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Greg Hardy appeal was filed Friday

Greg Hardy AP

On Wednesday, the NFL suspended Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy 10 games.  On Friday, the NFLPA filed a formal appeal of the suspension.

Per a league source, the appeal officially was filed Friday night.  It’s believed that the appeal will focus on the application of the new Personal Conduct Policy standards and processes retroactively to conduct that occurred before the NFL dramatically altered its approach to domestic violence cases.

The league, learning from a lawsuit filed by Adrian Peterson that resulted in a ruling that the new standard can’t apply retroactively, claims that the suspension was imposed under the former policy.  However, it’s obvious that the post-Ray Rice realities of the NFL influenced dramatically a situation that has resulted in Hardy missing 15 games with pay in 2014 and 10 games in 2015 for a first offense that resulted in no criminal liability, due to a civil settlement reached with his accuser, Nicole Holder.  Indeed, Hardy played last year in Week One — and then the Ray Rice elevator video was released, and everything changed.

Under the former policy and procedure, a first-time offender typically received a two-game suspension without pay.  In this specific case, the NFL has separated the incident into four separate violations; in connection with the appeal, the NFLPA undoubtedly will explore whether the NFL took one general incident and broke it into subsets that were then disciplined individually.

According to the source, the appeal also asks the NFL to designate a neutral arbitrator.  The league agreed to use a neutral arbitrator in the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension in 2014, but the league declined to appoint a neutral arbitrator in the appeal of Adrian Peterson’s suspension.  While the neutral arbitrator overturned the Rice suspension as a second punishment for the same conduct that had previously resulted in a two-game suspension, the neutral arbitrator also noted that the NFL could have imposed an indefinite suspension in the first place.

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Adrian Peterson trade continues to look unlikely

Britain Steelers Vikings Football AP

Before and after running back Adrian Peterson was cleared to make a full return to the NFL for the 2015 season, the Vikings have insisted that they want him back for the 2015 season.

Peterson’s been less enthusiastic about returning to the only team he’s played for as a professional, but the signs continue to point toward his rerun to Minnesota for another season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Vikings continue to say “publicly and privately” that Peterson will be playing for them or no one in 2015. As a result it would take “maybe too much” in a trade offer to tempt them to change their minds.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports also reports that the price tag for a Peterson trade and the Vikings’ own desires will make it tough to get a deal done. Per Robinson, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman “feet are in cement” when it comes to holding onto the running back and that a “sledgehammer” of an offer is the only way to change that.

Robinson leaves open the possibility that the Cardinals may change their mind about dealing their first-round pick if they want and miss out on Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, something Rapaport mentions as well, but points out that getting a deal of this type done in a short time frame on Thursday night might not work out.

All of that points to no deal getting done, unless it is a financial one that involves making Peterson happier about playing out his contract with the Vikings.

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Kluwe says Peterson hasn’t handled his situation well

Kluwe Getty Images

One of Adrian Peterson’s always-outspoken former teammates says that Peterson needs to do a better job of handling his personal issues and his pending return to the NFL.

Chris Kluwe, the former Vikings punter who played with Peterson for six seasons, believes that Peterson should show public remorse for abusing his son.

“Obviously, AP can still play, but I think he needs to show that he understands he did something wrong and that he wants to work to change that, which I don’t know that he’s really shown yet,” Kluwe told the Pioneer Press.

One thing that Kluwe and Peterson have in common is that they’ve both clashed with the Vikings’ front office. But Kluwe seems to think Peterson is the one who bears most of the blame for his ongoing dispute with the Vikings.

“[Peterson] also feels that he’s been treated kind of unfairly, which I can see from a player’s perspective,” Kluwe said. “You think that the organization has your back. You think that these people have your back and then you get hung out to dry. I think there’s blame to go around on both sides, but AP hasn’t handled it particularly well. He’s probably valid in thinking he didn’t get some of the support that he thought he was going to get, but he’s the one who made the mistakes and he’s the one who needs to own up to it.”

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Chris Long could be heading into his last year in St. Louis

St. Louis Rams v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

No NFL team has invested more resources in its defensive line than the Rams. But the centerpiece of that defensive line may be heading into his last season in St. Louis.

