Month: May 2018

Vita Vea’s only rookie duty for Bucs involves Disney’s ‘Moana’

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Buccaneers defensive lineman Vita Vea’s rookie hazing has taken on a distinctly Disney theme at organized team activities.

The defensive lineman from Washington draws a strong resemblance to the Disney character Maui from the film “Moana” — so much so that veteran lineman Gerald McCoy has required him to introduce himself as such to McCoy’s kids during OTAs, according to Pewter Report.

“On other teams I’ve been on, personally, it’s like, ‘What can you do for me now?’ And everybody is kind of focusing on the people they throw money at the players with the big names,” Obada said. “With this team and with these coaches, everybody is equal, so you don’t get lost in the system.

The ultimate goal — next up for Obada, at least — is to make the final 53-man roster in Year 2 with the Panthers.

“Right now, I’m going to be the best I can be, be myself,” Obada said. “All I know is that whatever I do, I’m going to make sure I help this team win.”

Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, also missed out on the Rams’ offseason program last month.

He’s currently on the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to make $6.89 million this season.

Courting Las Vegas. This one goes without saying. Once the NFL got the new stadium and two new teams into Los Angeles, and lost the city as a market to hold over cities with stadium problems, Las Vegas moved into the vacancy. It took little time for the ownersled, as in the Los Angeles situation, by the Cowboys’ Jerry Jonesto recalibrate their feelings about parking a franchise in the middle of America’s gambling capital. Ground has been broken for the Raiders’ new stadium.

Player punishments. This one’s easy. The NFL has rarely, if ever, passed up a chance to punish players whenever the rules allowed. Thus, last offseason, they fined more than two dozen players, including Marshawn Lynch, for participating in an arm-wrestling tournament at a Vegas casino. Tony Roma’s fantasy football convention was shut down twice when it was scheduled for Vegas, before he moved it last year to the Dallas area.

Mike Maccagnan spent two years watching Sam Darnold before picking him

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The Jets will get their first look at quarterback Sam Darnold on their field this week when they hold their rookie minicamp, but General Manager Mike Maccagnan has spent a lot of time watching Darnold on other fields.

The easy thing to say in the wake of the news of Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension is that, by the end of 2017, he wasn’t even the best back on his own team. And that’s probably true. Rookie Alvin Kamara emerged as a more dangerous and versatile weapon. But in a way, Kamara’s growth was enabled by Ingram, who shouldered the load in picking up tough yards inside, short yardage and on the goal line. My sense is the Saints would lean towards leaving Kamara in that versatile role, against the temptation to use him more.

Kamara’s never been a workhorse, and as one scout put it, is better usedas a sniper rifle than a machine gun. The numbers from 2017 illustrate that. According to Football Outsiders data, Ingram played 571 snaps (55. 0 percent) on offense last year, while Kamara was on the field for 464 (44. 7 percent). On top of that, when they were on the field together, the coaches were free to use Kamara as a matchup guy, which created all kinds of problems for defenses. And while Kamara had 201 touches on offense, just 120 of them were on the ground.

Barnwell also was at the center of the Kyle Flood academic scandal after a university-led investigation found the now-deposed Rutgers football coach pressured an instructor to get Barnwell academically eligible in the spring of 2015.

In September 2015, Barnwell was dismissed from Rutgers along with four teammates after they were charged with aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit a riot. Middlesex County prosecutors said the “unprovoked attack” on April 25, 2015, in New Brunswick left a 19-year-old male student with a broken jaw.

Barnwell pleaded guilty to the offense in order to enter pre-trial intervention, a probationary program for non-violent first-time offenders. When he originally failed to meet the program’s requirements, he was given a second chance at wiping his record clean.

Will McClay’s assessment of Dez Bryant won’t soothe hard feelings

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The rancor had seemed to die down between receiver Dez Bryant and his former team. And there’s now a chance it’s been stirred up again.

