FMIA: Kyler Murray, All-In On Arizona; Raiders, ‘All-Out’ On Antonio Brown?

Getty Images

Are you all in or all out? That’s the topic du jour in Peter King’s Football Morning in America column, beginning with Kyler Murray who is fully committed to Arizona and its inventive offense. But out in Oakland, frustrations are beginning to boil over with Antonio Brown’s waffling. In this week’s column:

• Kylermania (though he can’t play Kyler football till Sept. 8)
• How Oakland should handle Antonio Brown
• Testing the Schutt helmet
• ESPN’s Pedro Gomez has an NFL role
• Richard Sherman on CBA talks
• Philip Rivers may not stop at 9 (kids)
• Jerry Jones eats gas-station hot dogs
• Chuck Noll. Not big on conversations
• And much more… [more]

FMIA: Sense Has To Prevail in Antonio Brown’s Unsafe Helmet Gripe. Right?

Getty Images

The training camp tour rolls on, with stops to see the Steelers, Saints, Packers, Texans and more. But Peter King leads his Football Morning in America column with the almost unbelievable story of Antonio Brown’s helmet hangup. Also in the column:

• The state of the Steeler team Antonio Brown left.
• Why Sean Payton could be a New Orleans lifer.
• What ticks off the best receiver alive, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins.
• A pretty cool Ed Werder reunion story.
• Michael Thomas gee-whizzing about his buddy LeBron James.
• An emotional trip to the most underrated national park in America.
• What in the world is Lumi Gold Rush, and why does one team swear by it.
• Happy trails, Sonny Jurgensen. [more]

Will replay review of PI calls and non-calls be influenced by the outcome of the play?

Getty Images

In the Hall of Fame game and in 15 of the Week One preseason games, none of the replay officials called for a replay review of any pass interference call or non-call. In the Bengals-Chiefs game on Saturday night, the replay official exercised that power. Twice.

One of those decisions highlighted a key question regarding replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls: Will the ruling from NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron be influenced by the outcome of the play?

With 53 seconds left in the first half and the Chiefs on the Cincinnati 17, quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw a third-down pass in the direction of receiver Byron Pringle on the right side of the end zone. Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips appeared to initiate contact with Pringle while the ball was in the air. But Pringle commited a much more obvious infraction, blatantly shoving Phillips in the head to gain separation.

Phillips recovered from the push, batting the ball away for an incompletion, forcing a fourth down and a looming 35-yard field-goal attempt for the Chiefs.

Replay official Darryl Lewis initiated a review of potential offensive pass interference. And the review took a long time, slamming the brakes on the game action while Riveron sorted everything out in New York.

Riveron ultimately decided to let the ruling on the field stand, with no call of offensive pass interference, defensive pass interference, or offseting fouls — and with no explanation provided by referee Craig Wrolstad regarding the basis for the decision.

It’s hard not to wonder whether Riveron considered the fact that Pringle’s blatant shove of Phillips didn’t help Pringle make the catch. If Pringle had caught the ball, would Riveron has called OPI? Probably. If Phillips had intercepted the pass, would Riveron have determined that Phillips committed interference? Or would Riveron have decided that both players had committed fouls, wiping out the play and giving the Chiefs a do-over?

In this specific case, the realistic options seemed to be: (1) call Pringle for OPI, marking off 10 yards and giving the Chiefs another third down (unless the Bengals declined the penalty); (2) call offsetting fouls, allowing the Chiefs another crack at the end zone on third down; or (3) do nothing, keeping the Chiefs at fourth down and leaving the field-goal try at 35 yards.

Riveron’s ultimate choice quite possibly reflects a consideration of what happened on the field, and what the impact of his decision on the game would have been. Really, how can Riveron not be expected to ponder the various permutations regarding the consequences of a call or non-call of offensive and/or defensive pass interference?

