Report: La’el Collins allegedly tried to bribe sample collectors

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions
Getty Images

On Monday night, Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins will miss the second of five games arising from a suspension under the substance-abuse policy. Based on a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Collins had a chance to make the Week Three game against the Eagles the final game of the suspension.

In an article that focuses on the contention that Collins tried to bribe sample collectors (more on that in a minute), Schefter writes that the NFL Players Association had negotiated with the league a reduction in the proposed suspension from five games to two games. Collins declined the offer, and then an arbitrator ruled against him, making it a five-game suspension.

The mere fact that the league would have agreed to reduce the suspension by 60 percent shows that the league had concerns regarding the strength of its position. Ultimately, the arbitrator bought the league’s arguments. Agent Peter Schaffer, who was hired by Collins to assist with the appeal, previously issued a statement blasting the league’s methods.

“We are extremely disappointed in how the NFL has handled this entire matter from trampling on Mr. Collins rights to prematurely releasing the information knowing a timely appeal was filed to intentionally misleading the court at the hearing,” Schaffer said on September 10. “The extent and effort the NFL went to to accomplish its ends is appalling.”

Schaffer has not yet responded to a request for comment as to the latest report. When he does, we’ve got a feeling that the word “appalling” will make another appearance, possibly along with something stronger.

The substance-abuse policy, as revised in 2020, does not allow suspensions for positive marijuana tests. However, suspensions are permitted for “failure to cooperate with testing or clinical care.” Initial reports regarding the suspension characterized the violation as a “failure to appear” for testing; the notion that Collins allegedly tried to bribe the collector may be an effort to transform a “failure to appear” into a “failure to cooperate with testing or clinical care.”

Schaffer filed a separate appeal following the arbitrator’s ruling, but it did not block the commencement of the suspension. If the appeal succeeds, Collins would most likely receive his lost pay from the missed games.

Rams’ Darrell Henderson unlikely to play vs. Bucs

NFL: SEP 19 Rams at Colts
Getty Images

The Rams are not expecting to have their starting running back today against the Buccaneers.

Darrell Henderson is unlikely to play today, according to multiple reports.

Henderson has a rib cartilage injury and will be playing through pain if he’s playing at all.

If Henderson is out, Sony Michel and Jake Funk would be the next men up. Michel arrived in a preseason trade with the Patriots and has 11 carries for 48 yards this season. Funk is a seventh-round rookie who has played only three offensive snaps and hasn’t touched the ball this season.

Jordan Akins, Mike Edwards were not fined for taunting

NFL: SEP 19 Falcons at Buccaneers
Getty Images

The NFL, in touting that nine of 11 taunting penalties in the first two weeks of the season were correct, declined to identify the two penalties that should not have been called.

The fines, or lack thereof, issued as a result of the Week Two taunting calls potentially shed some light on the question of the specific fouls for taunting that league believes should not have been called.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, neither Texans tight end Jordan Akins nor Buccaneers defensive back Mike Edwards (pictured) received taunting fines. Both drew flags for incidents of taunting that seemed questionable, at best.

(Also, some have questioned whether the somersault into the end zone by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson amounted to taunting. Per the source, Jackson was not fined — which counts as indirect confirmation that he didn’t engage in taunting. And he didn’t engage in taunting because his somersault wasn’t directed at a specific player on the Kansas City defense.)

The league should commit to a much higher degree of transparency and specificity when it comes to the taunting rule. The NFL has instructed game officials to make taunting a point of emphasis, for the second time since 2014. If, upon closer review, the league believes that the officials have gotten it wrong, the league should say so directly.

The lack of fouls for Akins and Edwards suggests, indirectly, that they didn’t actually taunt. Given the consequences of a foul — 15 yards of field position — the league should be more willing to admit that mistakes were made. At least two mistakes were made in calling 11 taunting fouls in the first two weeks of the season. That’s a failure rate of more than 18 percent. And that’s not nearly good enough.

If only the NFL fully embraced the sky judge/booth umpire proposal made by the Ravens earlier this year, maybe those mistakes would have been rectified in real time.

Antonio Brown out vs. Rams

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Getty Images

The Buccaneers will not have Antonio Brown on Sunday against the Rams.

Brown remains on the COVID-19 list and is not traveling with the team to Los Angeles, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Brown was placed on the list three days ago and would need two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart to be cleared. He apparently hasn’t satisfied that requirement yet.

The Bucs have spread the ball around plenty this season and Brown’s absence may mean more passes for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski.

Packers downgrade Elgton Jenkins to out

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills
Getty Images

Yosh Nijman could be getting a baptism by Bosa.

