IRVINE, Calif. — There was a telling moment in Rams practice Saturday, though barely perceptible. The best defensive player in football, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, walked up to Matthew Stafford, mid-practice, and hugged him. This is not done, a defensive player hugging the quarterback, during a competitive period of practice. But here it was, under [more]
Aaron Rodgers has returned to the Packers. At some level, the Packers may be wishing he hadn’t.
Rodgers has swapped months of (mostly) silence for complete and unvarnished candor about his concerns. In his first press conference of 2021 training camp, Rodgers reviewed his issues with the organization.
At the core, and as widely believed, Rodgers thinks he should not be treated like a mere employee.
“The organization looks at me and my job as just to play,” Rodgers said. He explained that, given his unique circumstances, he should have “a little more input.”
He expressed frustration with the team’s failure to seek his opinion on matters such as players who will or won’t stay with the team.
“At least to be in the conversation makes it feel like you’re important, you’re respected,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said that his overriding goal was and is “trying to be a resource for the organization.”
He said he was offered more money, but that it wasn’t about the money. He admitted that he wanted more of a commitment, which meshes with what we’d said all along — he wanted the Packers to be tied to him beyond 2021, breaking the year-to-year approach that the Packers are currently taking with him. However, he said that the team had no conversations with him about a contract extension that would extend the commitment beyond May
Ultimately, he was asked whether he wanted to be with the Packers.
“I do,” Rodgers said. “I love my teammates, I love the city, I love my coaches.”
He nevertheless had his doubts. Rodgers admitted that retirement is “definitely something I thought about.” Recently, however, he decided to stay put.
“We got some things figured out in the last few days and now I’m here,” he said.
Rodgers, despite saying so many things that meshed with so much of what was reported regarding his situation, tried to blame the media for making too much out of his situation. He insisted he leaked nothing and that his agents didn’t, either. (I’ll believe the former, but not the latter.)
So what about 2022?
“I really don’t know,” Rodgers said. “Things in that direction haven’t really changed at all. . . . . There’s gonna be a lot of tough decisions at the end of the year. I’m just gonna enjoy this year.”
He admitted that he’s received no assurances that he’ll be traded in 2022.
“I’m not a victim here at all,” Rodgers said. “It’s a business.”
It definitely is. And he hasn’t been happy with the way the Packers have done business. Whether the Packers change the way they do business will go a long way toward determining whether he wants to stay.
The latest labor deal makes it harder than ever for players under contract to hold out. As a result, this year’s ritual of players reporting to training camp has included, so far, not a single player under contract holding out.
Here’s the question: With unhappy players unwilling based on the terms of the current labor deal to draw a line in the stand and stay away, could the presence of men who aren’t happy with their current circumstances and who feel like they have no options backfire on one or more teams?
In Miami, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard showed up when he clearly had no interest in doing so; he has since made a public trade demand. Other players who want new contracts or changes of scenery have reported. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore showed up. Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones showed up. Seahawks safety Jamal Adams showed up. Packers receiver Davante Adams showed up. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson showed up. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who supposedly didn’t care about the financial consequences of staying away, caved in and showed up.
The latest CBA increased daily fines for holding out of training camp while under contract to $50,000 per day. For players not operating under their rookie contracts, the fines no longer can be waived.
That has undoubtedly prompted some players who would have stayed away to show up. Which means that unhappy players who’d rather not be present believe they have to be there.
The term “hold in” will become more popular moving forward. It’s been a very real dynamic in the NFL for years. Players sometimes show up and, for example, have a nagging hamstring strain that keeps them from practicing. Coaches don’t like it, but what can they do? Pick a fight with someone who’s already ready to rumble?
The league’s decision to make it harder to hold out increases the chances of another Terrell Owens situation, where a player who wants a new contract and/or a trade but who doesn’t hold out shows up and creates a three-ring circus that morphs into a major distraction. Again, if you take away (as a practical matter) the ability of a disgruntled player to simply stay home, that player will look for another way to get what he wants. In some situations, it will be much better to have that guy not in the building, not around teammates, not interacting with coaches and others from management, not making things potentially worse before they can get better.
Given the number of unhappy players who showed up for 2021 training camp, it makes sense to pay close attention to how things unfold for each of the players who, in past years, would have been more inclined to stay away. The greater the unhappy players who don’t hold out, the greater the chance that there will be at least one situation that implodes.
