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Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Chicago Bears

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

The 2013 Bears scored the second-most points in franchise history (445). Only the 1985 Bears tallied more in regular season play, putting up 456 in their bulldozing of all non-Dan Marino-led competition in a 15-1 season.

But for all of their skill on offense, the 2013 Bears were overmatched on defense, surrendering 478 points, 57 points more than any previous Chicago club had given up.

Long before the Packers’ Randall Cobb sprinted through the Chicago secondary en route to the division-clinching touchdown in the regular season finale, the Bears’ defense was broken. Chicago surrendered at least 28 points in half of its games, including 54 to Philadelphia, 45 to Washington, 42 to St. Louis and 40 to Detroit. No team allowed more yards per play than the Bears, and no team was worse against the run.

In the offseason, the Bears set out to bolster that “D,” signing two of the best available defensive ends (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen) and drafting defensive players with four of their first five picks. On offense, the Bears tried to build continuity. They re-committed to quarterback Jay Cutler, signing him to a seven-year contract worth up to $126.7 million in January. In May, they signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall to a four-year deal worth as much as $40 million.

These were logical moves for Chicago. For once, it was the offense didn’t need much work. Now, the focus turns to whether the defense can provide more resistance in head coach Marc Trestman’s second season on the job.

Strengths.

The Bears’ 2014 offense could be one of the best the franchise has ever fielded. Marshall (100 catches, 1,295 yards, 12 TDs in 2013) and fellow starting wideout Alshon Jeffery (89-1,421-7) were Pro Bowlers a season ago, as were tailback Matt Forte (1,933 combined rushing-receiving yards) and right guard Kyle Long.

Cutler — now in sixth season in Chicago — appears to have taken well to Trestman’s scheme. The strong-armed Cutler connected on 63.1 percent of his throws a season ago, his best completion percentage in six years. He’s quite capable of being the first Bears quarterback to make a Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon 29 years ago.

If Cutler gets an all-star nod, he’ll be aided by strength of his pass catching corps. Marshall and Jeffery form an outstanding tandem. Forte is one of the game’s best receivers out of the backfield. Tight end Martellus Bennett is solid, too.

In Trestman’s inaugural campaign, the Bears’ passing attempts rose nearly 20 percent, but total sacks were down more than 30 percent. Moreover, the club’s completion percentage was up more than five percent. In short, the 2013 Bears threw it more and threw it better — and their quarterbacks hit the ground less. That’s testament to Trestman’s scheme, but it also reflects well on the offensive line, which the club overhauled last year, drafting Long and right tackle Jordan Mills and signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson.

The Bears can only hope their offseason D-line investment will pay similar dividends. And Allen, Houston and ex-Lions end Willie Young should strengthen a defense that got just 20 sacks from its front four a season ago.

Finally, in Robbie Gould, the Bears have one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. He hit 26-of-29 field goals in 2013, including 9-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond.

Weaknesses.

Even with an upgraded defensive line, the Bears’ defense looms a major concern. The top player in the LB corps, Lance Briggs, will be 34 in November. Shea McClellin, the Bears’ 2012 first-round pick, could get reps at strong-side and middle linebacker in an attempt to jump-start his career. More is also needed from second-year pro Jon Bostic, whether at middle or outside linebacker.

The Bears’ secondary also looks shaky. Per Pro Football Focus grades, the club had two of the four worst starting safeties in 2013 (SS Major Wright, FS Chris Conte). Wright departed in free agency, and Conte comes off shoulder surgery. The Bears added four veterans and a draft pick at safety, which at least gives them some options as they try to craft a workable solution on the back end.

The Bears’ cornerback play should also be monitored. The club added some much-needed youth and depth in the draft, taking Kyle Fuller in Round One. Fuller, veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman figure as the top three corners. If the 33-year-old Tillman stays healthy and returns to form, and if Fuller is a quick study, the Bears should be just fine at this key position. But if Tillman misses time, and if Fuller isn’t quite ready for prime time, the Bears could have a problem.

The worries don’t stop there. The Bears’ special teams are quite unsettled entering training camp. The club will have a new punter, holder, long-snapper, punt returner and kickoff returner. And backup quarterback could be a trouble spot after the departure of Josh McCown. Veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer and sixth-round rookie David Fales will vie to back up Cutler. Clausen and Palmer have generally struggled against NFL competition, but Trestman is masterful with quarterbacks.

