Riveron triples down on controversial Patriots-Jets ruling

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NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, who had twice before defended a controversial decision to turn a touchdown in the Patriots-Jets game into a touchback via replay review, previously declined to address the comments from two of his predecessors on the issue. On Tuesday, Riveron was asked again about the beliefs of Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino that the visual evidence was not clear and obvious to show tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins failed to recover the ball. This time, he responded. Sort of.

“So Dean Blandino [and] Mike Pereira, who both held you job before you did, both questioned the decision,” Total Access co-host Dan Hellie asked Riveron. “They thought that there wasn’t a good enough view and that he regained control and the call on the field should have stood. Did you guys have enough angles to look at this when you were evaluating it?”

“Oh, no doubt about it, Dan,” Riveron replied. “And as we see, he must maintain control of the ball once he hits the ground, and he does not. And we’ve already established that there was a fumble. He does not maintain control when he hits the ground and [goes] out of bounds. So therefore it’s a fumble that goes out of bounds.”

Hellie also asked, in a pointed but respectful way, about images that seem to show Seferian-Jenkins controlling the ball before he lands out of bounds.

“That was not the case, Dan,” Riveron said. “The ball was moving. He never regains control of the football once he’s on the grounds out of bounds. Therefore, it’s a loose ball out of bounds in the end zone.”

That’s what Riveron may believe based on the video, but the question isn’t whether Riveron believes it based on the video. The question is whether it’s clear and obvious that the officials who were looking at the play in real time erroneously ruled that Seferian-Jenkins failed to regain possession of the ball. It’s not clear and obvious. And that’s why the issue won’t go away.

At this point, it’s too late for Riveron to change his mind. But it’s safe to say he has been reminded, either via external or internal sources, that he needs to stubbornly adhere to the standard that applies to replay review, even if the former referee in Riveron thinks that he would have made a different decision in real time.

President Trump slams NFL for not forcing players to stand for anthem

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The NFL is back on President Trump’s radar Wednesday.

The President went on a Twitter spurt Wednesday morning and the NFL’s announcement that there will be no change to league rules regarding the national anthem was part of his agenda.

After a day that included a meeting between players and team owners as well as another meeting with just owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the league did not make any proposals regarding changing the rules for the national anthem.

Goodell and others in attendance at both meetings conveyed that the meetings were focused on issues raised by player protests over the last two years and how to work together to take action toward addressing them rather than the anthem. That strategy is one that attempts to move beyond the anthem issue, although it’s clear the President isn’t interested in joining the league and players in that effort.

Giants ownership “very supportive” of Ben McAdoo

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The Giants are not a team fond of making changes at key positions, but an 0-5 start and the prospect of ongoing struggles raised the possibility that they might veer from their traditional course of action.

One win doesn’t change how rough the first five weeks were, but it offered one of the team’s owners a chance to provide a verbal pat on the back for coach Ben McAdoo. Co-owner Steve Tisch said on Tuesday that McAdoo made a “very good adjustment” when he handed offensive playcalling duties over to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and that he has a “vote of confidence” from the owner’s box.

“The job description of a head coach was tested last week and on Sunday I think head coach McAdoo did a great job,” Tisch said, via the New York Post. “He showed up, the players showed up, they had a strong desire to win. It was a very exciting game to watch. After the game, it was a very happy locker room. I think coach McAdoo knows that ownership is very supportive going forward.”

Another five-game losing streak may result in a different reaction, but the message from the Giants right now is that the ship is moving forward as planned.

Martavis Bryant jokes that he wants to be traded to the Warriors

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Martavis Bryant admits he wants to be traded. But to a different sport, not to a different team.

The Steelers wide receiver was laughing Tuesday about reports that he wanted out of Pittsburgh, saying again he was content there.

“No, I am good to go,” Bryant said, via the team’s official website. “I clarified it last night on my Twitter. I am happy to be here. As far as me getting traded, I would like to get traded to the (Golden State) Warriors.

“Everything is good. I am going to keep on moving and just get better for this week.”

The Warriors may need the help, after the defending NBA champions lost their opener to the Rockets last night.

