Roger Goodell denies lying to Jerry Jones about Ezekiel Elliott

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insists he did not lie to Jerry Jones about Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension.

Jones feels Goodell led him to believe the Commissioner would not suspend the Cowboys star running back. That’s why the Cowboys owner insisted, even a day before his Aug. 5 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that Elliott was in the clear.

The league suspended Elliott on Aug. 11.

Goodell said Wednesday, with Jones standing a few feet away, that he never led Jones to believe Elliott would not face suspension.

“No,” Goodell said before repeating his answer.

Jones has stated publicly on several occasions that the league has a flawed internal disciplinary process borne out of an overreaction to the Ray Rice case. Jones repeated that Wednesday and hopes to change the Commissioner’s disciplinary power by tweaking the league’s constitution.

“We all know that we’ve had problematic aspects to our discipline, our investigation,” Jones said. “We all know that those have been there. What is a misnomer is that I’ve known Zeke the better part of two years. I’ve known Roger Goodell for 30. I’ve known the rest of the people in that room for 30 years. I know them a lot better than I do [Elliott], and we all know I wasn’t there. And you weren’t there. Nobody was there. Roger wasn’t there when that happened with Zeke.

“What I am about there, and I’m not going to say I didn’t rob the bank, but ironically that is very convenient to put up when the thing that I probably had the biggest issue was how we got to the point to where that kind of decision could be made. It’s how we got there and the circumstances were there that I want to talk about and we’re going to get to do that in that period of time when we’re talking about the commissioner’s responsibility and the constitution.”

Warren Sapp admits giving sex toys to co-workers

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Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp has broken his silence regarding sexual harassment allegations made in the wake of words and behavior from Sapp and others who are or were employed by NFL Network. He probably should have remained silent.

Sapp appeared Wednesday in studio on WINZ radio to address allegations of sexual harassment. And Sapp clearly doesn’t understand what the term means.

“I’m still tying to figure out where’s the sexual harassment?” Sapp said, via A.J. Perez of USA Today. (The full audio is posted here.)

Sapp admitted to giving sex toys (although he claims they aren’t sex toys) as Christmas gifts to female colleagues, but he claims that the devices were obtained only after they were mentioned by a couple of makeup artists. Sapp reportedly didn’t say whether the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jami Cantor, had mentioned or requested the device.

“We were sitting there around Christmas time and everybody brought a Christmas gift, a little holiday joy for everybody,” Sapp said. “So my man had made a little novelty thing that looked like mascara, eyeliner and different things. Little toys for ladies that move around a little bit. I showed them pictures and [the makeup artists] said bring me some, so I brought them some for the makeup ladies.”

Sapp sees no problem with giving sex toys to colleagues, insisting that there was nothing sexual about sex toys that he doesn’t regard as sex toys. (He later doubled down on his Twitter page, calling the devices “cute.”)

“Where is the harassment at?” Sapp said on WINZ. “I’m the notorious one. I’m always the bad guy. That’s why I’m in here today. Ain’t no #metoo, nothing. No sexual harassment. You are not going to put that on me.”

He clearly doesn’t understand what sexual harassment is. Sexual harassment doesn’t arise only from seeking out sexual favors from a subordinate employee. Sexual harassment also can arise from words or actions of a sexual nature that are deemed to be offensive by co-workers who are subjected to them.

The core question for the purposes of Cantor’s lawsuit will be whether she actually viewed the conduct as offensive. To make that argument, however, the NFL will have to admit that some or all of the alleged conduct occurred, and hope that a jury can be persuaded that Cantor had no problem with it.

While possibly a winning strategy in court, it’s a horrible look for the NFL, since it creates the impression of unprofessional, inappropriate workplace conduct that apparently went unchecked for an extended period of time. Given Sapp’s admission regarding giving non-sex-toy-sex-toys to female colleagues, the NFL’s best (only) approach may be to admit that a frat house mentality existed, and that Cantor didn’t have a problem with it until she was fired.

Meanwhile, as to the question of whether Sapp urinated in front of Cantor, whose office apparently was in the same location as Arthur Fonzarelli’s, Sapp strongly denied that he peed in her presence. Although he otherwise confirmed much of the claim.

“I didn’t pee in front of my wife and I was married to her for nine years,” Sapp said. “It’s just not something you [do]. What is that about? It’s not cute. It’s not sexual. It’s not something you want to see. Last time I checked, if you ate some asparagus, it might stink.”

