Group of players asks NFL to support activism awareness month

AP

The NFL will wrap itself in pink for breast cancer, and put on faux-camo to celebrate the military.

Now, a group of players have asked commissioner Roger Goodell to spend a month talking about black and white.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, a group of four current and former players sent the league a memo in August asking for the NFL’s help campaigning for racial equality and criminal justice reform. The letter was signed by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Eagles wideout Torrey Smith.

The 10-page letter to Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent also asked the league to endorse efforts to promote an activism awareness month.

Neither the league, nor the players who signed the memo commented, citing an agreement to keep direct communications with Goodell private.

The memo requested the league to invest time and education, political involvement, finances and other commitments from the league. They also asked the league to endorse November as the time to celebrate their cause.

The league is all too happy to promote safer topics (as in, who can possibly be against cancer or the military?) , and will also be delighted to sell you some merchandise to show how much they care.

“To be clear, we are asking for your support,” part of the memo (which can be read in full here) reads. “We appreciate your acknowledgement on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community. There are a variety of ways for you to get involved. Similar to the model we have in place for players to get involved, there are three tiers of engagement based on your comfort level. To start, we appreciate your agreement on making this an immediate priority. In your words, from Protest to Progress, we need action.”

The players who signed the letter have been among the most outspoken and thoughtful — and active — regarding issues of inequality.

Packers may cut back on Ty Montgomery’s playing time

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Packers running back Ty Montgomery has played 139 offensive snaps this season, by far the most of any running back in the NFL. It may be time for that to change.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the Packers have been cautious about not overworking players in the past, and may ease off on Montgomery’s playing time as well.

Realistically, it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t: Montgomery has played 88 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps. That puts him on pace to play a higher percentage of his team’s snaps than any running back in football since Matt Forte played 92 percent of the Bears’ snaps in 2014.

For his part, Montgomery isn’t complaining about all that playing time.

“I feel good,” Montgomery said. “My body feels good. And obviously I’m thankful and blessed to have a role in this offense.”

It may soon be a reduced role.

Goodell deal “getting done”

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Jerry Jones won’t be getting his way, after all.

The Cowboys owner — who surely didn’t insinuate himself into the negotiations regarding Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract in order to pay him more than what the league otherwise was offering — won’t be derailing the effort to extend the deal from 2019 to 2024. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Goodell deal is “getting done.”

That said, Schefter adds that it may take “days or weeks” to finalize the contract.

ESPN reported over the weekend that Jones was representing the 26 owners not on the Compensation Committee, which is chaired by Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Now, ESPN reports that Jones was “shot down.” Which necessarily refutes the ESPN report that Jones had 26 total owners behind him.

Now, the league will be getting the Goodell deal behind it, and focusing sooner than later on a much bigger contract that will be much harder to finalize — a new deal with the league’s players.

NFL should be able to use flexible scheduling at any time

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As the league looks for ways to make the presentation of its games more compelling on TV, the league needs to further embrace ways to present more compelling games.

Currently, flexible schedule isn’t available until Week Five, and even then it can be used only twice before Week 10. Ideally, the league would have the ability to slide games from window to window whenever it wants.

It would be a useful tool for Week Three. Currently, the late-afternoon games set for the first CBS doubleheader of the year consist of Bengals-Packers and Chiefs-Chargers. But the better games for the afternoon window happen in FOX regional windows, at 1:00 p.m. ET (2-0 Falcons at 2-0 Lions) and 4:05 p.m. ET (1-1 Seahawks at 1-1 Titans). Yes, the latter two games will be broadcast by FOX and, sure, the networks need certainty as to where and when they’ll be broadcasting games. But if the goal is to maximize interest and in turn audience, the league needs to have the ability to flip the switch as its discretion to move games around in order to achieve the biggest bang.