Our long regional nightmare is over. Aaron Rodgers is back. And at a time when some are twisting themselves in knots to characterize this as some sort of a major win for Rodgers, it’s not. It’s definitely not.
Make no mistake about it. Rodgers caved. Rodgers folded. Rodgers surrendered.
Once the restructured deal between the Packers and Rodgers becomes official, the Packers get their franchise quarterback. Rodgers gets (checks notes) the 2023 season of his current deal removed.
That’s it. That’s all he’s getting that he wasn’t already entitled to receive. Sure, they’ll convert a large chunk of his 2021 salary of $14.6 million into a guaranteed payment. That’s something the Packers automatically could have done in March, and which they would have done if he wasn’t making noise behind the scenes about wanting out. Besides, the guarantee means nothing. It’s not like they were going to cut him; he was getting that $14.6 million this year simply by showing up.
This vague, non-binding notion that the Packers will take another look at the situation after 2021 means nothing. The Packers ultimately will do whatever the Packers (a corporation, not a family-owned business) deem to be in their best interests. If the Packers decide not to let Rodgers go, they don’t have to. Also, unless this new agreement waives the ability to recover the $11.5 million in signing bonus he earns by playing in 2022, the Packers will have that leverage if he refuses to show up a year from now.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who broke the news of the deal between Rodgers and the Packers (and who recently had insisted that Rodgers is done with the Packers), tweeted repeatedly about “concessions” by the Packers when, in reality, the only concession came from wiping out the final season of the contract, three seasons from now. Schefter’s final tweet on the subject says that Rodgers has secured “the freedom to decide where he wants to play in 2022.”
But, again, he hasn’t secured that. The contract still runs through 2022. His freedom comes in 2023, unless Green Bay Packers, Inc. chooses to give it to him before then.
So why the mischaracterization of this deal as some sort of a win for Rodgers? Well,it’s probably hard to get a scoop like this without first agreeing to make it look like a victory Rodgers, even if it isn’t.
After everything that’s happened over the past three months, at the end of the day all it took to get him back was wiping out the 2023 season? And spare me the “they’ve made promises” nonsense. This is business. Any verbal guarantees Rodgers received as to 2021 or 2022 aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on.
Bottom line? It’s a huge win for the Packers, and it’s also a big win for the cloud-shouting, get-off-my-lawn-yelling old-school football types who think the NFL is becoming like the NBA. Rodgers had a chance to further blur the lines between the two leagues, but as he dove for the goal line, he fumbled the ball through the end zone.
Or, to put it in terms Rodgers may better appreciate, he took one of the strongest stands that any elite NFL player ever has taken against his team, and at the end of the day he performed like Cliff Clavin on Jeopardy!
There are three teams, at least, in the NFL as of this morning that are in the upper 90s in percent of players vaccinated, with zero unvaccinated coaches and key team staff members. In this day and age, that seems incredible, to have maybe one to four holdouts on a 90-man roster, given where we [more]
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Mike Tirico, a veteran sportscaster who has 30 years of experience in front of the camera and has hosted some of sports’ biggest events from the Indianapolis 500 to [more]
The NFL is a deadline-driven business. A key deadline is currently driving up on several teams.
Currently, however, there’s no indication that any of the franchise-tagged players who have not signed long-term deals will sign long-term deals before today’s 4:00 p.m. ET deadline. As one source with knowledge of the dynamics explained it, the Saints and safety Marcus Williams are the most likely to get something done.
Other franchise-tagged players include Bears receiver Allen Robinson, Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin, Jaguars tackle Cam Robinson, Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Jets safety Marcus Maye, and Panthers tackle Taylor Moton.
The reasons vary for the inability to strike deals. Per a league source, Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin want more guaranteed money than their teams will offer, as much as three years guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap. (The Bucs also believe they need to be sensitive to the presence of Mike Evans.) Brandon Scherff, who has been tagged a second time and who as a practical matter won’t be tagged again, has more leverage than the rest of the tagged players, and he’s using it.
Marcus Maye, as we hear it, simply isn’t interested in committing long-term to the Jets at this point. As to Cam Robinson, the new coaching staff in Jacksonville is leery about making a long-term commitment until it gets a chance to assess him as a player.
In past years, the formula for converting a first franchise tag into a long-term deal has gone like this: Fully guarantee the first two years at the franchise-tag amounts (base value for current year and 20-percent raise for the next year), with three non-guaranteed years on the back end.
