Category Archives: NFL

New England Patriots: The Clock Is Ticking

Greg Hardy’s Suspension Reduced

Arbitrator Harold Henderson has upheld Greg Hardy’s suspension for conduct detrimental to the league, but has reduced the ban from 10 to 4 games as announced Friday by the NFL.

Could the reduction in the Greg Hardy appeal have an impact on Brady’s appeal? It should, but until we hear from King Roger Goodell we won’t know for sure, however things are about to come to a head again. In an interview on Thursday (July 8) it was reported by sources that the NFL commissioner told CNBC a decision on Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension “is coming soon,” possibly as early as next week.

In the beginning…

On January 18, 2015 the world changed in the NFL and the clock is still ticking.  For this first time in NFL history an investigation into the air pressure (PSI) of the footballs used in an NFL game was opened (now referred to as “deflate-gate”).  At first everyone scoffed at the thought of this being anything but a farce. However, it quickly got legs (reporter talk) and became a national news story, far exceeding anyone’s expectations.

The original investigation took over four months before the Well’s Report was released and fines/suspensions were handed out.  Patriot’s fans were aghast, while others were crying hang ’em high. A $1M fine and a 1st round draft pick for the Patriots (who, by the way, were exonerated in the report) and an astounding four game suspension for QB Tom Brady.

In the four months it took for the report to be released a lot happened in the world. As training camp approaches, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is still pondering the ultimate fate of Brady. The original decision to suspend him for four games was arrived at when Ted Wells concluded Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities”

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Educational Part Of This Article

While we wait, here’s a quick glance at some things you may not know or chose to ignore which occurred while the investigation was under way.  If you honestly remember all 14 you are ready to join Mensa.

February

    • The Patriots, despite all the distractions, won one (try saying that fast five times) of the most exciting Super Bowls in history, 28-24, when unknown rookie Malcolm Butler made a goal line interception with just seconds left on the clock.

Malcolm Butler makes the play courtesy of USAToday Photo courtesy of USAToday.com

  • Dean Smith, former UNC head coach, passed away at 83
  • Researchers developed a robot that could help the US Navy battle shipboard fires
  • Facebook allowed users to bequeath control of their accounts to loved ones when they die (yep, you can now do that…but why?)

…and, after over a month, the NFL investigation continued as the Patriots were left dangling while wild rumors, many inaccurate, spread from “unidentified” sources

March

  • Former CIA Director David Petraeus pled guilty to mishandling classified information (now that’s a crime)
  • The Justice Department formally closed its investigation of Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. That investigation took 9 months.
  • Apple’s hotly-anticipated smartwatch made it’s debut
  • Kentucky became the first major college basketball team to finish the regular season unbeaten since Indiana in 1976
  • The NFL filed suit seeking evidence gathered against Greg Hardy, the former Carolina Panther defensive end, in a domestic-abuse case. Over three months ago arbitrator Harold Henderson spent almost seven hours hearing evidence and arguments over the NFL’s decision for a 10-game suspension. Henderson ruled today (June 10) that Hardy was guilty…but reduced his suspension from 10 games to 4.

...with over two months of investigation into the deflation of footballs, the NFL still has nothing to report

April

  • Former NE Patriot Tight End Aaron Hernandez was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his conviction of first-degree murder
  • The Boston Bruins fired general manager Peter Chiarelli four days after the team missed the playoffs
  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on all 30 charges for the attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon

…oh yeah, and, by the way, still nothing new from the NFL

May

    • John Forbes Nash Jr., the Princeton University mathematician whose life story was the subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” and his wife of nearly 60 years died in a taxi crash on the New Jersey Turnpike,
    • GiGi Gordon was sentenced to 18 years in prison for manslaughter, after she claimed she murdered her child to prevent him from being sexually tortured (makes sense to me!)

After over 4 months of analyzing information, the Well’s Report was published. It concluded that, although there was no hard evidence, it was more likely than not Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” by two team employees that resulted in balls being deflated in January’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

I don’t think anyone can believe that after four months (since) the AFC championship game, we are still talking about air pressure and the psi in footballs,” Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft stated. “I have two options: I can try and end it, or I can extend it.” After an “emotionally charged couple of weeks,” He decided to reluctantly accept the penalties.