Even if the FOX games couldn’t have been moved to the CBS late-afternoon window, an early game on CBS — 1-1 Texans at 1-1 Patriots — would be more compelling at 4:25 p.m. ET than either of the current options. Reasonable minds may differ on that; regardless, the league needs to have the ability and the willingness to adjust the schedule whenever it wants in order to put the best games in the best spots on the weekly broadcasting calendar.

Richard Sherman calls injury reports “meaningless things on paper” done for gamblers

AP

The Seahawks listed cornerback Richard Sherman questionable last week with a hamstring injury. He played every snap, prompting him again to question the reason for the league’s injury reports.

“I guess from what I understand the rules are for gamblers, for Vegas to make sure the odds and everything are what they are supposed to be, which is apparently what the league is concerned about when talking about injuries and things like that,’’ Sherman said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “So maybe someone should look into that because I thought we weren’t a gambling league or were against all of those things. But our injury report is specifically to make sure the gamblers get their odds right.”

Sherman blamed fantasy football, too.

“Fantasy football, oh, my God,’’ he said. “They are almost as bad as the gamblers.”

In Week 1, the Seahawks listed Sherman as questionable with a thigh injury. He played every snap that game, too.

The All-Pro corner joked he will show up on the report this week with a toe injury.

“You’ve got to keep a good eye on these hangnails because they can spread like wildfire,’’ Sherman said.

Seattle never listed Sherman on its injury report last season even though he played through a sprained knee ligament that wasn’t disclosed until after the season. The NFL issued the Seahawks a warning for violating the league’s injury-reporting policy.

Sherman called injury reports “meaningless things on paper even though you are going to play or whatever it is. They’ve got to put that his ankle is sore, his hip is sore or he’s got a bruise on his hand. But guys are tough — if you are going to play, what’s the point?’’

Jordy Nelson says quadriceps “progressing the right way” after full practice

AP

Despite a long injury list, the Packers got some good news Wednesday when wide receiver Jordy Nelson practiced in full.

“We’re progressing the right way,” Nelson said, via a video from ESPN. “It was great to get back out there and run around. Everything felt good.”

Nelson made it through only seven plays against the Falcons, leaving after he took a knee to the quadriceps.

“[It] gave me a bit of a Charley horse or dead leg or whatever you want to call it,” Nelson said. “I stayed in after, because I thought it was one of those things that would eventually go away, but it started swelling up and tightening up on me and couldn’t get full range, couldn’t run full speed and trying to stop and get in and out of breaks, I knew I wasn’t going to be that effective.”

The Packers listed 13 players on their injury report. Tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring), safety Kentrell Brice (groin), wide receiver Randall Cobb (chest), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip), cornerback Davon House (quadriceps), linebacker Nick Perry (hand), linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring/concussion) and tackle Jason Spriggs (hamstring) did not participate.

David Johnson: It’s been a tough couple of weeks

AP

David Johnson not only can’t carry the football, but the cast on his left wrist prevents him from comfortably carrying his infant son, David Jr.

The Cardinals star running back spoke Wednesday for the first time since injuring his wrist in the season opener.

“I get a little nervous [carrying his son],” Johnson said, via Darren Urban of the team website. “He’s getting a little more squirmy. It’s hard to carry him. My wife doesn’t really trust me.”

Johnson said he has “faced the facts” after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocation and ligament damage. He played only 46 snaps before going on injured reserve, and though the Cardinals expect his return his season, Johnson will miss more than half the season.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” Johnson admitted.

The Cardinals can’t activate Johnson until Nov. 7 at the earliest. Coach Bruce Arians has mentioned a Thanksgiving or Christmas return, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday it wouldn’t surprise him if Johnson comes back sooner than the two-to-three-month prognosis doctors gave Johnson.

Johnson said his injury was not as severe as that of rookie running back T.J. Logan, even though both players were given the same timeline.

London games have never matched two teams with winning records

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The NFL is back in London on Sunday, and once again it’s for something less than a marquee game.

