Report: Pessimism about how long Aaron Donald will hold out

Getty Images

Rams General Manager Les Snead was a guest on PFT Live Thursday and didn’t say much about where things stand in contract talks with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has not reported to work with the team this summer as he pushes for a new contract ahead of his fourth NFL season.

Snead’s previous update was that there’s been no movement toward a deal that would get Donald back on the field, which may be why Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that there is pessimism about how much longer he’ll be holding out.

Schefter reports that the holdout is threatening to extend into the regular season and quotes one source saying that he could envision Donald sitting out the entire year. That would be an extreme step and may not be a particularly likely one, but the tenor of both that report and Snead’s comments suggest that it may be just as unlikely that the two sides agree on a new deal in the near future.

If that’s the case, the Rams and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have to at least come up with a plan on defense that doesn’t include their most effective defensive lineman while hoping that they don’t have to put it into motion.

Josh Brown case may be relevant to Ezekiel Elliott appeal

Getty Images

As the six-game suspension for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was looming, MDS made an observation via Twitter that attracted plenty of attention: How does Elliott’s behavior compare to the conduct that resulted in a one-game suspension for former Giants kicker Josh Brown?

The explanation, whatever it may be, ultimately may be relevant to the appeal in Elliott’s case. The fact that Harold Henderson handled the Brown appeal and also will be handling the Elliott appeal makes it even more potentially relevant.

That said, Henderson didn’t reduce or otherwise alter Brown’s punishment. The league suspended him only one game, and Henderson affirmed it. So Henderson knows (or at least will be able to refresh his memory) regarding the details of the Brown case. Henderson will soon learn the details of the Elliott case. And Henderson will be able to consider whether Elliott’s proposed punishment meshes with Brown’s actual punishment.

In Brown’s case, the NFL reduced the suspension from six games to one due to mitigating factors that the league consistently has refused to disclose. In Elliott’s case, there was no adjustment for mitigating factors. While it may be difficult to draw apples-to-apples comparisons between the two cases, Elliott’s representatives may argue that the league failed to treat the two cases consistently, and that Elliott should be entitled to whatever lenience was afforded to Brown. (Other past cases could be relevant, too.)

Of course, the threshold argument on appeal will be that Elliott is innocent. An argument based on the Brown case would be a fallback position based on the punishment that applies if Henderson decides that the finding of guilt was accurate.

However it plays out, the clock is ticking. The NFL has confirmed that Elliott will be permitted to keep playing until a ruling is issued. As a practical matter, the ruling will have to come by Tuesday, September 5 in order to keep Elliott off the field for the regular-season opener against the Giants.

Report: Seahawks, Justin Britt closing in on extension

Getty Images

The Seahawks have had their share of issues with continuity on the offensive line in recent years, but they’ve reportedly found a blocker they want to keep around in center Justin Britt and they’ll be spending some money to do it.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is closing in on a contract extension with Britt. Per the report, it will be a three-year deal worth more than $9 million per year.

That would put Britt’s deal in the upper tier of contracts for centers. The Jaguars recently signed Brandon Linder to a five-year extension worth more than $51 million while Travis Frederick and Alex Mack also have deals with average annual salaries of at least $9 million.

Britt was a second-round pick in 2014 so he’s heading into the final year of his rookie deal. He moved around between positions before settling in at center last year and has started all 47 regular season games he’s played since entering the league.

Reuben Foster dealing with AC joint sprain


Before this year’s draft, there were concerns about linebacker Reuben Foster‘s shoulder that contributed to his slip from the top of the first round to the 31st pick.

The 49ers traded up to make that pick and said after making the selection that they weren’t overly concerned about the possibility of Foster being held back as a result of the injury. Foster’s shoulder didn’t stop him from making his way into the starting lineup in the wake of Malcolm Smith‘s season-ending pectoral injury, but another shoulder issue is bothering him now.

The 49ers said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, that Foster will be limited in Thursday’s practice because of an AC joint sprain sustained on Wednesday. The team says the injury is not related to his previous problem, but it will keep him from participating in contact drills during their joint practice with the Broncos.

There’s no word on whether it will keep him from playing when the two teams meet on Saturday night, but the fact that he’s limited rather than out of practice entirely suggests there’s not much more concern about this issue than the team had about the previous one.

Von Miller has high praise for the 49ers’ offensive tackles

Getty Images

The 49ers have a lot of work to do on rebuilding from last year’s 2-14 season, but they’re set at the important position of offensive tackle.

