Lamar Jackson did not watch the Super Bowl. The game was on his home turf in south Florida for the first time in 10 years, and Jackson loves football, but he couldn’t bring himself to watch. Not the biggest surprise, really; players who think they should be playing in the game often don’t watch it—just [more]
A full, league-wide NFL bubble isn’t practical, given the sheer numbers of players and coaches and other essential personnel involved. But virtual bubbles consisting only of 32 team facilities may not be practical, either.
Players and coaches will leave those bubbles for their homes, regularly. Even if they never leave their homes until returning to work, family members surely will. And if one of them brings the virus home, the player or coach may then bring it to the bubble. Unless and until the NFL secures rapid and reliable point-of-care testing, a 24-hour lag will exist between sample collection and test result. Which means that a player who tested negative yesterday may be positive today, but no one will know until tomorrow.
One way to minimize that risk would be to create an even stronger bubble around each team. What if, then, one or more team sequester all players, coaches, and staff in a hotel for the entire season?
Plenty of players wouldn’t like it. Plenty of players would strongly considering opting out over it. At the end of the day, the league likely would have 32 teams made up of enough players, coaches, etc. who would sign up for the five-month sequestration, if the alternative was to not work at all this season.
This approach would significantly enhance the chances of getting all 256 regular-season and 13 postseason games played. And it would significantly enhance the chances of the players and other employees getting paid their full salaries.
This would be an extreme approach, without question. But if it’s the only way to minimize outbreaks and, in turn, to get the games played, it should at least be considered.
Perhaps it’s a strategy that could be used in specific locations, based on the local status of the pandemic. In some cities that currently are among the world’s biggest hot spots, a team could begin the season in sequestration and then revert to everyone living it home. In others, the need for sequestration may arise during the season. For others, the whole season may consist of living in a hotel.
Regardless, it’s important for the league to at least be exploring options like this, if the goal is — as it should be — to play every game, without postponement or cancellation.
We’re keeping a running list of the players who choose to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All players who have opted out are listed below:
Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Ravens kick returner De’Anthony Thomas.
Seahawks offensive lineman Chance Warmack.
Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady.
Patriots fullback Danny Vitale.
Washington defenive lineman Caleb Brantley.
Patriots guard Najee Toran.
Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Patriots running back Brandon Bolden.
Ravens offensive lineman Andre Smith.
Cowboys wide receiver Stephen Guidry.
Texans defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes.
Broncos defensive tackle Kyle Peko.
Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.
Titans offensive lineman Anthony McKinney.
Saints tight end Cole Wick.
Saints tight end Jason Vander Laan.
Patriots safety Patrick Chung.
Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce.
Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
Jets offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi.
Panthers linebacker Jordan Mack.
Packers receiver Devin Funchess.
Giants left tackle Nate Solder.
Browns guard Drew Forbes.
Browns tackle Drake Dorbeck.
Lions defensive tackle John Atkins.
Chiefs running back Damien Williams.
Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou.
Bengals offensive tackle Isaiah Prince.
Jaguars defensive tackle Al Woods.
Rams tackle Chandler Brewer.
Patriots receiver Marqise Lee.
Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Jaguars linebacker/defensive end Lerentee McCray.
Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines.
Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse.
Giants wide receiver Da’Mari Scott.
Cowboys fullback Jamize Olawale.
Lions wide receiver Geronimo Allison.
Panthers linebacker Christian Miller.
Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Washington linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Bears safety Jordan Lucas.
Raiders defensive back D.J. Killings.
Raiders defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga.
Browns defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
Colts linebacker Skai Moore.
Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns.
Cardinals tackle Marcus Gilbert.
Raiders linebacker Ukeme Eligwe.
Browns offensive guard Colby Gossett.
49ers wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson.
Colts defensive back Rolan Milligan.
Colts defensive back Marvell Tell.
Giants cornerback Sam Beal.
Lions center Russell Bodine.
