The Bills haven't heard from offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson this offseason (AP)Players retire or fade away from the NFL, sometimes in their athletic prime, but rarely do they disappear.

The Buffalo Bills seemed to mostly lose contact with offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson this offseason, the Buffalo News reported. Weeks after offseason training started, Bills players and coaches hadn't talked to the 24-year-old tackle, who started 26 games the past two seasons. Henderson was once one of the top recruits in the 2010 high school class, played at Miami and eventually tumbled to the seventh round of the 2014 draft after multiple failed drug tests. He seemed to have his NFL career on track however, but then the Buffalo News' Tyler Dunne reported he was practically MIA.

But on Monday afternoon, Dunne said Henderson's agent informed him Henderson plans to fly to Buffalo this week and also plans to play this season.

The Buffalo News said coach Rex Ryan hasn't talked to Henderson since last season and teammates haven't heard much from him either. Ty Dunne of the Buffalo News wrote early Monday that some Bills players "aren’t sure when or if he’ll be back." Henderson's battle with Crohn’s disease is cited by Dunne as a likely reason he hasn't been heard from. 

“I can’t really recall talking to him,” Ryan said. “I think he has been in since then but I haven’t talked to him personally.”

Dunne later said that the Bills' medical staff had been in contact with Henderson.

The Buffalo News reported that Henderson had two surgeries this offseason and was having a rough recovery. Crohn's disease caused Henderson to miss the final five games last season.

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If the absence was related to Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, the silence was a bit unusual. But now it appears Henderson is ready to rejoin the Bills.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 30, 2016, 5:55 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

If I was so inclined, within a few minutes I could be watching the entire game broadcast of a 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game on NFL Game Pass. No commercials.

Before 1987, there was no way to get games or even game highlights on demand. You could maybe catch a play here or there on the local news at night, or you'd find the scores in the newspaper the next day. There's a reason Howard Cosell's highlights on "Monday Night Football" were a phenomenon. Games took place all over the NFL on Sunday, and we were still clamoring to see a few plays from the key games on Monday night.

This is why, for a generation of football fans, "NFL PrimeTime" on ESPN was such an important show. I'm not sure how much credit you can give a weekly highlights show for the monumental success of the NFL now, but I am sure a large group of diehard fans in their 30s, 40s and beyond will tell you they watched that show every week without fail.

(YouTube.com screen shot)There wasn't even "Sunday Night Football" before 1987. When Pat Summerall and John Madden signed off from RFK Stadium and told you "Murder, She Wrote" was up next, that was it for the day. ESPN got the rights to "Sunday Night Football" in 1987, and during the negotiations former ESPN president and CEO Steve Bornstein also asked then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to lift the traditional limit on how many minutes of highlights could be shown.

"He agreed, and so now we would have a great highlight show on Sunday evening before our game that night," Bornstein said in "Those Guys Have All The Fun," a book that chronicles ESPN's history. "Thus was born 'NFL PrimeTime.'"

A new world opened up.

There was a report last week that Chris Berman was retiring after this NFL season, although that report was refuted by his agent through Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. Whatever you think of Berman now if you search "Chris Berman" during the annual MLB home run derby, you would guess his approval rating isn't very high he and Tom Jackson did a show for 19 seasons that was absolutely amazing.

NFL Sunday Ticket didn't exist until 1994. Before that you got one game at 1 p.m. Eastern and one game at 4 p.m. Eastern. If you were lucky, and the local team's game didn't conflict with the doubleheader on the other network, you got a second game in the early window and you flipped back and forth. When "NFL PrimeTime" debuted there was finally a way to see what happened in the other games. "NFL PrimeTime" did a great job telling the stories of each game through extended highlights, not just the key touchdowns but the important third-down conversions that sealed a win in the final minute, or some strategic element that unfolded during the game. The music was tremendous. Back then, Berman's catchphrases were an endearing part of the show. He and Jackson were tremendous together (as were the other co-hosts, like Pete Axthelm, in the early days of the show). It clicked. Before "Sunday Night Football" kicked off, everyone watched "NFL PrimeTime." 

ESPN didn't ask for it to end, though as it turned out, it ended at the right time. When "Sunday Night Football" moved over to NBC, NBC secured the pregame highlights show as part of negotiations. "NFL PrimeTime" ended after the 2005 season. I shouldn't have been sentimental about a NFL highlights show ending, but I was.

ESPN still put out a show called "NFL PrimeTime," but it was a different format on Mondays. Berman and Jackson still did highlights on "SportsCenter," but it wasn't the same. NBC's highlights show is well done but it's not appointment viewing; it's just something to put on before the Sunday night game starts. NFL Network tried doing a highlights show on Sunday nights with Steve Mariucci and Deion Sanders, and it was not good. I couldn't tell you if it's still on.

Changes in the world would have made "NFL PrimeTime" obsolete anyway. When a big play happens now, we're not waiting for the hour-long highlights show before "Sunday Night Football" to see it. There's a Vine or a GIF posted to Twitter in minutes. The NFL itself posts highlights right away, to Twitter or its own site. Everyone has Sunday Ticket, or tracks the NFL through the tremendous RedZone channel, which shows everything of consequence on an NFL Sunday. By the time NBC starts its highlight show, anyone who has the desire to check out highlights has seen them all already. Even if you were busy during the day, you can see Todd Gurley's touchdown run on your phone in just a few clicks.

So even if "NFL PrimeTime" had gone on for a third decade, it would have outlived its usefulness. But before we had instant and unlimited access to everything, the show was instrumental in developing an NFL fan base that wanted to see what was going on throughout the entire league, not just in the two or three games NBC and CBS showed on Sundays.

"NFL Primetime" changed the way we watched football.

"Howard Cosell's halftime highlights (on 'Monday Night Football') are revered by people, and they always will be," Berman told the Houston Chronicle in 2005. "But maybe some day, people will say, you know, that 'PrimeTime'show for two decades is how I got my football."

There can be no doubt about that.

Previous Shutdown Corner NFL throwback stories: Joe Montana's underrated toughness | Barry Sanders' long-forgotten final game | Jake Delhomme's playoff nightmare | Barry Switzer, outspoken as ever | Was Sebastian Janikowski worth a first-round pick?How Jim Harbaugh punching Jim Kelly helped Colts land Peyton Manning | Jay Cutler makes the greatest throw ever | "Has anyone ever kissed your Super Bowl rings?" | How the Patriots once faced a fourth-and-63 | The Packers survived a miserable two-decade run

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 30, 2016, 5:13 pm

One of the many, many reasons the NFL draft is an inexact science is that teams can't know for sure which players will put in the work to be great. It's hard to predict what a 22-year-old will do once he's given a few million dollars.

It's especially true at quarterback. NFL quarterback isn't a full-time job; it's two full-time jobs. It's simple: Either you immerse yourself in being an NFL quarterback or your odds of succeeding plummet.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who came into the draft with plenty of question marks, appears to get it.

NFL offseason stories are always tough to gauge because everyone is in the best shape of his life and everyone is working harder than ever. But every story about Winston has a common theme: He's dedicated to being a great quarterback.

The latest is from ESPN's Britt McHenry, who wrote a detailed piece about Winston getting in better shape. He looked out of shape for an NFL quarterback last year, but that has changed. This offseason he has been working with trainer Tim Grover, who is most famous for his work with Michael Jordan, and Winston has dropped 18 pounds. He has changed his diet and workout routine. The story said he's still about 5 pounds from his goal weight of 225-229.

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Jameis Winston has lost 18 pounds this offseason (AP)Winston, the No. 1 pick of last year's draft, played well as a rookie and all the signs are positive going into his second year.

"I wanted to have a plan, and I didn't want there to be any excuse for any decline," Winston told ESPN.

"It's just crazy for a guy so young," Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans said of Winston, to ESPN. "It's amazing; I've never seen a work ethic like his yet."

There have been other good signs, like the stories of him arriving to the Buccaneers facility earlier than anyone else to watch film as a rookie. That seems to have carried over to his first offseason as well.

This could have gone in a totally different way and it wouldn't have been too surprising, based on the perception of Winston coming into the NFL. But he seems to be a coach's dream, putting in work every day to master playing quarterback.

"It's who he is, how he's wired," Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "I think that's one thing that's a misnomer. I think from the outside you would've looked at it with all the things that were publicized in the past about him and who he is. I was dead wrong. He wants to win as much as we do. He's a competitive joker, man, he's smart, he's intelligent...you can win a lot of games with guys like that." 

Winston was a great college player and had a good rookie season, with 4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. And none of the feel-good stories this offseason guarantee much, because offseason stories like that are often overblown and there's so much that goes into playing quarterback in the NFL that it's never easy to gauge how a young one will develop.

But the signs are good. The talent is obviously not a question. There's a long way to go, but the Buccaneers might have made a franchise-changing pick.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 29, 2016, 6:27 pm

Warren Sapp hasn't seen a lot of really positive stuff about himself in the news over the last 18 months or so. And today is not the day that's going to change.

Proving yet again that he was a far better player than he is human being, Sapp apparently doesn't want to be honored by the Baltimore Ravens' Timmy Jernigan.

Let us explain.

On Thursday, Jernigan, the third-year Ravens defensive tackle unveiled a new number at the team's OTA session: 99. When reporters asked him about the switch, Jernigan said it was an homage to Sapp.

"I always grew up watching Warren Sapp. I looked up to him. I definitely wanted to model my game after him. It’s definitely a number that I wanted coming out of college, but [former Raven] Chris [Canty] had it, so I had to respect the situation until I was able to get it," he explained.

Jernigan, a Florida native, said he loved the way Sapp, a fellow Floridian who starred at Miami and with the Buccaneers, played: "Nasty, ferocious, he came every play. You definitely knew he was there and when he made a play."

Kind of nice, right? The Ravens thought so too. Sapp...did not.

And Sapp doesn't seem to have been joking; as of this writing, there are no further tweets saying he was being sarcastic.