June

Brady & Goodell hug after TB is awarded the Super Bowl MVP award (Photo courtesy of  Jamie Squire / Getty Images
Brady & Goodell hug after TB is awarded the Super Bowl MVP award (Photo courtesy of Jamie Squire / Getty Images

On June 23 Brady met with Commissioner Goodell for the 1st time since being awarded the Super Bowl MVP trophy and this time they weren’t hugging. The meeting lasted almost 10 hours as his appeal was heard. King Goodell (I have promoted him to that rank, but am reviewing that decision) had already ruled that he could make an unbiased decision on whether his previous ruling had been fair and just. That is what is commonly referred to as “both judge, jury and executioner” on his own competency. He is now boxed in and any decision he makes will open even more arguments.

July

So, we now stand-by for his final “unbiased, fair & impartial” ruling as the arbitrator on Brady’s appeal. It’s been almost six months since this fiasco started and we may still be a long way from it’s conclusion. It’s hard to believe Brady would get the same punishment for a feeling he knew about footballs being deflated as Greg Hardy is now getting for a much more serious offense.  The big difference between the Hardy case and Brady’s is a legitimate arbitrator (Not Goodell) ruled, while Goodell is reviewing his own decision on Brady’s appeal.

Judge-Jury-Executioner
Judge-Jury-Executioner

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Giant’s Jason Pierre-Paul has Finger Amputated After Fireworks Accident

Image from gcobb.com
Image from gcobb.com

Giant’s defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sustained a severe hand injury over the weekend due to a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul reportedly had a U-Haul truck filled completely with fireworks to set off with some friends in celebration of Independence Day. While lighting one of the fireworks himself, something went terribly wrong, and Pierre-Paul burned himself. While there have been all kinds of reports as to the extent of the injury, it has become clear that there were indeed injuries to both hands. At first, there were reports that Pierre-Paul could lose an entire hand, and that this could be a career-threatening injury.

After being hospitalized, these reports appear to be false. Details are still rolling in, but it seems as though Pierre-Paul (or JPP as he is sometimes referred to as) did indeed injure both hands, suffering severe burns on the palm of one hand and the tips of three fingers on the other. One finger is being tested for nerve damage. Other reports suggested at the very least JPP would need a few fingers amputated, but these reports also look to be an overreaction, as doctors believed there will be no permanent damage.

Not only does this injury not seem to be career threatening, on July 5, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted that, “It may not be game or season threatening, either.” The Giant’s have some concern that the injuries could cause him to miss training camp and the beginning of the regular season, but everyone is still awaiting more medical answers.

There is another twist to this story, as Jason Pierre-Paul has yet to sign the $14.8 million franchise tender, and therefore is technically not under contract. The Giants and JPP have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract, but the Giants have said publicly that they would be okay allowing JPP to play out the 2015 season under the one-year tender and then letting him hit free agency next year.

In the days following the accident, Giants team officials went down to South Florida, where Pierre-Paul lives, looking to see him and diagnose the injuries to his hands themselves. However, with JPP not currently under contract, he doesn’t have to let them see him, and he has avoided them since the accident. The Giants have yet to see Pierre-Paul’s hands, and the public has yet to be made aware of the extent of the injury as of Tuesday. JPP may end up as a free agent, not playing a snap for the Giants this year.

On Tuesday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out a medical report that revealed JPP indeed had his right index finger amputated. It has been reported that Pierre-Paul should be able to play, “sooner than you think.” JPP reportedly chose to have the finger amputated because it would allow him to come back sooner.

JPP is certainly an important part of the Giants defense. Considered the team’s top pass rusher, the two-time Pro Bowler led the Giants in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. The former first round-pick also recorded 76 tackles (third on the team), which was second only to J.J. Watt among defensive lineman in 2014.

If Pierre-Paul were to miss any time, let alone extensive time, it will certainly hurt a Giants team that has high expectations. Odell Beckham Jr. emerged as a star last year, they will get Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings back from injury, they’ve improved the offensive line, and Eli Manning is a 2-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Despite recent struggles, it isn’t inconceivable to think of the Giants as playoff contenders in 2015, but missing a top tier pass rusher like Jason Pierre-Paul could really put a damper on those playoff hopes. It certainly leads one to wonder about the six-week dead period the NFL has between OTAs and the start of training camp, and they will likely think about shortening the time period where the players go unsupervised, or perhaps, allowing more contact in order to supervise them during the six week offseason.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: Travaris Cadet Vs. James White For Third Down Running Back

Images from Apkfun.co and Real Saints Nation
Images from Apkfun.co and Real Saints Nation

Over the past fifteen seasons in New England, Patriots fans have gone into each season knowing that their team has a reliable pass-catching running back on the roster. Whether it was Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, or Shane Vereen,Tom Brady has always had the luxury of having a solid running back that he can dump the ball off to. Heading into the 2015 season, Tom Brady and the Patriots do not have the same luxury with Shane Vereen signing with the New York Giants this past offseason.