Right or wrong, the power to consider via replay review calls and non-calls of pass inteference gives Riveron a vague sort of Wapnerian power over the proceedings, allowing him to mete out football justice based not only on the visual evidence of a foul or no foul, but also on the impact of his decision on the broader circumstances of the game. On Saturday night, it appears that Riveron may have used this power in overlooking clear and obvious evidence of offensive pass interference, given that there may have been defensive pass interference and given that the offensive pass interference ultimately didn’t work.

Like it or not, these are the kinds of issues that naturally flow from the NFL’s decision to address the very specific and narrow problem from the Rams-Saints NFC Championship game with a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel. And these are the kinds of questions that will come into focus as more and more games are played under this new reality.

FMIA: In Remembrance of Don Banks, an NFL Conscience and a True Friend

Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated

The training camp tour rolled on, with stops in Jacksonville, Tampa, Indy and other spots. But Peter King leads his Football Morning in America column with the sudden passing of his good friend Don Banks, a beloved NFL writer whose death in Canton has crushed the pro football community. [more]

FMIA: Cam Newton Puts Away Cape, Feeling ‘Like a Rookie’ After Surgery

Getty Images

The training camp tour is officially in full swing, with recent stops including the Jets, Ravens and Eagles. In his Football Morning in America column, King begins with a rejuvenated and realistic Cam Newton in Carolina. Also in the column:

• Carson Wentz has been handed the keys to the kingdom, according to coach Doug Pederson. What will the quarterback do with that responsibility remains to be seen.

• Checking in on the Ravens, who have undergone major turnover on both sides of the ball and also continue to embrace an analytical approach to the game.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Ezekiel Elliot’s holdout; suspensions of Golden Tate and Taylor Lewan; the new Football Outsiders Almanac; the expanded Hall of Fame class in 2020.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness and tales from the tour, including why television has to be avoided like the plague. [more]

PFT 2019 storyline No. 2: Will Patrick Mahomes have a sophomore slump?


The Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm in 2018. Can they, and he, do it again in 2019?

That’s one of the biggest storylines of the 2019 season.

Whenever someone like Mahomes emerges out of the blue and dominates the way he did, opposing defenses spend the offseason obsessing over coming up with ways to slow him down. The 13 teams on the docket this year (he plays three of them twice) surely have studied every game, every snap, every throw for anything that could be used to keep Mahomes from doing to them what he did to pretty much everyone last year.

The Patriots may have provided the blueprint for the rest of the league in the AFC Championship game, which didn’t exactly shut down the Kansas City offense but ultimately slowed things down enough to outscore them in overtime. Although the Chiefs require a defense to cover every blade of grass on the field, given the power of Mahomes’ arm and the speed of Tyreek Hill‘s feet, the Patriots chose to defend the deepest areas of the field, keeping the ball in front of them and forcing the Chiefs to move more deliberately than perhaps they’d like.

Ultimately, nothing any defense does may matter. Mahomes is at his best when he’s forced to improvise, and there’s no amount of planning that can keep a guy with uncanny gifts from winning what becomes a schoolyard scramble. If defenses decide to avoid chaos, Mahomes has the arm and accuracy to pick them apart from the pocket.

That said, it won’t be easy for Mahomes to match what he did last year. But just because other quarterbacks have struggled in their second seasons as the starter, we’ve already seen that there’s something very different about Mahomes. If that’s the case, the 2019 Mahomes will be the 2018 Mahomes — and maybe even better.

So get ready for more funny-body throws from various arm angles, with no-look passes and left-handed passes and Fran Tarkenton scrambles and balls heaved off the wrong foot or with no feet on the ground at all. No amount of coaching can stop that kind of special talent, and it’s something the NFL will get to enjoy for as long as Mahomes has the physical ability to do it.

PFT 2019 storyline No. 3: Will the NFC catch up to the Rams?

Getty Images

The Rams rocketed to the top of the NFC in 2018. In 2019, will the rest of the NFC close the gap?

The signs already exist to suggest that coach Sean McVay and company may have a hard time distancing themselves from the rest of the pack, both in their division and in the rest of the conference. If the 2019 version of running back Todd Gurley no longer performs like the 2017 version of running back Todd Gurley, more pressure will be placed on the rest of the offense, starting with quarterback Jared Goff. And there are real questions regarding whether the rest of the offense can pick up the slack.

