Karl Joseph: I feel like I was born to be a Raider

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When the Raiders declined safety Karl Joseph‘s fifth-year option option in the spring of 2019, it set up the former first-round pick to be a free agent in 2020.

Joseph ended up signing with Cleveland on a one-year deal last April, appearing in 14 games for the club, starting eight. But with the Browns signing safety John Johnson early in free agency, Joseph was set up to move on once again.

The Raiders may have relocated to Las Vegas since Joseph departed, but he’s back where he thinks he belongs after signing with the club on Friday.

“I never wanted to leave,” Joseph said, via Vinny Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This is my home. I was drafted here. I feel like I was born to be a Raider.

“It felt like the right decision was to come back and help finish what I started here and be a part of that.”

In bringing Joseph back, the Raiders filled a need for a veteran safety prior to the draft at the end of the month. But Joseph’s presence is unlikely to stop Las Vegas from adding talent at the position, particularly since the team has already elected to move on from Joseph in the recent past.

In his first stint with the Raiders, Joseph appeared in 49 games with 41 starts. He recorded four interceptions, 15 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries, and 3.0 sacks for the franchise.

Joe Douglas: Vision and plan of Robert Saleh’s staff makes my job easier

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The Jets made a big trade last week when they shipped quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina and cleared the path to take a new quarterback with the second overall pick in this month’s draft.

Once that quarterback — Zach Wilson is the expected choice — is in place, he’ll join head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in a first season with the franchise. Darnold didn’t have that as he came in during Todd Bowles’ final season, transitioned to Adam Gase in 2019, and then saw Joe Douglas replace General Manager Mike Maccagnan a year after he was selected.

Albert Breer of SI.com reports that Gase didn’t bend his offensive approach all that much to fit Darnold and that contributed to the former Jet’s rocky play the last two years. Douglas told Breer that he doesn’t have such a fear about the next quarterback because Saleh, LaFleur, and the rest of the staff have made it quite clear what they want in players.

“Obviously, you’re excited about Robert,” Douglas said. “And then you’re excited about this great staff of hires and teachers he’s bringing in. . . . And then you get into these meetings, and there’s such a clear-cut plan. There’s such great teaching methods that they have in place. And just going through these conversations, it’s reinforced the excitement that you had when we made the hire. These are great guys, man. They have the vision and they have a plan and it makes your job easier from a personnel perspective when there is that clear vision in what they’re looking for — like, O.K., this is easy, we can find guys that are made of the right stuff. It’s been cool. It’s been really cool.”

Quarterbacks have a way of making or breaking head coaches and General Managers. Douglas and Saleh will be defining bet for their Jets tenures in a little more than two weeks.

Jonathan Kraft makes case for full capacity at 2021 games

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The 2021 NFL season begins in five months. When it comes to the pandemic, a lot can and will happen between now and then. And there continues to be a belief that, by September, NFL teams will be able to host full stadiums of fans.

“Once vaccines have been available in a community for a long enough period of time where anyone who’s wanted one could’ve gotten it and reached two weeks past their second shot, just to take the outlying point, then I don’t know why you shouldn’t be at full capacity,” Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, who also serves as chair of the Massachusetts General Hospital Board of Trustees, said late last week at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, according to the Boston Globe (via NBC Sports Boston). “It’s sort of intellectually dishonest to say we’re going to be at a quarter percent of capacity even though theoretically you have herd immunity in the local population. At some point you have to get back to living your lives.”

Kraft’s comments capture the potential tension between medical realities and political sensitivities come September. In some states, the doors to sports venues will be thrown open. In others, they won’t be — regardless of whether they should be.

Come September, the relevant medical experts will be making decisions in every state and locality where the NFL does business. Hopefully those decisions will be made based solely on the prevailing science, whatever it may be after five more months of vaccinations and other developments.

Even more hopefully, people will continue to get vaccinations. That’s one of the key steps toward finally turning the page on COVID-19 and moving forward in ’21 and ’22.