That’s the word from Broncos pass rusher Von Miller, who has been going against the 49ers’ offensive tackles in the teams’ joint practices. Miller said Trent Brown, the 49ers’ 6-foot-8, 355-pound right tackle, is the best right tackle in football.

“He’s the best right tackle in the National Football League,” Miller said. “And he may even be a top-five tackle, period, in the National Football League. There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves.”

Miller has so much respect for Brown that Brown was the only offensive lineman brought to Miller’s “pass rush summit,” a summer workout and film study session for some of the league’s top pass rushers.

“Just so he could soak in some of the information that we got,” Miller said. “And, from my point of view, we could get it from a premier offensive tackle point of view.”

Miller also thinks highly of the 49ers’ left tackle.

“Trent Brown and Joe Staley, they have two of the best tackles. Trent Brown is one of the best in the National Football League and Joe Staley has been one of the best for a long time,” Miller said.

Now the 49ers just need a great quarterback for those great tackles to protect.

John Lynch: Joint practices “great opportunity” to explore trades


When teams hold joint practices during the summer, there’s often talk about the benefits that come from working against other players after spending weeks with the familiar faces on their own roster.

The 49ers hope to get some of those benefits while working with the Broncos this week, but that’s not the only potential plus that General Manager John Lynch sees from spending time on the field with Denver. Lynch has spent time talking to his friend and Broncos G.M. John Elway about possible trades that could work for both sides and says the practices provide a chance to scout out players that could be involved in such deals.

“It’s kind of that time of year, where people are calling and saying, ‘Hey, you’re strong here, we’re strong here. Let’s just kind of keep these things in mind.’ And, this is a great opportunity to do that,” Lynch said. “We did have some of those discussions,” Lynch said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “The greatest thing is lots of times you’re throwing on [film of] a preseason game. We get a chance for three days to look at some people we might be interested in. So you’re always doing that. I think they’re doing that as well and it’s another productive thing out of this week.”

Maiocco notes the 49ers have depth on the defensive line and the Broncos have suffered some injuries up front, although there’s no indication that anything is in the works between the teams at this point. If they do make a deal, it won’t be hard to guess where the genesis of the swap took place.

Alex Smith’s agent isn’t worried about him finding another home, eventually


The Chiefs are slowly nudging rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes up the line.

But the agent for veteran starter Alex Smith said he’s not worried about the day when Mahomes reaches the front.

Tom Condon told Pete Sweeney of “The Fuzzcast” podcast that he’s not worried about how Smith would handle the Chiefs’ handling of Mahomes, whom they traded a future first-round pick to go get this year.

“Alex Smith? I don’t have to give him any advice,” Condon said. “He knows exactly what to do, and he’s been in some really tough situations before, and he’s as tough as an old boot. And so he knows just what he’s got to do, and he’ll play really well, and for the team, they’re hoping that Pat [Mahomes] is going to be their future, but Alex is the present, and as good a football player as he is, he’s going to have opportunities whether it’s in Kansas City or someplace else.”

Mahomes is no danger to bump Smith from the starting job now (though he might leapfrog Tyler Bray as their No. 2), but the future is another question.

Smith’s already 33, and entering the next-to-last year of his contract, so the Chiefs were obviously thinking ahead when they made the move for Mahomes in this year’s draft, giving up first- and third-rounders this year and next year’s first to get Mahomes 10th overall.

And considering the current start of NFL quarterbacking — there aren’t enough quality starters to go around, much less backups — it’s hard to argue with Condon’s assertion that Smith would have a decent market whenever the Chiefs decide to make the switch.

I mean, unless he decides to protest or something.

Patriots send Derek Rivers back home after Wednesday injury

Getty Images

Rookie Derek Rivers is one of the players in the mix for work at defensive end for the Patriots this season, but his chances of gaining playing time could be impacted by an injury.

Rivers left Wednesday’s joint practice with the Texans after hurting his left leg/knee and Mike Giardi of CSN New England reports that he went back to New England for further evaluation while the rest of the team gets ready to play the Texans on Saturday.

Rivers was New England’s top pick in this year’s draft when they selected him in the third round after he set a Youngstown State record with 41 sacks during his college career. With Rob Ninkovich retiring, there’s an opening for immediate playing time if Rivers’ injury isn’t a serious one.