Changes.

The defensive depth chart got a makeover. The Bears released defensive end Julius Peppers and didn’t bring back defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive end Corey Wootton or linebacker James Anderson. The Bears’ most expensive free agent signings — Houston and Allen — are defensive ends, a nod to the premium that ready-made pass rushers command. To bolster the defensive tackle depth, the Bears turned to the draft, selecting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively.

The Bears took a value shopping approach at safety. Free agent additions Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Adrian Wilson are all slated to make less than $1 million in salary this season, per NFLPA records.

On offense, the changes were reserved to backup spots. McCown left to be the Buccaneers’ starter, while tailback Michael Bush and Earl Bennett were released. Rookie Ka’Deem Carey could help replace Bush, while former Washington wideout Josh Morgan was signed to bolster the WR depth.

The Bears underwent several major shakeups in the kicking game. Long-time star returner Devin Hester signed with Atlanta. Punter Adam Podlesh was released, and the club spent a draft pick on a potential replacement (Pat O’Donnell, Round Six). Then, late in the offseason, 16-year long-snapper Patrick Mannelly retired, adding another layer of uncertainty to the special teams.

Camp battles.

Here are the positions and players to watch:

— Safety: Ex-Giant Mundy might have the edge at strong safety, but Wilson is a wild card if he has something left after missing the 2013 season with an Achilles injury. Rookie Vereen is the biggest threat to the incumbent Conte at free safety.

— Cornerback: The progress of Fuller must be monitored. There are plenty of snaps to be had in this secondary if he’s up to it.

— Defensive tackle: Can Ferguson or Sutton push starters Jay Ratliff and Stephen Paea? If not, can the rookies at least prove capable rotation players?

— Linebacker: Will Bostic, McClellin and second-year outside linebacker Khaseem Greene step up their play? The Bears didn’t draft a linebacker and added only veteran backup Jordan Senn in free agency.

— Wide receiver: Morgan and second-year pro Marquess Wilson appear the favorites to replace Bennett as the third receiver.

— Running back: Carey and second-year pro Michael Ford will compete for the little work that won’t go to Forte, a true three-down back.

— Quarterback: Palmer, Clausen and Fales will compete for no more than two reserve roles. The question is, which of this trio most quickly applies Trestman’s lessons?

— Returner: Eric Weems is the most experienced option in the competition to return kickoffs and punts.

— Punter: O’Donnell will try to hold off veteran Tress Way.

— Long-snapper: First-year pro Brandon Hartson and CFL veteran Chad Rempel will battle it out.

Prospects.

The Bears must hang tough early. Six of their first nine games are on the road, including trips to visit the 49ers (Week Two), Falcons (Week Six), Patriots (Week Eight) and Packers (Week 10).

If Chicago can get through that nine-pack in decent order, there’s a real chance to close with gusto. From November 16 through December 21, the Bears play five home games and take just one road trip — Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears end their season at Minnesota — no picnic, yes, but not the worst draw ever.

It all looks fairly cut-and-dried with the Bears. If their defense is better, and if their offense hums along, they are serious contenders for a playoff spot. But if the defense remains a sieve, and if the offense regresses, they are vulnerable.

The Bears aren’t the youngest of teams. Tillman and Briggs don’t have many NFL years left. Cutler and Marshall aren’t kids, either, and Forte is approaching 2,000 career touches. There ought to be a real sense of urgency to get into the playoffs with an offense this talented. As Bears observers with any sense of history would tell you, scoring points traditionally hasn’t been a Chicago strength.

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Arian Foster looking at football differently during twilight of career

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Texans are expected to cut ties with running back Arian Foster, due in part to concerns from the man who signs the checks that Foster spends too much time rehabbing soft-tissue injuries.

As Foster, who’ll turn 30 in August, heads toward the final years of his NFL career, his feelings on football are hardening.