Chiefs tackle Lucas Niang.
Buccaneers tackle Brad Seaton.
Jaguars cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
Browns guard Malcolm Pridgeon.
49ers tackle Shon Coleman.
Jets wide receiver Josh Doctson.
49ers center Jake Brendel.
[Editor’s note: As training camps open, Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued a letter to all NFL fans. The full test of the letter appears below.]
This week training camps across the country are starting and before we know it, the NFL season will be here. This is always the most optimistic time of year for our fans, and for all 32 teams. In a year that has been extraordinarily difficult for our country and the world, we hope the energy of this moment will provide some much-needed optimism.
In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, we have navigated the time carefully, thoughtfully and in partnership with the NFL Players Association with a shared goal of playing a healthy and complete 2020 season. This process has not been easy — COVID-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception.
Every step of the way, our focus has been on the safety of players, coaches, personnel, fans and our communities. Our planning has followed the lead of medical experts and public health officials, including the CDC, the White House Task Force, governors and state health officials. As we have developed our 2020 playbook for the return of football, safety continues to be our first priority; that commitment will remain paramount as players return to the field.
The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years. Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled. Everyone in the team environment must follow rigorous health and safety protocols to keep themselves and each other safe. When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads. Even the sideline will look different. And, state and local health guidelines will help determine whether fans will attend the games. These adjustments are necessary to reduce the risk for everyone involved.
Thanks to the collaboration of the players and a lot of hard work from our clubs, especially their medical and training staffs, our plans are in place for the 2020 season. Have a look inside the Rams training facility for some of these plans in action.
Adaptability and flexibility will be needed for the foreseeable future. After all, even the best game plan changes as new challenges arise. This year’s NFL Draft is a good example that embracing change can still deliver the fun and excitement we all crave.
While this year will forever be defined by a heartbreaking global pandemic and a transformative social justice movement, I am reminded of the tenacious, resilient spirit of our country, the NFL community, and you, the greatest fans in the world.
Thank you for your continued support.
Now let’s play football,
When the deal to open training camps on time got done Friday, a call was organized for all the football people, coaches and GMs, in the NFL. Super Bowl champion coach Andy Reid was asked to speak. He’s become a sort of United Nations secretary general, a bridge to all constituencies—speaking to union reps, advising [more]
As the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to haggle over whether and to what extent players will be paid in the event that games are canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, some are suggesting that, if the league and the union can’t reach a deal over money, there will be no football in 2020. That’s simply not the case.
The NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement — ratified by the NFLPA after the pandemic began — already addresses the situation. Because the CBA contains no force majeure clause, the players currently are entitled to full pay in 2020, even if games are canceled. The league’s only argument regarding reduced pay comes under the Standard Player Contract, which suggests that the duty to pay base salary does not arise until at least one game has been played.
In other words, if there are no games, the players get no pay. If, however, there is only one game, the players get full pay.
Through these negotiations, the league is trying to create a force majeure clause on the fly, getting players to agree to be paid only for games that are played, even though the league has had the ability within the confines of every single CBA negotiation that ever has occurred to ask for a force majeure clause. The league’s sole protection in the event of a pandemic comes from the mutual duty to negotiate in good faith as to the impact of lost 2020 revenues on the 2021 salary cap.
Nothing stops the players from agreeing to a force majeure clause in order to reduce the overall 2020 losses that would need to be addressed in the future, but the players don’t have to agree to one. And if the two sides don’t strike a deal as to player pay in 2020, the current CBA will control. Most importantly, the absence of a deal on money won’t allow the owners to lock out the players.
That said, there’s a chance (in theory) that the league would be more inclined to pull the plug on the entire season, if faced with the possibility of owing the players full pay even if only one game is played, but no pay if no games are played. As one league source remarked yesterday, some teams would likely prefer to scrap the season than to risk owing the full amount of the 2020 player payroll even if only a handful of 2020 games ultimately are played.
