Jordan Matthews had knee and ankle surgeries

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The Bills placed wide receiver Jordan Matthews on injured reserve last week after a few weeks of dealing with a left knee injury and Matthews went to a surgeon to address that issue this week.

He addressed a right ankle injury as well. Matthews posted post-operation pictures of himself on social media on Thursday along with a joke about taking advantage of a buy one, get one free deal.

More seriously, Matthews wrote that both of the issues have been bothering him for the last two years and that he’s confident that he’ll make a full recovery from the surgeries.

How quickly he recovers could play a role in where Matthews is playing once the 2018 season rolls around. He’s set for free agency in March and his health will be a concern for any team considering bringing Matthews on board next year.

Falcons sign Deji Olatoye, waive C.J. Goodwin

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The Falcons signed cornerback Deji Olatoye on Wednesday. They waived cornerback C.J. Goodwin in a corresponding move.

Olatoye played in five games last season for the Falcons, making four tackles with three passes defensed.

The Ravens originally signed Olatyoe as a college free agent following the 2014 draft. He has been a member of the Chiefs and Cowboys practice squads. 

The Falcons cut Olatoye in September after he suited up for two games. He recently was with the Buccaneers, playing in three games.

Goodwin, who transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback with Atlanta, played in 14 games last season. He played in 12 games for the Falcons this year. But he saw only two defensive snaps against the Vikings on Dec. 3 and then was inactive last week against the Saints as Atlanta played Blidi Wreh-Wilson instead.
 

Captain Munnerlyn says he’s not unhappy with role or playing time

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The Panthers are heading into a big game this weekend, and they’re dealing with issues with one of their smallest players.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who left practice Wednesday for what coach Ron Rivera termed “personal” reasons, was reportedly unhappy with his role and his playing time this season.

He tweeted out a denial yesterday, and told reporters today that wasn’t the case.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Munnerlyn said he left for reasons unrelated to his role, saying: “I got over it and now I’m ready to roll.”

The 29-year-old nickel corner signed a four-year deal to return to the Panthers this offseason, but he’s played fewer than half the snaps. When the Panthers run what they refer to as a “big nickel” package, they’ll use linebacker Shaq Thompson (or other players) instead of Munnerlyn sometimes.

He’s apparently trying to downplay any potential issues like a good veteran, but the Panthers have a number of young cornerbacks who have been jockeying for larger roles. Seeing how this weekend’s snap counts play out may speak to Munnerlyn’s actual issues, and his future with the team.

The Commissioner is safe, but are his lieutenants?

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To the extent Cowboys owner Jerry Jones struck a deal to back away from his effort to overthrow the NFL’s emperor, it’s unknown what Jones got in return.

One carrot for Jones could be a promise to dramatically revise and revamp the layer of management that resides below Goodell. For several years, there has been talk that, while some believe Goodell is very good at what he does, some think his team isn’t as good as it needs to be.

And so it’s not surprising that Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com has named names regarding possible changes at the top of the organization, but not at the very top.

Per Breer, COO Tod Leiweke, chief marketing officer Dawn Hudson, special counsel Lisa Friel, and executive vice president of health and safety Jeff Miller “are among those whose roles could change significantly (if they’re not out).” Breer also points out that general counsel Jeff Pash “is another figure some owners are disillusioned with, but his value on the labor front will likely protect him.”

The presence of Leiweke’s name on the list is surprising. He’s a fairly recent arrival, and the reviews regarding his work had been positive. The absence of names like spokesman Joe Lockhart and executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent is a little surprising, too, given persistent chatter regarding concerns from some owners as to their roles and their performance. (Lockhart did himself no favors by declaring on Wednesday that the new Goodell contract will be his last, followed by Goodell contradicting that assessment of the situation.)

What’s not surprising is the identification of Friel as a potentially future former employee. Jones reportedly argued with her a year ago, in the early stages of the Ezekiel Elliott investigation. Her work has been called into question on multiple occasions, both as to the Elliott case and as to the Josh Brown fiasco, and at least one federal judge has dropped a damning footnote into a court order regarding a perceived lack of credibility while testifying under oath.

Pash has been the subject  of persistent concern and complaints among some owners for multiple years. Hired by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who didn’t want or need an ultra-strong consigliere because Tagliabue was an accomplished attorney, Pash has remained in place with Goodell for more than a decade. (Some believe Goodell kept Pash because Goodell viewed Pash as not a threat to Goodell’s position.) And while the league has had plenty of success during lawyer-led efforts like collective bargaining negotiations and various important items of litigation, Pash has at times been regarded as the custodian of the league’s bulldog approach to any and all actual or perceived foes, with a desire to win at all times often supplanting broader business objectives that may support the concept of taking a periodic “L” in order to advance the greater good.