The Packers, with left tackle David Bakhtiari still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in late 2020, definitely won’t have his replacement, Elgton Jenkins, in Week Three at San Francisco. The Packers have downgraded Jenkins (ankle) from questionable to out.

Yosh Nijman is the next man up on the depth chart. It’s also possible that Billy Turner will slide into that spot, from the right tackle position.

Undrafted in 2019, Nijman appeared in all 16 games and both postseason contests last year. The first career start for the 26-year-old, if it happens, would come across from pass-rusher extraordinaire Nick Bosa.

Dolphins put Tua Tagovailoa on injured reserve

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins
Getty Images

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will miss at least the next three games after being placed on injured reserve today.

Although Dolphins coach Brian Flores said this week that Tagovailoa’s injured ribs were getting better, the team placed him on injured reserve today, according to multiple reports. By rule, players have to stay on injured reserve for at least three weeks.

Jacoby Brissett will start while Tagovailoa is out. The Dolphins will call up quarterback Reid Sinnett from the practice squad to replace Tagovailoa on the 53-man roster, and Sinnett will be Brissett’s backup.

It’s a major disappointment for the Dolphins, who were hoping that Tagovailoa could take a step forward in his second NFL season and perhaps lead Miami to the playoffs. Now it will be Brissett who leads the way for at least three weeks, and speculation will continue to mount that the Dolphins could make a move for Deshaun Watson.

Colts elevate Brett Hundley to active roster

Indianapolis Colts v Detroit Lions
Getty Images

Despite sprains in both of his ankles, Carson Wentz is reportedly expected to start for the Colts against the Titans on Sunday. But Indianapolis has made a move for some insurance at quarterback.

The Colts announced that Brett Hundley has been elevated to the active roster from the practice squad for Week Three.

Hundley reportedly took first-team reps at quarterback on Wednesday over Jacob Eason, who served as Indianapolis’ backup QB for the first two weeks of the season. Hundley told reporters this week that he would be ready if called upon. Now that he’s on the roster, Hundley could serve as Wentz’s backup instead of Eason. Or the Colts could choose to activate three QBs for Sunday’s game.

This is Hundley’s first of two standard elevations for 2021.

Eason played just over the last two minutes of last week’s loss to the Rams, throwing an interception to cornerback Jalen Ramsey on his second passing attempt.

Wentz was unable to practice on Wednesday and Thursday but returned to the field on Friday in a limited capacity.

The Colts have also elevated receiver DeMichael Harris from the practice squad to the active roster.

T.J. Watt ruled out for Sunday

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills
Getty Images

Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt expressed some hope that he could play on Sunday against the Bengals, but it turns out he won’t be able to.

The Steelers announced this morning that Watt has been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game. He’ll watch from the sideline in Pittsburgh.

After refusing to participate in training camp practices and the preseason until he got a new contract, Watt signed the deal he was looking for and played well in Week One. But he suffered a groin injury in Week Two and now has to miss Week Three as well.

That’s bad news for the Steelers but good news for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who won’t have one of the league’s best pass rushers chasing him on Sunday.

Cooper Kupp off to an incredible start

Los Angeles Rams v Indianapolis Colts
Getty Images

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said this week that wide receiver Cooper Kupp is the most overlooked player in the NFL. The way Kupp is playing, it’s impossible for him to be overlooked for much longer.

Kupp is off to a great start this season, but he’s probably not getting enough credit for just how much he is contributing to the Rams’ offense. For all the talk of Stafford’s arrival in Los Angeles, the big plays made by Stafford have mostly come when throwing to Kupp.

When throwing to Kupp, Stafford has completed 76.2 percent of his passes. When throwing to anyone else, Stafford has completed 65.7 percent of his passes.

When throwing to Kupp, Stafford has averaged 12.9 yards a pass. When throwing to everyone else, Stafford has averaged 9.4 yards a pass.

When throwing to Kupp, Stafford has touchdowns on 14.3 percent of his passes. When throwing to everyone else, Stafford has touchdowns on 5.7 percent of his passes.

Kupp had solid numbers last year, with 92 catches for 974 yards. But with 16 catches for 271 yards this year, he’s on pace to obliterate those numbers. If Kupp could keep up his current pace for 17 games, he’d finish with 136 catches for 2,304 yards.

It’s not realistic to think Kupp could do this for 17 games. But the start he’s on is remarkable, and Stafford is lucky to have him.

