Newsday columnist Bob Glauber stops by to break down recent developments in the ongoing concussion lawsuits between the NFL and former players. The lawsuits were presented in front of a federal court yesterday, but the ruling could take months.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
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Why did Peyton Manning fully cooperate with the NFL’s investigation into allegations that he used performance-enhancing substances, when the other four players named in an Al Jazeera documentary are refusing to talk to the NFL? Because Manning is no longer in the players’ union.
The NFL Players Association released a statement this morning noting that Manning is no longer a member of the union and therefore isn’t part of the union’s effort to fight the NFL over this investigation.
“As a former player, Peyton Manning is free to do whatever he believes is in his best interest. The Union knows that he understands the rights of players under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and would never do anything to hurt or undermine active players in support of those rights,” the NFLPA’s statement said.
Left unsaid in that statement is whether the union would have preferred that Manning refuse to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation, in solidarity with the union that represented him until he retired this offseason.
The NFLPA is still fighting on behalf of Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and free agent defensive end Mike Neal, all of whom were named in the same Al Jazeera documentary as Manning, although the specific allegations against those four players were different than the allegations against Manning. The league and the union may be headed for another protracted battle over those four players, even as the league has already cleared Manning.
Last year’s surprising decision by 49ers linebacker Chris Borland to retire after only one year (and to pay back a significant chunk of his signing bonus) sparked a new narrative for the NFL: The early retirement.
Since then, plenty of media members who would like to see football diminish or disappear along with some media member who presumably have a vested interest in its continued existence has crammed plenty of square-pegs into the round hole of “early retirement,” harping on the notion that the player chose health and safety over fame and fortune. Lost in this narrative (probably because it undermines the narrative) is the reality that, for plenty of players who are choosing to leave football before football leaves them, they’d still be playing if they were getting more money.
The latest example of this dynamic comes from Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt, who is opting for retirement over $2 million for another season in Minnesota. If he hadn’t been squeezed to drop his pay from $5.4 million, would Loadholt be walking away? My guess is that he wouldn’t be.
So, basically, Loadholt agreed to a pay cut and then decided that he wouldn’t be agreeing to a pay cut.
For other players who have opted for “early retirement,” would an enhanced financial offer have changed their minds? If someone were offering tackle Eugene Monroe $10 million per year, would he still be playing? Monroe didn’t retire until after the Ravens cut him, and then he had a chance to explore the market.
With former Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the answer is more clear. If the team hadn’t tried to reduce his salary for 2016, he would never have walked away.
Which brings me to the biggest name from the 2016 “early retirement” pool. Receiver Calvin Johnson. In a recent interview with ESPN, Johnson suggested that, if the Lions were contenders, he possibly would have kept playing.
He also possibly would have kept playing if the Lions weren’t intent on reducing his cap number of $24 million and his salary of $16 million, amounts that clearly overshoot what his value would have been to the team in 2016.
That’s not to say that every player who retires early definitely would choose to stay if the pot were a little sweeter. However, for many guys who opt to walk before they’re chased off, “early retirement” wouldn’t happen quite so early if more money were on the table.
General Manager Dave Caldwell confirmed that on Monday. Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Todd Wash met with Hardy and watched him work out in what Caldwell described as a chance to find out more about where Hardy is at the moment.
“It was an opportunity for us,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Here was a guy who was a franchise defensive end that was on the street and we tried to find out the facts of where he’s at, the truth behind him and everything that surrounds him and just do our homework. It’s not often you get to work out a player of that caliber. We have no imminent plans of signing him at this point. But it was good to get him in and find out about him.”
Caldwell said that the look at Hardy wasn’t done because the team is concerned about what young defensive ends Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue can do this year, although the increased desire to win now in Jacksonville may clash with a desire to see how things develop for two players with no regular season experience. If it does, Hardy’s name could come up again in Jacksonville.
The chances that the status quo remains in place likely hinges on Fitzpatrick’s response to the latest communication from the team. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the Jets have made “multiple offers” in hopes of Fitzpatrick liking one of them enough to return to the team.
There are no details outlining how these offers differ from the three-year, $24 million offer that would pay Fitzpatrick $12 million for the 2016 season and has been in play for a while. Whatever those details may be, the most significant one at the moment is that Fitzpatrick hasn’t liked any of the offers enough to actually go ahead and sign with the Jets, which leaves them set to open camp with Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the depth chart at quarterback.