Chicago Bears' DE/DT Dan Hampton and Seattle Seahawks DT Cortez Kennedy are other Hall of Famers who wore 99, maybe Jernigan can study up on them and say his number change is to honor one or both of them.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 27, 2016, 7:38 pm

Punter Michael Koenen was not on an NFL team in 2015, for the first time in a decade.

Instead, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons specialist was fighting for his health, and watching his weight drop well below his normal playing weight.

Fox Sports' Alex Marvez tells Koenen's story, now a potential comeback tale as Koenen is finally healthy enough to begin pursuing another job in the league.

Things started going downhill for Koenen in 2014, when he believes he drank tainted sports water. He began dealing with negative effects like nausea, body aches and other flu-like symptoms. The water was recalled, and Koenen stopped drinking it, but the damage was done.

The Buccaneers cut him after his subpar season, with two years remaining on the six-year, $19.5 million free agent contract he'd signed in 2011.

Then, earlier this year, things got worse: Koenen contracted clostridium difficile, a colon bacteria that can be fatal. As he dealt with the infection, his weight plummeted to 153.4 pounds; over 40 pounds below his listed playing weight.

Punter Michael Koenen (Fox Sports/Michael Koenen)

 "C. diff makes you go to the bathroom with diarrhea 15, 16 times a day," Koenen told Marvez this week via telephone. "It's almost uncontrollable. You have to stay at home and there's not much you can do. You spend a lot of time puking and trying to get rid of stuff in your body."

Unable to play with his children for any significant length of time because he had no energy, Koenen finally got relief when he met with a Seattle-area gastroenterologist who prescribed a treatment plan to rid the bacteria from his body.

Koenen says he isn't 100 percent yet, but he's gotten his weight back over 190 pounds. He's been taking part in personal punting sessions, and is a week away from feeling ready to take teams up on tryout feelers his agent has been getting.

The 33-year old believes he might be a better kicker after his ordeal.

"Nobody can truly understand everything I went through," Koenen said. "You gain a lot of perspective when you go through a trial like this. It makes you stronger as a person and builds your character. That will definitely translate to the game. Who you are as a person equates to who you are as a player."

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 27, 2016, 6:30 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

Outside of Illinois and Minnesota, there's a romanticism attached to the Green Bay Packers and the town they play in.

NFL fans talk about making a one-time pilgrimage to visit Lambeau Field. You'd have a hard time finding a story ranking NFL stadiums that doesn't have Lambeau at No. 1. There's an amazement over Green Bay, a place with a population barely above 100,000 that still fills more than 81,000 seats for every home game. There's something cool about the fans owning the team and about the old-school nature of the franchise itself the Packers were born in 1919, one year before the NFL started. The Packers should have never survived as a pro sports franchise, and that's what makes the story great.

The Packers won one playoff game from 1968-1992 (AP)The fuzzy warm feelings are also a relatively new phenomenon. Today, the top national broadcasting crews carry on about how great a football town Green Bay is, showing the empty streets outside during games and explaining how for many years the 10-story St. Vincent Hospital was the tallest building in Green Bay, before recent additions made Lambeau Field the tallest in town. But 25-30 years ago Green Bay was considered an NFL wasteland and no broadcasting star was gushing over how quaint it was because the big crews wouldn't dream of covering a Packers game. There was no reason. The Packers were horrible.

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People forget, after a couple decades of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, how low the franchise sank. It was mostly bad from 1968, the first year after Vince Lombardi, to 1991, the year before Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Favre started rebuilding the franchise. The Packers made the playoffs just twice in those years, and one was in the 1982 strike-shortened season. But the lowest point from that era might have actually been a magazine story.

In 1987, a story in Sports Illustrated went a long way in shaping what we thought of an athlete, coach or team. Frank Deford, a six-time sportswriter of the year award winner, was SI's top dog. And in May of 1987 Deford wrote about the Packers, who hadn't won more than eight games for 14 straight seasons at that point. It wasn't to wax poetic.

The story didn't reflect well on anyone. It explained how local support for the Packers seemed to be waning, on the field and certainly off it, where there were a few embarrassing, high-profile arrests. Deford even suggested that the best way for the Packers to survive was to pack up and move to Milwaukee. In the context of today's love affair with the Packers' story it's a startling passage to read, from Deford's 1987 "Troubled Times in Title Town" story:

"Actually, the answer to Green Bay's dilemma is simple. It should sell the franchise to Milwaukee for $60 million or whatever, and then take that money and pour it all into the athletic department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. With that kind of financing, UWGB could bring in recruits from everywhere to play on Lambeau Field, plus build a 20,000-seat basketball arena. So, in one fell swoop, Green Bay could trade a lousy football franchise for a first-class basketball and football program."

While Deford acknowledged a move likely would never happen at that time there was a bylaw that stated if the Packers were ever sold, proceeds would go to a local American Legion post that is what the Packers were in 1987. Even Deford asked in the story, "Can the Green Bay Packers and Green Bay, Wis., ever again be on the same team?" In 2016, that sentence makes no sense, not with the waiting list for season tickets that goes on forever. But in 1987, it wasn't crazy.

The Deford story lingered for a long time in Green Bay. It pointed out how few black people lived in Green Bay and how tough life was there for black players ("Black players—even those on rival teams, visiting for a day or two—profess to feel like freaks and are 'uncomfortable' (the word often used) just walking down the street in Green Bay," Deford wrote). The story detailed the ugly arrests of James Lofton, Mossy Cade and Charles Martin. Deford wondered, "has some fragile bond of trust been lost between team and town, one that can never be retrieved?" The story hurt, because Green Bay went from being mostly irrelevant nationally to shamed by sports' most influential magazine and writer at the time. Everyone could read just how lousy Green Bay and the Packers had become. It's one thing to watch the cherished local team deteriorate, it's another to have Sports Illustrated share that misery with the world.

Through the 1970s and 1980s Green Bay was just a small, cold town with a team that rarely had any star players and was never considered a contender. If people in Wisconsin talked about the Packers, it was usually to reminisce about the Lombardi days, because it wasn't a lot of fun to talk about the present. The old joke in Green Bay would go: "How many Packers fans does it take to change a light bulb? Four, one to change the light bulb and three to talk about how great the old one was."

The Packers had a streak of 16 straight seasons without winning more than eight games (AP)According to a story on Wolf by Bob McGinn, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer who has been a full-time Packers beat writer since 1984, there were 15,000 no-shows for a December home game in 1991. In 1987, George Perles of Michigan State backed out of a deal to become Packers coach because he "decided 24 hours later he wanted no part of Green Bay," McGinn wrote. Longtime Packers writer and current team historian Cliff Christl wrote that in 1986 the team averaged 5,000 no-shows in Green Bay and Milwaukee (where the team played regularly from 1933-94). In 1988, the annual preseason scrimmage that now fills Lambeau Field to much fanfare drew only 2,000 people, Christl said. Christl also referenced the Deford story.

Packers tickets are considered precious today, but if you wanted to see the Packers play in the late '80s or early '90s you had no trouble finding a seat. And you'd probably see the Packers play terrible football. The Packers still got way more local support than any team that bad deserved, but it wasn't close to what it is now.

The franchise turned around, of course. Wolf did such a great job as general manager, he ended up being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He was instrumental in signing Reggie White as a free agent, and that started to make Green Bay a viable option for other players. Holmgren guided the team to a Super Bowl XXXI title. Favre had a Hall-of-Fame career and handed right off to Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl himself and will go to the Hall of Fame too someday. There aren't many no-shows at Lambeau anymore. No major national media personality would dream of saying the team needs to move to Milwaukee to survive. The Packers have had just two losing seasons since 1992 and their fans are widely considered the best in professional sports. The Deford story was brutally honest and accurate in 1987, but if you re-read it now it doesn't even seem like he's talking about the same team or city.

The Packers simply existing is a miracle. There's no way the team, a relic of a simpler time, should have survived the boom in professional sports, but here it is. Another part of the miraculous story that gets lost with all the success of the last 24 seasons: The Packers were an irrelevant mess through most of the 1970s and 1980s, on the verge of becoming an NFL afterthought for good, and somehow survived it to become one of the league's model franchises. 

Previous Shutdown Corner NFL throwback stories: Joe Montana's underrated toughness | Barry Sanders' long-forgotten final game | Jake Delhomme's playoff nightmare | Barry Switzer, outspoken as ever | Was Sebastian Janikowski worth a first-round pick?How Jim Harbaugh punching Jim Kelly helped Colts land Peyton Manning | Jay Cutler makes the greatest throw ever | "Has anyone ever kissed your Super Bowl rings?" | How the Patriots once faced a fourth-and-63

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 27, 2016, 3:42 pm

Everyone seems to love when NFL players are mic'ed up. Except perhaps NFL players themselves.

Well, strike that — many players appear to love the attention it brings, but what about injury? Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers believes that his top receiver last season, Randall Cobb, suffered a punctured lung in the playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals because of the microphone pack that's strapped to NFL players when they're mic'ed.

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Rodgers joined former teammate A.J. Hawk's podcast and made it clear he thinks the cumbersome mic pack was the blame when Cobb fell down on top of it after making a spectacular catch — one that ultimately didn't count. Adding injury to insult and all that ...

“Randall Cobb had a serious injury last year in a playoff game and I believe — as I think he would as well and the team [would] — that that was caused from him being mic’d up,” Rodgers said. “Because he fell on his mic pack and he had an injury to his insides that kept him out of the game and probably would have kept him out of the rest of the playoffs [had the Packers won]. The puncture spot, or the injury spot, was directly adjacent to his mic pack.”

Pretty fascinating stuff. That technology has been a big way for the NFL to unveil players' personalities more, to metaphorically take off the helmets and shed light on the action on the field. Mic'ed up segments are incredibly popular with fans, and the league likely isn't getting rid of them anytime soon.

In fact, we're more likely to see it more often. After all, injuries such as the one Cobb suffered don't appear to happen all that often. So what if everyone is forced to wear a microphone during games?