It’s possible that Pash has simply been doing what Goodell wants him to do. Plenty of executives wants lawyers who tell the executives what they want to hear, and they’ll keep hiring and firing lawyers until they happily fill that role. Pash’s survival for the full extent of Goodell’s tenure suggests that, by and large, he’s doing what the boss wants him to do.

Another factor that could directly impact Pash’s future with the league will be the NFLN sexual harassment lawsuit, especially if it becomes the first of multiple claims arising from what allegedly was, based on the existing claim, a sex-obsessed operation with both the bosses and the workers engaged in various forms of inappropriate conduct. Someone at 345 Park Avenue should have known that a broadcast operation on the other side of the country staffed by former players whose only other offices in their lives were a locker room might become the Delta Tau Chi house, and that someone ultimately is Pash.

Landon Collins said he spoke to Eli Apple about struggles, Apple denies it

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The 2017 season has been a disaster for the Giants on the field and things haven’t been much better off of it.

One of the more recent off-field issues has concerned cornerback Eli Apple, who spent last Sunday tweeting during the team’s loss to the Cowboys while he was a healthy scratch (his version) or out of the lineup because of a hip injury that limited his practice time (interim coach Steve Spagnuolo’s version).

Apple hasn’t played well when he has been in the lineup and he’s also dealt with medical issues in his family, which led safety Landon Collins to say on Wednesday that Apple’s struggles have been “mental” and that he “had a sitdown” with the cornerback to let him know the team needs him.

“We need him to be here,” Collins said, via NJ.com. “We need him to want to be here. Not fighting against us, or fighting against the coaches or the organization or whoever he’s fighting against in his head. We don’t need him fighting us.”

That sounds like a good thing for a teammate to say, right? The only issue is that, per multiple reports from the Giants facility, Apple said on Thursday that he’s never had such a conversation with Collins. Collins responded to that by saying that Apple doesn’t remember things before saying he wouldn’t talk about it more in order to avoid further controversy.

Apple was a first-round pick in 2016, but hasn’t done much on the field in either of his first two seasons and, assuming the Giants make outside hires at coach and G.M., his future with the team will be up to people who had nothing to do with bringing him to the organization. If those people feel Apple’s not part of the program, he may be playing further away from the Big Apple when the 2018 season gets underway.

Mike Zimmer thinks Marvin Lewis should coach Bengals “as long as he wants”

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Marvin Lewis once gave Mike Zimmer a job.

Zimmer could be partly responsible for more pressure on Lewis’ job this week, but the Vikings head coach defended the work his old boss has done with the Bengals.

Lewis is 123-111-3 in 15 years with the Bengals, despite the lack of a playoff win. And they’re 5-8 this year with Lewis entering the final three games of his contract, which has plenty of people wondering whether he’s coaching his last month there.

But Zimmer (who was Lewis’ defensive coordinator from 2008-13) would like to point out the 12 straight non-winning seasons that preceded his mentor’s arrival, when the Bengals were a combined 55-137 (.286 winning percentage) under Dick LeBeau, Bruce Coslet, Dave Shula and the final year of the Sam Wyche era.

When he first started, they weren’t very good,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He got them to a place where they got to six playoffs games [in seven years]. I think he’s a heck of a coach. He does unbelievable things in the community. I learned a lot for him. I’m happy for him. In my opinion he should be able to stay there as long as he wants.”

Zimmer is clearly not unbiased here, but very little has been said about Lewis’ future. He has seemed content to ride out the year without security, and the Bengals may be ready to hit the reset button.

But if that’s the route they choose, Zimmer would only point to the road they’ve already traveled.

Giants interim G.M. would like to see Davis Webb play

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The Giants moved Eli Manning out of the lineup in Week 13 in what was described as an organizational decision to look at other quarterbacks before the year was over.

That move was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the team’s fan base and was followed by the firings of head coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese a day after Geno Smith piloted the offense in a loss to the Raiders. Manning was re-installed as the starter after that and the entire string of events made it hard to believe the Giants would now swing back the other way.

Interim General Manager Kevin Abrams may feel otherwise. Abrams, who the team says will be considered as a permanent hire, met with the media on Thursday and said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, he’d like to see rookie Davis Webb get playing time before the year is out.

