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Pat Tillman died 10 years ago today

Pat Tillman

Ten years ago today, Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal who walked away from millions of dollars because he felt a call to defend his country after 9/11, was shot and killed by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Army so wanted to make Tillman the perfect hero of post-9/11 America that it falsely claimed he was killed “in the line of devastating enemy fire.” The truth, that he was killed by friendly fire, came later; Tillman’s brother Kevin said the family considered it an insult to be used as “props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.”

The Tillman family has repeatedly pointed out that Pat defied what many Americans thought they knew about a football star turned war hero, including when Pat’s other brother, Richard Tillman, stood up at Pat’s memorial service and angrily disagreed with previous speakers who had said Pat is now with God. “Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s f–king dead. He’s not religious,” Richard Tillman said.

When you reflect on Tillman’s decision to leave the NFL, and on his service in the Army, one of the most striking things is how little Tillman said about the matter. Tillman eschewed publicity and declined to go into any detail about why a man in his athletic prime would walk away from a lucrative football career to risk his life at war. We never heard in Tillman’s own voice an explanation of exactly why he did what he did.

And so we’re left knowing only that Tillman was a brave man, a selfless man, and a man who deserved better from the country for which he gave his life.

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Texans could be laying foundation for a trade down

Texans Getty Images

As the Texans continue to host most of the guys expected to be taken at the top of the draft, the Texans could have a plan in mind other than making one of them the first overall selection on the evening of May 8.

The Texans could be seriously considering the possibility of trading down and then taking later in the top 10 the guy whose name they’d scrawl on the card if they use the top pick.

If that’s what the Texans do, they need to keep everyone guessing about the player they’d take later, so that they don’t get leapfrogged after trading down for the guy they want.  From a P.R. standpoint, the Texans also need to be able to claim with a straight face that they got the guy later in the round whom they would have taken at No. 1.  (Even if, you know, they don’t.)

A trade down makes more sense if, as Peter King recently suggested, Texans G.M. Rick Smith prefers linebacker Khalil Mack to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.  Why take Mack with the first pick if someone else would give up plenty (potentially) to move up to the top to get Clowney?

Here’s another thought.  Maybe leaking the Mack preference is simply the Texans’ way of getting the word out in subtle fashion that the top pick is available, if someone wants to move up to get Clowney.  Maybe Clowney would still be the pick if Smith and new coach Bill O’Brien (pictured) can’t find a suitor, but the preference isn’t really Mack or Clowney but a trade down with the ability to get more opportunities to improve a team that was unexpectedly dreadful in 2013.

Regardless, the NFL’s decision to move one of the three offseason tent poles back by two weeks without also moving the other two (the Scouting Combine and free agency) has left everyone with extra time to fashion plans, to execute those plans, and also to then try to figure out what those plans may be.

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DeSean Jackson expects “something special” when playing the Eagles

DeSean Jackson

Washington wide receiver DeSean Jackson will circle two dates on his calendar when the NFL releases this year’s schedule.

Jackson told Arsenio Hall that he’s eager to play the Eagles, who cut him for reasons Jackson still doesn’t fully understand.

Oh yeah, twice,” Jackson said of playing the Eagles this year, via “Two times, not once, twice. I’m sure those two games, there’s gonna be something special about those two games, for sure. I gotta definitely go up on that.”

Jackson says the day the Eagles informed him that he was cut is still difficult for him.

“It was almost unreal, honestly. My agent called me because I missed the call from head coach, and I’m sitting there like, what’s the reason behind it, what’s going on? Somebody tell me,” Jackson said. “Basically, [Kelly] told me ‘I think it’s best for the team and I think it’s best for yourself [to part ways]. We’re gonna let you negotiate with 31 other teams.’ So I’m like ‘Are you sure?’ I asked him one more time, I asked him what’s the reason, he said that’s what it was. I’m like, let’s get it started, let’s get it going.”

Jackson going against the Eagles will make for two of the most intriguing dates of the NFL year.

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Browns continue getting acquainted with Derek Carr

DerekCarr Getty Images

The Browns previously spent plenty of time with quarterback Derek Carr during an on-campus workout.  They’ll now be spending even more time with Carr in Cleveland.

As explained by David White of the Fresno Bee, Carr heads to Cleveland this week for his official visit with the Browns.

If they like him enough to draft him, the question becomes whether the Browns would take Carr at No. 4 or No. 26 in the first round.  But there’s another alternative.

They could trade down from No. 4 and draft Carr in the teens, like the Ravens did when acquiring Joe Flacco six years ago.  This would give the Browns an extra pick or two as the latest new coaching staff tries to put together a team that fits the new schemes and systems.

Trading down invites a risk of being leapfrogged.  If the Browns decide that Carr could be the franchise’s first franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar, why screw around?  They should just take him at No. 4.

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Seahawks “excited” by “incredibly explosive” Pryor

Pryor Getty Images

Both the Raiders and the Seahawks, one-time and long-time rivals in the AFC West, have announced the deal that sends quarterback Terrelle Pryor to Seattle. Both teams have disclosed the the Raiders will get Seattle’s seventh-round pick, the final non-compensatory selection in the draft.