Of course, the Steelers website also took shots at the original report from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, going air quotes around “sources” and pointing out in a mocking tone that Rapoport also reported in 2013 that Roethlisberger wanted out.

(We do love a good case of NFL-on-NFL crime first thing in the morning with our coffee.)

Of course, the Steelers can take a victory lap and shots at their fellow members of state-run media, but they didn’t address the tweets from Bryant’s girlfriend, which seemed to confirm the notion that he was displeased with his role.

But they had plenty of laughs about it, and since they just won a game, they can.

“I thought he was talking about getting traded to the Cavs,” said Ramon Foster. “I thought he wanted to switch sports. I thought he was talking about basketball.

“We are not going to feed into it any more. It’s over. We crushed that. That is done. He cleared it up. We are good.”

The Steelers can joke about it all they want, but the report of frustration probably didn’t come from nowhere, and their efforts at joking about a different type of toothpaste isn’t going to put it back in the tube.

Monday’s game a “good model” for what Titans want at running back

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The Titans have employed various approaches in the backfield over the course of the first six weeks, but they say the one they went with on Monday night is the one they want in the future.

DeMarco Murray has played a little under 65 percent of the offensive snaps for the entire season while Derrick Henry is just under 40 percent, but Henry got two more snaps in the win over the Colts. During his conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Titans coach Mike Mularkey called it a “pretty good model of what we’re looking for” out of the backfield.

Henry was the back closing out the win, which he did in style when he ran for a 72-yard touchdown to ice the game. Mularkey was asked if Henry is going to remain in that role.

“Yeah, I could say that,” Mularkey said. “That’s kind of been the case as of late when we go into four-minute. Again, he’s probably a little fresher from not taking a lot of snaps. I really like how it played out with the percentages and how these guys — I mean, the first guy down to congratulate him on the touchdown was DeMarco Murray, and I thought that kind of shows what kind of players we have in that locker room.”

The Titans would probably like to use everything about Monday night’s offensive performance as a model for the future as Marcus Mariota threw for 306 yards while the backs were helping them hold onto the ball for 35 minutes. If they can replicate that on a consistent basis, it should be a successful season in Nashville.

Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Patriots lead the NFL with an average of 412 yards of offense per game, but they’ve also given up an NFL-high 440 yards a game.

The Bills’ defense has allowed just two touchdown passes, best in the NFL.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 72.4 percent of their passes against the Dolphins, the highest in the NFL.

Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a season-high eight catches on Sunday.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco has a career-worst 66.1 passer rating this season.

The Bengals’ defense is allowing an NFL-best 5.6 yards per pass.

The Browns are an NFL-worst minus-nine in turnover differential.

The Steelers’ defense has allowed an NFL-low 153.5 passing yards per game.

Texans QB Deshaun Watson leads the NFL with 15 touchdown passes.

The Colts’ defense has allowed 34 passes of 20 yards or more, the worst in the NFL.

The Jaguars are an NFL-best 4-for-4 when going for it on fourth down.

The Titans are the only team with two players over 300 rushing yards, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

The Broncos’ defense is allowing a league-low 261.8 yards a game.

The Chiefs’ defense is allowing an NFL-best 53.5 percent completion rate.

Chargers P Drew Kaser has an NFL-high five touchbacks.

Raiders QB Derek Carr is on pace to finish a season with less than 3,000 passing yards for the first time in his career.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has been the most efficient running quarterback in the league this year, according to QBR.

In a sign of the struggles of the Giants’ offense, Giants P Brad Wing has an NFL-high 34 punts.

The Eagles are the only NFL team to convert more than 50 percent of their third downs.

In just five games, Washington QB Kirk Cousins has already rushed for a career-high 103 yards.

Bears RB Tarik Cohen is leading the team in catches but averaging just 6.1 yards per catch.

Lions CB Jamal Agnew is leading the NFL in punt return yards and is the only player in the league with two punt return touchdowns.

Packers QBs Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley each have three interceptions, but Rodgers has 13 touchdown passes and Hundley has one.

The Vikings’ defense is the best in the league on third downs, allowing first downs just 25 percent of the time.

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman is averaging 4.5 yards a carry, and backup Tevin Coleman is averaging 5.6.