“Might have to call it a career,” Rodgers said, laughing.

But he clearly doesn't like it in general, and not just for the chance of a fluky injury. For Rodgers, it's making his job harder.

“Yeah, I think it’s too much information,” Rodgers said. “In 2008 there used to be no headset on defense, so the defense had to signal in every play and that was part of the whole Spygate issue and filming signals and what not. But now you have mics on both guards most of the time and you pick up everything that the quarterback says when we’re at home and sometimes on the road as well.

"I think that’s a competitive edge for the defense and it makes you have to work that much harder with your dummy words and your live and dead words. I mean, that’s part of the game there, but I think that the access is a little bit much."

Rodgers added that it "takes away from the authenticity of the game" and that he doesn't "feel comfortable mic’d up.” Of course, our only guess is that Cobb didn't feel too comfortable either when he slammed his body down on top of a boxy chunk of plastic strapped to his body that caused him to miss a playoff game that the Packers eventually lost.

[h/t PFT and Awful Announcing]

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 27, 2016, 2:29 pm

Over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has totaled an NFL-high 265 catches for 3,532 yards and 23 touchdowns; he's been an All-Pro pick both years.

And on Thursday, he said he might be even better.

The 27-year-old is just coming off a successful run on "Dancing With the Stars," where he and partner Sharna Burgess were one of the final five couples, and voted off in the semifinals. The duo spent hours preparing for their performances on the show, and Brown learned dances like the quickstep, rumba, foxtrot, tango and Viennese waltz, all of which may help him be a better player.

He told NFL Network the experience helps his footwork and hip placement.

"I don't want to say it made me faster, but I feel like it has helped me a lot with my 'shock absorbers'," he said. "I've been able to drop my hips and get on the ball of my foot."

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Thursday marked Brown's first workout since the days before suffering a concussion in the AFC wild card round against the Steelers' rival, the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown was unavailable for Pittsburgh's divisional round game against Denver a week later, which the Steelers lost.

"I felt pretty good today, my feet, I'm in shape, running my routes and dropping my hips," Brown said. "I still have to work on my finishes, but that will come. For the most part, I'm feeling good and can transition out of my breaks."

Brown also told reporters one advantage of being on the show is "a lot more girls know me."

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 27, 2016, 2:01 pm

Rob Ryan is torching the bridge to New Orleans. (AP)You knew when Rob and Rex Ryan reunited on the sideline in Buffalo this year that there'd be some saltiness thrown in all directions. It has begun, with Rob cutting loose on his former employer in The MMQB.

Rob Ryan served as defensive coordinator in New Orleans for parts of three seasons before he was fired 10 games into the 2015 season. And, according to Ryan, only one of those three years reflects the kind of coach he is.

"There are two years that don't have my signature on them, and it's the last two years in New Orleans," Ryan said. "And that's just the truth."

Ryan took over in 2013 for a team that had ranked last in yards allowed and immediately vaulted the Saints to fourth in that category. The team went 11-5 and reached the playoffs. But in 2014 and 2015, the team sank back down into the cellar, ranking 31st in points allowed both years.

"Everyone wants to run Seattle's defense," Ryan told The MMQB. "They should have hired a Seattle coach. I did the best job I could. Under the circumstances, trust me, I did the best job I could. I'll be better anywhere else. I'll be great anywhere else. But it was unfortunate."

Cherry-picking? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Ryan had his hand on the back of head coach Sean Payton, but didn't quite push him under the bus: "I advanced the [overall game] plan to the best of my ability. All of a sudden, we let some good players go; we changed the system after we finished fourth in the league in defense. I don’t know, it just seems strange to me," Ryan said. "But at the end of the day, the last two years in New Orleans were a waste of time for me."

So, yeah, not exactly the kind of exit interview you want to see from an employee, but hey, when your brother is offering you a job, who cares if you burn a bridge or two? "I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans, and I did a damn good job and got fired for it," Ryan said. "I'm more hungry now than I have ever been. So I wanted to go with the right guy. And the right guy is someone I have 100 percent trust in and 100 percent faith in."

Payton responded on PFT Live Friday morning to Ryan's quotes, saying, "The idea that it wasn’t his defense, or he wasn’t in charge of it, is silly.” Payton gave his own version of events, which differed a touch from Ryan's: “When you’re struggling as bad as we’re struggling for two years, and some of the same problems keep coming up—you know, 10 guys on the field—those are things you can’t live with,” he said.

Buffalo isn't scheduled to play New Orleans until 2017, which is more than enough time for emotions to cool ... or to simmer. Either way, the NFL is always better with more Ryan brothers in it.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 27, 2016, 12:34 pm

It's common for this generation of sports fan, and especially those who follow the NFL closely, to pan the work of ESPN's Chris Berman and dismiss him as a has-been who is past his prime.

Those folks likely will celebrate the news that Berman, reported by The Big Lead, will retire after the 2016 NFL season. The rest of us will tip our caps at a true giant in the industry who changed the way the game was presented to fans everywhere.

Berman, 61, joined the network in 1979, shortly after it started, having gone to school nearby at Brown and broadcasted in nearby Hartford, Conn. previously. And he's been at ESPN ever since, the longest-tenured on-air talent there along with Bob Ley.

According to the report, Berman is expected to retire and not join another network. Change clearly is in the air in Bristol from top to bottom, especially with ESPN's on-air NFL talent, although the network easily could slide Trey Wingo or Suzy Kolber into Berman's role after the 2016-2017 season. It's not known if Berman will retire immediately after the Super Bowl or whether he'll walk away after the 2017 NFL draft.

But The New York Times media columnist Richard Sandomir spoke with Berman's agent, who denied the Big Lead report.

Chris Berman's agent denies retirement report:"Chris is NOT retiring. Loves what he's doing too much and is too young to hang 'em up."

— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) May 27, 2016

Will he go? It's unclear. There will be strong feelings about his next move either way. ESPN has been clearing big salaries off the books, so it's possible that this report is not coming from Berman's camp.

Berman's agent adds, on retirement report: "Perhaps people with an agenda put it out there."

— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) May 27, 2016

No doubt, Berman represents a bloated, bigger-than-life institution of a different generation, and his football coverage no longer feels as essential as it once did. But his earlier work, especially throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, was innovative, industry-changing and the right balance of educational and amusing.

Through "SportsCenter," "Monday Night Countdown," "Sunday NFL Countdown" and his NFL draft coverage, Berman helped turn a cottage industry into an empire. He and Tom Jackson were appointment viewing for the NFL fan on Sundays and Mondays in the fall (and a darned solid baseball guy, too), and Berman helped birth a generation of wannabe sportscasters who aped his signature style.

A longtime ESPN employee told Shutdown Corner last year that Berman has been whispering about retirement for years to close friends and the folks up high in Bristol. But he remained a popular figure in some regards and a warhorse for the network's NFL coverage.

Yes, the nicknames turned hammy at some point. The calls sometimes felt like they were as much about Berman as they were about the action being dictated. With the proliferation of the Internet and highlights readily available in so many formats, Berman had trouble adapting his shtick to keep himself relevant and cutting edge. "The Swami," for instance, doesn't play today like it once did.

But he unquestionably was one of the best to ever do what he did in his prime and should be regarded as such. So if this indeed is his last hurrah ("he ... could ... go ... all ... the ... way!), we wish him well. Others might dance on Berman's ESPN grave, but don't forget his contributions to the game, which were considerable.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 27, 2016, 2:39 am

The Ravens brought back Ray Rice to talk to the team's rookies (AP)The Baltimore Ravens supported Ray Rice after his domestic violence incident in Atlantic City two years ago, until the infamous video of Rice punching his then-fiancee (now his wife) was published. Then the team cut him.

It seemed like the team cut him somewhat reluctantly, however, because the pressure was too great to keep him. An ESPN report said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti texted Rice after he was cut, telling Rice he could have a job with the team "helping young guys getting acclimated to the league."

And even though the entire ordeal was a stain on Rice, the Ravens and the NFL, less than two years after the video surfaced and Rice was cut, the team brought Rice back to talk to its rookies.

"Our 27 sessions to our rookies through our player engagement program review and teach life management and life lessons," the team said in a statement on its Twitter page. "Rice, who played for the Ravens from 2008-2014, delivered an important message that included his story, both the good and the bad. He clearly had the attention of our rookies."

Although Rice has lobbied repeatedly for another NFL chance, he hasn't been signed since the Ravens cut him in September of 2014 and another chance to play looks unlikely. Rice turned 29 in January. His last NFL game was Dec. 29, 2013, at the end of a down season for him. He was released nearly 21 months ago and no team has signed him, and there's no reason to believe that will change soon.

Maybe Rice's meeting with the Ravens was the first step in him rejoining the organization in a non-playing role, as Bisciotti reportedly promised him. That would generate some controversy, but it's hard to argue that Rice doesn't have an important message to tell young players, and perhaps telling his story will help prevent another horrible situation.

It's a little unusual that Rice is back helping out the Ravens, but the team saw the value in him telling his story to its newest players.

More on Ravens

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 26, 2016, 9:58 pm

By now we all know that "voluntary" NFL offseason workouts are anything but, and a player skipping one is news.

Usually a player's absence is over a contract, which makes New York Jets receiver Eric Decker's silent protest normal. What's unusual about Decker is he's reportedly skipping practices over someone else's contract.

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Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't signed, and it's amazing that the standoff will likely go into June. Decker wasn't at OTAs this week, and New York Post beat writer Brian Costello said it was because Decker is upset the Jets haven't signed Fitzpatrick yet. Brandon Marshall isn't at OTAs this week either, although Costello reported that's not over the Fitzpatrick issue. It's quite a coincidence then, and the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta wrote Thursday that if people don't think the absences of Marshall and Decker aren't "sending a subtle message to the powers that be that it’s time to end this silliness with their quarterback, I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you."