Chris Long, the Rams’ 2008 first-round draft pick who has developed into a very good defensive end, could be looking at a make-or-break year in 2015. Nick Wagoner of ESPN writes that unless Long has a big year in 2015, the Rams may decide he’s not worth the money and release him in 2016.

The money the Rams have invested in Long is substantial: Last year he counted $12.9 million against their cap despite playing in just six games and finishing the season with a grand total of one sack. This year his cap hit is $12.5 million, and next year his cap hit is $14.25 million. If Long isn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2016, that $14.25 million would be hard to justify in 2016.

The Rams have an expensive defensive end on the other side of the line in Robert Quinn, and they’ve spent first-round picks on defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. On top of that, last month they signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Add it all up, and the Rams have invested a lot in the defensive line.

Eventually, teams that invest that much in one position group find that they have to allocate some of their resources elsewhere. Next year may be the time that the Rams decide they need to spend on other positions, and move on from Long.

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NFL clears Ray McDonald in domestic violence case

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy were both accused of domestic violence last year. Both got the same results from the legal system, ultimately having their charges dropped. But the NFL’s brand of justice has been radically different.

Hardy was banished with pay by the Panthers for 15 games last season and has now been suspended an additional 10 games without pay this season. But McDonald was allowed to play for the 49ers amid the domestic violence accusation last year and will not be suspended at all this year.

The NFL has confirmed that it investigated McDonald, who is now with the Bears, and cleared him of any violation of the personal-conduct policy.

“We have completed that [domestic-violence] investigation,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told the Associated Press Sports Editors. ‘‘[Special counsel for investigations] Lisa [Friel] and her team completed that investigation [and] did not establish a violation of the personal-conduct policy. We informed the player and the [NFL] Players Association.’’

However, that doesn’t mean McDonald is totally out of the woods. He is also being investigated in connection with a sexual assault. McDonald has not been charged in that case and says he will sue the woman who accused him.

‘‘Just to be clear, Ray McDonald had two issues, as you may remember — one related to a domestic-
violence incident and one related to an alleged sexual assault,’’ Friel said. ‘‘It’s the domestic-violence incident that we have finished investigating and didn’t find sufficient evidence to say that he violated the personal-conduct policy. The sexual-assault incident, that investigation is ongoing. That has not been completed, nor has the district attorney’s office in Santa Clara County completed their investigation into that matter.’’

The second accusation against McDonald led the 49ers to cut him. But as far as the the NFL is concerned, he’s not in any trouble with the personal-conduct policy. At least not yet.

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No talks between Eli Manning, Giants

San Francisco 49ers v New York Giants Getty Images

When 2015 began, each of the trio of first-round quarterbacks from the 2004 draft who have become NFL superstars were entering the final year of their second contracts.  One of them (Ben Roethlisberger) has gotten another big deal.  Another one (Philip Rivers) claims he doesn’t want one until 2016, if then.  The third says nothing is happening, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that.

Nothing has been brought up,” Manning said Sunday, via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.  “I haven’t made a big deal about it.”

Eli also said he won’t be insulted if he doesn’t get a new contract before the current one ends, pointing out that his brother, Peyton, has done that before.

Peyton has, twice before in Indianapolis.  But Eli got his current contract before his own rookie deal expired.  This time around, the Giants may decide to wait and see what happens in 2015.

“[The contract] is not something I’m going to argue about or make a fuss about,” Eli said Sunday.

Eli is due to earn a base salary of $17 million in 2015, with a cap number of $19.75 million.  That gives Eli plenty of leverage, since it would cost the Giants $23.7 million in 2016 under the non-exclusive franchise tag — and probably even more under the exclusive version of the tag.  Which means that the Giants would be paying plenty if Eli opts for a year-to-year arrangement, which would increase the tender by 20 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.

Given Eli’s stated desire not to leave the Giants, it’ll be very interesting to see whether New York would roll the dice with the non-exclusive tag, since that would open the door for another team willing to give up two first-round picks to make a run at Eli.