Regardless, the league can’t take the position that there will be no football in 2020 if the players don’t agree to modify the CBA when it comes to the issue of player compensation. As the NFL would say (and has said) when it comes to aspects of the CBA that the players don’t like, it’s a collectively-bargained issue.
Which is a tactful way of saying, “Tough crap.”
EAGAN, Minn. — The head coach lost his parking space. COVID-19 casualty. There’s a 40-foot BioReference Laboratories trailer in space 136 in the Minnesota Vikings’ players/coaches parking lot just outside the entry where every essential Vikings employee will arrive to work this year. The trailer has four COVID testing bays, with certified testing agents ready [more]
Hopefully, there will be a 2020 football season. Operating under the assumption (or at least aspiration), that pro football will happen, there’s no time like right now to stack up the various NFL teams from top to bottom, based on how they finished in 2019, what they did or didn’t do in the offseason, and where they currently are as the new season approaches.
This isn’t a prediction as to where the 32 teams will finish. It’s an assessment of where they currently are. Given the potential impact of the pandemic on the 2020 season, the teams that ultimately do the best on the field may be the teams who do the best job of keeping their players from testing positive for COVID-19.
1. Chiefs: The King of the Hill remains in the top spot until someone knocks them off. It helps that nearly every starter is back from the team that won the Super Bowl.
2. 49ers: Coach Kyle Shanahan quickly has established himself as one of the best coaches in football. He passed on a chance to swap Jimmy Garoppolo for Tom Brady in 2020. How well Garoppolo repays that faith in him will go a long way toward determining whether the 49ers can finish the job. First, they have to survive in the toughest division in football.
3. Ravens: Dominant in the 2019 regular season and loaded again for 2020, the Ravens’ biggest challenge will come in January, when the urgency to keep Lamar Jackson’s 0-2 postseason trend from becoming an 0-3 narrative will reach full boil.
4. Patriots: The only certainty amid so much uncertainty is that, whatever the rules or procedures or protocols for 2020, Bill Belichick will crack the code and win games. And he has Cam Newton. And Newton is apparently healthy and motivated.
5. Saints: Three years, three consecutive devastating postseason exits. They’ll go back to 0-0 and they’ll find a way to win a lot of games and they’ll try again, in what likely will be the final season of Drew Brees‘ career, to get back to the Super Bowl and win it.
6. Buccaneers: They had a 7-7 record through 14 games despite Jameis Winston‘s habit of throwing the ball to the other team. Swap out the NFL’s first ever 30-30 quarterback for the greatest quarterback of all time, and the Bucs suddenly become a major player.
7. Seahawks: They came within a play of winning the division last year, and they’ll once again be a factor in 2020. They could indeed knock off the 49ers, especially if Russell Wilson continues to perform like one of the finest quarterbacks in the league — even if not nearly enough people realize it.
8. Titans: After an unexpected berth in the AFC Championship game, the Titans coughed up the cash necessary to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry on the team. To have a chance to build on their success in 2020, they’ll need both to stay healthy and effective. Given Tannehill’s history, that could be a roll of the dice that ends up in craps for Nashville.
9. Bills: Receiver Stefon Diggs gives quarterback Josh Allen an element he never has had, and it could be the ingredient that takes the team to the top of the division for the first time in decades.
10. Eagles: The good news for 2019 is that quarterback Carson Wentz stayed healthy for the entire regular season. The bad news is that few other players did. If they can avoid the injury bug in 2020, the Eagles can get back to the playoffs and make a run at another Super Bowl.
11. Steelers: Coach Mike Tomlin proved his value in 2019, nearly willing his team to the playoffs despite not having Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown. Ben is back this year, and the defense is becoming dominant. Questions remain as to whether Roethlisberger, who played only two games last year, can stay healthy.