Jerry Jones: Every opportunity was given for the Rams to remain in St. Louis

Dallas Cowboys v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Getty Images

The pending lawsuit over the relocation of the Rams continues to generate not nearly as much attention as it should, what with a trial looming in January, all legal obstacles to that trial removed, and owners like Stan Kroenke and Jerry Jones facing a court order to disclose financial information in support of a potential punitive damages award or pay $1,000 each per day until they do.

No NFL-owned or operated media entity — not NFL Network, NFL.com, or any team-run website — have even glanced at the third rail created by the Rams relocation litigation. To their credit, the folks at 105.3 The Fan (the Cowboys’ flagship radio station, at least for now) went there in a Friday visit with Jones, the audio of which was then posted without editing on the team’s official site.

“I can appreciate St. Louis’s concern or St. Louis’s interest in losing an NFL team,” Jones said in response to a general inquiry about the status of the case. “And I see that. I know how special they are. And so it’s a product of that. I know first hand — first hand — I’m very familiar with Missouri, and I’m very familiar with how the Rams operated in Missouri. And Stan Kroenke’s commitment and the type of sensitivity that he had and his love for Missouri. I know all of that first hand. And it was outstanding. And so every opportunity was given for the Rams to remain in St. Louis, in my view. So having said that, hopefully this thing will seek its right level.”

The folks in St. Louis may disagree with that. Strongly. Many would claim that Kroenke plotted the move from the moment he exercised a right of first refusal to match Shad Khan’s offer for the team after the passing of Georgia Frontiere. At the very latest, they’d say the plan fell into place when Kroenke bought the land in Inglewood on which SoFi Stadium would be built, followed by a series of alleged or actual lies about what he intended to do with it.

At its core, the argument is that Kroenke was never going to stay in St. Louis, that he and the league went through the motions of the relocation guidelines pending an ownership-vote rubber stamp that would authorize a move, relocation guidelines be damned. And while folks like Jones would say that all’s fair in love, war, football, and multi-billion-dollar construction projects, lines may have been crossed. Barring a settlement, a trial will occur on that very question.

Some of the scant national reporting on the subject suggests that the league is willing to hang its hat on the appeal process (which to date hasn’t done much to get the league what it wants, whether that’s an order compelling arbitration or a reversal of the mandate to surrender financial information). That could be what Jones means when he vaguely says that “hopefully this thing will seek its right level.” Its right appellate level, where judges with the power to review the decisions made in St. Louis will start overturning rulings and protecting business interests, like so many courts now do.

That’s one of the very real, and overlooked, realities of the swing in many states toward conservative political ideologies. The judges who have those beliefs generally tend to interpret and apply the law in a way that protects people with money and power over those who lack either or both. It’s a basic fact, proven over and over again through years of American jurisprudence. And the NFL may be hanging its hat on the fact that, eventually and/or inevitably, the case will land on the docket of just enough judges who are of a red-hat mindset, allowing the league to escape whatever financial sanctions may be applied at the trial-court level.

Of course, that won’t save Kroenke or Jones or other owners from having to testify in open court. That’s where the fireworks could happen, and no eventual reversal on appeal will rewind time to the moment before Kroenke or Jones or Roger Goodell or anyone else gets twisted into knots on the witness stand.

Josh Norman on playing after one week of practice: Playing in the NFL is like riding a bike

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
Getty Images

San Francisco cornerback Josh Norman signed with the 49ers in Week One and was on the field for 97 percent of defensive snaps in Week Two. He said that was no problem.

Norman is in his 10th NFL season, and he said that just because he wasn’t with the 49ers all through the offseason, that doesn’t mean he can’t figure out what he needs to do in their defense.

“I executed what they wanted me to do,” Norman said. “For coming off a week of practice, I’m getting rolling. But it’s like riding a bike too. I’ve been in this game a while and I know what it wants from me.”

Norman said he has no problem with people who question whether he can still play at a high level at age 33.

“That’s life. Where would we be if we didn’t have doubters? Where would we be if there wasn’t haters?” Norman said.

Norman has had his share of criticism during his decade in the NFL, but the 49ers are glad he was available when he was.

Week Three injury report roundup: Quarterback injuries will impact several games

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins
Getty Images

Week Three of the 2021 NFL season kicked off on Thursday with a win by Carolina and it continues with 14 more games on Sunday, which means that the 28 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday.

The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their final injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

With that housekeeping out of the way, here are all the injury reports for Sunday.

Dolphins at Raiders

One of the themes of this week’s slate is quarterback injuries and this game featured questions on both sides this week. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) has been ruled out, which means Jacoby Brissett will be getting the start in Las Vegas. He’s the only player on Miami’s final injury report.