I watch zero football. I swear,” Foster recently told actor Michael Rapaport in a podcast, via the Houston Chronicle. “Of course, I used to be a super fan growing up. Once you see the business side, you see it differently. I’m pondering entering the last couple, 3-4 years of my career and I’m thinking about what life will be like after football and I’m looking at the game differently. I look at it more like, ‘I hope these guys come out healthy because they’ve got families.’ It’s not just entertainment to me any more. I see the men and the humans behind it. It’s a vantage point that not a lot of people get to see. I still do enjoy the game. I love it, but it’s just hard for me to watch it from a fan perspective.”

Foster also pointed out the double standard that applies to owners and players, with no one batting an eye when a team rips up a contract but players being accused of selfishness and greed when they have outperformed their contracts.

“He’s doing what is best for him and his family,” Foster said of the player who asks for more. “It’s a business move. People don’t think about that. They don’t look at you as a human anymore once you make a certain amount of money.”

Foster likewise expressed concerns about Thursday night games, but his feelings are far from universal. It seems that for every player who publicly questions short-week games, many others have no issue with it — especially when considering the light work week before the game and the mini-bye on the back end.

“I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining,” Foster said. “I’m not complaining, I love what I do. I’m very . . . I don’t want to say privileged because that’s disrespectful to the work I’ve put in and everybody else put in, but I’m just very grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL.”

Given the position he plays and his history of injuries, the opportunity in Houston could soon be evaporating. The question then becomes whether and for how much compensation other teams will provide him another opportunity.

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Johnny Lattner, Heisman winner and Steeler, dies at 83

johnnylattner Getty Images

Johnny Lattner, who was one of the greatest players in college football history but saw his NFL career cut short by an injury suffered in the Air Force, has died at the age of 83.

Notre Dame, where Lattner won the 1953 Heisman Trophy, confirmed Lattner’s death. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Lattner had been suffering from lung cancer.

Lattner was born and raised in Chicago and played halfback, defensive back, punter and kick returner for legendary coach Frank Leahy at Notre Dame. Lattner won the Maxwell Award as the best player in college football in both 1952 and 1953; he and Tim Tebow are the only players to win more than one Maxwell in the 80-year history of that award. Lattner also won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, when he led Notre Dame to a 9-0-1 record.

The Steelers chose Lattner in the first round of the 1954 NFL draft, and as a rookie he finished eighth in the league in all-purpose yards and was chosen as a Pro Bowl kick returner. But in 1955 he left the NFL for the Air Force, and while playing in a football game in the service he suffered a knee injury serious enough that he was never able to play football again.

In his later life, Lattner had a successful business career and was known for his generosity and particularly for lending out his Heisman Trophy for charity events and fundraisers for Fenwick High School, where he was a football and basketball star in the 1940s and where many of his eight children and 25 grandchildren also played football.

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Grubman bristles at rumor he’ll land with L.A. Rams

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NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman became the in-house point man for the league’s return to Los Angeles. He emerged, as chronicled in a lengthy item from Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. of ESPN the Magazine, as a perceived supporter of the Stan Kroenke’s desire to move the Rams to L.A.

Grubman apparently also surfaced within the league’s rumor mill, as noted in the ESPN article, as a candidate to land a cushy gig with the Rams after they return to L.A. The ESPN article calls the rumors “persistent,” creating a belief by some that Grubman was an “agent for Inglewood.”

Via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Grubman takes umbrage at the notion he’ll land with the Rams.

It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Grubman said two days before the Super Bowl, via Thomas. “I was personally insulted by that. I don’t like that implication or insinuation. It could not be further from the truth.”

The overall dynamics remain unusual. The ESPN article reports that Grubman at one point submitted a bid in the blind auction that resulted in Kroenke securing the land on which the new Rams stadium will be built. Which placed Grubman (or whoever he was representing in that stage of the process) at odds with Kroenke.

Now that Grubman has helped Kroenke leave for L.A., perhaps Grubman can help someone else return to St. Louis.

“I think it’s all about what St. Louis wants,” Grubman told Thomas. “If St. Louis wants to be an NFL city, they’ve got a hell of a chance of being one. If they don’t, or they’re ambivalent about it, then it’s a lot tougher.”

Ultimately, it comes down to how deep the politicians are willing to dig in the public coffers. Or, as in the case of Kroenke and the Rams, whether an owner is hell bent on moving his team to St. Louis, even if he has to pay for the stadium himself.