12. Cowboys: Once again, the Cowboys look good on paper. Once again, they need to turn potential into performance. Once again, it won’t be a surprise if something keeps that from happening.
13. Vikings: It’s a strange crossroads for a team that is sort of rebuilding and sort of reloading and sort of in the last couple of chances before a full reset to deliver a Super Bowl return for which the franchise has been waiting for 44 years and counting.
14. Packers: Last year’s record became exposed as overachievement when the 49ers steamrolled Green Bay in the postseason. Instead of building on that success, the Packers took a step back in the offseason, hopefully to eventually develop the same kind of offense that the 49ers have — one that will feature Jordan Love at quarterback before too long, and Aaron Rodgers quite possibly finishing his career elsewhere.
15. Broncos: With a potential franchise quarterback finally in the fold, the Broncos are building something much better than what they’ve had. If only they didn’t have to contend with the Chiefs in their division, Denver could be poised to become an elite team.
16. Colts: Philip Rivers becomes the Band-Aid to Indy’s future. The present remains uncertain, because it’s unclear whether Rivers can still get it done — thanks to seven interceptions thrown in a pair of prime-time games last season. If he still can perform at a high level, the Colts could be a factor in 2020.
17. Texans: What will be the consequence of blowing a 24-0 lead in Kansas City? The Texans and everyone else will find out. Deshaun Watson continues to be one of the best quarterbacks in football, but he may not have enough help around him to build on whatever it was that they achieved last year.
18. Browns: Last year, the bar was way too high. This year, it’s not. This year, the Browns have a head coach who may be far better prepared to run the team than Freddie Kitchens was. Maybe this will be the year that an 18-year playoff drought finally ends.
19. Falcons: A 6-2 finish after a 1-7 start plus a lingering nucleus of high-end talent could make them a surprise team in the NFC South, especially with so much focus on New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
20. Cardinals: The arrival of DeAndre Hopkins gives this team a significant bump. If the defense can hold up over the long haul, the Cardinals could finish a lot higher than where they’re starting.
21. Chargers: Tyrod Taylor has a winning record as a starter, and he’s never had a supporting cast like the one he has in L.A. The defense has significant potential, too, if the key players can stay healthy. In any other division, they’d be in much better shape to contend.
22. Raiders: There are reasons for optimism. There are reasons for pessimism. This one truly could go either way. Being stuck in the AFC West with a dominant Chiefs team and a dramatically improved Denver franchise will make it harder to make it go the right way.
23. Rams: Todd Gurley? Gone. Brandin Cooks? Gone. Wade Phillips? Gone. A pair of first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for a cornerback who may soon be gone? Gone. The Rams have pinned their hopes to a quarterback who needs more around him than what he has to justify the contract he’s gotten. Two seasons after getting to the Super Bowl, the Rams could end up at the bottom of their division.
24. Jets: Like the Falcons, the Jets went 6-2 after starting 1-7. They remain overlooked and disregarded. Which could play right into their hands.
25. Bears: Up and down and down and up and who knows how it will play out for a team that finally has a quarterback that fits the offense? There’s a chance it all falls together. There’s an equal chance it all falls apart.
26. Dolphins: Unable to trade up for Joe Burrow, the team in perpetual search of a franchise quarterback has pinned its hopes to Tua Tagovailoa. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance. His inability to stay healthy at the college level creates real concern as to whether he can do it at the next level.
27. Lions: Last season started with promise and potential and then it all fell apart after Matthew Stafford suffered a back injury. Maybe this year will be different. (“Maybe this year will be different” is how pretty much every season starts for Lions fans.)
28. Bengals: But for Joe Burrow, they’d be at No. 32. If he plays like he did last year at LSU, they could end up being a lot higher than No. 28. The more likely reality is that this one will take some time.
29. Giants: Second-year starting quarterback, first-year head coach, offensive coordinator who was just fired as a head coach, defense that lacks significant punch, offensive line that remains a work in progress. Maybe it all finds a way to work. Maybe it doesn’t. (And, yes, someone has to be No. 29.)