Raiders QB Derek Carr (ankle) was called questionable by head coach Jon Gruden early in the week, but he practiced fully all week and is set to play. RB Josh Jacobs (ankle) is set to miss another game after being listed as doubtful. G Richie Incognito (calf), S Dallin Leavitt (concussion), and CB Roderic Teamer (ankle) have already been ruled out.

Colts at Titans

QB Carson Wentz (ankles) practiced on Friday for the first time all week and the team listed him as questionable. T Braden Smith (foot, thumb) is the only other player with an injury designation and he has been ruled out.

CB Caleb Farley (shoulder), TE Anthony Firkser (knee), and LB Derick Roberson (knee) are out for the Titans while LB Bud Dupree (knee) is listed as questionable.

Bears at Browns

Bears QB Justin Fields is set for his first start with Andy Dalton (knee) ruled out this weekend. S Tashaun Gipson (hamstring) isn’t expected to play after drawing a doubtful tag. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring), DT Eddie Goldman (knee), WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle), DT Akiem Hicks (illness, knee), S Eddie Jackson (toe), WR Darnell Mooney (groin), and DE Bilal Nichols (back) make up a sizable questionable contingent.

WR Odell Beckham (knee) is off the Browns injury report and ready for his 2021 debut. T Jedrick Wills (ankle) practiced Friday and is listed as questionable. C J.C. Tretter (knee) is also questionable while T Chris Hubbard (triceps) and LB Sione Takitaki (hamstring) are out this week.

Ravens at Lions

The Ravens practiced without QB Lamar Jackson (illness) on Thursday, but he was back on Friday. He is listed as questionable along with LB Chris Board (other), WR Marquise Brown (ankle), S DeShon Elliott (concussion), LB Daelin Hayes (knee), QB Lamar Jackson (illness), LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), and CB Tavon Young (knee). They ruled T Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and DE Derek Wolfe (hip, back) out and they’re also set to play without EDGE Justin Houston, DL Justin Madubuike, NT Brandon Williams, and EDGE Jaylon Ferguson after placing them on the COVID-19 reserve list.

LB Jamie Collins (not injury related – personal matter) won’t play as the Lions work to trade him. DE Michael Brockers (shoulder), LB Trey Flowers (shoulder, knee), LB Julian Okwara (neck), LB Romeo Okwara (shoulder), WR Kalif Raymond (thigh), DE Kevin Strong (concussion, thigh), and RB D'Andre Swift (groin) are listed as questionable.

Bengals at Steelers

The Bengals are set to play without WR Tee Higgins (shoulder), G Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee), and CB Trae Waynes (hamstring) after listing them as doubtful.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral) missed practice on Wednesday, but returned on Thursday and didn’t get an injury designation. LB T.J. Watt (groin) is listed as questionable after a week of limited practices while DT Carlos Davis (knee), LB Alex Highsmith (groin), and WR Diontae Johnson (knee) will all sit out this week.

Saints at Patriots

C Erik McCoy (calf) is the only Saints player on the injury report. He’s been ruled out.

T Trent Brown (calf), S Adrian Phillips (not injury related – personal matter), and LB Josh Uche (back) are listed as questionable for the Patriots.

Washington at Bills

DT Matt Ioannidis (knee) is listed as questionable, but everyone else on Washington’s active roster is expected to play.

The Bills listed CB Dane Jackson (knee) and CB Levi Wallace (knee) as questionable.

Chargers at Chiefs

Chargers LB Joey Bosa (foot, ankle) is listed as questionable after missing practice all week. CB Chris Harris (shoulder) has been ruled out and DT Justin Jones (calf) is listed as doubtful.

DE Frank Clark (hamstring) was added to the Chiefs’ injury report on Thursday and he’s set to miss the game after being tagged as doubtful. DE Chris Jones (wrist) and CB Charvarius Ward (quad) are listed as questionable.

Cardinals at Jaguars

The Cardinals listed WR DeAndre Hopkins (ribs) as questionable despite missing practice all week. T Kelvin Beachum (ribs), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), CB Byron Murphy (ankle), and CB Marco Wilson (ankle) are also in that category. They ruled out T Joshua Miles (ankle) and G Brian Winters (not injury related – personal matter).

Jaguars CB C.J. Henderson (groin, illness), CB Tre Herndon (knee), and DT Roy Robertson-Harris (ankle) are all considered questionable for Sunday.

Falcons at Giants

The Falcons ruled WR Frank Darby (calf), WR Russell Gage (ankle), and CB A.J. Terrell (concussion) out for their trip to New Jersey.