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Emmitt wonders if CTE fears will keep his rushing record safe

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When Emmitt Smith was playing in the NFL, teams didn’t hesitate to run their best players into the ground. When Smith played through a separated shoulder in a big game against the Giants, all the talk was about what a tough guy Smith was, not about whether it might be inadvisable for a player to play through an injury.

Times change, and these days, it’s not only acceptable for a player to sit out when he’s hurt, but a requirement if the injury in question is a concussion. Smith thinks greater concerns about player safety — particularly CTE — will shorten careers, and as a result he thinks it’s unlikely that any running back will play long enough to break his all-time record of 18,355 rushing yards.

“It’s a reflection of the changing times in terms of how they value the running back position and how the game has changed into a running back-by-committee approach,” Smith told ESPN. “It could be because of the CTE stuff, it could be because of how offenses use spread formations vs. the I-formation and it could be the way they rotate players in and out.”

Smith acknowledged that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a shot at the rushing record, but Smith doubts that anyone other than Peterson could reach it.

“If he doesn’t get it, I don’t know who’s going to get it,” Smith said. “He’s still got a lot of yards to go. I’m not going to lie to you.”

Although Peterson is still going strong, leading the NFL with 1,485 yards last season, he is unlikely to top Smith’s record: Peterson turns 31 next month and is still 6,680 yards behind Smith. Even if Peterson can run for 1,485 yards a season at ages 31, 32, 33 and 34 — an enormous “if” — he would still be short of Smith’s record.

At a time when players like Marshawn Lynch, Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, Jason Worilds, Jake Locker, Anthony Davis and Chris Borland are walking away from the game early, fewer and fewer players will want to keep playing as long as Smith did. That’s one reason his record seems safe.

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Saturday one-liners

Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Should the Dolphins let Lamar Miller walk and welcome Matt Forte to Miami?

Should the Patriots, who need help at running back, pursue Forte, too?

The Bills’ “Bermuda Triangle” reunited for the first time more more than three decades. (Which is fitting, since the team’s playoff appearances for roughly half that time have been as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster.)

Here are five reasons why the Jets should keep QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. (“Can take a punch to the jaw” may or may not be one of them.)

How the case involving former Ravens RB Ray Rice may have delayed the NFL’s return to L.A.

Who will step up in place of Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 regular season?

The 24 starting quarterbacks for the Browns since 1999, ranked. (Derek Anderson No. 1, and a 23-man tie for 24th?)

Only QB Ben Roethlisberger has been with the Steelers longer than LS Greg Warren.

Guinness is making a beer for Texans DE J.J. Watt. (When Andy Dalton mixes it with tomato juice, it becomes a Redeye Ryder.)

Whatever happened to former Colts TE Ken Dilger?

The Jaguars have signed former CFL CB  Josh Johnson.

They’re replacing seats in the upper deck of the stadium where the Titans play. (Apparently, the seats go bad if they’re never used.)

Former Chiefs WR Otis Taylor, 73, is bedridden with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Season-ticket packages for Raiders games start at $225 — for the whole season.

The Chargers are looking at Mission Valley as the site for a new San Diego-area stadium.

Should Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former coach Jimmy Johnson make it to the Hall of Fame?

Here’s the case against the Giants signing RB Matt Forte.

Here’s a look at how the Eagles offense will be different under new coach Doug Pederson.

Washington QB Robert Griffin III turned 26 years old on Friday, with roughly 26 days left in D.C., at most.

The decision to let RB Matt Forte leave means the Bears think RB Jeremy Langford is ready to carry the load.

Hot take alert: The Lions don’t need WR Calvin Johnson to get to the Super Bowl.

Hot take alert, part 2: Would the Vikings be better off with Matt Forte than Adrian Peterson?

The Packers are installing an 850,000-gallon tank to hold storm water.

Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn have a 100-day plan.

Coach Ron Rivera knows the Panthers won’t be sneaking up on anybody.

What should the Saints do at guard?

Donnie Shell will present former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former 49ers special-teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr. could land in Carolina.

Here are the top five decisions the Cardinals need to make this offseason.

Would the Seahawks be interested in RB Matt Forte?