Good one, Warren. Almost as good as the comment about CTE, made when you said there was nothing “memorable” about your recent conversation with Marshall Faulk, who was suspended by NFL Network earlier this week pending investigation of the allegations Cantor has made against him.

Ultimately, Sapp should have chosen to say nothing. He’s not a defendant in the lawsuit, and he likely won’t be. The claims made against him hardly besmirch his reputation, given his arrest for solicitation of a prostitute.

Moving forward, Sapp should say nothing. Until his deposition, that is. Which if it were televised by NFL Network would instantly become the second most compelling show on the channel. Maybe the first.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: I’m still playing physical after suspension

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Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is back with the team after serving a one-game suspension for a blindside block that left Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a concussion and he said the time off won’t lead to a change to the way he plays.

Smith-Schuster said last week that he felt he “should’ve held back a little bit more,” but said on Wednesday that he “felt like it was a good hit” and that the fallout from the hit isn’t going to make major changes to the way he plays the game.

“Oh, I am still playing physical,” Smith-Schuster said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s going to be a part of my game. That’s who I have always been since I was a kid. I am still going to make those blocks, you know? Yes, I am going you be more careful; I’m going to aim for the shoulder and lower, just to be more protective of the game.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said last week that he was more bothered by Smith-Schuster standing over Burfict after the block than he was by the block itself. Smith-Schuster will get a chance to show better sportsmanship along with his physical style against the Patriots on Sunday.

Jerry Jones calls Commissioner’s power “antiquated”

AP

In a show of unity, Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones entered the post-meetings press conference together. They exchanged a man-hug as the NFL Commissioner left the podium.

By appearances, all is well. The Cowboys owner insists he supports the contract extension for Goodell despite a four-month fight. At the same time, though, Jones made it clear he wants to take power back from the Commissioner by changing the league’s constitution.

‘This bunch [of owners] is the most qualified people I know to set the course . . . for the future of this league,” Jones said. “That’s going to take some constitutional changes. One of the things that we’ve agreed to, and this process did or didn’t influence it, but we’ve agreed to really address this league for some constitutional changes that is the real way to address not only the Commissioner and some of these issues, on all areas, that’s the real way to address it is right there on how you affect decisions.

“I’m very rewarded that this exercise of extending Roger has brought that about. That is the way that I see it, and it’s going to be. I want to emphasize, I didn’t do it. It took the will of 32 owners to get that done. I am rewarded. What is neat is that Roger, who always has the league in mind, Roger has agreed to be a leader in implementing those changes. And there’s nobody that doesn’t see the need for changes in the NFL in several areas. We’re doing a lot of things good. But there’s some areas we need to change. One of it, it’s an antiquated constitution, an antiquated situation as to the power of the commissioner, this will address that.”

Although Jones didn’t derail the deal, as he had hoped, he did declare victory (as Mike Florio predicted three weeks ago). Or maybe it was more like Jones didn’t concede defeat.

Goodell signed the five-year performance-based extension worth up to $200 million if owners approve all bonuses and incentives are met. Most owners will have oversight on the bonuses and incentives.

“I hope Roger earns every dime,” Jones said. “That means he’s doing a great job, and we’re doing good.”

Jones was one of the owners who voted 32-0 in May to grant the six-member Compensation Committee authority to execute the contract. Jones began fighting the deal after Goodell suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games, but Jones said Elliott’s suspension had nothing to do with it.

So, Jones was asked, what then changed between May and August?

“They have a term in business called a mac,” Jones said. “Material adverse circumstances happen between the time that you shook hands and the time you did the deal. It’s a very valid change of scenery. It’s called a mac. Anybody who says we haven’t had any changes since last spring would be an exaggeration. Certainly that was a part of it. But more importantly than anything, I really felt that something as sensitive as owners giving their vote to a group to make these decisions needed to have a clarity. It needed to have specificity and not three lines to get that ability to make that decision for all the owners. I really did think we had a complaint there. I agreed to drop that [threat of a lawsuit], and I did. I agreed not to have that decided by somebody other than us. So we didn’t do that. What we did was come up to where we are today, and I’ll go with what we’ve got today, because we’ve got more to come that I know will improve the National Football League.”