Panthers QB Cam Newton has a career-high 64.5 percent completion rate.

Saints QB Drew Brees has only been sacked four times in five games.

The Buccaneers’ defense has recorded an NFL-low six sacks.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has 27 completions of 20 yards or more, tied for the best in the NFL.

Rams WR Pharoh Cooper leads the NFL in kickoff return yards by 157 yards.

The 49ers have gone for it on fourth down an NFL-high 12 times.

Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham is averaging a career-low 8.5 yards a catch.

John McCargo arrested on charges in two states

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Former Bills, Buccaneers and Bears defensive tackle John McCargo was arrested on gun and drug charges in Virginia, while he was wanted on domestic violence charges in California.

According to the Southside Messenger, the 2006 first-round pick was charged in Virginia last week for possession of a gun while in possession of a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug. That’s a class 6 felony in Virginia, and the arrest stemmed from an Oct. 8 incident there.

At the time, he was wanted by the Placer County Superior Court of California, on charges of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, former spouse and/or cohabitant, and for dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.

A nation-wide warrant was issued for his arrest in September after he failed to appear at a hearing, which violated his probation on previous charges of false imprisonment and possession of a controlled substance.

He’s being held in the Virginia jail.

 

Richard Sherman: Money doesn’t change the message we’re sending

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One of the common (if not always coherent) criticisms of NFL players who protest is that because they’re rich, they know nothing of the struggles they’re protesting.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman takes exception to that. Citing the joint letter supporting criminal justice reform penned by teammate Doug Baldwin and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Sherman said that real differences can be made by guys, even if they’re referred to as “spolied millionaires” or less charitable labels.

“I think what he’s doing with Goodell and that is fantastic,” Sherman said of Baldwin, via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. “He’s been doing that work for years now, meeting with police and trying to work to change, and I think that’s what gets missed sometimes with players, because they’re like, ‘Oh, stick to sports, stick to this.’ And a lot of people have used the phrase like ‘privileged athletes.’ ‘Oh, these privileged athletes, you guys are rich millionaires.’

“And it’s like, well, seven years ago I had negative $45 in my account. What was I then? You know what I mean? I was still a black guy, I was still a kid from the hood, and we will never forget those moments.”

Before he went to Stanford, Sherman grew up in Compton, Calif., so he has a connection to the issues of racial inequality and police brutality of which he speaks. So even though he and Baldwin have signed lucrative exemptions, they’re still quite aware of their upbringings.

“What privilege do we have?” Sherman said. “The privilege to be blessed that our hard work and dedication paid off, and we were able to change our families’ lives, to change our lives, and to live better. But that doesn’t change our memories or what we remember happening in our childhood. I think that’s something that sticks true to him [Baldwin] as well, and sticks true to a lot of players.

“That’s why guys are so passionate about coming together and making a difference and making a stand, and doing everything they can in terms of making a difference for social injustice because no matter what, before we had all of this money, and after we’re dead and gone, our skin is still black, we’ll still be looked at a certain way, and all we want is equality for everyone. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and it’s just great to have a guy like Doug continuing that fight, and continuing to take it beyond what others have done.”

Of course, if they’re not privileged, it must be that they’re disrespecting fallen soliders or hating America. Nope, they’re not doing that either. Perhaps some day, people will listen to the content of their message, without getting hung up on the messengers or the time of delivery.

Raiders OC Todd Downing: “We’re so close on so many things”

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The Oakland Raiders have failed to score more than 17 points in each of their last four games. While Derek Carr missed a game due to a back injury, the Raiders offensive struggles can solely be pinned on his brief absence.

The Raiders rank 30th in total offense and 24th in rushing through the first six weeks of the season. Marshawn Lynch hasn’t been able to find consistent success. Amari Cooper has struggled to be productive as well.

Nevertheless, offensive coordinator Todd Downing believes the unit is close to finding its footing.

When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here … [with] rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.”

Downing is in his first season as offensive coordinator after the Raiders elected to let Bill Musgrave walk after last year. Oakland ranked sixth in total offense last year and seventh in points per game under Musgrave a season ago. That Raiders team averaged 65.5 offensive plays a game. The current iteration has managed just 54.3 plays per game through six weeks this season.