30. Panthers: Matt Rhule has become an expert at reclamation projects. He’s got another one on his hands. Fortunately, he also has one of the best running backs in the NFL under contract for years to come. There’s a quick path to potential relevance, if they stay healthy and get a little lucky. (And, yes, someone has to be No. 30.)
31. Jaguars: That 2017 appearance in the AFC Championship game feels as distant as 1999 and 1996. (And, yes, someone has to be No. 31.)
32. Washington: They’ve got the right coach for the job. Now, if Ron Rivera can focus on coaching and not coming up with a new name or cleaning up Bruce Allen’s mess, maybe they can get to work on turning the franchise around.
Our recent item regarding expanded use of injured reserve with the ability to return was partially correct, and partially not. Now that the full document containing all details of the league’s offer to the NFL Players Association has been obtained by PFT, we can spell out exactly how injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses would be handled in 2020.
The procedures previously explained actually would apply to injured reserve generally. Every team would have the ability to return an unlimited number of players to the active roster following placement on injured reserve or the non-football injury/illness list.
The 2020-only rules, which become effective after 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 6, will allow the team to remove any player with a football or non-football injury from the roster for three weeks. After three weeks, the player will be eligible to return to practice. Once he returns to practice, the team will have 21 days to place him back on the active roster.
This applies to all injuries, football or non-football. The unprecedented flexibility to park players on IR/NFI and to bring them back after only three games comes from a broader desire to ensure that the maximum number of players are available to play this season, in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
As to players who test positive for COVID-19, even more flexibility will apply. A player with a confirmed diagnosis will be placed on the Exempt/Commissioner Permission List. Once the player is medically cleared, the team will be eligible for a roster exemption. A player who is on the Exempt/Commissioner Permission List for less than four weeks will get a one-week roster exemption. If the player is one the list for four weeks or more, it becomes a two-week exemption.
In other words, players who test positive for COVID-19 won’t be required to miss at least three weeks. They’ll be placed not on IR or NFI but the Commissioner Exempt list, a designation that has become known in recent years for the placement of players facing off-field allegations of misconduct. There will be no minimum or maximum stay on the Commissioner Exempt list.
Placement on the Commissioner Exempt list always entails full payment. Thus, it’s now abundantly clear that players who test positive will not face the loss of compensation — even if they caught the virus away from the workplace.
As the Patriot League cancels fall sports amid the pandemic, the question becomes when and if larger conferences will do the same. If they do, the question becomes whether the NFL will move games for TV purposes into the prime Saturday spots vacated by major college programs.
Opinions within college football are mixed on the subject of proceeding with a 2020 season. Some are beginning to realize that, given the current state of the outbreak and the extent to which it continues to spread, college football won’t happen this fall. Others hold out hope that the conference-only approach will work.
On one hand, billions of dollars hang in the balance. On the other hand, unpaid players can be expected to assume only so much risk in exchange for room, board, tuition, and snacks.
Through it all, the NFL continues to monitor the situation. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has not had any formal discussions about the possibility of moving two or three games to Saturdays. The league, per the source, continues to root for college football to happen as scheduled.
That said, the league could recapture plenty of lost game-day stadium revenue by carving out games from the Sunday windows and featuring them on Saturdays. And if the networks aren’t able or willing to pay for the extra games given the financial realities of the pandemic, the league could sell the rights to a streaming provider — or possibly sell the games directly to consumers under its existing preseason/Game Pass model.
If there’s ultimately no college football in 2020 and if the NFL is able to proceed, fans may be willing to pay plenty of money for the ability to watch games on Saturday, if the traditional broadcast models won’t be practical, given the money already devoted to Thursday, Sunday, and Monday football.