Some wonder whether, as evidenced by the Patriots holding the Rams to three points in Super Bowl LIII, defenses may be figuring out the McVay offense. Which puts extra pressure on McVay to, as Chris Simms would say, self-scout himself in order to figure out where the flaws in the offense reside — and, at the same time, how to exploit defenses that are shifting their focus to take away things that McVay/Goff/Gurley like to do.

It’s one thing for McVay to come up with new concepts and plays; it’s another for Goff to execute them. Goff’s failure to spot and then to deliver an accurate throw to a wide-ass open Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl LIII should haunt Goff and McVay, and it should raise questions as to whether, when confronted with a championship opportunity, Goff will be suited to seize it.

That may not be an issue in 2019, if the Rams find themselves in a slog against the likes of the Seahawks and maybe the 49ers in the NFC West, and likewise in a fight for home-field advantage with the likes of the Eagles or Cowboys or Bears or Saints or whoever rises up in the other three divisions.

PFT’s pre-training camp (for most teams) power rankings

Getty Images

1. Patriots (final 2018 ranking No. 1): The Kings of the Hill remains perched there until someone can knock them off.

2. Chiefs (No. 4): The non-suspension of Tyreek Hill keeps the Chiefs in position to topple the Patriots.

3. Eagles (No. 5): If Carson Wentz stays healthy, it could be two Super Bowl wins in three years.

4. Cowboys (No. 7): Expectations are high, but too many players want/need to get paid.

5. Bears (No. 9): When not having a kicker in July is a team’s biggest problem, a team doesn’t have many problems.

6. Colts (No. 8): If Andrew Luck is going to satisfy Jim Irsay’s desire to win three or more Super Bowls, it’s time to get to work.

7. Rams (No. 3): If Todd Gurley‘s best days are behind him, the Rams will be regrouping, at best, in 2019.

8. Saints (No. 2): Between a pair of heart-shattering postseason losses and Father Time gaining ground on Drew Brees, the Saints could be moving in the wrong direction, at least temporarily.

9. Seahawks (No. 11): If 2018 was 2012 all over again, maybe 2019 will be 2013?

10. Steelers (No. 15): They’re pissed, they’re determined, they’re on the same page, and they’re potentially very dangerous.

11. Chargers (No. 6): Philip Rivers, citing the team’s many close games in 2018, has said the Chargers could have been 16-0 or 6-10. Getting to 12-4 again may not be easy, especially since they’ll take no one by surprise.

12. Vikings (No. 14): It’s possibly an up-or-out year for Kirk Cousins, with fewer excuses for subpar play.

13. Browns (No. 16): How will a team with sky-high expectations but limited achievement handle adversity? That question could get answered as soon as Week One vs. Tennessee.

14. Ravens (No. 10): It’s the Lamar Jackson show in Baltimore. What that actually means is one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets.

15. Packers (No. 21): “The audible thing” won’t be a thing for very long, because ultimately Aaron Rodgers will do what he wants to do, and the Packers won’t do anything about it.

16. Jaguars (No. 27): They’re starting at No. 16. They could be finishing much, much higher.

17. Texans (No. 12): At least I won’t have to worry about the G.M. calling to complain about a five-spot drop.

18. Panthers (No. 17): If Cam Newton can get and stay healthy, the Panthers can be dangerous, again.

19. Falcons (No. 18): With all three coordinators out and three new ones in (and the head coach serving as one of them), it makes sense to watch and wait.

20. Titans (No. 13): They can beat anyone. They can lose to anyone. Until they take care of the latter, they’re in danger of sliding to the basement of the AFC South.

21. Bills (No. 23): Josh Allen has more weapons, and he could be on track to becoming a star.

22. 49ers (No. 29): Year Three of the Shanahan-Lynch regime brings another chance to get the players they need to make the offense go. Keeping key players healthy is the biggest challenge.