Whether Abrams or someone else is ultimately calling the shots, seeing Webb makes sense from the standpoint of planning for the high draft pick the Giants have earned by winning two of their first 13 games. Abrams’ desire to see it doesn’t mean it will happen however.

Abrams added “you can only play one quarterback at a time” and said interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo will be making any calls about who plays at quarterback the rest of the way.

Sapp’s comments raise questions about internal NFLN training

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Beyond the cartoonish, nonsensical, illogical remarks made by former NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp during his first interview given after being mentioned in a sexual harassment lawsuit against his former employer resides a far more troubling reality for the league. Sapp’s seeming inability to connect giving sex toys to female colleagues to sexual harassment suggests that Sapp never received adequate training from the league regarding the things that are and aren’t allowed in a responsible modern workplace.

It’s possible the NFL never gave him sexual harassment training, which often consists of a once-per-year seminar or online module aimed at teaching employees what they shouldn’t do when interacting with each other, and what they should do if they believe sexual harassment is occurring. It’s possible that the NFL had such training, but that Sapp never submitted to it. It’s possible that Sapp physically attended but paid no attention.

Whatever the explanation, Sapp’s comments operate as a flapping red flag regarding the effectiveness of efforts to make sure all employees know what sexual harassment is.

It comes in two forms: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. The former relates to the supervisor who abuses a position of power to prey upon subordinate colleagues, either by promising benefits for submitting to a physical relationship or threatening reprisal if the advances are rejected. The latter arises when sexual comments, texts, photos, emails, object (like sex toys) are introduced to the workplace, and when the employees subjected to the words and behavior are offended by it.

Quid pro quo liability can arise from a single incident. With hostile work environment sexual harassment, non-supervisors typically get one strike, since there’s no way of knowing whether someone is offended by certain comments or actions unless and until they are exposed to it and they say so. For those employees, responsible employers ensure that easy, quick, and discreet methods are available to alert management of objectionable behavior.

All responsible employers must have those measures in place, and it starts with training all employees on what sexual harassment is, and isn’t. Sapp’s comments from Wednesday show that, regardless of any efforts by the NFL to provide the training, it didn’t take. And that should make the league office far more concerned than the lawsuit that has been filed — because the lawsuit that has been filed could end up being the first of multiple claims.

John Dorsey declines to declare categorically that Hue Jackson will be back

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Whether he intended to or not, new Browns G.M. John Dorsey made plenty of waves on Thursday with a radio appearance in Cleveland.

Headline No. 1: The prior regime didn’t get “real players.”

Headline No. 2: Coach Hue Jackson may not definitely be coming back next year.

In Dorsey’s interview with ESPN Cleveland, the new G.M. was asked to echo the comment twice made by his boss, Jimmy Haslam, that Jackson definitely will return next season. Dorsey didn’t say “of course” or any other version of that message.

Here’s the question from Aaron Goldhammer: “There’s some reports out, and I just want to be clear about this, John, about you potentially at the end of the year, if the Browns don’t win a game, pushing for a coaching change. Are you willing to categorically say today that Hue Jackson will be the coach of the Browns in 2018?”

“I’ve always said I live in the present, and I build for the future,” Dorsey told Goldhammer. “I live in the present. Right now the sun’s out, the tarps are coming off the field, we’re practicing outside, we’re getting ready to play the Baltimore Ravens, which is a divisional game. That’s my sole focus. And then it’s also getting familiar with the whole layout and the organizational structure in terms of creating my daily routine.”

The response serves only to bolster the existing belief that Dorsey will be (or perhaps already is) making the case privately to Haslam that, in order to truly turn things around, Dorsey needs to assemble his own team — of players, executives, and coaches.

How could his “we’ll see” answer be interpreted any differently? The owner twice says Jackson will be back, and the new G.M. opts not to paint himself into that same corner. While it doesn’t mean Jackson definitely won’t be back, it’s obvious that the notion that Jackson definitely will return isn’t nearly as clear as Haslam made it out to be.

Leonard Fournette out of practice again on Thursday

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Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette rebounded from a couple of down games by running for 101 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in last Sunday’s win over the Seahawks, but he may not be able to build on that performance against the Texans this weekend.

Fournette did not practice on Wednesday because of a quad injury and, per multiple reports from Jacksonville, he remained off the field during the open portion of Thursday’s session as well. Fournette missed one game with an ankle injury earlier this year and he also got benched for a week for a violation of team rules.

The Jaguars may just be managing Fournette’s reps to ensure he’s good to go on Sunday. Friday’s practice and the team’s injury designations for Sunday will provide more of an idea if that’s the case.