Absent long-term deals by 4:00 p.m. ET, no tagged player can sign a long-term deal until after the regular season. Since all of the tagged players have signed their one-year tenders, all currently are and will remain under contract, regardless of whether a long-term deal is done.
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, Peter returns briefly to introduce a special column. Recently, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt surprised Terez Paylor’s parents and his fiancée with the news that the late sports journalist [more]
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Michael Holley, a multimedia personality who has experience in daily newspapers, sports talk radio, books, and TV. Holley currently works as a cohost on Peacock’s “Brother From Another” and NBC [more]
On Thursday, the NFL announced that it had fined the Washington Football Team $10 million after concluding the investigation into its workplace culture. Franchise owner Dan Snyder is also essentially suspended “for at least the next several months,” as his wife, Tanya Snyder, will take over the day-to-day operations of the club and represent Washington at league meetings as co-CEO and co-owner.
Below is the league’s statement, in full, detailing investigator Beth Wilkinson’s findings and 10 recommendations for Washington to improve its workplace culture:
“The National Football League today announced the outcome of the workplace review of the Washington Football Team led by independent counsel Beth Wilkinson, as well as remedial measures and penalties arising out of that review.
“Wilkinson’s firm (‘Wilkinson’) was initially engaged by the Washington club in July 2020. At the club’s request, the league office assumed oversight of her work a short time later, just prior to the start of the 2020 season. Her assignment was to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into allegations of a hostile workplace culture at the club, including allegations of bullying and harassment, and to make recommendations regarding any remedial measures the club should take in light of her findings. Wilkinson was not specifically tasked with confirming or rejecting any particular allegation of inappropriate conduct. Throughout her engagement, Wilkinson communicated with the league office on a regular and ongoing basis.
“Wilkinson interviewed more than 150 people, most of whom were current or former employees of the club, and many of whom conditioned their participation on a promise of anonymity. She interviewed owner Dan Snyder twice. Dan Snyder and the club released current and former employees from any confidentiality obligations for purposes of speaking with Wilkinson and pledged that there would be no retaliation against any current or former employee who did so. Washington Football Team president Jason Wright emphasized this commitment and encouraged employees to cooperate and speak with Wilkinson.
“Commissioner Goodell said: ‘I want to thank Beth Wilkinson and her team for conducting a thorough and independent review of the Washington club’s workplace culture and conduct and providing both the club and me with a series of thoughtful recommendations based on her findings. Beth and her team performed their work in a highly professional and ethical manner. Most importantly, I want to thank the current and former employees who spoke to Beth and her team; they provided vital information that will help ensure that the workplace environment at the club continues to improve. It is incredibly difficult to relive painful memories. I am grateful to everyone who courageously came forward.’
“Based on Wilkinson’s review, the Commissioner concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional. Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.
“Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment. This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace. The problems were compounded by inadequate HR staff and practices and the absence of an effectively and consistently administered process for reporting or addressing employee complaints, as well as a widely reported fear of retaliation. When reports were made, they were generally not investigated and led to no meaningful discipline or other response.
“Dan Snyder has acknowledged that, as the club’s owner, he is responsible for the culture. Owners are obligated to set an appropriate tone and establish appropriate standards, develop and implement appropriate policies, including a policy of non-retaliation, ensure that there is proper training, compliance, and recordkeeping, invest in employee-related systems and infrastructure, and instill an ethic of respect at the club. This did not occur at the Washington club for far too long, and Dan Snyder has acknowledged his personal responsibility for that failure.
“Beginning near the end of the 2019 season, Dan and Tanya Snyder made a series of significant organizational changes based on his recognition that the club’s workplace culture, initially on the football side but then more broadly, was deficient and needed to be significantly improved to enable football and other club employees to perform at their full potential. These steps included the hiring of Head Coach Ron Rivera and the decision to replace a number of top club executives. Additional and more widespread changes have been made over the past year, and Wilkinson’s review identified several strong and positive steps taken by ownership over the past year to improve workplace conduct and culture in Washington. None of the managers or executives identified as having engaged in misconduct is still employed at the club. In place of the prior leadership group, the Snyders have hired a new, highly qualified and diverse team of executives on both the football and business sides of the club. These include club president Jason Wright, Chief HR Officer Andre Chambers, General Counsel Damon Jones, Chief Financial Officer Greg Rush, Senior Vice President of External Engagement and Communication Julie Jensen, and Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson, as well as Coach Rivera and General Manager Martin Mayhew. Overall, the new executive team shows an impressive commitment to diversity, with a substantial number of women and people of color in leadership roles. This leadership team appears to be both respected within the community and genuinely committed to changing the workplace environment and is doing so with the full support of the Snyders. In addition, the cheerleader program is now under the leadership of Petra Pope, who has replaced the all-female squad with what Pope has described as “an inclusive, co-ed, diverse, athletic” dance team that will no longer pose for calendars.