23. Broncos (No. 24): Vic Fangio is going all in, and it could make the Broncos a surprise team in 2019.

24. Jets (No. 31): With the stink of the Maccagnan firing lifting, the Jets could be quietly laying the foundation for something unexpected.

25. Lions (No. 22): The Lions love that no one is taking them seriously.

26. Buccaneers (No. 30): Bruce Arians gives the Bucs a nice bump, but it still comes down to Jameis Winston.

27. Washington (No. 20): Yes, there’s talent. But there are still real issues with the folks running the show, and they’ll find a way at some point to keep the team from being as good as it can be.

28. Raiders (No. 26): Jon Gruden is trying to will this team to relevance, like Dr. Frankenstein trying to will a cadaver of mismatched parts to life.

29. Bengals (No. 28): Other than the pre-Mariota Titans, has there been a less interesting team in the last 30 years?

30. Dolphins (No. 19): They decry tanking talk, because they have to. The reality is that the Dolphins are tearing it down in the hopes of someday building it up.

31. Giants (No. 25): It’s becoming more and more clear that this team currently makes all major decisions with a dart and/or Ouija board.

32. Cardinals (No. 32): If it works, it’s going to be spectacular. For now, though, someone has to be at the bottom of the stack — and the Cardinals have earned it.

PFT 2019 storyline No. 4: How will the Steelers perform without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell?

Getty Images

The Steelers didn’t make it to a single Super Bowl with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell both on the roster. Now, they’ll try to get there with neither of them.

The offseason has spent much of the last year reeling from dysfunction, starting with Bell’s holdout and continuing with Brown tweeting his way out of town. The end result, however, seems to be that the remaining players have pulled closer together, united in their desire to prove wrong anyone and everyone who has doubted the organization.

The doubts have at times been justified. Undeniably talented, the Steelers haven’t been able to get the most out of the ability of the players. Whether that speaks to a lack of leadership or flaws in coaching, the Steelers have become regarded as a band of underachievers.

Even without Brown and Bell, the Steelers still have plenty of talent, starting with a quarterback who is chronically underrated simply because he’s not beloved (or, frankly, liked) by fans and the media. It doesn’t help that multiple former teammates remain willing to call him out, something that only happens to Aaron Rodgers and not to any other franchise quarterback.

But Ben Roethlisberger, like the rest of the team, can use this year to internalize that criticism and to use it as motivation, for every practice, every game, every single thing that needs to be done between now and late December in an effort to get to the playoffs — and then to win when they get there.

Throw in the premature praise for a Browns team that still hasn’t gotten to the right side of .500 since 2007, and the Steelers may have captured that elusive quality that can be a difference maker for any NFL team, and especially for the good ones: Real, authentic, organic desire to come together and achieve something special. Something memorable. Something that results in beating the Patriots to Lombardi Trophy No. 7.

FMIA: Annual NFL Training Camp Tour Begins—And It’s Already In Jeopardy

NBC Sports

Training camps have officially begun in the NFL, which means it’s time for Peter King to take his show on the road. In his Football Morning in America column, King visits Von Miller and company in Denver and also makes a fun pit stop in Las Vegas. Also in the column:

• Jeopardy champ James Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler, advises on NFL betting and shares his single worst bet on the board right now.

• Entering his age 30 season, Von Miller talks about his new coach, Vic Fangio, and the all-time record that just might be within reach.

• Notes from a behind-the-scenes tour of the Raiders new stadium in Vegas.

• Readers share their memories about interacting with players at NFL training camps, including a priceless Peyton Manning story.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the NFL’s decision not to suspend Tyreek Hill; why DeAndre Hopkins is the best WR in football; the Robbie Gould extension; the habits of Joe Flacco; the mission of Solomon Thomas.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, beernerdness, coffeenerdness and another fun travel adventure with Delta at Laguardia. [more]

PFT 2019 storyline No. 5: Will the Raiders’ chemistry experiment work?

Getty Images

Hard Knocks is coming. For better or worse.