The Patriots will also be without fourth-round defensive end Deatrich Wise because of a concussion, leaving Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Kony Ealy and Caleb Kidder as the healthy options for this week’s game.

Will NFLPA sue NFL over allegation of victim-shaming?

Getty Images

The legal battle arising from the Ezekiel Elliott suspension could spawn other courtroom skirmishes.

On Monday, the NFL made a stunning allegation against the NFL Players Association: “[W]e’ve received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media.”

During a Thursday appearance on PFT Live, NFLPA executive committee member Lorenzo Alexander used the word “slander” in reference to the league’s contention. And that’s a word that catches the ear of anyone with experience in litigation.

People typically don’t use words like “slander” unless a formal claim for defamation of character has been considered. Whether or not litigation ensues, Alexander’s comment suggests that the union is at least exploring whether to defend its reputation by forcing the NFL to back up its claim with proof. And that’s exactly what formal litigation would do, permitting the NFLPA to ask tough questions about how and why the NFL came to that conclusion, especially since the NFL generated the 160-page report that has been leaked in dribs and drabs to the media.

From the NFL’s perspective, it may be an acceptable risk. Even if the league doesn’t know with sufficient certainty that the NFLPA is spreading derogatory information about Tiffany Thompson to the media, the statement from Joe Lockhart quite possibly was aimed at getting whoever has been leaking the negative information to stop it.

If that was the objective, maybe it’s working. With stories containing negative information about Thompson emerging on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, there has yet to be a Thursday story that paints Thompson in a negative light.

Ryan Kelly needs foot surgery, will miss regular season time

Getty Images

The Colts haven’t made a definitive call on quarterback Andrew Luck‘s status for the first week of the regular season, but they know they won’t have center Ryan Kelly in the lineup.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, that Kelly will have surgery on the foot injury that has kept him off the field for the last week. The hope was that rest would allow Kelly to get back in action, but that hasn’t worked out.

Pagano didn’t set a timeline for Kelly’s return, but said he will miss some time in the regular season. Complicating matters for the Colts is that backup center Brian Schwenke is on the PUP list with his own foot injury.

The Colts met with Jeremy Zuttah after he was released by the 49ers, but a report on Wednesday indicated that he was close to a deal to return to the Ravens. That report indicated that the Colts weren’t out of the picture and they may step up their push now that they know Kelly is going to be out for an extended period of time.

Mike Tice finds something beneficial about Donald Penn’s holdout

Getty Images

The Raiders don’t have left tackle Donald Penn practicing with the team and there’s no sign that his decision to hold out in hopes of landing a new contract is coming to an end soon, which would seem to be the sort of thing that would be hard for offensive line coach Mike Tice to turn into a positive for the team.

Tice stopped short of doing that on Wednesday, but he did find one silver lining for the Silver and Black when it comes to Penn’s absence and injuries that have kept other blockers out of practice at times this summer.

“Well it’s always good when you develop in depth,” Tice said, via the team’s website. “We had a number of days when we were down to 11 and 10 players. David [Sharpe] got banged up and he didn’t practice for five or six days. Jylan Ware, the young tackle, got a concussion. He missed a couple of days. Kelechi [Osemele] was only practicing every other day. We’ve had some days where we’ve had to make it happen with 10 or 11. When you have that, you get the ability, you have the ability, you have the opportunity to develop your depth. In the long run, it’s actually a good thing.”

There’s no question that depth is a positive for any position on any team and that the Raiders have to make the best of the situation if they are going to be without Penn come the start of the season. That doesn’t make the position Tice and the Raiders are in any more appealing, however, and Penn’s absence could leave the Raiders weaker at a spot that was one of their biggest strengths last season.

Rams, Steelers taking very different approaches with high-profile holdouts

Getty Images

At a time when the Steelers repeatedly are squeezing running back Le'Veon Bell to show up for training camp, the Rams are applying a much different approach to defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Appearing on Thursday’s PFT Live, Rams G.M. Les Snead declined to characterize Donald’s expectations for a new contract, praised his ability to disrupt an offensive line even during OTA sessions, and said nothing about Donald’s ability to be ready for the season based on his decision to boycott practices and preseason games. And Snead would have every right to pressure Donald.

Donald, unlike Bell, is under contract. He’s violating the contract by not being at camp. The Rams have every right to chastise him for not being there, but they’re not.

Bell isn’t under contract. He’s merely exercise the rights that the Steelers gave him by exercising their right to apply the franchise tag. And yet the Steelers are now consistently calling him out for not showing up.