T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory would be the top backfield options in the event Fournette can’t play.

No structural issues for Justin Pugh

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With Giants offensive lineman Justin Pugh ending his contract year on injured reserve, natural questions will arise regarding whether he’ll be healthy when free agency begins. Those questions can be easily answered.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Dr. Robert Watkins recently examined Pugh, and Dr. Watkins concluded that Pugh has no structural issues. Pugh, according to Dr. Watkins, simply needs to rest the back for a few weeks.

While this won’t stop interested teams from ensuring that his back is OK, the reality is that it’s expected his back will be OK. And it’s actually a good thing for Pugh that he’ll be out of harm’s way for the final three games, since that ensures the situation will get no worse.

Pugh, who has played all four years of his rookie deal and the option year that applies to all first-round picks (if their teams exercise it), is expected to be one of the top offensive linemen in free agency. Whether the Giants try to keep him will depend largely on who they hire to be the next G.M. and head coach — and how aggressively the coach who drafted him tries to get Pugh to Jacksonville.

Giants will put Justin Pugh on injured reserve

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The Giants haven’t had Justin Pugh in the lineup for several weeks and they won’t be getting him back this season.

According to multiple reports, Pugh will be placed on injured reserve by the 2-11 team this week. Pugh, who was playing right tackle after opening the year at guard, has missed five of the last six games due to a back injury.

Pugh recently went for a second medical opinion to see if he needed to have surgery to resolve the problem. Reports indicate that rest and rehab are the prescribed course of action for the time being.

With Pugh done for the year, he may have played his final game for the Giants. The 2013 first-round pick is set for free agency after the season and the offseason is setting up to be one of major changes for the team.

Pugh’s ability to play both guard and tackle should have appeal to teams, but they will likely be wary of making too big a commitment to a player who also missed five games due to injury last season.

Both Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman practicing again

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Joe Webb is wearing blue again, which makes the Bills the opposite of blue.

According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. the Bills third-string quarterback was back to wearing a blue offensive jersey in practice Thursday, instead of the red ones reserved for quarterbacks.

That makes it reasonable to assume the Bills feel good about the chances of both Tyrod Taylor (knee) and Nathan Peterman (concussion) to play Sunday against the Dolphins.

The Bills have said Taylor will start if healthy. Peterman would still need to pass through the concussion protocol with clearance from an independent neurologist.

Webb had to finish up last week’s snow game with the Colts after Peterman was concussed, since Taylor was inactive because of a knee injury.

Dorsey’s comments don’t bode well for DePodesta

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Last week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that both coach Hue Jackson and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta will return next year. It’s now looking less and less likely that at least one of them will be back.

With new G.M. John Dorsey saying that the prior regime “didn’t get real players” and with DePodesta being a key piece of the prior regime, how can DePodesta remain? Why would he even want to?

Consider the full quote: “You know what? I’ll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”

Obviously, DePodesta is one of “guys who were here before.” And DePodesta is still there.

Dorsey’s comments make it fairly clear that DePodesta won’t be for long.

Sure, he can stick around and get paid to do something. Whatever he does, however, Dorsey clearly won’t be listening to the former baseball analytics expert’s opinion on football players.

Or, if Dorsey does listen, he’ll be taking DePodesta’s recommendations and doing the opposite.

John Dorsey: Previous regime didn’t get “real players”

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Browns General Manager John Dorsey has been on the job for less than a week, but that’s been enough time for him to draw some conclusions on the roster left behind by his predecessor at the top of the Browns personnel department.

Sashi Brown’s tenure was marked by moves that accumulated a lot of draft picks while the Browns kept losing games on the field, which led to criticism of the personnel department’s ability to evaluate players and a steady flow of reports about tension between Brown’s group and head coach Hue Jackson. During an appearance on WKNR 850 with Aaron Goldhammer on Thursday, Dorsey put himself squarely on the side of those who feel that Brown’s moves were the root of the problems the last two years.

Dorsey said he’ll do his “darnedest” to get Jackson the players he needs while making it clear he thinks such players are in short supply in Cleveland.

“You know what? You’ve got to get a guy like that players,” Dorsey said, via Cleveland.com. “And you know what? I’ll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”

That may not sit well with some of the current Browns players, but it’s hard to make a compelling alternative argument about an 0-13 team that won just one game last season. The bright side for Dorsey is that Brown left him with plenty of draft picks to use on real players and Dorsey will get a chance to start putting them to use in a few months.