“Apart from hiring a new leadership team, the club has also implemented strong and state-of-the-art policies and protocols regarding workplace conduct, reporting, and non-retaliation and has also moved to institute comprehensive training. The club has retained outside resources to assist in this effort and has given its assurance that these consultants will remain engaged on an ongoing basis and will be available to discuss their work with the league office.
“Commissioner Goodell stated: ‘Over the past 18 months, Dan and Tanya have recognized the need for change and have undertaken important steps to make the workplace comfortable and dignified for all employees, and those changes, if sustained and built upon, should allow the club to achieve its goal of having a truly first-tier workplace. I truly appreciate their commitment to fully implement each of the below ten recommendations, but the league also must ensure accountability for past deficiencies and for living up to current and future commitments.’
“Wilkinson made several specific recommendations, which are set forth below, regarding actions that the club should take to further improve and sustain the workplace culture improvements made over the past year. Dan and Tanya have agreed to implement each of these ten (10) recommendations. The club has made considerable progress over the last 18 months in implementing these recommendations and will be required to implement each of them. The specific recommendations are:
“1) Protocols for Reporting Harassment: Develop a formal protocol for reporting allegations of harassment and misconduct that allows victims to report anonymously and without fear of retaliation. Ensure that this protocol is communicated to all employees via the club’s employee handbook and in other ways. Engage a third party to monitor a confidential hotline/secure email site to receive workplace misconduct reports.
“2) Disciplinary Action Plan: Develop a formal disciplinary action plan with clear protocols and processes for documenting, evaluating, and adjudicating misconduct. Apply those protocols and processes consistently in a prompt and proportionate manner across the organization. This includes holding executives and other supervisors accountable for addressing misconduct in the organization, including by requiring that supervisory level employees formally report any misconduct of which they become aware and disciplining the failure to report such misconduct.
“3) Regular Culture Surveys: Conduct regular, anonymized workplace culture and sexual harassment climate surveys to track the Club’s progress in addressing these issues.
“4) Regular Trainings: Engage an independent and professional third party to provide regular training for all employees on bullying, sexual and other forms of harassment, diversity and inclusion, and other issues of workplace conduct. Provide special training for managers and supervisors on how to recognize and handle harassment and reports of harassment. Review the proposed training program with the League office and incorporate recommendations.
“5) More Diverse Workforce: Increase the number of women and minorities throughout the organization, particularly in leadership and supervisory positions that have decision-making authority.
“6) Establish Clear Lines of Authority: Implement clear organizational structure and clear lines of authority for club executives to eliminate influence of informal or unaffiliated advisors on the Club’s business operations.
“7) Expand and Empower HR and Legal: Expand and empower the in-house HR and Legal Departments, particularly with respect to their ability to investigate and address allegations of misconduct at all levels, without interference from club executives.
“8) Develop Formal Onboarding, Performance Management and Compensation System, and Exit Interview Process: Implement a formal onboarding process for new hires, a program of regular performance and compensation reviews, and an exit interview or debriefing process for departures.
“9) Protecting Cheerleading Team: Ensure cheerleaders (if a program is retained, either in its earlier form or in the form of a new, co-ed Dance Team) have access to HR and other organizational resources, including by assigning an HR employee to the cheerleading squad. Confirm that the Team’s processes and trainings described above apply to and are clearly communicated to the cheerleaders.
“10) Regular Assessment of Policies: Require the Club to retain an independent professional consultant selected by the Team and approved by the league office to conduct an annual assessment of all employment policies to ensure they are both consistent with best practices and being implemented in practice. The league office will have full access to the consultant.
“Having considered Wilkinson’s findings and other information brought to his attention, the Commissioner has decided that, in addition to paying all fees and expenses associated with Wilkinson’s investigation, the club will pay $10 million, which will be used to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics. They will also fund programs directed more broadly at improving the workplace, particularly for women and other underrepresented groups, and training and development programs throughout the league, with recipients identified with the assistance of respected third-party advisors. We will solicit recommendations from the club, particularly for organizations based in the Washington metropolitan area.