As the annual training-camp non-real reality show prepares to descend on the Raiders, the Raiders will be preparing for their last year in Oakland. The Raiders made it clear, weeks before accepting the assignment, that they didn’t want to do it.

So why didn’t they want to do it? Jon Gruden arguably is the most media-savvy coach in NFL history, with a nine-year stint at ESPN making him an even better communicator than he already was. Once a team with a strong national following, a decade-and-a-half of mediocre-at-best performances from the Raiders have turned a previously potent brand sluggish and stale. What better way to begin the process of turning things around as the team prepares to move to Las Vegas than with an exclusive five-week platform on HBO?

The real answer may rest in concerns that the current iteration of the Raiders represents a chemistry experiment at best, a Frankenstein monster at worst. The organization has collected pieces and parts that may or may not fit together, starting with the rush trade for (they got a great deal) and pay (they possibly didn’t get a great deal) receiver Antonio Brown.

But the potentially strange brew and combustible stew goes beyond Antonio Brown, who talked and tweeted his way out of a franchise that had one of the best quarterbacks in the league under center. The Raiders also paid a gigantic premium to Trent Brown, a failed right tackle who turned a right-place, right-time, right-team stint as a left tackle in New England into a major free-agent deal. So the Raiders forked over record money, and then flipped Brown back to the position at which he previously struggled.

The Raiders also used a hard-earned fourth overall pick on defensive end Clelin Ferrell, a perceived reach who will be relentlessly comparied to Khalil Mack, despite any and all protestations from the team that Ferrell isn’t supposed to be the next Mack. Another first-round pick went to running back Josh Jacobs, who will be expected to step right in and make fans forget about Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, not great.

Then came the embrace of guard Richie Incognito, a volatile and combustible personality who won’t be a problem until he is. The move epitomizes Gruden’s current desperation to win, with the franchise securing a certain amount of cover from its history of embracing and celebrating renegades.

At the core of all of it continues to be quarterback Derek Carr. A fringe MVP candidate in 2016 and for a month or so in 2017 the highest-paid player in league history, Carr has had a couple of so-so seasons — prompting the team to kick tires on rookies Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. When pressed on the interest in a couple of first-round rookies, G.M. Mike Mayock provided an ominous assessment regarding the potential future of Carr, whose guaranteed money under his once-record-setting contract expires this year.

“Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback, and we believe that,” Mayock said in April. “Beyond that, just like at any other position, we’re going to do our due diligence. If we found somebody we liked better, or thought had a bigger upside, you’ve got to do the right thing for the organization.”

Teams rarely talk with such tear-the-name-off-the-back-of-the-jersey candor regarding the starting quarterback, but Mayock went there. Which made Carr’s boast from later in the offseason even more bizarre: “This is my team and it will be for the next however long I want to play.”

Clearly, Derek Carr doesn’t understand how the NFL works. Few players who intend to play for a team as long as they want actually get to do it. The team, as Mayock admitted, always will do what’s in the best interests of the team, and that means far more often than not sending player after player after player through an always-revolving door.

Gruden and Mayock didn’t draft Carr; they inherited him. And Gruden will always be looking for a short-list franchise quarterback, until he gets one. Carr at best — at best — resides in the middle of the pack, and there will be no excuses this year, not with Antonio Brown as the top option in the passing game.

Think of it this way: If the chemistry experiment/Frankenstein monster that starts and ends with A.B. fails, whose fault will it be? Brown’s? Nope. Gruden’s? Nope. Mayock’s? Nope. If the Raiders fail to get the most out of Antonio Brown, it will be the fault of the guy who will be under immense pressure to deliver the ball with the same underrated precision that Ben Roethlisberger delivered it for nine years in Pittsburgh.

If Derek Carr can step up, great for him and the Raiders. If he can’t, he’ll quite possibly be the highest-profile member of the organization to not enjoy the freedom from paying state income tax that goes with moving from California to Nevada.

PFT 2019 storyline No. 6: How will the Packers resolve “the audible thing”?