The Seahawks were particularly effusive in their praise of Pryor.

“Terrelle is an incredibly explosive athlete and we’re excited for him to come in and compete,” G.M. John Schneider said in a team-issued release.

The release identifies Pryor as a quarterback, saying nothing about Pryor possibly filling other roles. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, he will indeed remain a quarterback.

Presumably, he’ll compete with Tarvaris Jackson as the No. 2 man behind Russell Wilson.

And, of course, if the Seahawks are serious about the commitment to competition, Pryor also would have a chance to supplant Wilson, in theory. But it would take a lot to overcome one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Actually, Wilson isn’t just one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s already one of the best quarterbacks in the league regardless of age and experience.

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Seahawks, 49ers both were pursuing Pryor

Pryor Getty Images

The Seahawks have secured yet another victory in their ongoing rivalry with the 49ers.

Per multiple sources, Seattle and San Francisco were both pursuing quarterback Terrelle Pryor from the Raiders.  In the end, Seattle won.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Seahawks gave up a seventh-round pick for Pryor.  The 49ers presumably offered less; possibly, a conditional low-round pick in 2015 based on Pryor making the 53-man roster in 2014.

It makes sense that the 49ers and Seahawks, both low on the waiver priority list, would pursue Pryor via trade.  They had little shot at him if he had been waived.

The Seahawks had no shot, absent a trade.  They are at the bottom of the waiver list throughout the offseason and into the first few weeks of the regular season.  If the 49ers were interested, they would have secured Pryor via waivers over Seattle.

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Raiders send Terrelle Pryor to Seattle

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Seahawks have just acquired another intriguing weapon.

Per a league source, the Raiders have traded quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the defending Super Bowl champions.  Terms of the deal are not yet known.

A third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, Pryor spent three seasons with the Raiders.  He has one year left on his rookie contract, at $705,000.

Pryor presumably will remain a quarterback, competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the opportunity to back up Russell Wilson.  Jackson’s one-year deal, however, is guaranteed.

From time to time, speculation has arisen than Pryor could play another position.  Though he fully intends to remain a quarterback, Pryor would likely be far more successful as a tight end or a receiver than Tebow ever could have been.

Plenty of questions will be answered in the coming hours and days, starting with the compensation the Seahawks gave to the Raiders for Pryor.  It’s likely a conditional pick in 2015 premised on Pryor making the 53-man roster.  If so, it makes it a low-risk proposition for a Seahawks team that is constantly committed to getting better.

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League to announce draft attendees on Tuesday

Draft Getty Images

In the clearest indication yet that the NFL won’t be announcing the 2014 regular-season schedule on Tuesday, the league has announced that it will be announcing something else.

At 7:00 p.m. ET, the NFL will unveil the players who’ll attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall.

Before the league moved the draft to prime time, only a handful of players were asked to attend.  Last year, 23 players initially were announced as attendees; cornerback Darius Slay was added later to make it 24.

Three years ago, a mini-controversy emerged when the NFLPA toyed with the idea of urging rookies to not attend the draft during the lockout.  Eventually, the union endorsed the decision of players to accept the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive a bear hug from the Commissioner and/or to languish in the green room.

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Mike Holmgren now says he should have coached the Browns

Mike Holmgren AP

Mike Holmgren made a lot of mistakes as president of the Cleveland Browns. One of his mistakes, Holmgren now says, is not hiring himself as head coach.

Holmgren told Peter King of that in hindsight, he should have pushed back against the team’s ownership, which wanted him to be the top executive but not the coach.

“I really just should have coached the team, but he [owner Randy Lerner] didn’t want me to.”

It’s easy to see why Holmgren feels that way, because he’s been a better coach than an executive throughout his career. Holmgren did his best work as the head coach of the Packers at a time when Ron Wolf was Green Bay’s general manager, and after a brief and unsuccessful stint as both head coach and G.M. of the Seahawks, Holmgren had more success after giving up the G.M. job. In Cleveland, Holmgren oversaw a front office that made many mistakes, including retaining head coach Eric Mangini when it was clearly time to move on, hiring Pat Shurmur after firing Mangini a year too late, and using first-round draft picks on Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.

However, Holmgren has previously said that he was the one who decided not to coach again, so it’s surprising that he’s now saying it was Lerner who kept him from coaching the Browns. We’ll never know how things would have turned out if Holmgren had coached the Browns, but it’s safe to say this: He would have struggled if his roster was put together by General Manager Mike Holmgren.

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Colts center Phil Costa retires at age 26

Phil Costa, Nick Hayden, Nick Stephens AP

Phil Costa, a center who signed with the Colts as a free agent last month, has surprisingly decided to retire.

The Colts announced today that the 26-year-old Costa, who previously spent four years with the Cowboys, is calling it a career.