There is a multitude of running backs on the roster that seem to have the ability to take over the role, but they are all for the most part unproven. Two players that will be competing for the role are veteran free agent Travaris Cadet, and second-year back James White. 

Travaris Cadet has spent his first three seasons in the league with the New Orleans Saints, catching passes from Drew Brees. Cadet was basically irrelevant in his first two seasons, catching only seven passes, for 49 yards, and one touchdown. In year three Cadet took a miniature jump onto the NFL scene finishing with 38 receptions, for 296 yards, and one touchdown. 

Much like Shane Vereen, Travaris Cadet spends a lot of his time playing in the slot. At 6-1, 210 pounds Cadet is built like a running back-slot receiver hybrid. Also, with his size and physicality Cadet is able to pass protect for the quarterback, which is huge when playing for Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick. Cadet just doesn’t seem to have that burst potential. His spot on the roster is fairly safe, barring injury, and his ability to digest the playbook will determine whether or not he will earn a starting job.  

James White was one of the more interesting players in training camp last season. Throughout July and August, White received first team reps and performed well during practice. However, when the bright lights came on he couldn’t deliver. 

White was mediocre at best in preseason games. He never flashed in the passing game like he was labeled, and in the run game there was not much physicality or burst. His lack of production in the summer lead to his limited game action during the regular season. 

Going into training camp this year, White needs to show that he can really be a playmaker like Shane Vereen was at times during his tenure. He needs to play in the slot and also pass block, two essentials for a running back in the Patriots offense as fans have learned over the past couple of seasons. 

In the end, James White will most likely come out on top in this training camp battle, given his familiarity with the Patriots system. Nevertheless, in time Travaris Cadet will become more acclimated to the offense and take over the position. 

In addition, a change will be necessary due to that fact that at 5-10, 194 pounds James White will easily get exposed pass blocking and will get knocked down easily when running the ball. Cadet is better equipped physically to take over the job. The only way James White remains a starter is if he really flashes and becomes an essential piece to the offense. It is tough to imagine that happening in 2015.

Can the Kings of the AFC East be dethroned?

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Looking over the eight divisions in the NFL, the AFC East division has had a great deal of success over the past 15 years. Don’t remind any Bills, Jets and Dolphins fans about this though, for all twelve division titles, six Conference Championships and four Super Bowls won over this time belong to just one team – the New England Patriots.

But the reigning Super Bowl champs have had an offseason that has casted some reasonable doubt for fans ahead of the upcoming season. With the anchor to their defense and their two starting cornerbacks gone and an impending ruling yet to be handed down by the Ginger Hammer (#exonerateBrady), the rest of the AFC East has made moves to improve their teams with some key acquisitions. Is that enough to sink the tight ship run by Bill Belichick and Co.? Let’s take a look at how the three other teams stack up against the Kings of the AFC East:

Jets – Aside from the big (*cough* robbery *cough*) free agency signing of Darrelle Revis, the Jets also brought back Antonio Cromartie to the secondary to beef up an already tough and talented defense who will have Sheldon Richardson back by the time they face the Patriots in their Week 7 showdown. To complement the defense, the Jets improved their receiving corps by acquiring Brandon Marshall in free agency and drafting Devin Smith in this year’s draft. The bad news? The Jets may be in a better position to expose a weaker Patriots secondary by forcing them to put more cornerbacks on the field against a stronger set of wide receivers. The good news? The Jets don’t have Rex Ryan. Or a QB that can lead them to a division title. And while the Jets will have Sheldon Richardson back, the Patriots will have Tom Brady ready to go too, so I’ll be placing my bets on the Brady Bunch.

Dolphins – Ndamukong Suh decided to bring his talents to South Beach and that is huge for a franchise whose fans have been left with a sour taste in their mouths from watching teams full of hope and promise disintegrate the past two seasons. Having Suh join Earl Mitchell in the interior while Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon rush the edges will be the cause of many headaches for offensive coordinators in the division and across the league. The Dolphins also did a pretty good job of getting quarterback Ryan Tannehill (a massive contract and) some new weapons by signing Greg Jennings and drafting DeVante Parker with the 14th pick of the draft to join a balanced run game for the offense. But are these improvements enough to overcome the major holes this team has at guard, linebacker and at the cornerback position? Or will Dolphins fans face another tumultuous season that will end in more heartbreak for their fans? Too soon to tell. One thing that is certain – Bill Belichick’s bread and butter is taking away what every team does best and making them beat his team without their strengths. If the offensive line for the Dolphins struggle to create openings for their running backs and keep Ryan Tannehill upright, their secondary won’t be able to save them from the Patriots’ elusive passing attack.