In other words, the Browns would make a run at Eli.

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Irsay “not really” surprised #DeflateGate investigation has taken so long

Irsay Getty Images

The owner of the team that sparked the #DeflateGate investigation recently talked about the absence of closure in the case.  And Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that more than three months have passed since G.M. Ryan Grigson complained to the league about the air pressure in the footballs used during the first half of the AFC title game against the Patriots.

“I know that they are still finishing up their investigation, and there’s really nothing new to report,” Irsay told reporters at the third annual Chuckstrong gala on Friday night.  “It could be a few days, it could be a month or more.  I really don’t know.  They’re working to be, again, comprehensive and thorough, and when [Ted] Wells gets done with it, he’ll let us all know.”

Is Irsay surprised it has taken this long to wrap up the investigation?

“You know, probably not really,” Irsay said.  “He’s a very thorough investigator, and he’s gonna do what he thinks, sort of in his vacuum, so to speak.  He’s not concerned about when he gets the results, how long it takes.  He wants to be thorough.  So I know he operates that way.  So it’s not a shock, but I think everyone has wondered exactly when he’ll come through and let us know what he’s learned.”

Some suspect that a truly thorough investigation might reveal that the Colts took additional air out of the ball that was intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the first half of the game.  The NFL previously has declined to comment on whether Ted Wells is exploring that angle.  Others currently believe that the NFL has turned the investigation back on itself, hoping to placate Patriots owner Robert Kraft by determining how so many leaks of information that would tend to incriminate his team made their way to the media.

Regardless, it’s been more than a month since Commissioner Roger Goodell said the investigation is “getting near the end.”  With the draft less than a week away, it’s starting to feel like the end will arrive on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

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Joe Flacco on wide receivers: I think we’re good with what we have

Joe Flacco AP

At different points this offseason, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta have both downplayed the team’s need to draft a wide receiver after Torrey Smith signed with the 49ers as a free agent.

Quarterback Joe Flacco joined the chorus on Saturday. Flacco admitted that the team lost something when Smith departed as a free agent, but said it’s not something that needs to be addressed early in the draft, late in the draft or anywhere in between.

“Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don’t have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field,” Flacco said, via ESPN.com. “But I’m not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we’re good with who we have.”

The Ravens are pushing their happiness with their current receiving group hard, but it’s hard to believe they’ll avoid the position next week with 10 picks and four returning players from last year.

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If Chip Kelly likes Dion Jordan, now is the time to get him

Dion Jordan AP

In the 2013 NFL draft, the Dolphins loved Dion Jordan, and thought the Eagles loved him, too. Now the Dolphins would love to get rid of Jordan, and would love to have the Eagles be the ones to take him off their hands.

Jordan played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, so the Dolphins thought in 2013 that they’d have to move ahead of the Eagles in order to draft Jordan. And that’s what they did: The Eagles owned the fourth overall pick, so the Dolphins packaged their first-round pick (No. 12) and their-second round pick (No. 42) to move up and draft Jordan with the third overall pick.

Now that looks like a huge mistake. Jordan has been a major disappointment, and the Dolphins are sidestepping questions about whether they see any role for him on the team at all.

That has led to talk that the Dolphins could trade Jordan to the Eagles, but there’s just one problem: We really have no reason to believe that Kelly wants Jordan, other than the fact that Kelly seems to like his old Oregon players. Just because Kelly likes Oregon players who have been productive, like Kiko Alonso, that doesn’t mean he would like an Oregon player who has been a bust, like Jordan.

So if Kelly does like Jordan, the Dolphins would surely be happy to trade him to Philadelphia at a bargain price. But that’s a big “if.” All the talk about Kelly’s interest in Jordan seems to be based on assumptions, and we’ve learned this offseason that we should never assume we know what Chip Kelly will do.

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Shaq Thompson getting a close look from the Panthers

Thompson Getty Images

One of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming draft pool played multiple positions in college.  He intends to focus on only one in the NFL.

Washington safety/linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson won the 2014 Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile player in college football.  As he explained this week on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Thompson has made the “business decision” to play defense.