Alvin Kamara gets in a full practice

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Saints running back Alvin Kamara said earlier this week that he expects to be in the lineup against the Jets in Week 15 after suffering a concussion last Thursday and he appears to be on track to do exactly that.

Kamara was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, which suggests he’s made good progress through the concussion protocol with a few days left before the Jets will arrive in New Orleans. Kamara also reiterated his confidence about his status for Sunday’s game.

“Im good to go. I’m gonna play,” Kamara said, via Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate.

The rest of the injury report was a mixed bag for the Saints offense. Left guard Andrus Peat was limited after missing last week with a groin injury while Senio Kelemete, who started in his place, was a full participant after suffering a concussion. Wide receiver Ted Ginn sat out with a hip injury, however, and the team also practiced without defensive end Trey Hendrickson and linebacker A.J. Klein.

Kyle Rudolph out of practice Wednesday

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The Vikings dealt with several injuries on their offensive line last Sunday and this week brings some injury concerns at tight end as well.

Kyle Rudolph did not practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury that kept him out of the final handful of plays in last Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. Rudolph’s injury comes at a moment when the Vikings are short on healthy players behind him on the depth chart.

Blake Bell, who has a shoulder injury, was also out of practice on Wednesday while David Morgan was limited due to the concussion that kept him from playing against Carolina. In addition to those three players, the Vikings have tight end Kyle Carter on their practice squad.

The Vikings had right tackle Mike Remmers and center Pat Elflein as limited participants at Wednesday’s practice after they missed last Sunday’s game. Left tackle Riley Reiff hurt his ankle in the loss and did not practice.

Roger Goodell says league takes NFL Network harassment suit “very seriously”

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made his first comments on the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against NFL Network today, saying the league is committed to a workplace free of harassment.

At his press conference at the owners’ meeting, Goodell said the league office expects that all employees will be treated with respect.

“We take that very seriously,” Goodell said. “Those are issues that are important to us, to make sure all of our employees, at the network, the league office, the clubs, are working in a safe and comfortable environment. Any time that doesn’t exist we’re going to make sure we deal with that very quickly and very seriously.”

Former NFL Network employee Jami Cantor has said she was repeatedly sexually harassed by several men she worked with at the league-owned media outlet, including six former NFL players. All of the employees accused of harassment are currently suspended.

Roger Goodell: No determination that this will be my last contract

AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a new contract extension in place and word was that it would be his final one, but Goodell sent a different message on Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking from the league meetings in Texas, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said that Goodell “has been clear that he views this as his last contract” while outlining some of the details of his new pact with the league. Goodell took the podium for a press conference later in the day and was asked about that statement.

Goodell answered by saying that he has not “made any determination” about what will happen when the new deal concludes in 2024.

In response to another question, Goodell said that he thinks “there is a limit to how many years you should serve” in the Commissioner role. He did not give any indication of how long he believes that should be, but 2024 would mark 18 years in the job.

Goodell’s predecessor Paul Tagliabue served 17 years in the role and his predecessor Pete Rozelle’s 29-year term is the longest of any NFL Commissioner.

John Mara wants Eli Manning back in 2018

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The Giants plan to start interviewing General Manager candidates next week and one of the questions that is sure to come up is what candidates would do at the quarterback position.

Giants co-owner John Mara gave them a bit of a hint about an answer that would fit with his vision of the 2018 Giants. Mara was asked on Wednesday if he wants Eli Manning to return to the team in 2018.

“Yes,” Mara said, via Newsday. “But that’s a discussion that we’ll have.”

Mara repeated that the team would have “a discussion” if their chosen candidate had a different view of how to move forward at the position. One option would be to use their first-round pick — the Giants are currently slated for the No. 2 overall pick — on a quarterback, which would put Manning into a similar position to the one Kurt Warner had as a veteran placeholder during Manning’s rookie season.

Mara said the quarterback prospects he’s seen have been “impressive,” but called it premature to say any of them would rank at the top of the team’s draft board.

Bruce Arians has “no idea” if Adrian Peterson will play again this year

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Running back Adrian Peterson has missed the last two games with a neck injury and there’s no reason to think he’s going to be back in the lineup for this Sunday’s game.

There’s no current reason to think that he’ll be back in Week 16 or 17 either. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on Wednesday that he has “no idea” if Peterson will be able to play again this year.