The Jets haven’t gone public with any deadline to get Fitzpatrick back in the fold before they’ll move on for good, so more offers and options may still be put on the table. If those offers aren’t fundamentally different from what’s already come down the pike, though, there won’t be much reason to expect a different reaction from the quarterback.
When Al Jazeera linked multiple NFL players to PED use last December, the report resonated nationally for one of them. And that player has become the first one to be cleared.
“Following a comprehensive seven-month investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America, the NFL found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning was provided with or used HGH or other substances prohibited by the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, it was announced today,” the league said in a statement.
“The Mannings were fully cooperative with the investigation and provided both interviews and access to all records sought by the investigators. Initiated in January, the investigation was led by the NFL’s security and legal teams with support from expert consultants and other professionals. The investigation involved witness interviews, a review of relevant records and other materials, online research, and laboratory analysis and review. Separately, the NFL’s investigation continues into the documentary’s allegations made against other NFL players, which involve different lines of inquiry and witnesses.”
The league didn’t disclose exactly what happened during the “seven-month” investigation. Manning, who loudly denied HGH use in multiple interviews given after the story first emerged, undoubtedly denied it loudly during his interview with the NFL.
The only way for the NFL to know definitively whether Manning did or didn’t use HGH would be to receive full and complete records from the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis regarding treatment received by and medication provided to Manning and his wife, Ashley, during the relevant time period. The statement from the NFL doesn’t specifically identify those records, explaining only that the Mannings “provided access to all records sought by the investigators.” If, in theory, the investigators didn’t seek the right documents, the investigators wouldn’t have gotten the right information.
The report comes at a time when the NFL continues to insist that the other players implicated in the report — Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and free-agent defensive lineman Mike Neal — must submit to interviews even though the only publicly known evidence of HGH use comes from the Al Jazeera report. It will be hard for some (specifically Patriots fans) to reconcile the league’s ongoing investigation of these four players if the NFL already has concluded that the since-retracted claims of Charles Sly, a former Guyer Institute employee who was recorded without his knowledge, are not credible as to Manning.
If they’re not credible as to Manning, how can they be credible as to anyone else?
Gilmore is heading into the final year of his deal and didn’t take part in the voluntary portion of the team’ offseason work. Gilmore did show up for mandatory minicamp, avoiding a fine that he says he’ll also be avoiding when the Bills report to camp on Friday.
“I’m planning to go out to training camp,” Gilmore said to Josina Anderson of ESPN. “I know what I am. [A new contract will] happen eventually.”
The Bills have thus far resisted the chance to bump Gilmore’s salary into the top tier for cornerbacks and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported last week that the cornerback will likely play out this year at his $11.082 million salary. From there, the Bills could use the franchise tag in the event a longer extension remains out of reach.
Veteran receiver Greg Jennings has announced his retirement.
“Football is over. I’m done,” Jennings said in a video on YouTube. “At least within the lines of a football field, I’m done. I’m excited to be done. The past 20 years of my life has been football, but today that all changes. This smile is not going to be removed, it’s going to be enhanced. The same dedication, the same work ethic that I put into pursuing that sport, I’m pursuing everything else with the same mindset.”
The 32-year-old Jennings believes he’s still capable of contributing to some NFL team, but he thinks it’s time to try something else with his life.
“Physically I know I can still do it, I can still play, I’ve been training hard,” he said. “But I feel as though I would be going back to football, versus moving forward.”
Jennings played for the Packers from 2006 to 2012, for the Vikings in 2013 and 2014 and for the Dolphins in 2015. Last year he played in all 16 games but had career lows in catches (19), yards (208) and touchdowns (one).
Defensive end Michael Bennett has not been shy about expressing his desire for a new contract from the Seahawks, including his recent comment that “if you don’t think I’m valuable, then just get rid of me.”
The Seahawks haven’t come up with more money for Bennett to this point, but conversations on the topic are reportedly set for this week. Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the Seahawks will meet with Bennett’s agent Doug Hendrickson “early this week.”
Bennett signed a four-year, $32 million contract with Seattle in 2014, so there are two years left on his current pact and that is usually not a moment when the Seahawks pony up more money. Coach Pete Carroll did say that “we’d like to reward everybody” when talking about Bennett this year, although Carroll followed up by saying they “can’t always do that.” The willingness to consider it could bear some fruit when the two sides have a conversation.