Cowboys exec Will McClay provided an unnecessarily candid assessment of Bryant’s diminished skills, one that won’t help Dez get a new team — and that will make Dez even more determined to muster whatever his remaining skills will allow in order to punish the Cowboys wherever and whenever he can.

In this week’s Game Plan, we’re going to look back at how the fifth first-round quarterback found a way to sneak into the Top 32 picks; look ahead at a fairly barren landscape of 2019 draft-eligible quarterbacks; examine how the Mark Ingram suspension impacts a Saints team that seems ready for a run; investigate the Browns’ decision with the fourth pick; and calculate the impact of Matt Ryan ’s contract.

The Steelers also signed Penn State defensive tackle Parker Cothren, who started every game last season, and Villanova cornerback Trey Johnson. Johnson had four interceptions during his college years.

Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin, LSU defensive end Greg Gilmore, N.C. State tight end Pharoah McKever, TCU center Patrick Morris, Elon offensive lineman Ikenna Nwokeji, Toledo linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, UAB guard Chris Schleuger, Connecticut cornerback Jamar Summers, Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas and Tennessee defensive end Kendal Vickers.

If the NFL does away with us, then we are just taking a step backwards, Davis says.

It shows the rest of the world that the NFL does not care about women, that we have no voice. I surely hope that a dad would not bring his daughter to an NFL game if they did away with cheerleaders because they didn’t want to deal with women. NFL teams devote plenty of resources to dealing with the athletes who perform on the field. It’s past time for them to re-think how they treat the athletes who work on the sidelines.Question or comment?

NFL seems to be adopting targeting rule without adopting targeting rule

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Before the 2018 annual meeting, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported that the NFL would not be adopting a college-style targeting rule, allowing ejections for the use of the helmet as a weapon to be imposed by someone other than the on-field officials. That position appears to be on the verge of changing.

Maske reported on Monday that ejections by officials under the rule that prevents lowering of the helmet to initiate contact will be subject to replay review. The unanswered question (for now) is whether failures to eject will be correctable via replay review, allowing 345 Park Avenue to buzz the referee and to instruct the referee to remove a player from the field when deemed necessary.

Second, after jettisoning Joe Haden last summer, the Browns were left without a former first-rounder at a premium position, and it showed.

Meanwhile, they already had Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge.

To be clear, this wasn’t pushing a need, but need can be a tiebreaker when things are close.

And third, when Ward came on his visit, he appealed to the staff by talking about his Northeast Ohio roots, and the coaches came away thinking Ward wanted to be in Cleveland and embraced the idea of being part of a turnaround, which fit into the culture change Dorsey has been pushing.

According to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, the position is considered permanent and no search is being done for a replacement.

Kim Pegula and her husband Terry bought the Bills in 2014, so it’s not as if she didn’t already have power there. But it does break a bit of ground, as she joins a very short list of top female sports executives.

Tina Becker has been chief operating officer of the Panthers while the team is being sold, though she’s not necessarily expected to remain once Jerry Richardson hands the keys to someone else. And Katie Blackburn (the daughter of Bengals owner Mike Brown) serves as their executive vice president.

But roles for females at the top of sports organizations are still rare, and while the circumstances add a layer of irony, it represents a positive step in what has always been very much an old boys club.

The uniforms should take the form of the classic college cheerleading look, skirts and crop tops that highlight their six-packs without revealing major cleavage.

On the left, the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders at an opening-week game in 2016.

McCarthy: Kizer would’ve been first-round pick in 2018

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Mike McCarthy’s quarterback situation is as solid as possible at the top, but he’s welcoming a fresh face to the depth chart.

That fresh face, former second-round pick DeShone Kizer , has earned quite a compliment from the coach, who thinks Kizer has been undervalued in his first year in the NFL.

In my opinion, if he was in that class this year, he would’ve been part of that group of first four guys , or first five, McCarthy said, per USA Today. I always felt there were five, the five quarterbacks, first-round guys.