Caleb Farley says NFL doctors gave him good news at medical re-check

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About 150 NFL draft prospects went through medical checkups over the weekend so that NFL medical staffs could get a good look at their progress in recovery from injuries. Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley says his checkup went well.

Farley had back surgery on March 23 and said NFL doctors in Indianapolis over the weekend told him they think he’ll be good to go for the start of training camp.

“I got a lot of positive feedback from the NFL doctors,” Farley said. “The NFL doctors confirmed I would be ready for the season, and they told me this is definitely not a chronic thing.”

Farley hasn’t lost any confidence.

“I plan to be the best cornerback of my generation,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get back in the pads again.”

Most mock drafts have Farley going somewhere around the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Report: Eddie George wants to hire Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator at Tennessee State

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As Eddie George, whose post-playing career has included a short stint on Broadway, now becomes the head coach at Tennessee State University, he’s reportedly looking to hire a two-time former NFL head coach at the program’s offensive coordinator.

Via FootballScoop.com, George wants to hire Hue Jackson to run the team’s offense.

Jackson coached the Raiders and Browns to a combined record of 11-44-1. He finished his stint in Cleveland with a 3-36-1 record.

The defensive coordinator apparently will be Brandon Fisher, son of former Titans and Rams coach Jeff Fisher. George, drafted by Fisher to the Houston Oilers in 1996, has relied on Jeff Fisher as an advisor.

Brandon Fisher last worked in the NFL in 2016, as a member of his father’s staff in L.A.

George also could hire Ray Lewis as a member of the defensive staff at Tennessee State. Per the report, Tennessee State discussed making Lewis the head coach before settling on George.

Nashville-based Tennessee State, an FCS-level school, belongs to the Ohio Valley Conference.

Report: Eddie George to coach Tennessee State

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Former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George is expected to take on a new challenge in the state of Tennessee.

George is reportedly the next head coach at Tennessee State. The news was first posted by someone with zero followers on Twitter and then confirmed by longtime college football reporter Brett McMurphy.

Tennessee State is currently 2-4 while playing a spring season after not playing in the fall of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 Tennessee State went 2-8.

Tennessee State plays some of its home games at the Titans’ home stadium, and new athletic director Mikki Allen has talked about the importance of the school’s relationship with the NFL team. Hiring one of the best players in Titans history certainly won’t hurt that relationship.

George, however, has no coaching experience, so hiring him would have to be seen as a gamble. George has impeccable credentials as a player, though, as he was a Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer at Ohio State, the first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1996 and a four-time Pro Bowler in Tennessee, where the Oilers moved after George’s rookie season.

Tennessee State plays Jackson State annually in the Southern Heritage Classic. Jackson State is coached by Deion Sanders, so that matchup will now have two great NFL players matching wits on the sidelines.

Sixth victim dies in Phillip Adams mass shooting

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A sixth person shot by former NFL defensive back Phillip Adams has died.

Via WRAL-TV, Robert Shook has died due to injuries suffered on Wednesday, when Adams shot Shook and five others in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Shook and James Lewis were HVAC workers who happened to be at the home of Dr. Robert Lesslie when the shootings occurred. Lewis died at the scene, along with Dr. Lesslie, his wife, and two grandchildren. Shook passed Saturday in a Charlotte hospital.

Ralph Norman, a member of Congress from South Carolina, said that Dr. Lesslie had stopped giving Adams medication.

Adams’ father has said that “football messed him up.” The brain of Phillip Adams will be tested for CTE.

Adams, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010, played in the NFL through 2015.

Deshaun Watson massage therapist tries to explain text messages that could hurt Watson’s case

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On March 31, Jasmine Brooks became one of 18 massage therapists who issued statements in support of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. On April 6, attorney Tony Buzbee attributed to Brooks (without specifically naming her) text messages that seemed to mesh with Buzbee’s contention that Watson acted inappropriately with Buzbee’s 22 clients who have sued Watson.