Bills – No other team in this division (or in the league for that matter) had quite the offseason the Bills had. No other team in this division will have the pleasure of potentially facing a Brady-less Patriots offense (*knocks on wood*) this season and that is quite the advantage to have on your side, especially with an elite defense led by Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. These three ended the season with double-digit sacks on a team that racked up 54 sacks in 2014. It only gets better for this team because guess who’s at the helm for this Bills this year? Rex Ryan, defensive mastermind. But, said defensive mastermind is no offensive mastermind, and he’s going from one quarterback debacle with Geno Smith and the Jets to another with E.J. Manuel and the Bills. His other options at quarterback (Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel) don’t seem to represent the long term answer to lead a good running combo in Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy and a good wide receiving corps that includes Sammy Watkins, who is coming off a stellar rookie season. It’ll be quite the chess match when these two teams meet up in Week 2 and in primetime on Week 11. Rex will focus on disguising his defense with intricate blitzing schemes to faze the Patriots quarterback while Bill will squash the running game and force the Bills quarterback to beat the defense with his arm. There is no doubt that the Bills have the biggest chance to dethrone the Patriots for the AFC East throne, but their biggest hole is at the most important position on the team. With that said, I will give Bill Belichick and Co. the benefit of the doubt and another division title for the 2015-16 NFL season.

Seattle Seahawks: Wilson’s Contract at a Stalemate?

Image from: nflbreakdown.com
Image from: nflbreakdown.com

With the ball on the one-yard line, less than a minute remaining on the clock, and a four-point deficit, Russell Wilson dropped back to throw a Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass. Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted the pass and the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XLVIX. Russell Wilson was that one pass away from winning his second Super Bowl, in just his third year as a starter. Now, entering the final year of his rookie contract, both the Seahawks and Wilson want Russell to sign an extension. However, the two camps are on different sides on what the money should look like. It was reported recently that Wilson is looking to become the highest paid player in the NFL.

Russell Wilson was a part of a recent wave of young talent into the NFL at the quarterback position, a group that includes Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick. Tannehill, Dalton, Newton, and Kaepernick have recently signed lucrative extensions. Newton and Kaepernick’s contracts are each worth over $100 million (though Kaepernick’s is incentive laden), Dalton’s is worth $96 million, and Tannehill’s is worth $77 million. The four-year deal Wilson received as a rookie is worth under $3 million. Currently, Aaron Rodgers is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, with an average yearly salary of $22 million. That’s the number Wilson and his agent are using to negotiate.

The Seahawks have gotten off easy with Wilson the past three years. They essentially had a free quarterback, able to funnel a lot more money into their defense and easily stay within the salary cap requirements. Pete Carroll’s NFL head coaching resume before Russell Wilson was: fired, fired, 7-9, 7-9. Then in his third year with Seattle, he names rookie Russell Wilson his starting quarterback. All of a sudden he wins a playoff game, wins the Super Bowl the next year and comes one play away from repeating last year. Is Russell Wilson the best player in the National Football League? No. Is he the best quarterback in the National Football League? No. But right now, that’s irrelevant.

In today’s NFL, finding an elite quarterback that can win a Super Bowl is becoming harder and harder. Wilson, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger have won 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls. It’s possible to win games with average quarterback play, but it is impossible to win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback in today’s NFL. It’s not that quarterbacks have gotten worse, they’ve actually gotten much better, but the responsibility of playing quarterback has gotten much more difficult. With the introduction of the no-huddle offense, quarterbacks not only have more responsibility at the line of scrimmage, they also have an extra 20-30 plays a game with the ball in their hands. The debate over Russell Wilson’s contract isn’t a debate over how he ranks in comparison to other quarterbacks in the league; it’s a debate over how valuable he is to the Seahawks. There’s a reason average quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill just got big contracts. Even at the level they’re at ability-wise, they’re extremely hard to replace. When all these things are considered, the Seahawks have no choice but to pay him.

This contract doesn’t have to get done immediately. Wilson is still under contract for the upcoming year, and he has no intention of holding out. Next year, if Wilson remains unsigned, the Seahawks will have the ability to franchise him, and Wilson has said he would be willing to play under the franchise tag. This would either mean him playing for one year, or the two sides hashing out a long-term deal. Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that Wilson will hit the open market. The only plausible questions that remain are when he signs, how long he signs for, and how much he signs for.

By: Rory MacCallum