Is the Rams’ defense championship ready?

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Broncos safety Keo arrested for DUI

in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Getty Images

Broncos safety Shiloh Keo was arrested on a DUI charge early Saturday in his native Idaho.

KBOI TV in Boise reported that Keo was booked into the Ada County Jail at 2:19 a.m. Saturday by the Idaho State Police.

Keo, 28, signed with the Broncos in December and saw significant action through the end of the regular season and playoffs for a banged-up Broncos secondary. He had three postseason tackles.

A fifth-round pick of the Texans in 2011, Keo played in 42 games in Houston from 2011-13.

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Release of 13-year-old court document dusts off Peyton Manning incident at Tennessee

23 Sep 1995:  Quarterback Peyton Manning of the University of Tennessee stands with his father Archie Manning during the Volunteers 52-14 win over Mississippi State at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Mandatory Credit:  Jamie Squire/Allsport Getty Images

In the early days of PFT, an article emerged regarding a defamation lawsuit filed against Peyton and Archie Manning. The litigation, which arose from an allegation that the Mannings defamed a former University of Tennessee trainer in a book they had written (Peyton said that the trainer had  a “vulgar mouth”), sparked the publication of an accusation that Manning had placed his “naked butt and rectum” on the face of the trainer while she was examining him in 1996.

The longest-standing members of PFT Planet know that, from time to time over the years, we’ve used the phrase “naked butt and rectum” in reference to the story, which never caught fire in the pre-social media days of the Internet — even though the USA Today item was titled “Manning’s image could take hit in suit.” That article, which didn’t characterize the incident as a sexual assault, apparently flowed from a 74-page document filed in the defamation lawsuit. USA Today didn’t publish the full document, and it released no details beyond the reference to Manning allegedly placing “his ‘naked butt and rectum’ on [the trainer’s] face.”

Now that Peyton Manning has won his second Super Bowl and potentially will be walking off into the sunset, the same 74-page document has been sent to the New York Daily News.

The ensuing #longread from Shaun King of the Daily News is at times hard to follow, as it attempts to summarize most of the 74 pages in chronological order. Also, King’s article displays a clear anti-Peyton bias, and more than a little melodrama. This #notaslongread item comes from the 74-page document itself, which has been published in full by the Daily News.

Before going any farther, it’s important to understand what the 74-page document is, and what it isn’t. The 74-page document is a piece of advocacy. The 74-page document is something that was written by the lawyers representing Jamie Ann Naughright in her defamation case against the Mannings. The 74-page document is, necessarily, one-sided.

The 74-page document is not objective. The 74-page document is not supposed to be objective. The 74-page document is not a court order or any other decision made by a neutral party. And, ultimately, the 74-page document is incomplete without comparing it to the corresponding “Facts of the Case” document submitted by the defendants in the case.

There’s another very important, and intriguing, way in which the 74-page document is incomplete. While it contains testimony and allegations about the “naked butt and rectum” escapade, Naughright’s lawyers redacted when filing the 74-page document large chunks of information regarding an earlier alleged incident from 1994. At page 10 of the 74-page document, the lawyers for Naughright explain that, because Peyton Manning’s lawyers had asked that “certain exhibits and deposition testimony relating to this 1994 incident be designated as part of the ‘confidential record’ and not publicly be revealed,” the information absent from the public document was filed “under seal,” meaning that only the presiding judge and the judge’s staff could see it.

This means that the information about the 1994 incident was in some way more sensitive than the 1996 “naked butt and rectum” incident, which was detailed in the 74-page document, without redaction. Common sense suggests that this means the other incident possibly was more graphic and/or inflammatory and/or offensive and/or problematic for Peyton than the “naked butt and rectum” incident from two years later.

At page 14 of the 74-page document, Naughright’s lawyers tell the story of the 1996 incident, with excerpts from Naughright’s deposition regarding what allegedly occurred while she was examining Peyton Manning’s lower leg for a stress fracture.

“It was the gluteus maximus, the rectum, the testicles, and the area in between the testicles,” Naughright said. “And all that was on my face when I pushed him up and off.”