It's hard to imagine this spreading Jets players might love Fitzpatrick, but they probably like having jobs even more but it's a unique way of voicing an opinion. It also would make for a bit of an uncomfortable situation if Fitzpatrick isn't re-signed and Decker has to play with a quarterback already on the roster, but that's an issue for later.

It's amazing that the Jets and Fitzpatrick haven't come to an agreement yet, and even though Fitzpatrick is a veteran, the missed offseason time can't help him or the team. It's creating bad feelings for at least one of the team's stars too.

Everyone thinks eventually the Jets and Fitzpatrick will agree to a deal. How much damage will be done by the time that happens?

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 26, 2016, 9:14 pm

The Baltimore Ravens' failure to study the rule book has cost them a week of offseason practices.

The Ravens held at least one drill earlier this month in which rookies were in pads. The team claimed it didn't know rookie minicamps were under the same "no pads" umbrella as normal OTA practice rules, but that never made much sense. They've paid the price for violating the rules. The Ravens will forfeit a week of OTA practices, which were scheduled from June 1-3, and the organization and coach John Harbaugh were fined. The Ravens were fined $343,057 and Harbaugh was fined $137,223 according to ESPN's Jim Trotter.

That's three of 10 OTA practice sessions they're giving up.

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“We made a mistake and we are sorry for that,” the team said in a statement. “We accept the NFL discipline.”

"I told the players, I said, 'There's not one guy in this room, coaches the same thing, not one player or coach in this room that should worry about it for one second, shouldn't have any anxiety about it because it's on me,'" Harbaugh said. "It's completely me. It was my decision, it was my effort, and that's the situation we're in. We'll adjust, we'll adapt, and we'll still become the best football team we can be."

The violation came when the Ravens had their rookies in pads on May 6 for what was reported as five minutes of a punt drill. Teams can't have pads on before training camp, a rule that was put in the collective-bargaining agreement in 2011. Harbaugh has been the Ravens coach since 2008. That it happened during a practice with rookies, who are unlikely to know the CBA rules, doesn't appear to be a coincidence.

Coaches complain about the lack of practice time on the field under the new CBA. The Ravens just had a significant portion of their practice time taken away for trying to get around the restricted new rules.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 26, 2016, 6:23 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

Watching a high school game almost 15 years ago, I remember some poor option-based offense facing a third-and-55 after a fumble and a slew of penalties. Naturally, they handed off before punting.

I also recall a few wild long-yardage situations I’d seen in a few college football games — Georgia faced a fourth-and-57 at Tennessee in 2011, and Minnesota facing a third- (and fourth) and-49 against Texas Tech in a bowl game the next year.

These things look funny on a TV screen.

Georgia opted to punt on 4th and 57 against Tennessee in 2011. Smart move. (ESPN broadcast screen shot)

Heck, the wildest thing I ever remember was Michigan State punting on fourth-and-goal. Granted, it was from the 40-yard line after Kirk Cousins had to fall on a fumble that went more than 30 yards the wrong direction.

But it got me wondering: What was the longest down and distance to go in NFL history? I had no clue. Luckily, the Internet had some fast answers — and they even appear to be correct.

The New England Patriots got themselves into a fourth-and-63 against the Dallas Cowboys back on Oct. 24, 1971. Sixty-three! That’s hard to do. That’s almost two-thirds of a football field. It’s more than double the distance Ray Rice converted on his famous fourth-and-29. Fifteen yards longer than the third- and fourth-and-48 (penalty-sack-penalty-sack) the Oakland Raiders faced against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.

Certainly, there had to be something fascinating out there on fourth-and-63. After I checked with a few people about it being the longest — none could accurately confirm it was, but it was roundly believed to be — I called the Patriots. They had little knowledge about it.

The Cowboys were no help. That game was the first contest played in Texas Stadium, their home for almost the next 30 years, but strangely the public relations team had no interesting photos or anecdotes from the afternoon, even though former President Lyndon Johnson was in the house that day and burst into the Cowboys’ locker room to offer congrats.

“That’s the way you break in a new stadium!” LBJ said.

Texas Stadium on Oct. 24, 1971, the day the Patriots found themselves in a fourth-and-63 (AP)This seemed to be about a bad Patriots team being extra bad on that particular day, facing a Cowboys team that was just hitting its stride.

I called four former members of the Patriots and three former Cowboys, all from those 1971 teams. I got very little. Some opted not to return calls. Others had no memory of it. One former player was shocked someone even called to ask about it.

“What in the world are you asking me this ridiculous question about?” is the way former Patriots center Jon Morris, a member of the team’s Hall of Fame, greeted me when we connected.

He wasn’t mad at all. Just confused. Why would anyone want to write about such a thing?

I didn’t have a great answer for him, truthfully. I am just attracted to the oddities of sports, I told him, and was curious if he had any recollection of it happening. Morris did not.

“I barely remember 1971, the year, much less that play,” he joked. “Did we go for it?”

Um, no. Down 27-7 late in the second quarter, Patriots rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett, the No. 1 pick in the draft that spring, got the team going with a 23-yard pass to Randy Vataha to the Dallas 38-yard line. But the momentum quickly was stunted. Historically stunted, in fact.

Plunkett was sacked on the next three plays — for losses of 8, 11 and 12 yards.

“Our main objective was to blow in on Plunkett and we were able to do that most of the game,” Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh said after the game.

Adding insult to injury, a 15-yard penalty (that’s how long holding penalties were at the time) knocked the Patriots back farther. And for good measure, on third-and-56, the Patriots’ Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was dropped for a 7-yard loss. The official gamebook from that contest mistakenly marked it as fouth-and-61, but assuming the yard lines were correct, it was really 63.

Patriots Cowboys gamebook from Oct. 24, 1971, including the fateful (but misprinted) 4th and 63 play. (Courtesy New England Patriots)

The Patriots punted (of course), but it traveled only 39 yards — 22 yards short of the first-down marker, for perspective — and the Cowboys scored two plays later. The rout was fully on at that point.

“We had a great second quarter,” Cowboys head coach Tom Landry said after the game.

No kidding. From the Dallas 38 to the New England 9 in a span of five plays. Incredible. Just as fascinating: No mention in any of the major newspapers from either Boston or Dallas about that series.

“Well, we seemed to have lots of fourth-and-63s that year,” Morris deadpanned.

The 1971 Patriots were a team in flux. They had changed names from the Boston Patriots briefly to the Bay State Patriots and would have remained that, except for one small problem.

“Someone realized that stands for b.s. and said, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t need this,’” Morris said. “Smart marketing, eh?”

The beginning of the season brought hope with the arrivals of Plunkett, the highly touted passer from Stanford, and the building of a new stadium. And it was stoked briefly with the Week 1 win against John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, who were a top-shelf team the year following the NFL-AFL merger.

But that quickly faded for the Patriots, as it often did in that era. The undertalented team, which was embroiled in tension, finished 6-8. Even the new stadium stunk.

“The place was a dump,” Morris said. “On opening day it was a dump. It never was nice.”

Morris loves telling the story about Schaeffer Stadium’s famous plumbing incident as a metaphor for the entire season — or most of that era, for that matter.

“Three days before the stadium opened they didn’t even know if the plumbing worked,” he said. “You getting this? So they had all the stadium employees — everyone they had on hand that day, even people in the front office — all flush the toilets all around the stadium all at once, just to be sure the plumbing worked when everyone went at halftime. Typical Patriots back then. I should write a book about this stuff.

“They also put the urinals up too high on the wall so that little short guys like Randy Vataha couldn’t reach them. That’s how you get to fourth-and-63. Things like that happen and it just trickles down from there.”

The Patriots would get hammered by the Cowboys, 44-21, on that fourth-and-63 day. It was a week before Halloween, and the growing pains of a young team were in full fright.

“There was all sorts of pressure between Upton Bell, the general manager, and John Mazur, the head coach,” Morris said. “They were not even speaking to each other. What set the tone was Upton Bell up there spying on us during training camp, trying to figure out which one of us he’s going to get rid of next. That’s the kind of year it was.”

In fact, the Patriots sent two players — running back Carl Garrett and offensive tackle Halvor Hagen — to the Cowboys in a preseason trade for disgruntled star running back Duane Thomas. That didn’t last long.

“They line [Thomas] up in the backfield in his first day of practice, and instead of going down in a three-point stance, he puts his hands on his knees,” Morris said. “Mazur was the coach, and he was this stubborn old [guy], and he tells Duane Thomas, ‘Put your hand on the ground; that’s what we do here.’

“Thomas said, ‘Nope. I don’t do it that way. I do it this way.’ Well, they get to arguing in front of the whole team, and finally Mazur throws him off the field. … The next day, Thomas shows up for practice with this glazed look in his eyes, doesn’t even know where he is.”

Needless to say, it didn’t work out. Bell called NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to void the trade, and Rozelle allowed it. Three days after being traded by the Cowboys, Thomas was back in Dallas and Garrett and Hagen returned to New England.

Naturally, in the game between the teams two months later, Thomas ripped off a 56-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage to kick off the rout. Garrett carried the ball seven times for 22 yards and was called out after the game by Mazur for missing practice time the week before because of his military commitment: “Every player needs every minute,” adding that the team removed him from the game several times because “we wanted to calm [Garrett] down.” The context of that is not known.

“I have no clue why he needed to be calmed down,” Morris said. “I had my hands full with Bob Lilly. Lilly and [Lee Roy] Jordan, they were driving me crazy. I had to keep holding Lilly; that was the only way I could block him.”

But Morris was a great player for the team, bridging the AFL days from 1964 to the NFL days in his final year with the team in 1974. He lasted a few more years in the league and later broadcast games for the Patriots in the 1980s. After a long spell away from the team, Morris was named to the Patriots’ Hall of Fame in 2011.

In a way he feels as much a part of this generation of Patriots teams as he did to his own.

“I still feel a connection with that team, especially since the Krafts have taken over,” Morris, 74, said from his home in South Carolina. “They make you feel like a part of the family. They bring us back for events, and it’s just a wonderful time. They’re a first-class organization, top to bottom.”