If that’s the case, there will be plenty of speculation about whether Peterson’s appearance against the Jaguars in Week 12 will be the final one of his career. Peterson is signed through next season, but the Cardinals expect to have David Johnson back and may choose to go in another direction when it comes to his backups.

Given how long it took for Peterson to find a job this offseason and his middling results once he did get on the field, such a decision could leave him without a place to play in 2018.

Peterson has 448 yards and two touchdowns on 129 carries in six games since the trade that sent him from New Orleans to Arizona.

John Dorsey has spent much time scouting Baker Mayfield

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The Browns’ history with quarterbacks since 1999 is well documented. They’ve either picked the wrong one, signed the wrong one or passed on the right one.

Browns new General Manager John Dorsey vows to change that.

He has given the team’s scouts an assignment to rank the top-12 quarterbacks in the 2018 class.

“There are some positive and legitimate prospects here that would make any Browns fan happy if we went in that direction,” Dorsey said Tuesday on the club’s in-house radio show Cleveland Browns Daily on WKNR 850 via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.

Dorsey told Peter King of SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback that he has watched Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield six times this season and admits he likes the Heisman Trophy winner.

The winless Browns likely will have the top spot in the 2018 draft, and they own Houston’s first pick, which currently is No. 6 overall. Cleveland gave up a chance to draft Deshaun Watson last spring for the Texans’ first-round choice in 2018.

The Browns drafted DeShone Kizer in the second round. Dorsey said the Chiefs had Kizer rated fourth among quarterback prospects. Kansas City traded up to take Patrick Mahomes in the first round.

“He played big-time football,” Dorsey said of Kizer. “He had the physical skill set you could see could transfer into the National Football League. Now the one thing people don’t realize how young he is (21). He was very young coming into the draft process. [But] he had a degree of maturity about his person that a normal 20, 21-year old person did not have.

“I thought he handled himself very well when we brought him in. When I was in Kansas City, we brought in seven quarterbacks, and he did a wonderful job answering the questions. When they actually sat him down and began to do the terminology, the technical aspects of football, the coaching staff walked away pretty impressed with him.”

Colts rule out five for Thursday night; Domata Peko could return for Broncos

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The game between the Broncos and Colts on Thursday night doesn’t have any playoff implications, but the result will have bearing on where the two teams are drafting come April.

As of now, the Colts are picking third and their injury report leaves them shorthanded in their effort to pick up a win that would bump them down in the order. The Colts ruled out wide receiver Donte Moncrief, center Ryan Kelly, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, safety Nate Hairston and tight end Darrell Daniels.

Hairston was the only one of those five to play in Week 14. No other players were given an injury designation for Indianapolis.

On the Broncos side, defensive tackle Domata Peko could return to the lineup. Peko has missed the last two games with a knee injury, but he was a limited participant in practice this week and is listed as questionable to play on Thursday. Quarterback Paxton Lynch was the only player ruled out for Denver.

Eagles won’t be adding a veteran quarterback

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With Carson Wentz officially out for the year, the Eagles will proceed with Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld as the options at quarterback. And the Eagles won’t be adding any veteran quarterback to the depth chart.

Eagles Hall of Famer Brian Westbrook explained the team’s position on enhancing (or not) the quarterback position during a Wednesday visit to PFT Live.

One reason for the decision? There aren’t many available. Other than Colin Kaepernick (not happening) and Tony Romo (fascinating, but not happening), the names include the likes of Robert Griffin III, Shaun Hill, Matt McGloin, and Christian Ponder.

Still, there’s value in having a veteran behind Foles. Sudfeld, a sixth-round pick in 2016 by Washington, has no regular-season game experience. So how can he even begin to help Foles prepare to play late regular-season or looming postseason games?

That’s not a knock on Sudfeld; it’s a basic reality of having no veteran presence at the position.

And then there’s the risk of Foles failing and/or getting injured. What happens when Sudfeld takes over? Eagles fans would prefer not to find out.

Arthur Blank: Commissioner’s contract has Jerry Jones’ support

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Jerry Jones spoke for “5 to 10 minutes” during the NFL owners meetings Wednesday morning. By all accounts, the Cowboys owner is on board with the contract extension for Roger Goodell.

Jones is scheduled to speak with the media when the meetings conclude this afternoon.

“He was fine. He was a Texas gentleman,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said during a break.