The 74-page document then alleges that Manning worked with another Tennessee trainer, Mike Rollo, to “hatch a story” that Manning was “mooning” another UT athlete. That was the version, according to Naughright’s lawyers, that Peyton Manning and Rollo provided to investigators and the media, and it was the version that appeared in the Mannings’ book.

“That’s what struck me as so bizarre about the whole situation,” Peyton Manning testified in the lawsuit, “that she was distraught, she was upset, and it seemed unusual. And I think I’ve described it in here as an incredible awkward or unusual occurrence. And I have no explanations for it.”

In the 74-page document, Naughright’s lawyers then attempt to expose that the “mooning” explanation was fabricated, describing the incident instead as a “sexual assault,” with Peyton Manning “committing a disgusting act and showing his contempt for someone he did not like.” The effort to debunk the “mooning” contention includes an affidavit from the alleged recipient of the “mooning,” Malcolm Saxon, along with a December 2002 letter from Saxon to Peyton Manning in which Saxon tells Peyton “you messed up” and urging him to “take some personal responsibility” for the situation.

“Coming clean is the right thing to do!!” Saxon writes to Peyton Manning. “You might as well maintain some dignity and admit to what happened.”

The 74-page document also alleges that Peyton Manning later taunted Naughright by reenacting the incident two other times.

“Mr. Manning looked at me. The athlete was behind me. He pulled down his pants and sat on the athlete’s face,” Naughright testified as to the first incident of reenacting/taunting.

“Mr. Manning saw me,” she testified as to the second incident of reenacting/taunting, “walked over to the gentleman, pulled his pants down, and sat in the gentleman’s face while looking at me, pulled his pants back up, looked at me, and headed off to the locker room.”

The 74-page document contains other allegations aimed at showing that Peyton Manning had disdain and dislike for Naughright. The 1996 incident apparently was used against Peyton Manning in the Heisman Trophy campaign, which allegedly left him bitter. (Peyton admitted under oath that he said to Archie, “I’m not going to win the f–king trophy, read the papers, it’s going to [Charles] Woodson.”)

Also, Archie Manning allegedly made comments to the ghost writer of the Mannings’ book regarding Naughright, including an alleged statement from Archie Manning to the ghost writer that Naughright, who is white, “had been out with a lot of black guys.”

Again, the entirety of the 74-page document published by the New York Daily News was prepared by the lawyers for Naughright in connection with an effort to win her lawsuit against Peyton and Archie Manning. It’s not apparent from Shaun King’s article that he sought comment or a response from Peyton or Archie Manning. (PFT has reached out to Peyton’s agent, Tom Condon, for comment.)

It’s unclear how much traction a 13-year-old court filing regarding a 20-year-old incident will achieve, but I’ve already been alerted to the item published little more than four hours ago by at least four different people, and the article seems to be catching fire on Twitter. So there’s a chance that in this first weekend without NFL football since Labor Day, NFL fans will notice this one, even if few take the time to read all 74 pages of the document.

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Kevin Greene’s Hall of Fame candidacy nearly got lost in the cracks

GettyImages-323185 Getty Images

Much has been said about one key omission from the new Hall of Fame class. Let’s take a moment to talk about one key inclusion.

Linebacker Kevin Greene finally has made it, passed over for more than a decade despite being third on the all-time sack list with 160. He has more sacks that Hall of Famers Chris Doleman, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent, John Randle, Lawrence Taylor, Rickey Jackson, Derrick Thomas, Charles Haley, Andre Tippett, Warren Sapp, and Howie Long.

Greene picked up those 160 sacks in 15 NFL seasons. But he got none as a rookie, which means that he averaged nearly 11.5 sacks every year for 14 seasons.

So how didn’t he make it sooner? Appearing on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, Greene suggested that, because he spent the bulk of his career with the Los Angeles Rams, he may have gotten lost in the cracks.

Greene, one of the first players to change teams via true free agency, spent three seasons with the Steelers after eight in L.A. Then came a year in Carolina, a year with the 49ers, and two more with the Panthers. (Greene called his time in San Francisco a “fart in the wind,” which also accurately describes Jim Tomsula’s lone year as head coach — in multiple ways.)

Ultimately, it was PFT’s Darin Gantt (who holds the Carolina vote for the Hall of Fame) task to make the case for Greene, and this year Greene got in.