More of the same came as a result: Cleveland again found itself in the market for a franchise quarterback and jettisoned Kizer to a land of new opportunity (and dairy products), dealing the youngster to Green Bay in a swap that included defensive back Damarious Randall . A fresh start was best for a green quarterback whose confidence didn’t need further damaging.

Kizer will battle with Brett Hundley for the backup job behind entrenched all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers . Based on last season’s unfortunate series of events Hundley replaced an injured Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense slowed to a crawl that included a limp Kizer should have a realistic chance to win the backup job. Going from chaos-ridden Cleveland to mostly stable Green Bay and learning behind Rodgers would be an ideal setup for Kizer.

Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the CIA’s reputation and her own, the officials said. She was summoned to the White House on Friday for a meeting on her history in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program — which employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture — and signaled that she was going to withdraw her nomination. She then returned to CIA headquarters, the officials said.  

Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon. Discussions stretched several hours, officials said, and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Bills tried to trade up with Browns, Broncos before getting Josh Allen at No. 7

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The Bills got their man, quarterback Josh Allen, by trading up to the seventh overall pick in the draft. But they wanted to trade up higher.

Shazier was immobilized on a backboard, carted off the field, and taken to a Cincinnati hospital.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not have an update on Shazier’s status after the game.

This is a tough game, tough business, Tomlin said. 5-0 (Shazier) is our brother.

My elbow is feeling much better. It feels good, Rutgers linebacker Trevor Morris told NJ Advance Media in his first comments since dislocating his elbow during spring practice . I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’m hoping to get right back to where I was, if not better, this coming season.

Morris is out of his sling after suffering the injury in April’s final spring scrimmage. Morris then sat out the final week of practices and the Scarlet-White spring game . Head coach Chris Ash said at the time he anticipated Morris would be ready for the start of training camp in August, and nothing has altered that expectation. The injury did not require surgery.

Just a lot of rest, a lot of recovery, Morris said. I should be back to 100 percent.

Morris, a King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, native, has been Rutgers’ weakside linebacker the last two seasons. He’s posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons with 118 in 2017, the second-most in the conference . When Morris entered the Scarlet Knights’ starting lineup in 2016, he was a bright spot for a struggling position group. The linebacker corps has since become one of the team’s deepest units.

(Pittsburgh fans who lived in the D.C. area, of course, could still break through this firewall.) “I got a lot of emails from Pittsburgh saying I was mean-spirited and unfair. I don’t care. I’m going to keep doing it,” Leonsis told the Washington Post. While the practice of teams protecting home ice is more commonplace today, it was seen as a petty reaction to the Penguins’ popularity at the time.

Baffert didn’t need to worry.

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Going in, my main concern was really just getting him out of the gate, Smith said. Because, believe it or not, I mean, he’s just so talented. I mean, this horse, he’s so above average, it’s unbelievable. He has a mind to go with it. I knew if I could get him out of there and get him into a big rhythm, he can go fast. That’s how good he is. He can go at 45 and still finish like he did was incredible.

Big Money Mike knew exactly what he had and what he wanted. He wanted to lay second as the pack came out of that first turn. Yes, second would be fine. It all fell into place for him. Promises Fulfilled dutifully became the pace-setter. He was no threat, and Smith tucked in behind him out of the first turn, just as he wanted.

Then it happened just as sure and he felt it would.

As the Jets this week waived one quarterback (Bryce Petty) and welcomed another (No. 3 overall draft pick Sam Darnold), Christian Hackenberg remains on their roster.

This offseason, Hackenberg has changed his throwing motion, with the help of a personal quarterback coach.

But is it too late for him with the Jets? Probably, since they just drafted Darnold and traded away three second-round picks to move up from sixth to third, in order to get him.

The Jets are now in the second phase of their offseason workout program, so Hackenberg can get out there on the practice field and throw. (The Jets begin spring practices, with organized team activities, on May 22.)