Bennett said earlier this offseason that “of course” he’ll be at training camp, but there’s certainly time for that to change if Bennett and Hendrickson don’t like what they hear from the team. It would cost Bennett $40,000 a day in fines to go that route, however, and that cost is a high one to pay without any guarantee of a new deal coming his way.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is indeed facing a four-game suspension for missing a drug test. But Bell continues to insist that he hasn’t missed a drug test — and that he won’t be missing any games.
In a comment to an altered photo on Instagram of Bell wearing a gas mask with a bong, Bell said from his verified account that “I’m not gonna miss games, trust me.”
Many will scoff at the proclamation, given the lingering perception that Commissioner Roger Goodell retains final say over all player disciplinary issues. In 2014, however, the league agreed to use a panel of neutral arbitrators for all punishments arising under the substance-abuse and PED policies. So Bell will have a chance to have a truly independent party assess whether the league’s conclusions are warranted.
Of course, that will become harder if, as NFL Media reported over the weekend, Bell has missed several drug tests.
Stop me if you’re heard this one before (actually, don’t bother because I’m going to say it again anyway): The substance-abuse policy has a clear confidentiality provision that is supposed to keep people from knowing that a player is facing a suspension until the suspension has been finalized through the appeal process. With NFL Media confirming the initial ESPN report regarding the suspension and with NFL Media advancing the story by reporting that Bell missed multiple tests, the NFL — which owns and operates NFL Media — is violating its own policy. And no one seems to be bothered by that. Ever.
It should bother Bell, his agent, the league, the Steelers, and the NFL Players Association. Bell’s case should have been handled no differently than any other situation in which a guy faced a suspension. If he prevails on appeal, no one ever would have known that anything was amiss.
That has happened in plenty of cases over the years. If Bell ultimately wins the appeal, it’s what should have happened in his case.
Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins said recently that everything is right where it needs to be in regard to his recovery from left foot surgery, although that doesn’t mean that he feels 100 percent comfortable doing everything on the football field.
Watkins said that he feels like his foot is “healed” and that he’s doing plenty of things at full speed during his workouts with the team’s strength and conditioning staff. He’s taking his time with the rest in order to avoid a setback that could put his availability for the start of the season into question.
“As far as sprinting and stuff I’m moving and doing that 100 percent,” Watkins said, via the team’s website. “Gassers, 100s, everything in the workout room. Any explosiveness I’m doing that. I’m doing the cuts, but certain things are full speed and certain things aren’t.”
Cutting off of his left foot falls into the latter category with Watkins explaining that his “foot is tense about it.” As a result, he expects a limited workload as camp unfolds so that he and the team can feel sure that he’s able to do everything all the way before the restrictions come off.
On the surface, the NFL’s hiring practices point to a stunning failure to hire a sufficient number of African-American coaches. The more practical failure comes from the inability to hire enough good coaches, regardless of race or any other factor that shouldn’t matter.
Yes, it’s a zero-sum game. There will always be teams that fail, and the owners of the teams that fail will feel compelled to make changes in an effort to quickly reverse failure. But maybe that’s one of the things more teams should resist; regardless of a coach’s race or other factors that shouldn’t matter when it’s time to hire him, sticking with him long enough to give him a chance to flourish — or to flourish again — creates the kind of continuity that not only could pay off in a major way but also could avoid what can become a never ending lather/rinse/repeat cycle of firing a coach in the hopes of finding a quick fix.
In praising the Steelers for their decision to hire Mike Tomlin in 2007 at a time when he wasn’t the trendy pick (PFT was one of the only media outlets singing the praises loudly of the veteran defensive coach who spent only one year as a coordinator, in Minnesota, before becoming a head coach), soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tony Dungy points out that the Steelers also stick with their coaches through the down times.
It’s easy to do that, of course, when the down times are few and far between. Still, not long ago some fans in Pittsburgh were clamoring for Tomlin to go. The Rooneys ignored the noise — which is easier to do when the stadium is always full. But they always ignore the noise, setting aside the whims of the fans for the concepts that have made the Steelers one of the best franchises in football.
Only one team wins the Super Bowl ever year. For the rest, the goal is to be relevant to that conversation for as long as possible. Far more often than not, the Steelers are. Which is why they’ve had only three coaches since 1969. But maybe the Steelers contend so frequently because they make good coaching hires.