So as many wring hands (rightfully so) for the omission of Terrell Owens, it’s time for a deep exhale on Greene — and not simply because of an effort to avoid inhaling the odors of a fart in the wind.

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Super Bowl big dog Kony Ealy sued for not producing big dog

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 21: Eileen Weatherbee stands next to Obilio, a South African Boerboel, following the announcement that the Westminster Dog Show would introduce seven new dog breeds into the annual competition at Madison Square Garden on January 21, 2016 in New York City. The seven new dogs breeds are the Bergamasco, Berger Picard, Boerboel, Cirneco dell'Etna, Lagotto Romagnolo, Miniature American Shepherd, and Spanish Water Dog. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy is having more problems with dogs in Charlotte than he was Broncos in Santa Clara last week.

According to Michael Gordon of the Charlotte Observer, Ealy was named in a lawsuit which claims he bilked sports bar owner Kris Johnson out of $3,000 when a dog-breeding plan fell through.

The lawsuit says Ealy and his brother Danny “Dogman” Jones lured him into a plan to breed African Boerboel puppies. The dogs can grow to more than 200 pounds, and the lawsuit said Ealy and his brother told Johnson they needed $6,000 for a breeding female, promising they could make $35,000 a litter and $1 million a year.

(It sounds like they might have neglected the sheer amount of chow it takes to feed a bunch of 200-pound dogs when formulating this business plan.)

(Also, Ealy has a brother named “Dogman.”)

(Proceed.)

Johnson wrote a check for $3,000, but then the operation never came together for whatever reason, so he’s suing to get his money back.

Ealy could not be reached for comment, but attorney Kenneth Raynor said Ealy and his brother: “dispute the allegations , . . . and I plan on vigorously defending the lawsuit.”

The second-year defensive end had three sacks and an interception in the Super Bowl, raising his profile a bit, and making him a more visible target.

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Super Bowl draws huge numbers in Canada, too

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in action against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The United States isn’t the only country where the Super Bowl is a huge television draw.

According to John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, 18 million Canadians watched at least part of Super Bowl 50. That represents 52 percent of the Canadian population — the same percentage of Americans who watched at least part of Super Bowl 50. Last year, Super Bowl XIL was actually watched by a slightly higher percentage of the Canadian population than of the American population.

Twice as many Canadians watched the Super Bowl as watched the Grey Cup, the championship game for the Canadian Football League.

The experiment with the Bills playing one game a season in Toronto failed, but that’s not a reflection of the level of interest in the NFL in Canada. Football is big north of the border, too.

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Looming prosecution, possible paid leave will put McCoy, Bills in a tough spot

LeSean McCoy AP

Before the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson cases of 2014, NFL players who faced criminal charges typically continued to show up for work while prosecution was pending. Except in rare cases (like Mike Vick’s dogfighting and gambling indictment of 2007, which sparked an indefinite suspension without pay), the league took no action until the court proceedings had ended.

The notorious Ray Rice video, followed four days later by the child-abuse allegations against Peterson and amid the then-lingering domestic violence case against Hardy, prompted the NFL to find a way to get Peterson and Hardy off the field without suspending them. They both agreed to be placed on paid leave at a time when they otherwise were free men who were presumed innocent.

In December 2014, the NFL codified the availability of paid leave for any players facing criminal charges. It’s a vague, discretionary process that the league uses in some cases and not in others, with no clear rules or formulas for invoking it.

As to Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who is expected to be charged with aggravated assault in Philadelphia, the league won’t be using paid leave during the portion of the calendar in which all players are on unpaid leave. At some point, however, the players will return — and the wheels of justice often grind slowly. If McCoy chooses to fight the case through trial, he could miss all of the 2016 season, but with pay.

The alternative would be to resolve the charges with a plea deal. The prosecutors will know that McCoy needs to get the case behind him in order to play, which means they’d potentially drive a harder bargain.

If McCoy pleads guilty to anything before the start of the 2016 season, he’ll then face an unpaid suspension for a baseline of six games, which can be increased or decreased based on a variety of factors.