Morris laughs that he’s glad he’s able to keep his sense of humor about the team’s struggles and doesn’t mind calls from writers about obscure, awful and long-forgotten play. And it appears that the play in question was, really, just another play — albeit an unusual one — in the hundreds of thousands in league history.

Still, it fascinated me, even if Morris and other players who were a part of it had little memory of it happening.

Previous Shutdown Corner NFL throwback stories: Joe Montana's underrated toughness | Barry Sanders' long-forgotten final game | Jake Delhomme's playoff nightmare | Barry Switzer, outspoken as ever | Was Sebastian Janikowski worth a first-round pick?How Jim Harbaugh punching Jim Kelly helped Colts land Peyton Manning | Jay Cutler makes the greatest throw ever | "Has anyone ever kissed your Super Bowl rings?"

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 26, 2016, 3:13 pm

Almost five months after an Al Jazeera report on PEDs, the NFL hasn't interviewed one player who was named (AP)I'm not a fan of how every single thing the NFL does is compared to deflate-gate. We probably don't need, after every NFL discipline announcement, a million "But if it was Tom Brady ... " messages on social media.

However, it's hard to grasp how the league could act so quickly, strongly and vigilantly toward the New England Patriots and Brady for maybe, kinda, sorta knowing about deflated footballs, and act at a "maybe everyone will just forget" pace when some high-profile players were accused of PED usage in an undercover Al Jazeera America report last year

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You remember the report, mostly because Al Jazeera haphazardly threw in some Peyton Manning allegations at the end. Still, Manning, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, Julius Peppers and James Harrison were accused in the piece of doping in various manners. None of it might be true. But the NFL seems to have little interest in finding out. 

It's easy to draw that conclusion because Christine Brennan of USA Today reported that the NFL still has not interviewed any player who was accused in the report. The documentary was released Dec. 27 last year.  We're almost five months in, players are well into their offseason conditioning programs with their respective teams, and there hasn't been one player interviewed?

“It’s our expectation that we will interview the players involved over the next month or so,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told Brennan.

There was also a mention of "conversations with the union over the timing" of the interviews, so the union could be holding it up. But again, nothing stopped the NFL when it came in with virtual battering rams to investigate footballs possibly being deflated. Remember that investigator Ted Wells used the fact that the Patriots didn't make officials locker room attendant Jim McNally available for a fifth interview as damning evidence against the Patriots, as was the fact that Brady didn't hand over his cell phone after answering every question Wells had. Maybe the league was just a lot more diligent way back then.

Here's a timeline of the deflate-gate investigation, all from 2015:

Jan. 18: Patriots beat Colts in AFC championship game, and during halftime footballs were tested for possible deflation. NFL security interviewed McNally immediately after the game. Later that night, Bob Kravitz of WTHR tweeted that the NFL is "investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs."

Jan. 21-22: Investigators collect cell phones used by some Patriots employees.

Jan. 23: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the league has retained Ted Wells to investigate. 

Feb. 27: Wells' investigative team conducted an air-pressure study.

May 6: Wells' report released. In the report, Wells and his associates list 67 people they interviewed about deflate-gate, including Brady. Many subjects were interviewed multiple times.

May 11: NFL gave out punishment, including a four-game suspension of Brady.

So in less than four months after the NFL suspected the Patriots of deflating footballs, Wells (who was hired by the NFL) interviewed 67 people and wrote a 243-page report, and the NFL came down with heavy punishment. In five months after the Al Jazeera report, the NFL hasn't talked to one player who was accused, but plans to do so in "the next month or so." Interesting.

Lockhart denied to USA Today that the NFL was dragging its feet on the issue, saying it has done “extensive forensic” work on the case as it doesn't talk to any of the accused players. Manning might not be the easiest player to track down for an interview considering he's retired (though he won't sue Al Jazeera America, Brennan's report said). The others shouldn't be hard to find, and the NFL has found some of them for other reasons.

Not everything going forward needs to be compared to deflate-gate, but the difference in how the league handled the Patriots controversy compared to the explosive Al Jazeera report is perplexing. Especially when you think about the difference between alleged PED usage and having a general awareness of footballs being deflated below 12.5 psi.

At very least, it's fair to wonder about the league's priorities.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

 

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 26, 2016, 2:24 pm

Earlier this year, we told you Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel was beginning his pursuit of a Ph.D in mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the foremost math and science schools in the country.

Well, Urschel didn't just attend classes, he crushed them, according to one of his recent tweets.

My first semester in school in nearly three years. Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A's. The streak continues!!!

— John Urschel (@JohnCUrschel) May 24, 2016

As an undergraduate and graduate student at Penn State, Urschel had a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, and so far his time at MIT is trending the same way.

During his time on campus, Urschel worked out with the MIT football team. The Division III program can't offer scholarships, and even if the coaches recruit a player, they have to hope he's good enough to get into the college. Yet the team posted a 10-1 mark in 2014.

But that doesn't mean Urschel couldn't learn something from the Engineers (of course they're called the Engineers). He wrote about his time with the team for The Players' Tribune:

Which is how I found myself running sprints on Monday mornings this spring with the Engineers. I am a 310-pound offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. I probably had about fifty or sixty pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line. But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

...

On the teams I had played for in high school, college and the pros, football came first. If a meeting was scheduled, you had to be there. Workouts were mandatory. Practice time was almost sacrosanct. At Penn State, Joe Paterno would say that if you were five minutes early, then you were late. You could never be late. In college we planned our coursework around our practice schedule. There were rewards, of course: money in the NFL; status in college and high school; the roar of 100,000 people.

At MIT, most practices are in the morning before classes begin, or during the school-wide activities window from 5 to 7 p.m. MIT actually sets aside time for students to stop studying. If a player has to miss practice, or if he shows up late because he was busy with his schoolwork, there is no punishment and there are no questions. The weight room is about 1/20th the size of the weight room in the football building at Penn State — and it’s for all 33 varsity sports. The strength coach for all the teams, a great guy named Tim Viall, is also the football team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. For much of the day, the weight room is empty and shut.

I didn’t know what to expect. But what I found was that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team — in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status. The average size of their crowds is fewer than 1,000. On campus, no one gives them a second look. (The guys who won the Putnam Competition — a national math contest — three years in a row are the ones who get treated like star quarterbacks.) But they show up every day and work hard because it’s their choice — because they love to play.

We talk a lot about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.

Urschel wrote that his mother dreamed of him playing for MIT and becoming a rocket scientist when he left high school, while he wanted to be Michigan's Jake Long. Seven years later, they both have a little bit of what they wanted.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 26, 2016, 2:23 pm

Say, did you remember that the NFL is moving kickoff touchbacks to the 25-yard-line this year? Devin Hester did, and he's none too pleased.

"It’s like taking away a job from people," the Falcons return man told ESPN, and by "people" he means himself.

Hester is one of the most notable return men in NFL history, boasting five kickoff returns for touchdowns and a dramatic TD return to start Super Bowl XLI.

Devin Hester wants more kickoff returns, not touchbacks. (AP)The kickoff is one of the most dangerous routine plays in the NFL, with two teams running full-tilt toward one another from a distance of many yards. The NFL has sought to cut down on the possibility of injury with a number of rules changes, including banning running starts by the kicking team and moving the kickoff line up to the 35 in 2011.

As a result, ESPN noted, the touchback percentage went from about 16 percent in 2010 to 56 percent last year. It's all part of a creeping reduction in kickoff importance that could result in kickoffs being banned entirely.

Hester dismisses the idea that kickoffs are unduly unsafe.

"I got a concussion making a block at receiver," he said. "But I never got hurt taking hits back on kickoffs."

Hester averages 24.9 yards per kickoff return, which means he's in effect a human touchback as it is. He's also willing (and permitted) to run out any ball that's not kicked into the upper deck.

Of course, there's a case to be made that the new rule will make kicks less safe, as kicking teams explore ways to get around giving the receiving team an extra 5 yards. The rule change is established for only one year, and the NFL will reassess after the season.

You know how Hester's going to lean.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

 

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 26, 2016, 1:14 pm

The deflate-gate fight is barely about the facts of the actual case anymore. The never-ending appeals seem to be all about Roger Goodell's power and the NFLPA fighting back against it.

But there is a never-ending argument about the facts of the case among fans and observers, about what New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might have known or not known. Since Ted Wells' report uncovered no facts that give us any idea what Brady did in the ordeal, we're left to guess.

But there is a group of more than 20 engineering and physics professors who think that the controversy can be explained entirely by the science of natural deflation in cold weather, and said so in an amicus brief filed by Washington, D.C. attorney Eric Delinsky this week, according to the Boston Herald. The professors come from a number of universities including MIT and Stanford, the Herald reported.

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The brief centers around the science of footballs naturally deflating in cold weather. The balls tested during the AFC championship game two seasons ago were found to be under-inflated at halftime. The professors say that is normal, and “So-called ‘deflation’ happens naturally when any closed vessel, such as a football, moves from a warm environment to a cold one.”

Tom Brady is still fighting deflate-gate (AP)Brady, who is currently suspended four games, wants to have his case reheard in court. The suspension was overturned last year, only to be reinstated by a different court this spring.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also filed an amicus brief this week in support of Brady and his appeal request, the Boston Globe reported. It's rare to see an owner publicly fight the NFL, but Kraft has supported Brady at every step after giving up the team's fight over its punishment in deflate-gate.

We all know Kraft's support of Brady, so that part isn't surprising. The professors' brief is a little unusual.

“As professors, we cannot fathom how it is permissible to impose punishment for the possibility of a negligible increment of pressure loss, when underinflated footballs are common to NFL games, when laws of physics cause much larger pressure drops, and when the very possibility of an additional increment of pressure loss was generated from assumptions of the league’s choosing rather than data,” the brief says, according to the Herald. “In the name of science, we support the petition for rehearing.”