The next day, Brooks spoke to KHOU-11 about the situation. She didn’t deny sending the messages, which explained her decision to stop providing massages to Watson after two and a half years. The interview with Brooks includes the chain of text messages in question.

The first, from Brooks: “I know i know i know.”

Then from Brooks: “That’s crazy.”

Then from Brooks, “I told u i stopped working with him?”

Next, a response: “Yeah why.”

Finally, four replies from Brooks: “Bc I was hearing too much stuff about him messing with other people. Like other therapist and esthetician’s. He been doing a lot the last 3-4 months. And i even told his ass he needed to be careful Bc his name getting around. I just hope don’t nobody call me to question me.”

In the interview with KHOU-11, Brooks first explained that she stopped massaging Watson because he had been working with so many people. She said that she thought there was a potential liability issue, if Watson were to be injured by one of the various people working on him. “I just didn’t want that on my plate anymore,” she said.

Brooks then was questioned about the text exchange. She first said it was “taken completely out of context” because it was sent not to another therapist but to a friend. (This doesn’t mean the message was taken out of context.) She then addressed the content of the text messages.

“Really, what I meant was Deshaun is, he’s working with a lot of people, he’s working with a lot of therapists. I don’t know these people. I don’t know what they’re doing with him. And I just wasn’t comfortable continuing my work with him. There has been an instance that I know of that me and Deshaun had spoke about with an esthetician and, you know, Deshaun is in a relationship but there was some sort of personal relationship with this person. And me speaking to Deshaun and telling him to be careful was because I feel like he doesn’t know the intentions of some of these people that he works with, you know, his personal information has been put on Instagram, on Instagram platform, and I just felt like it wasn’t safe for him, for him or his career, to just kind of go to anybody.”

That makes sense as to all of her text messages except one: “I just hope don’t nobody call me to question me.” Why does she hope no one calls her to question her? KHOU-11 did, and she freely agreed to speak. And she spoke without hesitation or equivocation.

Common sense suggests that “I just hope don’t nobody call me to question me” means that there’s something she knows or that she’s heard that she doesn’t want to have to disclose regarding Deshaun Watson. That interpretation makes even more sense if, as it appears, the text exchange was sparked by the notion that Watson had been sued for misconduct during massage sessions.

Regardless, it’s now a certainty that Jasmine Brooks will be subpoenaed by Buzbee to testify in up to 22 civil trials, and she will indeed be questioned aggressively, and repeatedly, regarding her text messages.

Jimbo Fisher: Kellen Mond “does all the things you need to judge a first-round player”

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When discussions about this year’s draft turns to quarterbacks, most of the attention is paid to the five players that are generally expected to come off the board early in the first round.

Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance make up that group. Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond is ranked somewhere behind that quintet, but his college coach thinks that Mond belongs at the top of the draft as well.

Jimbo Fisher saw Mond play 36 games and throw for 8,286 yards for the Aggies over the last three years. He said Mond, who also played 10 games before Fisher came to College Station, has steadily improved and thinks “the body of work, the competition he’s played against” merits a high draft choice.

“He does all of the things you need to judge a first-round player,” Fisher said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “He helped change the culture — winning more games, taking a stand, showing he’s a guy who can fight through adversity, took criticism, eliminated any distractions and continued to get better.”

Fisher said he’s spoken to 10-15 teams about Mond and that they like his experience, but we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see where that puts him on the draft board.

Aaron Wilson acknowledges “lack of sensitivity” to “serious nature” of allegations against Deshaun Watson

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If the aftermath of the news that the Houston Chronicle has parted ways with NFL reporters Aaron Wilson over comments he made on a Boston radio station regarding the Deshaun Watson situation, Wilson has issued a statement via social media.