The NFL and NFL Players Association currently are negotiating the various rules for football in a pandemic, but not because the pandemic gives rise to a duty to bargain.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has full authority to implement any and all rules that the league deems to be appropriate for the 2020 season, given the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. The NFLPA would then have the ability to file an immediate grievance on the question of whether the league is providing a reasonably safe workplace.
If, for example, the league were to proceed with no testing at all, the players would have a good case for a finding that the league has failed to not provide a safe workplace.
A wildcat strike will not happen. Per the source, the NFLPA won’t be walking out, because doing so could trigger the ability by the league to pull the plug on the entire CBA. Given the event of the past four months, the league likely would rush to scrap the current labor deal.
The primary goal of the ongoing talks is to avoid a grievance. The league also needs to have the players buy in to the rules, and to commit to doing everything possible to stay safe. The players, if they choose not to be conscientious at work or at home, could cause the entire system to collapse. They need to believe in the rules and to be motivated to do everything required to keep everyone safe.
That’s likely the biggest reason why the league is working with the union. The league needs not only the NFLPA but its entire rank and file to commit to behavior that will avoid bringing the virus to the workplace and potentially causing the kind of outbreak that will shut the season down, possibly before it even starts.
The clock keeps ticking toward the start of training camp, if it’s indeed going to start on July 28. Aiding that process would be an agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association on all remaining issues. There are several.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the significant sticking points are listed below.
1. Testing: The NFLPA wants daily testing. The NFL continues to resist that approach. The source says that daily testing is a “big, big issue.”
2. Acclimation period: The NFLPA wants to gradually phase players in physically, given that there was no offseason program and limited opportunities for players to work out as they normally would. In 2011, when there was no offseason program due to the lockout, injuries spiked by 25 percent.
3. Preseason: The players want none, the NFL wants two. The players believe any preseason games present an enhanced physical risk by limiting the ability to gradually get players in shape. Preseason games also entail added risk of an outbreak that could derail the season, with limited financial gain given that no fans will be present for the game.
4. Emergency protocols: The two sides need to work out procedures that would be utilized in the event of an outbreak.
5. Opt outs: The rules regarding when and how a player would choose to not play this season remain unresolved.
6. Economics: The league has raised the idea of givebacks or escrow payments in order to defray expected financial losses. The players have not been receptive to any such reductions or limitations, given that if anything they have enhanced risk in 2020.
The league and the union are schedule to convene another bargaining session on Monday, with the goal of getting a final resolution by Wednesday or Thursday. Otherwise, the launch of training camp as scheduled will be in jeopardy.
Peter King is on vacation until July 20, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Kim Pegula, president and co-owner (with husband Terry Pegula) of the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres. Previous guest columns: Michael MacCambridge (June 15) • Front-Line Workers (June 22) • Joe [more]
Daniel Snyder must have spilled some Pepsi on the Nike watch that arrived via FedEx, because the damn thing now says it’s all caps never o’clock.
Two days after $620 billion in investment pressure was applied to three key sponsors and a day after two of them made their position on the matter clear, Washington has announced that it will launch a review of its name. It seems to be an obvious precursor to changing it.
Indeed, Snyder defiantly insisted more than seven years ago that the name would never change. The mere fact that the team is considering the possibility represents a giant step toward doing it.
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” the team said in its statement. “This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”
It had not been reported or disclosed that the league has been talking to the team about the issue in recent weeks. That information makes it even more apparent that the next statement, whenever it comes, will be that the name is changing.
“Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, stated, ‘This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.'”
Two of the sponsors biggest already have said what they need to say (or, in Nike’s case, done what they need to do). And the NFL wouldn’t have been discussing the issue with Snyder if the NFL was fine with it.
Curiously, Snyder list of constituents omits express reference to players and coaches. For obvious financial reasons, they haven’t spoken out publicly. Snyder should ask them for their views on the matter, now that the ball is on the tee. The head coach already has dropped a fairly large hint.