“In addition, to ensure that the club’s recent workplace conduct and culture improvements are sustained and that its stated commitment to progress is realized, the club shall have the following semi-annual reporting obligations through July 31, 2023:
“Report to the league office, through an independent third party selected by the club and approved by the league office, on:
“1) the club’s progress in implementing each of Wilkinson’s workplace recommendations, with the first report due by July 31, 2021;
“2) the results of the culture and other surveys recommended; and
“3) all complaints, including those made at exit interviews or post-employment, that reasonably present workplace-related issues of bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, or retaliation, whether made anonymously or by an identified party, as well as how the club addressed those complaints. Based on these semi-annual reports, the league office will be permitted to conduct follow-up inquiries with any workplace consultants the club has engaged.
“Any material failure to implement these recommendations or to otherwise comply fully with these obligations and the commitments may result in an extension of the reporting period or other discipline.
“As co-CEO, Tanya Snyder will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team operations and represent the club at all league meetings and other league activities for at least the next several months. Dan Snyder will concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters. All senior executives of the club, including Dan and Tanya Snyder, will undertake comprehensive training in workplace conduct and related issues (including bullying, diversity and inclusion, harassment, LGBTQ issues, microaggression, and unconscious bias, among other topics).
“As a league, we will review our own policies and practices and will look to supplement existing programs to promote respectful, inclusive, and professional workplaces that are free of misconduct. In addition to current annual training and our critical response protocols, we will develop additional comprehensive and mandatory training across the league, including on bullying, discrimination, and harassment; a requirement that all club employees have the ability anonymously to report issues of workplace conduct to their club or the NFL; and ensuring that all clubs are fully informed of best practices for building and maintaining a diverse, healthy and respectful workplace environment.”
The NFL’s investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct by former Washington Football Team employees has concluded with the team and owner Daniel Snyder paying a hefty price.
The league fined the franchise $10 million, which will go to charity. Snyder’s wife, Tanya Snyder, will take over day-to-day operations, while Dan Snyder will “concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters.”
Dan Snyder released a statement Thursday afternoon following the league’s statement:
“I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of
workplace that we had. It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not
realize the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue. I
know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I say
“I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while
working here. I’m truly sorry for that. I can’t turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody
who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I
are the owners of this team.
“Over the last 18 months we have made a lot of changes. We have a new and diverse
leadership team, a comprehensive program of training, culture surveys, and employee support,
and a commitment to ensuring that every employee of the Washington Football Club comes to a
professional and respectful workplace every day. And while there has been real progress, we are
not finished, and will continue to improve in every way that we can.
“I appreciate the people who came forward and intend fully to implement all of the
recommendations coming out of the investigation. Going forward, my focus will be on making
the Washington Football Team a source of pride to all of its employees, fans and partners,
including my partners in the NFL.
“I agree with the Commissioner’s decisions in this matter and am committed to
implementing his investigation’s important recommendations. Tanya will assume the responsibilities of CEO and will oversee all day-to-day team operations and represent the club on all league activities. I will concentrate my time during the next several months on developing a new stadium plan and other matters.
“Tanya and I are grateful, and truly blessed, to lead such a wonderful organization that has
always stood for excellence and winning. We look forward to focusing on the Team’s
community-building and charitable efforts, and we are confident that, with coach Ron Rivera
and team president Jason Wright, we have an outstanding management team who will
implement real change and bring a Super Bowl championship back to our nation’s capital.”
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Greg Cosell, who has been with NFL Films for 42 years. He pioneered the concept of tactical X and O football on television with the NFL Matchup show, now beginning [more]
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Will Leitch is the author of How Lucky, a new novel from HarperCollins that Stephen King called “fantastic” and was recently selected as one of the Best 20 Books Of The Year [more]
Peter King is on vacation until July 26, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Chris Godwin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver entering his fifth NFL season. Godwin, 25, was a third-round pick out of Penn State in 2017. By Chris Godwin When I [more]
I have a bridge-building idea for the Aaron Rodgers dilemma. The more I think about it, the more I think, Why not? The idea: The Packers commit to trade Rodgers, pacifying the angry quarterback—but the deal would not happen till next spring. Rodgers, in turn, agrees to give the Packers one more season in exchange [more]