I made a mistake that I fully understand and own when I did not choose my words nearly carefully enough during a discussion on a March 19 radio program regarding the sensitive, complex and controversial Deshaun Watson legal situation, in the days following the initial filing of the civil lawsuits from women against him,” Wilson wrote. “My efforts to convey perspectives on the situation clearly demonstrated an unintentional lack of sensitivity to the serious nature of these type of allegations, and I sincerely apologize for my remarks. I didn’t maintain my own high standards that I’ve established and applied during my two decades covering many other similarly important and delicate situations in the NFL. I will proceed much more carefully going forward and learn from this moment. I am committed to outstanding journalism now and always.”

It’s unclear why Wilson’s separation from employment came three weeks after the comments were made, or whether other factors influenced the decision, beyond the March 19 remarks.

In the appearance on WEEI, Wilson called the lawsuits a “money grab” and “ambulance chasing.” He also attempted to explain Watson’s approach to pre-litigation settlement efforts by saying “you don’t negotiate with terrorists.” After being accused during the interview of being pro-Watson, Wilson said, “I don’t know them, I know him. I’m not gonna throw the guy under the bus before I have some proof. I don’t feel like I have the proof, just it’s allegations.”

In all, 22 women have sued Watson for misconduct during private massage sessions. Watson has denied wrongdoing. On Friday, his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, admitted that consensual sex sometimes occurred during those encounters.

Taylor Gabriel retires

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Former NFL wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is calling it a career.

Retired,” Gabriel wrote to accompany an Instagram picture of him lounging in his pool. “Undrafted Free Agent Tryout #7Years. Thanks to all my fans and supporters love y’all.”

Gabriel was a free agent who said last year that he decided not to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I opted to not play this year with covid,” Gabriel wrote on Twitter at the start of the 2020 season. “I’ve had offers to play but chose my families safety.”

The 30-year-old Gabriel entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Browns in 2014. He later spent two years with the Falcons and two with the Bears. He had his most productive season in 2018 in Chicago, when he caught 67 passes for 688 yards.

Sign up for Peacock, see Wrestlemania 37

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Wrestlemania 37 has arrived. You can see all of the two-night event on Peacock.

Forget about pay-per-view charges or other out-of-pocket costs. Sign up for Peacock and see both nights of Wrestlemania, for only $4.99 per month.

There’s also a free seven-day trial. So you can sign up, watch Wrestlemania 37, and then decide within the next seven days whether you want to incur the minimal monthly charge. (You can still keep Peacock, since much of the content — including PFT Live and PFT PM — are free.)

Beyond Wrestlemania 37, there’s plenty of other WWE content, including all prior Wrestlemania events, back to 1985.

This year’s event happens at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, with limited capacity. There will be unlimited capacity on Peacock, where millions already have signed up and millions more still can.

So do it now. Do it now. Do it now. Wrestlemania 37 starts at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight.

Should Rusty Hardin have let Deshaun Watson speak on Friday?

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On Friday, attorney Rusty Hardin held his first press conference in connection with the Deshaun Watson cases. Hardin, at the outset of the press conference, acknowledged that he considered having Watson present.

“We toyed with the idea of having him here today,” Hardin said. “So I indicated to some people he might be, and we made a decision just a little while ago that it really wouldn’t add anything because I wasn’t going to allow him to answer any questions. And I think most of you all understand that. You’ve got investigations going on, not just police departments have been asked to look at it, but the NFL. There may be other agencies that look at it.”

Hardin quipped that his malpractice insurance wouldn’t let Hardin allow Watson to speak. That’s an overstatement of the connection between letting a client speak publicly when multiple potential investigations are pending and the commission of legal malpractice. Indeed, plaintiff Ashley Solis spoke publicly on Tuesday regarding her claims against Watson. Attorney Tony Buzbee didn’t commit malpractice in allowing Solis to read a statement without answering questions.