TE Evan Engram (calf) is questionable for the Giants after missing the first two games of the season. WR Kenny Golladay (hip) and S Nate Ebner (quadricep) drew the same tag while LB Cam Brown (hamstring) has been ruled out.

Jets at Broncos

Jets head coach Robert Saleh called WR Jamison Crowder (groin) a game-time decision on Friday, but he’s listed as doubtful so he’s expected to miss the game. RB Tevin Coleman (illness) won’t play and DE John Franklin-Myers (calf) is listed as questionable.

G Graham Glasgow (illness) and DT Mike Purcell (knee) are considered questionable to play for the Broncos.

Buccaneers at Rams

Buccaneers LB Jason Pierre-Paul (hand, shoulder) will not play this week. WR Jaydon Mickens (abdomen) is also out.

TE Jacob Harris (hip) and RB Darrell Henderson (rib) are questionable for the Rams. Head coach Sean McVay said pain tolerance will be the key to Henderson getting into the lineup.

Seahawks at Vikings

Seahawks WR D'Wayne Eskridge (concussion), RB Rashaad Penny (calf), and T Brandon Shell (ankle) won’t play in Minnesota. LB Benson Mayowa (neck) is listed as questionable.

RB Dalvin Cook (ankle) didn’t practice this week, but is listed as questionable and head coach Mike Zimmer said his condition has improved in recent days. LB Anthony Barr (knee), T Christian Darrisaw (groin), and CB Harrison Hand (hamstring) are all out this Sunday.

Packers at 49ers

The Packers said they’d give OL Elgton Jenkins (ankle) all week to show he’s well enough to play, but they listed him as doubtful so his chances of playing aren’t looking good. TE Dominique Dafney (hip) has been listed as questionable.

49ers General Manager John Lynch called RB Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) “very questionable” to play on Sunday night and he’s officially listed as doubtful. DT Kevin Givens (ankle) and RB JaMycal Hasty (ankle) have been ruled out while DE Arik Armstead (adductor), DT Javon Kinlaw (knee), and CB Emmanuel Moseley (knee) make up the questionable contingent.

Frank Clark doubtful, Chris Jones questionable for Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Getty Images

Chiefs defensive lineman Frank Clark missed all three preseason games and the season opener with a hamstring injury. He returned to play 53 defensive snaps in Week 2, but the Chiefs put him back on the practice report after he strained his other hamstring in Thursday’s practice.

Clark sat out Friday’s practice, and the Chiefs list him as doubtful.

Cornerback Charvarius Ward missed Friday’s session with a strained quad and is questionable.

“Both of them are getting treatment,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Friday, via Matt Derrick of chiefsdigest.com. “We’ll just have to see where we go from there.”

Mike Danna started for Clark in Week 1 and played 46 of 59 defensive snaps, while Joshua Kaindoh saw action on 12 defensive plays.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones is questionable after a wrist injury limited him in practice all week. Jones has five tackles and two sacks this season.

Matt Nagy: We’re seeing new things from Justin Fields now that he’s getting first-string reps

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears
Getty Images

Bears fans are getting their wish this week, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields starting in place of the injured Andy Dalton. And Bears coach Matt Nagy says Fields is already showing he looks the part of a first-string quarterback.

Nagy said Fields is learning each day as he takes control of the starting offense in practice, but he also said he’s learning more about Fields by seeing the way he grows while getting all the first-string reps.

We’re learning, too,” Nagy said. “This week, with him getting all the reps in practice, there’s things that we’re seeing that maybe we didn’t see in the first two weeks because he wasn’t getting those one reps.”

That raises the question, of course, of whether Fields should have been the starting quarterback all along. Nagy indicated that he wanted Fields to learn from the sideline while Dalton played, but now that Fields is playing anyway because Dalton is hurt, it might have served Fields well to be running the first-string offense from Day One.

Report: New Sunday Ticket could allow fans to buy one team’s games

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Chiefs at Bears
Getty Images

After 27 years of being forced to buy all in order to get some, NFL fans may be able to just buy some of the out-of-market games.

In an article by Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com that focuses on the NFL’s supposed preference that Apple land the Sunday Ticket package, Kaplan reports that the new package could allow fans to buy just one team’s out of market games. Fans also could be permitted to buy stand-alone games.

That’s a huge development, one that most who buy the full package would welcome. They buy it to watch all of one team’s games. They’ve never had the ability to choose anything less than all of them.

The decision to force consumers to buy all of the games has sparked antitrust litigation in the past, and for good reason. Why should a Chargers fan living in Virginia have to buy the entire package if that fan only wants the Chargers games?

Whether it’s Apple or someone else, that feature could be coming. It’s already long overdue. By about 27 years.