive line as they try to keep pace in the AFC East this season.
Texans running back Arian Foster spent most of Monday night’s practice on the sideline, but coach Bill O’Brien said after the workout that it was just a rest day for the veteran back.
“We’ve got to monitor Arian, like I told you guys that in the offseason and I think that’s what that’s all about today,” O’Brien said.
A pair of ESPN reports that there was more to the decision than that. Adam Schefter reports that Foster came up limping after a pass play that was his final action of the evening and Tania Ganguli reports that he suffered a groin injury on the play.
There’s no word on the severity of the injury and there’s certainly no reason to push Foster through a muscular injury that could get worse at this point in camp, but it does offer a reminder that Foster has missed 11 games over the last two seasons with injuries. Even if this isn’t a serious issue, it’s a good bet that the Texans do what they can to rest Foster and raise the chances that he will be on the field to help take pressure off their quarterback come the regular season.
UPDATE 1:50 p.m. ET: Jayson Braddock of ESPN 97.5 in Houston reports that Foster may need surgery, something that Ganguli and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle are reporting as well. Braddock adds that Foster may be a candidate for injured reserve/return, which would keep him out of the lineup for at least eight games.