This week it’s the 2-0 Ravens against the 1-1 Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, and that means that there has still never been a game in London matching up two teams that had winning records at the time they played.

Ravens-Jaguars is the NFL’s 18th regular-season game in London. Here’s the full list, with the teams’ records heading into the game:

2007: Giants (5-2) vs. Dolphins (0-7)
2008: Chargers (3-4) vs. Saints (3-4)
2009: Patriots (4-2) vs. Buccaneers (0-6)
2010: Broncos (2-5) vs. 49ers (1-6)
2011: Bears (3-3) vs. Buccaneers (4-2)
2012: Patriots (4-3) vs. Rams (3-4)
2013: Steelers (0-3) vs. Vikings (0-3)
2013: 49ers (5-2) vs. Jaguars (0-7)
2014: Dolphins (1-2) vs. Raiders (0-3)
2014: Lions (5-2) vs. Falcons (2-5)
2014: Cowboys (6-3) vs. Jaguars (1-8)
2015: Jets (2-1) vs. Dolphins (1-2)
2015: Bills (3-3) vs. Jaguars (1-5)
2015: Lions (1-6) vs. Chiefs (2-5)
2016: Colts (1-2) vs. Jaguars (0-3)
2016: Giants (3-3) vs. Rams (3-3)
2016: Washington (4-3) vs. Bengals (3-4)
2017: Jaguars (1-1) vs. Ravens (2-0)

Next week the streak will run to 19, with the Saints playing the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium. The Saints are 0-2, so they’re guaranteed to have a losing record when they play in London. Two more London games are scheduled for later this year, with the Cardinals playing the Rams and the Vikings playing the Browns. Those games are unlikely to match two teams with winning records, so if London fans want to see two winning teams, they’ll have to wait until 2018. Or later.

Sam Bradford: Knee just didn’t feel right last Sunday

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Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is taking part in practice on Wednesday in what will be the first step in determining whether he will be able to return to action after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.

Bradford sat out the game with a knee injury and told the media Wednesday that it was not the result of a hit in the season opener against the Saints, although he did first feel it during that game. He didn’t think it was a big deal, but got progressively worse over the next few days and a pre-game workout on Sunday determined that he wouldn’t be able to play.

“Really just trying to figure out if I could move, what my limitations were, if I was going to be able to go out there and do what I needed to be able to play quarterback and make moves and protect myself,” Bradford said, via ESPN.com. “I was hoping that it was going to feel better than it did having rested it on Saturday without really doing a whole lot. Sunday it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t ready to go.”

Bradford didn’t go into detail about the diagnosis he’s received from doctors or about the steps that have been taken to address the problem beyond saying that they’ve “done a lot of work over the past week trying to make sure that the swelling is out of there.” That’s left Bradford feeling like he has a good chance of playing against the Buccaneers this weekend, although he added that his knee’s response to practice work will be the deciding factor.

Eric Winston on NFLPA executive director job: “This isn’t a public office”

AP

The NFL Players Association has decided to keep executive director DeMaurice Smith via a new process adopted by the union since the last time Smith was appointed to a three-year term. Some (specifically lawyer Cyrus Mehri, who reiterated his criticism via a statement issued on Wednesday) contend that the new process was “orchestrated” by Smith.

Appearing on PFT Live, NFLPA president Eric Winston strongly rejected the suggestion that Smith manipulated the union’s constitution to make it harder to replace him.

“I think it’s a slap in the face when you start talking about that because . . . I can tell you De Smith has nothing to do with the resolution process,” Winston said. “He’s in the back, he offers his opinion when he’s asked and that’s it. The board, the executive committee, and the guys run the resolution process. This was run through resolution so we had a committee, again we studied it all year and then guys decided what process was best for them. We ended up talking about this for an hour during meetings. Going back and forth, ‘OK, should it be unanimous? Should it not be unanimous? Should it be a two-thirds vote here?’