Said coach Ron Rivera in the statement issued by the team: “This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our military.”
The statement does not explain how the military has any relevance to the issue. It could be a hint that the next name will be something that honors and supports the nation’s military.
Regardless, it’s happening. Unless Snyder is simply looking for the most awkward way to make it all worse, today’s announcement is the first major step toward finally landing on the right side of history.
The latest punishment of the New England Patriots came with no press release or other announcement from the NFL. Although the league confirmed reports regarding the price to be paid by the Patriots for the taping of the Cincinnati sideline a week before the Patriots were scheduled to play the Bengals, the league hasn’t done what it’s done in many other instances of discipline: Review the evidence, disclose the penalty, and explain the connection between the conduct and the consequences.
Throw in the fact that the Patriots deftly leaked their agreement with Cam Newton just before the news of the punishment emerged on the Sunday evening of one of the quietest weeks of the year, and this case has gone largely unexplored. So let’s explore it now.
The Patriots had a film crew at the December 8 game between the Browns and the Bengals, ostensibly to record footage for an episode of the team’s “Do Your Job” series regarding the team’s scouting department. The Patriots promptly admitted that the film crew “inappropriately filmed the field from the press box.”
The obvious question regarding the league’s investigation related to whether the video crew had any connection to New England football operations. Reports from the aftermath of the incident indicated that the league had not found any connection between the video crew and football operations. We had learned at the time that league investigators were showing signs of irritation and frustration during interviews with relevant employees, when no proof of a link between the video crew and football operations could be developed.
At no point has anyone suggested the existence of a link between the video crew and football operations. The league, by simply confirming the reports regarding the penalties, has avoided saying whether evidence of a link was ever found. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there was no link and no proof of a link.
So why did the Patriots receive a $1.1 million fine and lose a third-round draft pick? On multiple occasions earlier this year, reporters suggested that, absent proof of a link between the video crew and football operations, the situation would be treated like similar infractions from recent years. Adam Schefter of ESPN, for example, cited two prior incidents as providing the basis for eventual discipline: The suspension of Browns G.M. Ray Farmer for four games and a $250,000 fine for the team due to in-game texting to the sidelines; and the forfeiture of a fifth-round pick, a $350,000 team fine, and a suspension of team president Rich McKay from the Competition Committee after the Falcons used fake crowd noise at the Georgia Dome.
Other incidents cited by Mark Maske of the Washington Post as comparable to the current situation at the time were former Giants coach Ben McAdoo improperly using a walkie-talkie on the sideline ($150,000 fine, fourth-round pick reduced), the original #DeflateGate penalty ($1 million fine, first-round and fourth-round pick stripped), and the Ravens having two defensive players on the field with coach-to-player communication devices in their helmets ($200,000 fine).
As PFT pointed out at the time, a key difference exists between each of those incidents and the Patriots’ filming of the Cincinnati sidelines: The Patriots’ recording of the Cincinnati sideline, unlike the other examples, didn’t happen with any specific effort or desire to gain a competitive advantage. Given the absence of any link between the video crew and football operations, there was no a mechanism for turning the footage into a strategic benefit.
The league nevertheless whacked the Patriots, presumably because of their history — and possibly because (as one source with another team opined to PFT) certain league officials don’t like the Patriots and/or their head coach. Regardless, the league owes it to the Patriots and the other 31 franchises to explain what the league found and why the league converted that evidence into a fairly significant punishment.
If nothing else, details regarding the basis for punishing the Patriots become relevant precedent that would deter all teams from engaging in similar behavior. Without those details, the deterrence is vague and fuzzy. Other teams don’t know where the line is, because the league didn’t bother to explain where the line was.
Thus, on behalf of all teams (whether they want us to speak for them or not), we make this request to the league office: Release all details as to what the investigation found, and provide an explanation connecting the evidence to the consequence. Alternatively, if that information isn’t going to be provided, explain the reason for the lack of transparency.