“Phil feels it’s in his best interest to retire from the game,” Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement. “We certainly understand and wish him nothing but the best.”

The Colts may understand, but it’s a difficult decision to understand from the outside: There had been no indications that Costa was having any physical problems that would prevent him from playing many more years in the NFL. Costa did have a high-profile broken engagement to reality TV star Brooke Hogan, daughter of Hulk Hogan, but there were no indications that any issues in his personal life would keep him off the field, either.

So this is a surprising story. Perhaps Costa will clear things up in the future, but so far he has said nothing.

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Geno Smith: I think competition will make our team better

New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

When the Jets brought in Michael Vick as a free agent this offseason, incumbent quarterback Geno Smith said it was “awesome.”

Nothing’s changed over the last month. Smith met reporters on Monday as the Jets got started on their offseason conditioning program and said he welcomed competition even while saying that he expects to win it and remain the team’s starting quarterback.

“I think it will make our team better,” Smith said, via A.J. Perez of “I’m all for competition. I want to compete, no matter who comes in. I think we have a good guy in Mike, who brings something extra to the table as far as veteran leadership into our quarterback room. The starter will be named at the end of the training camp, before the start of the season. I understand there’s a competition. Honestly, it comes down to what we do on the field and that’s what I really look forward to.”

Smith said that watching tapes of his 2013 season has been “painful” and the Jets are hopeful that Vick’s previous experience with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg makes for fewer horror films next season. Whether that’s because his presence pushes Smith to new heights or because he winds up with the job remains to be decided.

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Peyton Manning says he wasn’t in Alabama with Adam Gase

PeytonManning AP

The NFL is looking into the possibility that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase violated NFL rules about coaches and players working together outside prescribed times in the offseason when they met with Alabama coach Nick Saban recently, although Manning has now joined Saban in saying the meetings took place separately.

Saban said that the two Broncos only saw each other to say hello and that the meeting he had with Manning was about Manning “asking questions about how he could get better as a player.” Manning met reporters Monday as the Broncos opened up their offseason program and also said that he and Gase were in Alabama separately while agreeing with Saban about the reason for his visit.

“I know there isn’t a rule that says you can’t get better,” Manning said, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today.

There is a rule against coaches and players working together in the offseason, though, and the league will decide whether or not Manning and Gase violated it in Alabama. We’ve heard complaints about the rule from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and others, which could lead to discussions about changing it the next time the union and the league discuss such matters.

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Chiefs’ Eric Fisher had shoulder, hernia surgeries

Eric+Fisher+Green+Bay+Packers+v+Kansas+City+auo-3KwGXddl Getty Images

The first overall pick in last year’s NFL draft is recovering from two different offseason surgeries.

Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher had a procedure on his shoulder and a procedure to repair a hernia, coach Andy Reid confirmed today at his press conference at the start of Kansas City’s offseason program.

Fisher started 13 games as a rookie but was disappointing as the Chiefs’ right tackle. Nonetheless, Reid has said he expects Fisher to be the starting left tackle this year, replacing the departed Branden Albert.

If Fisher is healthy and looks as good as the Chiefs thought he would be when they drafted him last year, the Chiefs have their franchise left tackle in place for years to come. If Fisher continues to struggle, questions will be raised about whether the Chiefs made a mistake when they made him the top pick in the draft.

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Bucs unlikely to exercise option on Clayborn, but won’t be trading him

Clayborn Getty Images

As the deadline for exercising the fifth-year option of players picked in the first round of the 2011 draft approaches, a recent first-round pick in Tampa Bay is inching closer toward being thrown overboard.

Per a league source, it’s doubtful that the Buccaneers will pick up the fifth-year option on defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

The 20th overall pick that year, Clayborn has 35 career regular-season appearances and starts.  In 2013, he started every game, notching 5.5 sacks.  Clayborn had 7.5 sacks as a rookie.

While the Bucs likely won’t pick up Clayborn’s option, the source says they also have no intention of trading him to a team that perhaps would want to exercise the option.  Or to trade him at any point after the May 3 deadline for picking up the option.

Thus, if Clayborn stays in Tampa beyond 2014, it’ll happen under a contract that isn’t driven by a first-year salary of $6.9 million, which is the amount of the option the Bucs likely won’t be exercising.

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Keyshawn Johnson arrested on domestic violence charge

2007 NFL Draft Getty Images

Former NFL player and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson has been arrested in connection with a domestic violence incident.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies went to Johnson’s home at 12:48 a.m. today after getting a call about a possible spousal assault.

“When deputies arrived, it was determined that the resident and his ex-girlfriend were involved in a domestic dispute,” the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department told CBS Los Angeles.

Johnson was booked and released on $20,000 bail. CBS Los Angeles reports that Johnson is charged with misdemeanor spousal battery, while TMZ reports that Johnson is charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. TMZ’s report says Johnson smashed his ex-girlfriend’s phone, causing a gash to her hand.

Asked for comment, an ESPN spokesman told PFT, “We are aware and are looking into it.”

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