Owners likely did not grab hands and sing Kumbaya, but they are singing the same song. Jones seems to have made peace with Goodell’s performance-based extension, which will pay him up to $200 million.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chairman of the Compensation Committee, joined Committee member Bob McNair, the Houston Texans owner, in a conference call with Jones a few days before the contract was signed by Goodell.

“I’ve got a great respect for Jerry,” Blank said. “. . . It was a very good conversation. I thanked him, which I didn’t get a chance to do, or chose not to do really, the time we [the Falcons and Cowboys] played because I didn’t think it was the right setting. I thanked him for the help he’s been to myself and to many owners throughout the league, his leadership in stadium development and branding and marketing and a variety of issues. Jerry has been an active owner and an important owner in the progress of the league over the last 28 years.

“We were not necessarily connected totally on how this process should have been handled.”

Jones tried to derail the deal for Goodell, which will run through the 2023 season and into the spring of 2024. Jones failed because owners gave the Compensation Committee unanimous authorization in May 2017 to execute the contract.

Jones threatened to sue at one point in his fight, prompting the six owners on the Compensation Committee to send Jones a letter telling him to cease and desist. Blank would not comment on the letter.

“I was bothered by anything — and I think the owners are bothered by anything that was a distraction from the league and from the league’s business, both the issues and the opportunities that the league has,” Blank said. “I think there was a general strong feeling in the room that we need to bond together, be together, be a team on the field and off the field as a group of owners in dealing with the issues and the opportunities that the league has now. Our world is changing dramatically in terms of fans and how they’re receiving our content and the experience they have in the stadiums and obviously player relationships are critical, and player safety is critical. The view of the outside world of the league is very important to us. All of those issues we spent a great deal of time on this morning.”

Blank avoided Jones before the Falcons’ Nov. 12 game against the Cowboys, an unusual pregame occurrence between owners.

Jones has insisted that he has had the league’s best interests in mind, even as he fought the deal, and that his attempts to prevent the extension had nothing to do with his anger over Ezekiel Elliott‘s six-game suspension.

Blank was asked if Jones had mended fences, with the contract a single-issue disagreement or a long-term rift.

“I don’t know that there’s a rift going forward,” Blank said. “I think that Jerry, he loves the league; he loves the Cowboys; he’s very passionate about issues that he cares deeply about, which is great. I think it’s important to have different voices in the room. You’ve got a lot of very bright men and women in that room that care about not only their own franchise but care about the pillars of the National Football League, care about our fans, care about our players, care about our sponsors, care about media partners. I think we’re all committed to being connected and dealing with those issues.”

Tomlin denies that the Steelers were looking ahead to the Patriots

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Last month, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin looked past three opponents to the Patriots, and then he looked past the rest of the regular season and the divisional round to a rematch in the AFC title game.

Now, Tomlin claims that neither he nor anyone else with the Steelers ever did that.

“I don’t know that any of us were looking ahead to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said during a conference call with Patriots media. “That’s the way it was described by you guys. We were simply answering questions. We were doing our professional due diligence. When we do interviews and people ask us about potential big games down the road, we’re going to politely answer questions and do so honestly. That’s not us looking down the road. That’s us simply performing our professional duties.”

On the surface, that’s just not true. Players and coaches routinely insist that they take their season one game at a time. Tomlin’s departure from that approach is what made his words so glaring. At a deeper level, Tomlin may have been taking a subtle (or not) shot at the on-to-Cincinnati habits of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who will never, ever talk about any game other than the next one.

I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room,” Tomlin told NBC’s Tony Dungy during an interview televised during the November 26 edition of Football Night in America. “There’s going to be fireworks. But it’s probably going to be part one. You know? . . .

“You’ll burn more fuel trying to pretend like that doesn’t exist than just to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Man, that’s going to be a big game. But probably if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big and what happens in the first is going to set up the second one. It’s going to determine the location of the second one. You know?”

Tomlin, who also declared during the interview that the Steelers “should win it all,” initially explained his remarks by claiming that Dungy asked for “non-coachspeak,” a request I am officially making on a blanket basis as to all coaches who are interviewed by me or anyone else at any point in the future.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Tomlin or other Steelers decide during interviews or press conferences to at all times “politely answer questions and do so honestly.” If Tomlin ever agrees to be interviewed by PFT Live (he’s declined invitations on multiple occasions, and I won’t be holding my breath when the next request is made), I’ll get a chance to assess his politeness and honesty directly.