“We’ve unfortunately had a low play count over the last four weeks when we’ve been struggling,” Downing said. “The first couple of weeks we had a higher play count and did well. So, we just need to get back to being able to sustain drives and keep the ball moving.”

Carr is supposedly back to full health after missing his one game due to injury. With a quick turnaround to face a strong Kansas City team Thursday night, the Raiders need to find answers quickly before they slide too far back in the AFC playoff hunt. If they’re really as close as Downing believes, it shouldn’t take much to get back on track.

Seahawks’ Malik McDowell cleared to resume working out

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After two months of being sidelined following an ATV accident in July that left him was a “really bad concussion,” Seahawks defensive tackle Malik McDowell has been cleared to resume workouts.

McDowell has been a spectator at practice the last two days for the Seahawks. He had not been present at practices for most of the first two months of the year following his accident. Head coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that McDowell was finally cleared to resume workouts two weeks ago.

“It is a slow process to get him back out here,” Carroll said. “He hasn’t done anything for months. We are being very careful of course. But it is a good sign for him.”

Seattle hasn’t closed the door on McDowell potentially returning to the field this season, but it remains a bit of a long shot proposition. McDowell, one of two second-round picks selected by Seattle in May, remains on the non-football injury list for Seattle. Since he’s been largely unable to partake in physical activity since his accident, he isn’t close to being in football shape. The Seahawks have until the day after Week 11 to either add McDowell to their active roster on end his season by moving him to the injured reserve list. It gives Seattle five weeks to see if McDowell can get anywhere close to playing shape.

“Malik is now back to working some and that process begins,” Carroll said. “I don’t have any indication of what that means but it’s great for the young guy to just have a chance to get back and be involved and get active again. So we will see how that goes.

“He is working out with the trainers. They are just kind of re-entering the conditioning phase, just trying to get him back in some shape and all of that. Just to get him moving. So it is a positive sign for him and I’m glad he can finally get going again. He really wants to be playing football.”

If McDowell does not play this season and remains on the non-football injury list, he would not accrue a season of service time. McDowell would essentially miss the entire season and begin the first year of his rookie contract next year.

Lions signing defensive end Jacquies Smith

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With Ezekiel Ansah and Anthony Zettel dealing with injuries this week, the Detroit Lions have added some help on their defensive line.

The Lions are signing former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith. His agency announced the move on their Twitter account on Tuesday night.

Smith was waived by the Buccaneers on Nov. 4 after playing just seven snaps in his only game with Tampa Bay this season. Smith racked up 13.5 sacks with the Buccaneers in 27 games played over the 2014-15 seasons. A torn ACL brought his 2016 season to a quick conclusion after just one game played.

According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, both Ansah and Zettel did not practice with the Lions on Tuesday before the team departed for its bye week break. The Lions will face the Pittsburgh Steelers at home next week.

Geragos puts NFL on notice to preserve digital evidence

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When it comes to the Colin Kaepernick collusion grievance against the NFL, he doesn’t have to prove that the league or its teams had any type of improper motive in not signing him. Instead, Kaepernick must show only that there was coordination.

Here’s Article 17, Section 1(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as it relates to Kaepernick: “No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making [as to] whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player [or] whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player.”

In English, it’s a simple standard, easy to identify and even easier to violate. Teams, including team employees, cannot reach an agreement — express or implied — to not pursue a given player for employment, for any reason.

Much has been said in recent days by armchair collusion experts about how hard it would be to prove coordination. Little has been said about how, as a practical matter, it actually could be proven. And in what would be a delicious slice of irony given the manner in which the NFL proved whatever it managed to prove (not much) regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the still-unproven deflation of footballs, the contents of cellular phones could go a long way toward proving Kaepernick’s collusion case.

That’s why, per a source with knowledge of the situation, attorney Mark Geragos already has placed the league on notice of its duty to preserve any and all digital evidence relating to the case. The challenge for Geragos becomes getting access to text messages and emails sent among and between coaches, assistant coaches, General Managers, assistant General Managers, director of player personnel, pro personnel directors, scouts, owners, other members of the management of the team, etc. If/when Geragos gets them (the league will likely resist, and an arbitrator will likely resolve it), the exercise for Geragos and his team becomes scouring the text messages and emails for anything that may or may not relate to Kaepernick.