Getty Images

Most if not all of the top 30 storylines we’re following as the 2019 season approaches are posed as a question. For most of those questions, we don’t the answer. On storyline No. 6, we do.

The question is how will the Packers resolve the conflict between coach Matt LaFleur’s rigid offensive play-selection process and quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ admitted desire for freedom at the line of scrimmage? The answer is this: Rodgers will win.

He’ll win because he’s the face of the franchise, the most powerful and most highly-paid employee of a public corporation who won’t be punished or benched or traded or cut if he does whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

It’s that simple. And Rodgers is smart enough to realize it. So the question is whether the Packers will let Rodgers do whatever he wants to do, or whether he’ll just do it.

The best play for LaFleur and Rodgers will be to come up with a way for the first-year coach to save face, with LaFleur deciding that he’ll make an exception for Rodgers as to a system that results in two plays being called in the huddle and the quarterback deciding, based on a predetermined set of parameters, which one to call. LaFleur either can say that he has decided to let Rodgers call whatever play he wants to call at the line of scrimmage, or Rodgers can just do it. Which he will, regardless of whether the team lets him.

Really, what will the Packers do? Roll with DeShone Kizer?

Rodgers is the guy, he knows he’s the guy, and the sooner the coach lets Rodgers fully be the guy the sooner this issue will be settled, once and for all.

NFL gradually has softened its hard-line approach to player discipline

Getty Images

A wise man has said, “Once is an accident, twice is a trend. Four, five, or six times is a clear indication of a strategic shift in overall policy.” (I may have added the last part.)

It has become more and more clear and obvious over the past year or so that the NFL, reeling from sharp reductions in TV viewership during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, has decided to take a kindler and gentler approach to player discipline, in order to ensure that as many great players as possible are available to play in NFL regular-season and postseason games.

The change happened at some point after the Ezekiel Elliott case, which entailed (in my opinion) a Keystone cops investigation and a kangaroo court proceeding aimed at justifying that which the league office wanted to do: Suspend Elliott for six games.

Those wheels were put in motion before the election-induced ratings drop of 2016 was followed by the unexpected anthem-induced additional ratings drop of 2017, and the end result was the team that has become the top TV draw in the NFL spending 37.5 percent of a season without the straw that stirs its drink. As ratings plummeted in 2017, someone at the league office apparently did the math regarding the impact of not having great players on the field versus the impact of letting great players play despite off-field baggage.

The pendulum initially swung hard in the direction of taking a hard line with players after the elevator video emerged in the Ray Rice case. The Commissioner spent a couple of weeks genuinely concerned that he could lose his job in the uproar that ensued, and Roger Goodell undoubtedly resolved at that point that he would never, ever be accused again of going too easy on a player who misbehaves. That trend continued until Elliott’s suspension, which was followed by an all-out effort by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to get rid of Goodell.

Forced to choose between an assault on his job by a mob of outsiders and an assault on his job by one of his 32 bosses, and concerned about the very real impact on ratings of star players not playing, Goodell has now nudged the pendulum in the other direction, far more subtly and gradually than it moved in 2014.

It started with the league’s unspoken lenience for chronic substance-abuse policy violators like Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, and Randy Gregory. Although the trio currently is suspended, the league could have tossed each of them out of the sport early in 2018 under the clear terms of the policy. Instead, they each got extra chances until new suspensions were imposed, and the new suspensions weren’t for a minimum of one year (as they should have been). Indeed, there’s a chance that all three will be playing again this year.

Why? Because no one cares about marijuana anymore, and no one will complain that the league is letting guys who smoke pot play football.

The dynamic also has affected the league’s application of the Personal Conduct Policy. The investigation of multiple incidents involving then-Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was in mothballs before video of him pushing and kicking a woman in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel emerged. Elliot, despite video showing him confronting and possibly shoving a 19-year-old security guard and notwithstanding Elliott’s status as a prior offender (which supposedly is a big deal under the Personal Conduct Policy), wasn’t punished. Now there’s Hill, who escaped any and all punishment with the league issuing a statement that doesn’t even address the menacing remark that prompted the Chiefs to send him away from the team’s offseason program.