It couldn’t have been an easy decision; Thompson averaged 7.5 yards per carry in 2014, with 456 yards rushing on 61 carries.  Against Colorado, he generated 174 yards rushing on only 15 carries, an 11.6-yard average.

Thompson has nevertheless gotten plenty of attention as a defender.  But Thompson disclosed on PFT Live that only one team brought in him for a visit and also gave him an on-campus workout:  the Panthers.

Thompson’s ability to play safety and linebacker makes Carolina an obvious potential fit, given that the Panthers drafted Thomas Davis as a safety 10 years ago and made him into a linebacker.

That doesn’t mean Thompson will refuse to make a cameo appearance at running back.  He didn’t rule out the possibility when the topic came up on PFT Live.  Still, he regards himself as a defensive player, because he knows that defensive players can play a lot longer than running backs.

For the full interview, click here, select PFT Live, and select Hour Three of the April 22 show.

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Panthers pick up fifth-year option on Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly AP

Some decisions on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on a first-round pick can be agonizing ones.

The call to extend Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s contract through 2016 was not likely one of them.

Carolina has officially picked up the option of Kuechly, its star middle linebacker, the team announced Saturday afternoon.

The 24-year-old Kuechly has played and started every regular season game for the Panthers since entering the NFL in 2012, notching 473 tackles, defending 27 passes, recording seven interceptions and racking up six sacks.

Kuechly will now be due $11.1 million for 2016. The Panthers are likely to work to sign him to a longer extension at some point.

Teams have until May 3 to exercise fifth-year options on first-round picks in the Class of 2012.

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Dominik chafes at Jameis-JaMarcus comparison

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

It’s spring, when a middle-aged man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of figuring out how to get a coveted prospect to slide down the board.

As the draft approaches, some teams love a player enough to spread negative information and/or opinions about him in the hopes that he’ll be on the board when they are making their pick.

The highest-profile example (so far) for 2015 comes from the recent article featuring an unnamed executive comparing quarterback Jameis Winston to quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  The former G.M. of the team that is expected to select Winston has gone on the record to strongly disagree with the comparison.

I think it’s rude,” former Buccaneers G.M. Mark Dominik told Jorge Sedano of ESPN Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com.  “I think it’s completely off base to call him JaMarcus Russell.  I just don’t see the comparison.  Look, if you want to say one thing about Jameis [as a football player], the only thing I’d sit there and say is at the end of the season, he lost 17 pounds to go to the [Scouting] Combine.  I didn’t like that.  You now, because I’d like to think he’s playing as well as he can all the way through the bowl series and then getting himself ready for the Combine, instead of having to get himself in shape.  But from a football standpoint, from a football intelligence, from a competitor, from a leader, it ain’t close.  It’s embarrassing.  For my personal opinion, whatever G.M. said that, probably should not be a G.M., quite frankly.”

While that G.M. would likely respond by saying, “Well, I’m a G.M. and Dominik isn’t,” that G.M. can’t say anything because that G.M. hasn’t gone on the record with the Jameis-JaMarcus comparison.

Yes, the anonymous sourcing of information fuels the journalism industry in many ways.  But the anonymous sourcing of opinion can be harder to handle, since the anonymous source of the opinion may be hoping to get the Buccaneers to waver on Winston, ultimately passing on him or trading the pick for less than the Bucs would otherwise want.

Without knowing who the anonymous source of the opinion is, it’s impossible to know whether that source secretly hopes the opinion will prompt the Buccaneers and other teams to get out of the way, so that the team for which the anonymous source works can draft Jameis Winston.

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NFLRA takes issue with perception (reality) that some officials were let go

Officials Getty Images

The NFL has seen 18.5-percent turnover in its game officials over the last two years.  And for good reason; as V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said earlier this month, the league won’t keep officials who aren’t getting the job done.

“If an official isn’t performing up to the standards then they won’t be in the NFL,” Blandino said, confirming that the league “moved on from” some officials.