The fiasco of deflate-gate has been dissected from every angle, and has resulted in an unheard of punishment that has been argued in a few courts now. Legal fees were reportedly set to go beyond $20 million in the case. And we're not done arguing it yet.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 25, 2016, 7:37 pm

Several musical acts have refused to perform in North Carolina in recent weeks due to its much-debated bathroom bill, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league will not hold the 2017 All-Star game in Charlotte if the discriminitory bill is not repealed.

And this week, the San Francisco 49ers and CEO Jed York expressed support for the state's LGBTQ community while in Charlotte for the NFL spring owners meetings.

Passed on March 23, North Carolina House Bill 2 (or HB2) reversed a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgendered individuals to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with; HB2 mandates that transgendered individuals must use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate and also prevents cities and towns in the state from passing laws that say otherswise. 49ers owner Jed York spoke out against North Carolina's bathroom law. (AP)

Via the Sacramento Bee, in a statement released through Equity North Carolina, York said, "Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As an organization that prides ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge Governor Pat McCrory and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the current legislative session.”

The 49ers play the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sept. 18; San Francisco is not expected to boycott the game, and Equality North Carolina does not want it to boycott.
“I think that Jed is really showing some leadership here, and the 49ers are showing some leadership here from the fact that they’re willing to say, ‘Yes, we’re coming here. But we’re going to make an impact when we come here,’ ” said Matt Hirschy, director of advancement for Equality North Carolina. “And that’s what we’re really encouraging everybody to do.”
And York's support didn't stop at a statement. He and other team officials met with Hirschy, other members of Equality North Carolina as well as members of Charlotte's trangendered community for dinner in Charlotte on Monday night.
“They approached us, and they said, ‘Hey, we’re coming to North Carolina for this meeting and we want to talk with you about this bill and how it impacts LGBT North Carolinians,’ ” Hirschy said. “’We want to meet the people that it affects. And we want to make an impact when we come.’”

York also made a $75,000 donation to Equality North Carolina.
Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 25, 2016, 5:41 pm

Can Aaron Rodgers lift the Packers back to an NFC North title? (Reuters)This offseason, Greg Cosell and Frank Schwab will explore key questions for each of the 32 NFL teams in "The Shutdown" podcast, going team-by-team for each division over eight episodes. Links to previous division preview podcasts are at the end of this post.

Last season there was an unexpected champion in the NFC North. The Minnesota Vikings' win at Lambeau Field in Week 17 over the Green Bay Packers secured the division crown.

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The conversation for most of the second half of last season was about the struggles of the Packers offense, and the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There are plenty of layers to those issues, as well as the Vikings' ability to repeat as division champs, and we dealt with many of them along with other questions on NFC North teams in this podcast:

CHICAGO LIONS

- How much will the additions at linebacker help the defense?

- Is there enough skill position talent, outside of Alshon Jeffery, to help Jay Cutler?

DETROIT LIONS

- How well did Calvin Johnson play last season, and how much will he be missed in the offense?

- Why was Matthew Stafford so successful with new coordinator Jim Bob Cooter?

GREEN BAY PACKERS

- Will Jordy Nelson's return from a knee injury cure the offense?

- What makes Rodgers a great quarterback?

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

- Can Teddy Bridgewater be a top quarterback?

- What are the strengths of a Mike Zimmer defense, and how are the Vikings benefiting? 

We discuss all those questions and more, right here:

 

Previous division preview podcasts:

NFC East

AFC East

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: May 25, 2016, 5:38 pm

Tuesday wasn't a good day for the Buffalo Bills on a few fronts.

First, the team issued a draconian and fairly ridiculous policy on what the media can report at its open practices, which was roundly panned as spin control from a paranoid organization. Then general manager Doug Whaley made some eye-opening comments on WGR 550 Radio on his views of the dangers of football.

Asked about whether Bills wideout Sammy Watkins is injury-prone, Whaley dismissed that notion for the most part but launched into a bigger discussion about the nature of the game as a whole.

"This is the game of football," Whaley said, via the Buffalo News. "Injuries are part of it. It's a violent game that I personally don't think humans are supposed to play."

That's the kind of bookmark-worthy, echo-chamber statement that makes the NFL office cringe mightily. The league already has been taken to task for its approach to concussion research, CTE and pushing the proper agendas for the safety of the game.

Well, either someone got to Whaley or he realized what he said might cause a firestorm. He issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying his comments.

Statement from @buffalobills GM Doug Whaley: pic.twitter.com/5oc200vy9Y

— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) May 25, 2016

Whaley's initial comments should be considered broadly for a moment because he played college football and certainly has credible perspective on what the physical toll does to a man. But we also must note, had Whaley said something to the effect of "... I personally don't think God intended humans to play football" or the like, it's possible that the firestorm would not nearly have been as big.

That latter statement would appear to be 100 percent true, by the way. Human bodies were not meant to crash into each other, full bore, at high rates of speed — certainly not with the amount of mass that elite athletes have been able to gain and maintain over the past 20-30 years. We're not built, for instance, like rams, which has been blessed with a shock absorber of sorts in their bodies.

So that's why there's protection and safety measures and advanced studies on equipment, so that players who willingly make the choice to play a dangerous sport can be protected to the highest levels possible. Where the NFL has veered itself off track is to dismiss or obscure important medical studies on the long-term effects of head and trauma and multiple concussions and sub-concussive hits. In turn, that has prevented some of the good the league has done to prevent these things from getting its proper due. It's the NFL's own fault, really.

That's why what Whaley said initially, which very likely is true, resonates so deeply. This is a league in quiet crisis over the future of the game and whether parents will let their children play the game when they read things like this, from a former player who watches and scouts the game for a living.

Whaley was believed to be on thinning ice up in Buffalo with the way the team has gone the past few years under his watch. Even though he most likely was spitting some real talk while doing so, his initial comments didn't help his standing.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 25, 2016, 5:24 pm

Despite Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft publicly supporting the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, there will be obstacles. The main one has nothing to do with gambling.

There will be the gambling issue of course because the NFL's history against Las Vegas and gambling is very consistent. And there is the stadium issue. Just because Raiders owner Mark Davis pledged $500 million, that doesn't mean it'll get built. It wouldn't be something new in Las Vegas for a big project to be hyped, only to see it never get off the ground. There's also the issue of whether the NFL is using Las Vegas as its new Los Angeles, and scaring existing cities with the threat of moving to Vegas, like it did with L.A. for 21 years.

But there's a real concern, and it's simply whether Las Vegas can sustain an NFL team.

Vegas is not a big market. It's 40th in television market size, less than one-third the size of the Bay Area. It's not a tiny town, but it's also a step down for the NFL, which is always worried about its bottom line. The Raiders would need to capture a market that is filled with transplants who presumably already root for a team, if they follow the NFL. In 2011 the Las Vegas Sun said Nevada had by far the most transplants living there of any U.S. state, with only 24 percent of its residents born in Nevada.

Las Vegas isn't a bad sports town. UNLV basketball has a great following. UNLV football doesn't, but that's because it has a lackluster stadium well away from campus, and it's UNLV football. But Las Vegas is also a unique market and we really don't know what would happen if a pro team moves there.

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Give Davis this: He knows that his team would need to win over a local fan base to survive. 

"We're not looking to make this something where fans are going to fly in every week for the games," Davis said, according to NFL.com. "To fly down for 10 games a year might not be a thing that would happen for a lot of people. We want to have a local fan base and that's very important for us and I think that's something Las Vegas would like to have as well."

Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, and fans are excited about the possibility of Las Vegas, but obstacles remain (AP)The "tourists will fill the stadium!" idea gets tossed around often. Even Kraft mentioned it at this week's NFL spring meeting.

"I bet you every visiting team would have a lot of fans going there for weekends," the New England Patriots owner said, according to the Associated Press.

These pie-in-the-sky ideas that the Raiders will be supported by tourists, Californians or random gamblers living it up in Vegas over a weekend don't hold up very well.

Tourists will come from out of town

Yes, they certainly will. Especially in the first few years, when the idea is novel. But how much is "a lot"? Figure this, if the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Las Vegas Raiders, how many people are coming from Pittsburgh for it? Well if you expect even 10,000 visiting fans to help fill the stadium, that's about 65-70 full flights (on a 737) from Pittsburgh to Vegas with nothing but people planning to go to the game. If you've had the thought that 25,000 visiting people will help fill Vegas' stadium every single week, do the math. That's not realistic.

There will be some tourists who come specifically to see their team play in Vegas, surely. But figuring you can build a fan base just off of that is foolish. Not to mention: Are Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs fans flying out 20,000 deep every single year? I know, I know, you think you will, but the novelty will wear off. And are you even getting close to 10,000 Tennessee Titans or Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Carolina Panthers fans out when the Raiders host those teams? Getting 10,000 visitors in town for a game is a lot, and that might happen a few times. It is not happening every home game, every season.

Raiders fans in California will drive or fly in every week

Again, no question there will be many who do so early on. And the Raiders have great and loyal support in Northern and Southern California, and some will be regulars to attend games in Vegas. But you're not building a fan base to fill a 65,000-seat stadium just on that. Driving? I don't know how many of you have driven from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on a Sunday night, but on a normal Sunday a drive that should take four hours might take twice that long. Traffic is brutal. And if thousands of people are hitting Interstate 15 to get back to California at 5 p.m. when the game is done? Good luck. And it's not going to be appealing to make that drive there and back in the sixth Las Vegas Raiders season, when it's Week 16 and the 4-10 Raiders are hosting the 5-9 Detroit Lions.

And some of those fans will choose to fly to Las Vegas and back, but there aren't that many flights leaving Las Vegas to LAX after Sunday afternoon games let out, and plenty of Californians who are way more interested in going to Wet Republic on Sunday than an NFL game are buying those flights too. The Raiders can't plan on having a bulk of its fan base living 250 or more miles away.