Some will say that people like G.M. Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin are merely answering the questions they’re asked, but Snead could use that same excuse as cover for lambasting Donald, if he wanted.

The end game for Donald is less clear than it is for Bell. At a salary of $12.1 million this year, Bell likely will show up in time to cash every check, even if he isn’t prepared for Week One. Donald, at a salary of only (only?) $1.8 million, would be losing less by skipping games.

Here’s another big difference between the two: The Steelers could still yank the $12.1 million offer, at any point before Bell signs it. If, as it appears, they aren’t willing to offer him more money or any other inducement to get him to show up and if, as it appears, Bell isn’t willing to show up without it, the exasperation that comes through in comments from Colbert and Tomlin could morph into a decision to pocket the $12.1 million and wish Bell luck in his effort to get a similar deal in early September.

Greg Olsen’s not sweating whether he’s next for extension


Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis broke the seal on contract extensions this week, which would seem to be good news for teammate Greg Olsen.

But after failed attempts to get a raise this summer which included hints that he might hold out of training camp (though that was never likely), Olsen has taken a measured approach to recent developments.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Olsen said he hasn’t spoken with interim General Manager Marty Hurney about his status.

I haven’t talked to Marty about it or anybody about it,” Olsen said. “ If something gets done, great. But we’ve got a lot going on now with training camp and preseason and whatnot. So it hasn’t been really something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.

“But we’ll see over these next couple of weeks what happens.”

Since Olsen had two years left on his deal, and former G.M. Dave Gettleman wasn’t in a rush to tear that deal up, a new contract didn’t seem likely before. But Hurney was the G.M. who traded for Olsen in 2011, and has been regarded as easier to deal with by players and agents alike.

The fact Olsen’s coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons (the first tight end in league history to pull that off) on a team not overburdened with downfield receiving threats helps his case more than a change in administration. But even if it doesn’t happen, Olsen said his focus won’t be different.

“The goal is to go out and be highly productive, be consistent and that’s been my approach,” he said. “And that will never change.”

Biding his time is likely the right move for Olsen now, after overplaying his hand this summer. With Davis getting his reward this week, they’re at least in the mindset of paying their producers, and Olsen’s value to Hurney was established years ago.

Rams still like Tavon Austin’s potential, despite injuries

Getty Images

Tavon Austin hasn’t become the kind of player the Rams thought he would be when they traded up to take him with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. But the Rams still think he can be that player.

Rams General Manager Les Snead said on PFT Live that Austin’s wrist and hamstring injuries have been a setback in his ability to learn new coach Sean McVay’s offense, but that doesn’t mean they have lost confidence in him.

“A freakish wrist injury that he actually did doing some clean and jerks during the offseason,” Snead said. “Can you imagine small Tavon doing cleans? Then he comes and has a small hamstring injury during camp.”

Austin has made big plays at times: He has 12 career receiving touchdowns, eight career rushing touchdowns and three career punt return touchdowns. Now the Rams want to see him do it with more consistency.

“We haven’t figured out how much he evolves as a receiver in this offense because he hasn’t had a chance to play,” Snead said. “Plan to see him used very similarly to how he’s been used in the past. By that I mean, he’s scored as a receiver, he’s scored as a running back, he’s scored as a returner. That’s why we like him. He threatens the opposing team in many different ways. We’ve just got to get him healthy.”

If Austin does get healthy, the Rams still believe he has the potential to justify that Top 10 draft pick.

Michael Bennett’s cause would benefit more from a franchise quarterback

Getty Images

Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett believes that national anthem protests would benefit from the involvement of white players. There’s another group of players that would benefit the effort even more.

Franchise quarterbacks.

Regardless of race, the decision of the best of the best players at the most important position on the field are the ones who can give the effort to bring awareness to matters of racial injustice, police brutality, and other similar causes that are motivating players to not stand for the anthem. From Russell Wilson to Aaron Rodgers to Cam Newton to Tom Brady to Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger to Drew Brees to any other players with maximum profile (and job security), these are the players that could make the protests more mainstream and, in turn, perhaps get those who refuse to understand the reasons for the protests to have a slightly more open mind.

Or maybe it ultimately won’t matter. Regardless, Bennett has the right idea but landed in the wrong spot. It’s not about having white players behind the effort; it’s about having the biggest and brightest stars on board. And in the NFL there are no stars bigger or brighter than franchise quarterbacks.