“Any official, in any competitive arena, could have a poor season, so one season may not necessarily cause us to terminate an official,” Blandino said.  “But if it becomes a trend, multiple seasons, we have a tier-based ranking system, the third tier being the lowest performers.  Once they enter Tier 3 we put them in an enhanced training regimen and put them in that program, and if we still don’t see improvement, that’s when we move on.”

The NFL Referees Association has taken issue with the characterization that five officials have been fired, via a Saturday morning press release.

“It is a totally inaccurate and disrespectful to these outstanding retiring game officials for anyone to give the impression or infer they were fired,” NFLRA executive director Jim Quirk said.  “After the reports surfaced, we immediately reached out to the League with our concerns.  We were pleased that during this conversation, management admitted that their public statements were misinterpreted, and they did not mean to give the impression the five retiring officials were fired.”

So who are the five officials who retired?  The NFLRA won’t say.

“Medical privacy laws do not permit me to publicly name the 20-plus-year veteran game officials who retired due to medical conditions,” Quirk said.

For 2015, the NFL has hired nine new officials, with five replacing those who aren’t returning and four new positions.

A league source confirmed that the NFLRA privately objected to the characterization the NFL has fired “some of its worst officials.”  But the source also acknowledged that some of the officials who “retired” had no intention of retiring, and thus were let go.

Which means that the league moved on from them.  Which means they were some of the league’s worst officials.

Before anyone takes up the cause of the officials who were involuntarily retired, keep in mind the broader goal of getting as many calls right as possible.  If people aren’t able to do that on a consistent basis, failure of the NFL to move on from “some of its worst officials” would justify far more criticism than whatever criticism has arisen from the league’s effort to improve the pool of game officials.

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Sanchez: We need another guy to throw, that’s why we signed Tebow

Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez AP

Mark Sanchez thinks Tim Tebow is a camp arm.

Sanchez told CSNPhilly.com that he’s been told Tebow was signed as another quarterback to give the receivers some work because Sam Bradford is still not 100 percent.

“He’s obviously a great guy, he works hard. And we needed another guy to throw while Sam’s still recovering,” Sanchez said. “So that’s the reason [for the signing], at least as explained to me. We’re excited about the upcoming year and I think we have a great group.”

But that reason makes no sense. If the Eagles just wanted another guy to throw, there are dozens of quarterbacks with better arms than Tebow who could do that job.

Where Tebow potentially has value to a team is in the things he can do beyond throwing the football: Tebow is good at escaping the pocket under pressure, good at making something happen when a play breaks down and good at managing the clock when his team is trailing in the fourth quarter. There’s value in those skills, which is why Tebow had some success as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

But as a passer, Tebow is limited, which is why he has completed only 47.9 percent of his passes in his NFL career.

So while Sanchez may have been told that Tebow is just a camp arm, Chip Kelly must have other plans. If the Eagles wanted a camp arm, they would’ve signed someone with a better arm than Tebow.

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Dan Marino wouldn’t trade the Hall of Fame for a Super Bowl ring

Marino Getty Images

Dan Marino is on the short list of the greatest players never to win a championship, and he’s just fine with that.

Appearing at a Pro Football Hall of Fame function on Friday, Marino was asked whether he would trade the gold jacket that comes with Hall of Fame induction for a Super Bowl ring. Marino’s one-word answer: “No.”

Enshrinement in Canton represents the greatest individual achievement a pro football player can aspire to, and Marino isn’t just in Canton, but he’s even among the elite in the Hall of Fame, an easy choice as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

And yet a Super Bowl ring is what every player is playing for every year, and although this is probably unfair, virtually every story about Marino’s career mentions the absence of a ring.

Marino’s comments are reminiscent of a story from a couple years ago, when LaDainian Tomlinson said he’d take the Hall of Fame over a Super Bowl ring, while Tedy Bruschi shot back that a ring is the greater accomplishment. Tomlinson, of course, never got a ring but will likely get to the Hall of Fame, while Bruschi isn’t going to Canton but does have three Super Bowl rings.

Marino’s comments may be an accurate representation of the status of enshrinement in Canton as the greatest achievement for a football player. Or they may just be an attempt to look on the bright side on the one count where Marino’s career fell short.

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