It’s possible that no NFL team employees ever engaged in any communications of any kind with employees from other NFL teams about Kaepernick via text message or email. It’s possible, but not likely.

Most team employees maintain a broad network of friends and acquaintances throughout the league, because when unemployment inevitably comes, that network will be the primary path to a new job. And these friends and acquaintances text and email among themselves, constantly.

It will be the job of Mark Geragos to find anything that can be used to make the case that employees from multiple teams have decided not to pursue Kaepernick. It only takes two to create a collusion violation. It only takes 14 of 32 to lay the foundation for potential termination of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

With all 32 teams shunning Kaepernick, it may not take much to give life to the notion that Kaepernick wasn’t coincidentally shunned by every team, but that a gentleman’s agreement of sorts was communicated by the league office to various teams or communicated among the teams. Even something as simple as “we can’t have that” or “he’s bad for business” or “he’s a distraction” or any other collective coordination among the league office and at least one team or multiple teams can trigger a finding of collusion.

At this point, no one knows what’s in any text messages and emails that were exchanged from the moment Kaepernick was first spotted sitting during the anthem in August 2016 through the filing of the grievance. But Geragos will embark swiftly on an effort to find out, and with text messages and emails to be considered from 32 different teams and the league office and all relevant employees of the teams and the league, Geragos surely will find something that at least plausibly can be characterized as proof of coordination.

Alex Smith still miffed at Mike Mitchell

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On Sunday, Steelers defensive back Mike Mitchell took a dive at the knees of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, well after Smith threw the ball away. Smith wasn’t happy then, and he isn’t happy now.

I felt like it was extremely late,” Smith told reporters on Tuesday, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. “I felt there was nothing done there to avoid contact. It was really low from the backside. I thought it was about as flagrant as it gets when it comes to a low hit on the quarterback.”

Smith is right. Though plenty of Pittsburgh partisans have tried to argue that Mitchell was shoved or tripped or otherwise didn’t do it deliberately, there’s one specific angle that shows Mitchell watching Smith release the ball. Mitchell then ducks his head and dives in to Smith’s legs.

It’s a know-it-when-you-see-it analysis, and anyone who has watched plenty of football and is capable of being objective can see that this was a dirty hit, calculated to potentially knock Smith out for the game or longer, in the hopes of helping Pittsburgh achieve its goal of beating the Chiefs in the short term and, ultimately, to get back to the Super Bowl.

Mitchell insists he’s not a dirty player. And maybe he isn’t. But that was a dirty play. Even though the head wasn’t involved, the league should be prepared to take clear and decisive action in response to it.

Packers sign Jerod Evans to practice squad

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The Packers signed quarterback Jerod Evans to their practice squad. He takes Joe Callahan’s spot on the practice squad after Green Bay promoted Callahan to the 53-player roster Monday to serve as Brett Hundley‘s backup.

Evans originally signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie out of Virginia Tech on May 12. The Eagles placed him on injured reserve on May 16 and later released him.

Evans started all 14 games for the Hokies in 2016. He earned 2016 ACC Newcomer of the Year by The Associated Press after throwing for 3,546 yards and 29 touchdowns while racking up 846 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

Robert Turbin expected to miss rest of the season

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The Colts are expected to place running back Robert Turbin on injured reserve after his nasty elbow injury Monday night.

“His season is probably over unfortunately and we’re going to miss Robert Turbin,’’ Colts coach Chuck Pagano said on “Colts Roundtable’’ on 1070 The Fan, via Mike Chappell of Fox 59. “I mean, what a heck of a teammate and football player.

“You hate to lose anybody. That’s a blow to our team, but you’ve got to move on.’’

Turbin, the team’s short-yardage back, had 23 carries for 53 yards and one touchdown and nine receptions for 56 yards. He converted all seven of his third-and-one opportunities this season.

Indianapolis will lean on Frank Gore, rookie Marlon Mack and Matt Jones more heavily in Turbin’s absence. The Colts added running back Josh Ferguson to the practice squad Tuesday.