From the team’s perspective, there’s no good solution. Already, $2.5 million of McCoy’s base salary is fully guaranteed for 2016. The remaining $2.3 million becomes fully guaranteed on March 9. A suspension would void the guarantees, and it also would allow the Bills to recover a portion of his signing bonus. Paid leave would have no impact on the guaranteed money; even if they cut McCoy now or while he’s on paid leave, they’ll still owe him the money. (That said, cutting him now would avoid the extra $2.3 million guaranteed.)

For McCoy, the question becomes whether it’s more important to play in 2016 or to maximize his earnings. He could get all of his money for 2016 but then face an unpaid suspension in 2017, if he’s convicted in the next offseason. Or he could plead guilty sooner than later and lose a large chunk of his 2016 pay after being suspended by the league.

Few will shed tears for McCoy, based on videos that seem to show him participating in an assault. Regardless, the league’s post-Rice protocols will put McCoy in a much more delicate spot than he would have been before 2014, when players who were facing charges typically played while the charges were pending, no questions asked.

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All-Pro Colts receiver Willie Richardson dies at 76

willierichardson AP

Willie Richardson, a star receiver for the Colts in the 1960s and a member of one of the most athletic families in the history of football, has died at the age of 76.

After an All-American career at Jackson State, Richardson was drafted by both the Baltimore Colts of the NFL and the New York Jets of the AFL in 1963. He signed with the Colts and became a first-team All-Pro in 1967, when he was third in the league with 63 catches and added 860 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Richardson had five brothers who played at Jackson State, and three of them played in the NFL: Gloster Richardson played for the Chiefs, Cowboys and Browns, Tom Richardson played for the Patriots and Ernie Richardson played for the Browns.

In Super Bowl III, Richardson was the Colts’ leading receiver, catching six passes for 58 yards in a loss to the Jets.

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Dolphins add a coach, lose a personnel executive

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: A Miami Dolphins helmet sits on the grass before the start of their game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 13, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins added another coach to Adam Gase’s first staff on Friday afternoon.

The team announced that Daronte Jones has been named the team’s assistant defensive backs coach. He will work with Lou Anarumo, who moved back to the defensive backs role he occupied before being named the interim defensive coordinator when Kevin Coyle was dismissed during the regular season.

Jones spent the 2015 season as the defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin and served in the same role at the University of Hawaii from 2012 to 2014. He’s also coached in the CFL and at lower collegiate levels since entering coaching in 2001.

The Dolphins also announced that they have parted ways with Eric Stokes, who was the team’s senior personnel executive and assistant general manager for the last two years. Stokes accompanied Dennis Hickey from Tampa Bay to Miami when Hickey was named the General Manager in 2014, but Hickey was relieved of his duties with the team last month.

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Joe Webb fined $8,681 for Super Bowl unnecessary roughness

during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Getty Images

The Panthers picked up 12 penalties on their way to their 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50, including a personal foul on the final play of the game.

Wide receiver Joe Webb was flagged for unnecessary roughness at the end of a short pass completion to running back Fozzy Whittaker. PFT confirmed with the league on Friday that Webb has been fined $8,681 for the play, which is a sour cherry to put on top of an altogether unpleasant Sunday.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Malik Jackson were also fined for infractions during the game.

The league also confirmed that guard Trai Turner was not fined after being penalized for unnecessary roughness at the end of a 10-yard run by Whittaker in the third quarter. Safety Tre Boston also avoided a fine after being penalized for an illegal blindside block and unsportsmanlike conduct during the game. Those are both personal fouls, which may result in an ejection if the NFL adopts a rule proposed by commissioner Roger Goodell at his Super Bowl press conference.

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Dolphins cut Coples, McCain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch over Brice McCain #24 of the Miami Dolphins during a game  at EverBank Field on September 20, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins released cornerback Brice McCain and defensive end Quinton Coples Friday.

McCain lasted one season in Miami after a big year with the Steelers in 2014 helped him land $3 million in guarantees from the Dolphins on the open market.

McCain, 29, was due to make $2.5 million in 2016. He finished 2015 with one interception, 10 pass breakups and 31 tackles in 11 starts.

Coples was claimed off waivers from the Jets last November. He played in six games for the Dolphins without recording any stats.

A first-round pick of the Jets in 2012, Coples has 16.5 career sacks but had none last season.

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