The fact that Solis has provided a name, a face, and a voice to the accusations changed the case. It makes efforts to have third parties vouch for Watson feel incomplete and hollow. Hardin’s press conference nevertheless consisted of multiple lawyers — lawyers who are paid to advocate zealously and thoroughly for Watson — proclaiming to the world that he’s incapable of such behavior.

It’s arguably too late for that tactic in the court of public opinion, and it will never be time for that tactic in a court of law, where the lawyer saying “my client didn’t do it” means absolutely nothing. Watson could have appeared at the press conference and read from a carefully crafted statement that undermines none of his interests, just as Ashley Solis did. Hardin could have refused to let Watson answer questions, just as Buzbee did with Ashley Solis.

Instead, Hardin opted to profess Watson’s innocence via those paid to represent him. Hardin, for example, explained that he sent two lawyers whom he believed to be “instinctively pro-women” to meet with Watson for two days and to report back with their impressions.

“At the end of that time,” Hardin said, “they can speak for themselves, but both of them called back to say, ‘We deeply, deeply do not believe this guy ever did anything non-consensual with any woman during any of this. He didn’t coerce them. We don’t believe he used his position. We don’t believe he intimidated them. We simply do not.’ Were there sometimes consensual encounters? Yes. And will that come out in any kind of litigation or trial? Of course it will, and that’s where it should come out.”

Other lawyers from Watson’s legal team similarly vouched for Watson.

“From the moment that I’ve spent time with this young man, I have no qualms telling you that I stand here unequivocally stating the things that he has been accused of, the things that he has been persecuted for in the public, he simply has not done,” attorney Letitia Quiñones said, before outlining a clean “credit history” for Watson and then chastising those in the media who have “jump[ed] on the bandwagon” against Watson.

Said another lawyer on Watson’s legal team, “This man is not capable of the things that are in the allegations. He is not that man. He is not a sexual predator. And I feel very strongly to say he has not forced, coerced, intimidated, or threatened any woman to do anything to him.”

Again, none of these statements will matter in court. And no one should be surprised that the lawyers paid to represent Watson will declare publicly that he didn’t do it. That’s what lawyers do.

On Friday, Watson could have appeared at the press conference. He could have read from a statement. He could have carefully avoided anything that could or would be used against him in court. He could have answered the decision of Ashley Solis to put a face and voice on the allegations with a face and voice on the defense against them.

Watson could have done it. Hardin made the tactical decision, for whatever reason, not to have Watson do it. Tying the decision to not allow Watson to answer questions or to avoid jeopardizing Hardin’s malpractice insurance doesn’t explain the strategy to opt for lawyers declaring that Watson is innocent instead of letting Watson do so himself through comments carefully written and vetted to ensure that the things Watson would have said on Friday would not have come back to haunt him later.

Phillip Adams’ brain will be studied for CTE

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Earlier this week, former NFL defensive back Phillip Adams shot and killed five people before killing himself. Adams’ father said that “football messed him up.” Scientists will take a closer look at that specific question.

Via the Associated Press, the brain of Phillip Adams will be tested for Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, a degenerative condition that potentially can cause cognitive disorders and other problems.

On Friday, York County, South Carolina coroner Sabrina Gast said Friday in a statement that Phillip Adams’ family has authorized that the autopsy include a search for CTE. The Medical University of South Carolina will work in conjunction with Boston University, which researches the issue of CTE.

U.S. Representative Ralph Norman has claimed that the shooting of Dr. Robert Lesslie and four others resulted from Dr. Lesslie’s refusal to give Adams medication.

Drafted in 2010, Adams played for the 49ers, Patriots, Seahawks, Raiders, Jets, and Falcons in a career that lasted through 2015.

Report: Comments regarding Deshaun Watson cost Houston Chronicle reporter Aaron Wilson his job

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The Deshaun Watson controversy has resulted in someone losing his job, and it wasn’t Deshaun Watson.

Diana Moskovitz and Kalyn Kahler of Defector.com report that Aaron Wilson no longer works for the Houston Chronicle due to comments made last month regarding the situation on WEEI radio in Boston.