The majority of NFL teams that are running an optional rookie camp will hold their workouts May 11-13.

The nine teams beginning workouts include several of the top rookies from last week’s draft, including Baker Mayfield (Cleveland), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), and Sam Darnold (New York).

The three days of work allow the first-year players to get a jump-start on learning the playbook and preparing for their immersion in the NFL.

Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team may hold one post-draft Rookie Minicamp on either the first or second weekend following the NFL draft, with players participating in club activities for a maximum of ten hours per day.

Panthers DB coach resigned following investigation

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Carolina Panthers defensive backs coach Curtis Fuller resigned this week following an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, the team announced Friday.

TV cameras often show the rooms before the draft starts, when team personnel are settling in and reviewing their notes. That’s a quiet time.

Then the cameras show teams when they are on the clock. By then, they know who they’re planning to take … unless an appealing, last-minute trade offer comes through.

Then the room becomes more animated as the trade details are worked out and called into the league before time expires. The last thing a team wants is to not submit their pick or trade details on time, because in that case, the next team can jump in and select.

The Ravens had designs on selecting a running back, only to get foiled by teams selecting ahead of them in the middle and late rounds of the draft.

It’s safe to say DeCosta is a fan of the Bears ‘ first-round pick. While the Ravens traded out of the opportunity to select James, they wouldn’t have passed up the chance grab Georgia’s Butkus Award winner.

If you’ve got a chance to get a guy like Roquan Smith, DeCosta said, you should probably take him.

In the early rounds, teams generally wait for last-minute trade offers before telling their representatives at the draft site to hand in the pick. With 10 minutes allotted in the first round (previously 15 for most of my NFL years) and seven minutes in the second round (previously 10) before it drops to five minutes in the remaining rounds, there’s a lot of down time.

The draft presents a mix of highs and lows in terms of a team’s success, but everybody knows it takes two or three years before actual success can be determined.

Now in my consulting work with an NFL agent group, the draft is more of the same — sweating it out as I wait for our players to be selected.

Jaguars owner might not be allowed to buy Wembley Stadium until 2057

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Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan caused a bit of a stir last week when he announced his offer to purchase Wembley Stadium in London. It wasn’t so much the proposed purchase price of $840 million — Khan is one of the world’s richest people, so he can easily afford it — or the fact that a U.S. citizen wanted to purchase English soccer’s biggest stage that had people buzzing, but rather that Khan told the BBC that ideally he’d like to configure Wembley so it could host a Super Bowl down the line.

What could have been: The Browns drafted Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick, but could have packaged picks to draft a quarterback such as Deshaun Watson, who showed promise with Houston as a starter before a season-ending injury.

Does it matter? There is still time for Cleveland first-round picks Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku to develop, but Watson was another chance for the Browns to rectify that problem. If the Browns draft a quarterback in 2018, that player will be propped up against Watson on some level.

Instead, Eric Trump said, the firm’s existing businesses — commercial buildings in New York, licensing deals for Trump-branded hotels and clothes — produced so much cash that the Trumps could tap that flow for spending money. 

He had incredible cash flow and built incredible wealth, Eric Trump said. He didn’t need to think about borrowing for every transaction. We invested in ourselves.

He added: It’s a very nice luxury to have.

The cash purchases began with a $12.6 million estate in Scotland in 2006. In the next two years, he snapped up two homes in Beverly Hills. Then five golf clubs along the East Coast. And a winery in Virginia. 

The biggest cash binge came last, in the year before Trump announced his run for president. In 2014, he paid a combined $79.7 million for large golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. Since then, those clubs have lost money while Trump renovated them, requiring him to pump in $164 million in cash to keep them running.

Trump’s lavish spending came at a time when his business was leaning largely on one major financial institution for its new loans — Deutsche Bank, which provided $295 million in financing for big projects in Miami and Washington.