“Guys really got into this and studied this because the guys that went through it a three years ago realized they don’t want to leave it the same way for the next guy. That they want a better process for the next guy and that’s more so than anything, this isn’t about De Smith and this isn’t about any of that. This is about the institution, and I think it goes to show you how little people know and how much people think that it’s just executive-director driven. The board sets the agenda, the executive director carries out the wishes of the board and that’s it, and people that think any otherwise or think it goes any other way, that De Smith just pulls strings and does this I think are sadly mistaken and honestly haven’t really studied or understand the job.”

Mehri suggested during the campaign that never became a campaign that there should be an open “competition” for the job.

“Is that the way Apple does it?” Winston said. “Does Apple open up for their CEO spot? Does Tim Cook have to run against someone every three years? Does the Commissioner run against someone? Is that how the NFL does business? I think that’s silly.

“I think there’s a time and a place for elections, but again this isn’t a public office. And that’s sort of what we had three years ago, and guys overwhelmingly rejected that thought. They want to have a professionally run business, a professionally run union that first of all — just like anybody else, whether it’s the NFL owners evaluate the Commissioner when his job comes up, other unions evaluate their executive directors and, frankly, top companies evaluate, their board evaluates the job the CEO has done and says, ‘OK, is that guy the right guy to lead us going forward or do we need to go looking for another one?’ They don’t bring in other CEOs [and say], ‘Let’s see what kind of strategy this guy has.’ So I kind of reject the notion that there needs to be a street fight every three years or every four or five years to decide if we have the right guy. I don’t think that necessarily healthy for the union and I don’t think frankly that’s how good companies are run.”

Winston also addressed whether Mehri, who was regularly issuing press releases and securing endorsements from former players, moved the needle at all with the 14 members of the selection committee.

“You’d have to ask them,” Winston said. “I mean obviously I know he ran as if this was a public campaign and frankly maybe he thought it was for whatever reason but he didn’t do the homework and understand what the process was and how the process has changed. But obviously he didn’t move the needle with guys and frankly a lot of the things he said we’re going forward with already, so there wasn’t a lot of new criticism and what he said was a lot of what people said three years ago and that was kind of similarly rejected as well three years ago. You know, I’m not gonna sit here and bag on Cyrus Mehri. Obviously he means well and I’m really happy that a guy like that is gonna be a player advocate going forward. I mean, I think the Fitz Pollard Alliance, obviously him and Mr. [John] Wooten who run the Fritz Pollard Alliance obviously are very interested in player rights and . . . I’m looking forward to their support coming through. So now that the Fritz Pollard Alliance has identified themselves with player rights I’m looking forward to them and we’re going need their support now going forward when we re-engage into renegotiation” of the labor deal.

Mehri’s latest statement advocates for a change in the constitution to force the kind of open campaign for which he has been jostling. And it’s hard to fault him for that; he clearly wants the job. But plenty of people want plenty of jobs that already are filled, and the players have decided (via their elected representatives) to move away from a public-style election every three years and to replace that with a threshold analysis of whether they want to keep the person who currently has the job. Given that not a single current player has publicly suggested changing that process, it’s hard to imagine the process changing.

Adam Gase: Players who step outside the team culture can be forgiven

AP

The Dolphins suspended linebacker Lawrence Timmons on Tuesday, three days after he left the team without notice while they were in Los Angeles to face the Chargers.

The team announced the ban as an indefinite suspension, although the CBA mandates a maximum four-week suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. During a Wednesday press conference, coach Adam Gase evaded questions about Timmons, saying that “everything dealing with that we’re going to keep in house and handle it the way we feel we need to handle it.”

The possibility of Timmons returning to the team was raised in another question and Gase gave a similar answer, but a general question about whether players who step outside the team’s culture could be welcomed back at a later date seemed to leave the door open.

“I think every situation is different,” Gase said, via the Miami Herald. “And I would say you can be forgiven if the right steps are taken.”