Here’s what Dungy told Peter King of TheMMQB.com about the Steelers: “I’d tell owners and people in position to make hires to slow down, and study what the Steelers do. They’ve had three coaches in almost 50 years. They don’t fire coaches. They back their coaches when times are hard, and you’re always going to have some of those times when you coach. This last time, when they hired Mike Tomlin, he wasn’t the ‘hot’ guy. [Owner] Dan Rooney took his time, and he knew exactly what they were looking for in a coach. That’s what Dan does. He hires the best person for his team, and he does it on his schedule. I think the problem lots of times with the hiring process is teams have one or two guys in mind and they rush through the process to get one of those guys without looking at more candidates. I think that can lead to mistakes.”
It definitely leads to mistakes, but good luck telling a billionaire who has his heart set on hiring a “hot” candidate that he shouldn’t do what he wants to do. Evaluating football players is a crapshoot even with the many metrics generated by scouting. For coaching, it’s much harder to quantify things. Owners become influenced by buzz — and the media has a major role in the creation of the buzz.
Of course, the lack of minority employees in key positions like offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach makes it even hard for minority candidates to generate buzz in the media or elsewhere. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed before the pool of head coaching candidates will be as diverse as it needs to be.
What can the Dolphins expect from their tight ends?
The Patriots should learn more about their offensive line with pads coming on during camp.
A look at the Bengals’ defensive line depth.
The Steelers are looking for more consistency on special teams.
The identity of the left tackle is among the questions the Jaguars will answer during camp.
A preview of what to expect from the Titans wide receivers this summer.
There are 37 players heading to camp with the Chiefs for the first time.
Setting the stage at safety for the Raiders.
How will the Chargers deploy their cornerbacks?
Who is the top pass rusher in Cowboys history?
The Eagles added three players to the roster on Sunday.
Former General Manager Phil Emery’s work is still evident on the Bears roster.
The Packers have high hopes for their defensive line.
The Falcons are looking for a few good bus drivers.
The biggest area for improvement on the Saints is clear.
Will it all come together for Buccaneers DE Will Gholston this year?
The Cardinals schedule looks like it could be tougher later in the season.
Breaking down the tight end options for the Rams.
Safety looks like a strength for the 49ers.
Tackle Phil Loadholt took a pay cut this offseason in order to hold onto his spot on the Vikings roster, but it appears he won’t be collecting that adjusted salary.
Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN report that Loadholt is expected to retire. The veteran, who is coming off a torn Achilles, is slated to meet with team officials on Monday.
Loadholt was a 2009 second-round pick of the Vikings and started 89 games over six seasons before missing all of last year because of his injury. In May, word out of Minnesota was that Loadholt was moving well during offseason work although it seems something wasn’t feeling well enough for Loadholt to continue feeling the urge to play in the NFL.
The Vikings signed former Bengals tackle Andre Smith as a free agent this offseason and Loadholt’s departure would leave him without much competition for the starting job.
The Lions put wide receiver Corey Fuller on the physically unable to perform list Sunday and it’s not clear when he’ll be ready to get back on the field after having foot surgery this offseason.
On Monday, the team will look at a few options to fill in at wideout until Fuller is healthy. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports that Tyler Davis and Larry Pinkard will be among those vying for a spot on the team.
Davis played both ways in the German Football League and did it well enough to be named the MVP, although a stint with the Dolphins this offseason ended without an invitation to camp. Pinkard spent camp and the preseason with the Packers last year, but didn’t make the 53-man roster and went on to spend time on the Raiders’ practice squad.
Davis and Pinkard will be catching passes thrown by Jimmy Clausen, who Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports will also be at the workout. Clausen recently worked out for the Redskins, although his presence was more about having someone to throw to wideouts and the presence of the wideouts suggests it could be the same situation in Detroit. Dan Orlovsky and sixth-round pick Jake Rudock are currently on the depth chart behind Matthew Stafford.
When Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert underwent ankle surgery two months ago, the expectation was that he could return Week One, but might miss the first couple regular season games. That’s still the case.
Eifert is described as “on schedule” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, which reports that the Bengals hope Eifert will be ready for the September 11 opener but there’s still a chance that rehab could take longer than expected.
Eifert suffered the ankle injury in the Pro Bowl but waited four months to have surgery on it because he hoped it would heal without surgery. If he ends up missing regular season games, that will be yet another blow to the Pro Bowl, which is already viewed by many if not most players as more trouble than it’s worth. It’s hard to see why Eifert would want to play in a Pro Bowl again, given the trouble it’s causing him now.
The more immediate concern, however, is the start of the regular season. Eifert is Andy Dalton’s favorite red zone target, and Dalton isn’t sure if Eifert will be there when the season starts.