Wilson, in an interview that remains available online, called the lawsuits against Watson a “money grab” and “ambulance chasing.” Wilson also used an unfortunate, inaccurate, and ill-advised term while clumsily attempting to explain Watson’s approach to the efforts to resolve the claims before the first lawsuit was filed.

“In his case, you know, it’s kind of like you don’t, you know, you don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Wilson said, attempting to explain the notion that players with impeccable reputations are more likely to pay to make allegations like this go away. “You know, people are demanding money, they’re asking for money. The — it kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. And you start talking about more and more funds, I’m not gonna say how much it got to. But my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know, just that this was, you know, just a money grab.”

Wilson seemed to be passing along the mindset of Watson’s camp. Wilson should have been far more clear in doing so; his choice of words made it seem like he believed what they believed.

Wilson also vouched for Watson’s character and said that attorney Tony Buzbee’s behavior in rounding up more accusers is “looked down upon.” Wilson added that he’s skeptical about the claims.

The interview happened very early in the process, before Buzbee even had his first press conference. At the time, there weren’t many accusers and there were legitimate questions about Buzbee’s tactics and the evidence he had offered up publicly. For example, the night before Wilson’s appearance, Buzbee had posted some social-media messages from Watson that hardly amounted to smoking guns of guilt.

“I don’t know them, I know him,” Wilson said after being accused by host Greg Hill of being pro-Watson. “I’m not gonna throw the guy under the bus before I have some proof. I don’t feel like I have the proof, just it’s allegations.”

Wilson also wrote last month a lengthy feature in which friends and associates said that they couldn’t believe the allegations in the lawsuits. On WEEI, Wilson said that the Texans didn’t believe the allegations and that, as to players and teammates, “No one wants to think this of him, and they’re all saying privately to me, ‘Aaron, we’d be shocked if this was true.'”

Per Moskovitz and Kahler, the Chronicle held a sports staff meeting on Friday during which editor Reid Laymance said that Wilson was no longer employed by the publication. Although no specifics regarding the move were shared during the meeting, Chronicle executive editor Steve Riley sent a memo to the entire newsroom regarding the handling of the Watson case.

“The sexual assault allegations against Deshaun Watson bring those standards front and center,” Riley wrote, per Defector.com. “This note serves as a reminder that as we report, analyze and describe those allegations, those who bring them and the person they are brought against, we must approach the story with fairness and care toward all involved. Given the frequency of content we are creating, on a growing number of print and digital channels, our editors must also be more vigilant with our oversight of coverage on all platforms. . . . Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary.”

It’s likely that Wilson’s “you don’t negotiate with terrorists” line tipped the scales against him. It also would have been prudent for Wilson to clearly separate his beliefs (or to refrain from even having beliefs) from the strong, and frankly predictable, opinions held by those close to Watson. Wilson would have had no basis whatsoever to come to any such conclusions on his own so early in the process; even now, there’s insufficient evidence to make firm decisions one way or the other as to whether Watson did what he’s accused of doing.

Wilson’s role as a reporter and not a print/web/radio/TV opinion-generator also contributed to the situation. Given the obvious conflicts that arise when it comes to Wilson’s reporter function of maintaining access to Watson and his representatives, associates, friends, etc., Wilson’s broader business interests would not have been served by expressing skepticism of Watson based on the first few claims that had been made as of the morning of March 19. Unfortunately for Wilson, he went way too far in expressing skepticism of the claims being made against Watson.

The email from the Chronicle to all staff also pointed out that media appearances can happen only with the permission of a supervisor. This implies that Wilson agreed to appear on WEEI without securing such advance permission. If he had done so, he may have received some important advice that would have allowed him to more artfully navigate the minefield that he willingly entered by agreeing to speak extemporaneously about the situation on live radio.

Alternatively, Wilson may have gotten an answer that would have helped him avoid this entire mess: Don’t do the interview.