Casinos will buy up all the expensive seats/boxes and random tourists will want to go

People have a perception of Las Vegas casino companies printing cash. Well, in 2015 Caesars Entertainment, one of the two companies that controls most of the Las Vegas Strip casinos, filed bankruptcy protection because it had $18.4 billion in debt. MGM Properties has been cutting costs and pushing ways to create revenue (including charging for parking) with its Profit Growth Plan. The idea that Vegas casinos will happily drop millions for every luxury box in the stadium and give them out to high rollers probably isn't realistic.

And will there be tourists who go watch an NFL game even if it doesn't involve their favorite team? Some, sure. But plenty of people check out of their hotel before noon on Sunday and head home, and wouldn't spend all afternoon at a random NFL game before heading to the airport. And if you give a tourist a choice of paying $100 for a ticket to watch the Raiders host the Jacksonville Jaguars, or sit in a sports book and watch all the games on an NFL Sunday, plenty are picking the latter.

Again, the NFL can't rely on these unrealistic methods to fill a large portion of a Las Vegas stadium. There needs to be proof that Las Vegas itself can sustain the team  and I won't rule out that happening, it's just uncertain now.

"The gambling is one thing, but I'm more curious to find out whether the market is deep enough to support a team," Giants owner John Mara said, according to ESPN. "Those are things that have to be figured out before it can be seriously considered."

The idea of a team in Las Vegas is fun for just about everyone, but there will be challenges involved. Don't book your rooms at Cosmopolitan for that 2019 Las Vegas Raiders-Green Bay Packers tilt just yet folks, there are a lot more questions that need be answered before an NFL team in Sin City becomes reality.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 25, 2016, 3:08 pm

The NFL owners' meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday were brief, and the biggest news to come out of the event was the deciding of the host cities for Super Bowls LIII, LIV and LV plus some minor changes to instant replay.

And there were of course some smaller things as well. To wit: NFL Network's Judy Battista caught up with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for a brief interview; Battista asked Kraft about the prospect of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, which Kraft expressed support for, and also about Tom Brady, who filed another appeal in his federal case against the NFL in the deflate-gate case on Monday.

"Look, we've been behind him and he’s [pause] the whole thing has been mishandled in my opinion and it's unfortunate and we hope he prevails," Kraft said.

It's obviously good for business if the Patriots don't have to play without Brady for four games, but Kraft and Brady are very close after 16 years, and the owner has been behind the quarterback from Day One in deflate-gate.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 25, 2016, 1:54 pm

This could be you, cities of America, if you play your cards right. (USA Today Sports)The NFL has just completed its latest rounds as Super Bowl Santa, dispensing game dates to Atlanta, South Florida and Los Angeles while leaving NFL-branded coal in the stockings of Tampa and New Orleans. It's surely just a coincidence that Atlanta, Los Angeles, and 2018 host Minnesota will have brand-spankin'-new stadiums and South Florida is spending hundreds of millions on renovations. Just a coincidence. Anyway, all this talk about Super Bowls surely has you thinking, "hey, great for them, but what about ME? When do we get a Super Bowl in our fair city, huh?"

Glad you asked. Let's take a look at every NFL city and see when you can expect the NFLstravaganza to show up near you.

Arizona (Last hosted in 2015): Warm weather, a modern stadium, all appropriate amenities nearby, and pesky politics settled make Phoenix a safe and sanitized choice, the comfort food of Super Bowl sites. Should get one by 2026.

Atlanta (2000): Slated to hold the Super Bowl in 2019, and then again in 2025 when the Falcons tear down their "dated, aged" four-year-old dome to create a Monstro Ultra Megadome to lure the Super Bowl back.

Baltimore (Never hosted): The 2030 Super Bowl selection choice will be between Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, and Baltimore will somehow sneak in and vulture it away, because that’s how Charm City rolls.

Buffalo (Never hosted): Let’s be honest, the idea of a Super Bowl played in snow would absolutely rock for TV viewers. But TV viewers aren’t the ones pulling the strings, and NFL owners don’t want to pack heavy coats when they can pack pleated shorts. Sorry, Buffalo. We will eat your wings, though.

Charlotte (Never hosted): Oh, it’s gotta be burning the Queen City up that all of its NFC South brethren get Super Bowls within about a decade of each other. Enough to build a gilt-edged Dabbin’ Palace to bring the Big Show to town? That’s the cost of entry, Charlotte.

Chicago (Never hosted): Forget the wintry location and the three-hour airport security line wait times. Chicago loves nothing more than to tell you they don’t want your little Super Bowl, so don’t even bother asking. (They want you to ask, though, just so they can say no.)

Cincinnati (Never hosted): True fact: Cincinnati would’ve hosted eight Super Bowls by now were it not for the city’s attachment to that horrid chocolate-and-spaghetti-based Skyline Chili. That’s kept Cincy off the ballot every year. [Edit: Cincy fans tell me the chili also has cinnamon in it. Still not the selling point they think it is.]

Cleveland (Never hosted): The NFL will award Cleveland the 2029 Super Bowl, whereupon Cleveland will trade the game to Philadelphia for draft picks.

Dallas (2011): Ol’ Jerry’s gotta be itchin’ for another Super Bowl, and if he can’t take his team there, by golly he’ll wrestle another one to the JerryDome, probably by 2024 at the latest.

Denver (Never hosted): Oh sure, the area is covered with a blanket of snow from Labor Day to the Fourth of July NOW, but you wait till global warming really kicks in and this’ll be a perfect site for 2032.

Detroit (2006): No more new Super Bowls until you clean up that mess you left at the Silverdome, Detroit.

Green Bay (Never hosted): Imagine a Super Bowl in the very heart of football country, a contest of champions in the one true football town, the land of Lombardi and Starr and Favre and HA HA HA now wake up because there’s no way they’re ever gonna play Super Bowl in anything resembling “frozen tundra.”

Houston (2004): Our very next Super Bowl will be played in Houston. But the city won’t get another until it brings the Texans’ home up to par with the Lone Star State’s multimillion-dollar high school stadiums.

Indianapolis (2012): The NFL will commemorate the election of President Peyton Manning in 2032 by awarding the next Super Bowl his old ballclub.

Jacksonville (2005): Beautiful beaches, great golf, and warm weather would seem to make Jacksonville an ideal Super Bowl location, but it’s much easier for the NFL and jaded media to dump on the city as a small-market wannabe. Sorry, Jacksonville. You’ll get one in 2033. At least you’ll win half a dozen between now and then.

Kansas City (Never hosted): The delicious barbecue isn’t enough to offset that wicked three-state wind coming across the plains. But barbecue AND a lot of beer? That could work. Let’s say 2036.

Los Angeles (1993): The NFL rewarded Stan Kroenke with a Super Bowl in 2021 for his new Kroenkeplex, which means it’ll give him another one in 2034 when he moves back to St. Louis.

Miami (2010): Scheduled for 2020, will host again in 2028 when the statute of limitations for most crimes committed in 2020 will have run out.

Minnesota (1992): The 2018 Super Bowl will take place in Minneapolis, and it will not return to the Frozen North until Minnesota puts a dome over the whole damn state.

New England (Never hosted): Will host the Super Bowl in 3572, or just after the last deflate-gate arguments have been exhausted, whichever comes last.

New Orleans (2013): Simply the greatest Super Bowl site there is, and yet the NFL still refuses to return there until a new stadium arrives. Once it does—in, say, 2027—there will be calls to play every Super Bowl there. These calls should be heeded.

New York (2014): Will get the Super Bowl in 2031, so a good decade-and-a-half of New Jerseyites complaining that “it’s not in New York!” awaits us.

Oakland (Never hosted): The Oakland Raiders are less a football team and a more a human rights violation, so there’s zero chance a Super Bowl is ever coming to Oakland. But should the Raiders move to Vegas, well, the Super Bowl will follow shortly thereafter, as will five dozen terrible heist movies, TV shows, and novels based on the event.

Philadelphia (Never hosted): The nation’s surliest sports fans surrounding the NFL’s crown jewel? What could possibly go wrong? I want this to happen just to see some Philly mook spray Cheez-Wiz on the Lombardi Trophy.

Pittsburgh (Never hosted): Pittsburgh’s stadiums (stadia?) have some of the most telegenic views in all of sports, and would make for a lovely viewing experience. But as for the likelihood of a Super Bowl ever coming this way? See: Buffalo.

San Diego (2003): The math is pretty simple, San Diego: pay for a billion-dollar palace and get the 2022 Super Bowl. Or be fiscally responsible and get the one scheduled for the fifth of never. Your choice.

San Francisco (2016): This year’s game came off well enough despite being held over an area the size of New England. The area will get the Super Bowl again by 2027, which is right about the time that the last fans trying to get into this year’s game will arrive at the stadium.

Seattle (Never hosted): Until the NFL gets the ability to control the weather—and don’t think plans aren’t already in motion for that—there’s very little chance the Super Bowl will head to the gloomy Pacific Northwest anytime soon. Fish markets in February just don’t warm the cockles of the NFL’s heart, you know?

Tampa (2009): Another flawless host city that doesn’t have a jewel of a new stadium. Look for Tampa to reroute billions into building a new one to lure a Super Bowl by 2028. You don’t need a fire department AND a police department, right?

Tennessee (Never hosted): Southern location? Check. Never hosted a Super Bowl? Check. Stadium nearing 20 years old? Check. You watch, once Tennessee gets its ownership situation sorted out, this will be your next stadium-for-Super-Bowl deal, probably by 2024.

Washington (Never hosted): Daniel Snyder wants to build a Super Bowl-bait stadium to get the 2027 game. The NFL will watch him do that, reject him, then watch him build another one, and reject him again just because they can.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 25, 2016, 1:54 pm

Bubba Smith was diagnosed with the brain disease CTE by researchers after his death. (AP)As the NFL deals with yet another concussion controversy, another former great was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that has been linked to head trauma playing football.

Bubba Smith, the great Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers defensive end who reached a whole new audience as a star in the "Police Academy" movies and other acting roles, had CTE, The New York Times reported. Smith played nine NFL seasons, and before that he was a college star at Michigan State. Smith died in 2011.