Two years ago, Hill wouldn’t have been so fortunate. Now, as the league tries to build on momentum from 2018 TV numbers fueled by an offensive explosion about which the NFL privately bragged to reporters on a near-weekly basis, it’s better for the league to have Hill on the field than it is for the league to not have Hill on the field. Sure, there will be complaints and objections, maybe even a loosely-organized protest. But the potential impact on the league’s business from letting Hill play is smaller than the potential impact on the league’s business from not letting him play, and that’s ultimately all the league cares about.

Football is business. They say “football is family” because it’s good for business to say “football is family,” but football is business. The NFL got into the business of policing the private lives of players for P.R. purposes. The NFL enhanced those efforts in the face of strong objections to the NFL’s failure to be aggressive enough with players who got in trouble away from work. Now, business interests require an approach that entails the application a deeply flawed in-house justice system (a system that isn’t about justice at all) in a way that enhances business.

That’s why Hill wasn’t suspended, and that’s why players in similar situations will receive similar treatment, unless and until the league’s business interests once again compel a more aggressive approach to discipline. At that point, the pendulum will swing again, back in the direction of imposing overly strong punishments.

NFL statement on Tyreek Hill

Getty Images

[Editor’s note: The NFL released the following statement on Friday, July 19.]

Over the past four months, we have conducted a comprehensive investigation of allegations regarding Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Throughout this investigation, the NFL’s primary concern has been the well-being of the child. Our understanding is that the child is safe and that the child’s ongoing care is being directed and monitored by the Johnson County District Court and the Johnson County Department for Children and Families.

In conducting our investigation, we have taken great care to ensure that we do not interfere with the county’s proceedings or compromise the privacy or welfare of the child in any way. The information developed in the court proceeding is confidential and has not been shared with us, and the court has sealed all law enforcement records. Local law enforcement authorities have publicly advised that the available evidence does not permit them to determine who caused the child’s injuries.

Similarly, based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy. Accordingly, he may attend Kansas City’s training camp and participate in all club activities. He has been and will continue to be subject to conditions set forth by the District Court, Commissioner Goodell, and the Chiefs, which include clinical evaluation and therapeutic intervention.

If further information becomes available through law enforcement, the pending court proceeding, or other sources, we will promptly consider it and take all appropriate steps at that time.

PFT 2019 storyline No. 7: Can Mitchell Trubisky take the Bears to the next level?

Getty Images

The 2018 Chicago Bears stunned the NFL with an unlikely NFC North championship in the first year of coach Matt Nagy’s tenure and the second season of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky‘s career. With Trubisky now having a full season under his belt both as a starter and as the starter in Nagy’s system, the question is whether Trubisky (under Nagy’s guidance) can take the Bears to the next level.

The Bears don’t get to the next level very often, and when they do they don’t hang around for long. Successful seasons are sporadic, followed by disappointment that often lasts for several years. For the Bears, consecutive playoff berths haven’t happened since 2005 and 2006. And the Bears are a long way from their 1984 through 1991 run, when they played in the postseason every year but one.

Last year’s division title ended the longest playoff drought for the Bears since the merger, and Bears fans with a keen understanding of the team’s history will be bracing for a  back slide. Whether that does or doesn’t happen may hinge in many respects on what Trubisky can or can’t do with the offense.

The folks at Madden don’t believe in Trubisky, slapping him with a 75 rating. He’s clearly much better than that; he completed 66.6 percent of his passes, he threw 24 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions, and he averaged 7.4 yards per attempt. He added 421 rushing yards, averaging 6.2 per run.

Ultimately, the question for 2019 will be whether Trubisky is good enough to elevate the entire offense, to complement (and boost) the defense, and to play the foundation for not just another home playoff game but maybe a bye week — and maybe a postseason victory. Opposing defenses will have had a full year’s worth of film to digest and dissect; Nagy’s ability to counter that and Trubisky’s ability to execute that plan becomes the key.