It’s impossible to guess about the chances of that happening in this situation without knowing what’s gone on behind the scenes with Timmons and the team, but what’s certain in the near term is that the Dolphins defense will be looking elsewhere for a starting linebacker.

NFL hopes CBA extension talks will commence soon

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The NFL Players Association has decided to keep executive director DeMaurice Smith. The NFL hopes that the certainty that arises from thIS decision will spark talks on an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“We congratulate Mr. Smith on his re-election,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Tuesday during a periodic media briefing. “I think we had productive negotiations with him in 2011. We believe strongly that it has worked for both parties, for owners and for players.”

Lockhart added that the league believes the time has come to start talking about an extension of the labor deal.

“This is something we think is in both parties’ interest,” Lockhart said. “It’s certainly not our view that a work stoppage is inevitable. There’s no reason for that. It’s not in the interests of the game.”

Lockhart brushed off recent remarks from Smith regarding the inevitability of a work stoppage as campaign rhetoric, although there never really was a campaign for the job Smith has held since 2009. That said, Lockhart’s remarks about the current deal — combined with the absence of any ownership complaints about it — suggest that a lockout won’t happen in 2021. Instead, if there will be a work stoppage, it will happen only if the players go on strike.

Richard Sherman: At the end of the day, defense knows it’s on us

AP

Perceived friction between the offense and defense in Seattle was a popular topic of conversation around the Seahawks this offseason with cornerback Richard Sherman playing a starring role as one of the leading figures in the rift.

Sherman denied there was any resentment about how offensive struggles have increased pressure on the defense at points in the last couple of years. After the first two games of this season, though, Sherman isn’t arguing that the defense has to do a lot of heavy lifting in Seattle.

The Seahawks lost to the Packers 17-9 in the opener and then slogged their way to a 12-9 win over the 49ers last Sunday, Sherman said that a defense led by him, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril and Sheldon Richardson knows that they are expected to lead the team to success.

“We’ve got a lot of highly paid guys on our side of the ball, a lot of guys who played the game at a high level. And there’s a certain standard that’s expected,” Sherman said, via the Tacoma News Tribune. “We expect it from ourselves. We expect that, regardless of what happens on the other side of the ball. At the end of the day, it’s really on us.”

Thanks to their defense, the Seahawks know that they don’t need the best offense in the league in order to win games. An average unit will get the job done, although Seattle still has some work to do to get to that point.

Jay Z reportedly turns down Super Bowl halftime show

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The Super Bowl is looming, which means that the announcement of a musical act for halftime of the game is coming.

TheSource.com reports that Jay Z has declined an opportunity to do the honors during intermission. Last year, Adele reportedly rejected the gig before Lady Gaga agreed to do it.

The NFL did not directly dispute the report that Jay Z passed on the gig.

“No decisions have been made on the performer(s) and we are not going to speculate on particular artists,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “Along with Pepsi, we know that we will put on a spectacular show. When it is time to announce her name we will do it. Or his name. Or their names.”

It’s not a denial by any means, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jay Z and others pass, if it’s true that the league has been making aggressive financial requests (including a percentage of concert ticket sales) based on the potential value to the artist of performing on the biggest platform in music.

Tom Brady named AFC offensive player of the week

AP

Pity the team that catches Tom Brady after a bad week.

The Saints bore the brunt of the Patriots’ quarterback’s poor opener, and Brady was rewarded for it Wednesday.

Brady was named AFC offensive player of the week for his bounceback performance against New Orleans.

Brady was 30-of-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, as New England recovered from their loss to the Chiefs. Brady was subpar in that game (16-of-36 for 267 yards), and openly discussed how angry it made him.

The award is the 28th weekly honor for Brady in his career, which moves him past Peyton Manning (27) for the most in the history of the honor. And since Manning’s retired, it’s going to be Brady’s record to keep.

Especially if he gets to play the Saints some more.