There are still many questions about the link between concussions suffered while playing football and CTE, but Smith is the 90th former NFL player examined by the Boston University brain bank to be diagnosed with CTE, The New York Times said. The brain bank has examined 94 former NFL players. Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Mike Webster, all Pro Football Hall of Famers, also have been diagnosed with CTE. 

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The Times said Smith had Stage 3 CTE, on a scale of 1 to 4, with "symptoms that included cognitive impairment and problems with judgment and planning."

An NFL official earlier this year said there was a link between concussions and CTE, and the numbers at Boston University seem to point to that as well. Smith is the latest star to be diagnosed, but it's likely he won't be the last.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 24, 2016, 10:14 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

In January 2009, the New York Jets hired Rex Ryan to become the 18th head coach in the franchise's history, and Ryan arrived with a roar. A proclamation that the team would be winning the Super Bowl and visiting the President as well as announcing that his squad would be "the most physical" team in the NFL were part of his introductory press conference.

And he didn't stop there.

Ryan didn't wait long to take aim at Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, the kings of the AFC East, Ryan's new division after several years with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

During a radio interview just a few months after he was hired, Ryan threw a little gas on the ever-smoldering Jets-Patriots border war, telling WFAN, "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings. I came to win. Let's just put it that way. So we'll see what happens. I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else. . . ."

At the time, Belichick had five rings: two from his days as New York Giants defensive coordinator, and three as Patriots head coach. So that's a lot of bling to pucker up for. (For the record, Ryan has one.)

New England and New York met for the first time that season in Week 2, so the days leading up to the game offered the perfect opportunity to re-kindle Ryan's comment - and ask Belichick about it.

The reporter who asked during a Tuesday conference call with the coach was current NFL Network newsman Ian Rapoport. But in 2009, Rapoport was a newbie on the Patriots' beat, hired by the Boston Herald just before the start of training camp after covering the Univeristy of Alabama football team and coach Nick Saban for three years.

Rapoport recalled recently that he was hoping to get a good answer from the normally taciturn Belichick, and really mulled how best to bring up Ryan's rings comment.

"I had just come from covering Alabama and I was a little bit of a lightning rod in Alabama because I sat in the middle, up front [during press conferences] and whenever there was a situation, I would ask Saban about it. At that time, that atmosphere, some people were afraid to ask him certain things. And maybe a little I liked the attention," Rapoport said with a laugh.

"I had only been in New England about a month and a half and I could already tell the whole week would be about Rex and that comment, and I went into the conference call thinking, 'how can I get [Belichick] to say anything about it?' I convinced myself to ask him, forced myself through the awkward question.

"On a call, you ask and there's a moment of silence as he considers his answer and I was thinking, 'wow, this could be really, really awkward."

In typical Belichick fashion, it wasn't exactly an expansive answer:

Excerpt from Bill Belichick conference call, Sept. 15, 2009

But while the transcript is correct, there was a little more to it. As Rapoport recalled, Belichick seemed more amused by the question and situation than annoyed, and he was right. On the conference call, you could hear Belichick chuckle, and his reaction was confirmed when "A Football Life: Bill Belichick" aired two years later.

When the Jets and Patriots finally met on the field that Sunday at the old Meadowlands, it was Ryan who walked away victorious, with New York winning 16-9. But while Ryan's Jets won three of their first five games against Belichick's Patriots, including a memorable wild card game at the end of the 2010 season, the run didn't last: they went 1-7 over the next four years, before Ryan was fired after the 2014 season.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 24, 2016, 8:14 pm

The Super Bowl will return to the Los Angeles area for the first time in almost 30 years.

The NFL announced the sites of three future Super Bowls on Tuesday, awarding Super Bowl LV to the Los Angeles Rams' new stadium project in Inglewood. The game will be played in February 2021.

It was also announced that the new Atlanta stadium will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and South Florida will get Super Bowl LIV in 2020.

But the crown jewel of these games awarded was L.A. and its return to the league this offseason.

"On the heels of the National Football League's historic return to Los Angeles, the Rams are proud to be part of such a significant regional effort of teamwork, leadership and vision to bring the Super Bowl back to Southern California," Rams COO Kevin Demoff said in a statement. "We would like to thank the NFL owners for giving us this opportunity to host the nation's biggest event in sports and entertainment at our world-class stadium, to showcase the great cities of Los Angeles and Inglewood and to deliver an incredible experience for fans from across the globe." Southern California will host the Super Bowl in 2021 in Inglewood. (AP)

Super Bowl I was played in Los Angeles at Memorial Stadium, featuring the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. Memorial also hosted Super Bowl VII (Miami Dolphins over Washington Redskins) before Pasadena's Rose Bowl became the area venue of choice for the NFL. The Rose Bowl hosted five Super Bowls from 1977 to 1993. 

"Los Angeles is built to host the Super Bowl. We helped forge this great American tradition as its very first host in 1967; and now, at long last, we're bringing it back where it belongs," said Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is set to open before the 2017 season, was likely the tipping point to land the big game for Feb. 3, 2019. Atlanta beat New Orleans for the final vote, which came down to a fourth tiebreaker and a simple majority among voting NFL owners.

Atlanta and New Orleans made it through the first two cuts of votes for Super Bowl LIII after Tampa and Miami dropped out. New Orleans' only bid on that year's Super Bowl but without a new or significantly revamped stadium, its push was limited.

Atlanta previously has hosted two Super Bowls —  XXXIV, which was the last-play classic with the St. Louis Rams beating the Tennessee Titans, and XXVIII, which featured the Dallas Cowboys beating the Buffalo Bills to complete back-to-back championships.

With Super Bowl LIV, which will commemorate the NFL's 100th season, Miami will become the sole owner of most Super Bowls hosted (11 after LIV). It currently sits in a tie with New Orleans for the most in league history.

Although Dolphins owner Stephen Ross isn't building a new stadium, he is pledging more than $400 million of his own money into refurbishing the current structure — currently renamed New Miami Stadium, likely until the naming rights are sold (and the price just went up).

The vote was made by the NFL owners at meetings in Charlotte, N.C. Los Angeles, which has an NFL franchise again for the first time since the 1994 season, was a heavy favorite to land one of the three games up for bid, and it reached the super majority over Tampa on the first vote — there was no doubt. The L.A. bid was only a voting option for Super Bowl LV, the first year it was technically allowed to host the event because of league bylaws.

The next two Super Bowls will be played in Houston and Minneapolis.

More on Super Bowl hosts

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

 

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 24, 2016, 7:44 pm

NFL owners approved minor changes to the replay system on Tuesday in a meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Most of the amendments are administrative in nature. The Baltimore Ravens proposed earlier this year that the system be overhauled to allow the majority of plays to be reviewed, but that gained no traction.

Instead, the additions made include only allowing officials to use replay to double-check penalty enforcement, confirm the proper down and spot of a foul, as well as status of the game clock.

On-field officials can also now communicate with members of the NFL officiating department in New York during replay review of those administrative issues. However, officials are not to speak with officials in league offices about judgment calls.

The league first instituted the field-to-New York communication during the playoffs earlier this year; that is now allowed during the regular season.

All of these changes, minor though they may be, will be in effect for the 2016 season.

You can read the full proposal and wording of the changes here.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 24, 2016, 5:51 pm

Tyler Eifert will undergo surgery for an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl (Getty Images)Tyler Eifert is a talented tight end and a very important weapon for the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has had some injury issues.

There's another one. This time he'll be out three months due to ankle surgery, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The Enquirer said that the injury goes all the way back to the Pro Bowl.

Eifert hurt his ankle in the Pro Bowl. Nobody thought much about it at the time, because the season was over and it didn't seem serious. But almost four months later the ankle was still an issue and Eifert opted for surgery. That's pretty much any team's nightmare scenario, when it comes to their players participating in the Pro Bowl.

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Presuming the surgery goes well and the three-month recovery time is accurate, that means Eifert should be recovered by the regular-season opener. But there are still concerns, primarily that Eifert won't be on the field for training camp and probably most of the preseason. It's easy to see him getting off to a slow start as he gets back in the flow and gets back in football shape. Eifert missed almost the entire 2014 season because of an elbow injury and missed three games last year with a neck issue and a concussion.

Eifert is a difference maker when he's healthy, with 13 touchdowns last season. And he's an even more valuable player this season for the Bengals, who are retooling their receiving corps after losing a couple wideouts in free agency. So the Bengals need the surgery to help the problem and have their tight end back by Week 1.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 24, 2016, 5:29 pm

Johnny Manziel faces a misdemeanor domestic violence charges in Dallas . (AP)The Johnny Manziel story has played out in so many weird ways, and that was even before his friends went to TMZ to express that they're worried about him dying.

Manziel is seeing his downward spiral play out on TMZ, from reports of him showing up at various parties, being the passenger in a single-car accident and getting kicked out of a club in Vegas, so maybe the natural order of progression is having a pseudo intervention on that site.

"He's in a horrible downward spiral," is how one anonymous source described Manziel to TMZ. Another source told the site, "If he continues this way for much longer he will die.” 

That's not the first time that has been said publicly in the media. Manziel's father said earlier this year that he was worried his son could die soon.

From the sounds of the TMZ story, his friends have tried to confront him about his partying ways, but are pushed away. One group talked to him about his situation and he "flipped out," TMZ said.

Now Manziel's friends are hoping TMZ's story "will serve as a wake-up call," the post said.

We've never seen a professional athlete's destructive story play out publicly quite like this before. Each story, most of which are being reported by a celebrity gossip site, has been bad. Even those who were strangely wondering earlier this offseason if Manziel would get another chance in the NFL have given up that pipe dream.

The way it stands now, Manziel has zero chance of ever playing professional football again. He'd have to rehabilitate himself first, then rehabilitate his image, before a team even considers signing him. And even if a team started to investigate whether that was a good idea, the fact that Manziel never showed he could be a competent NFL starter won't make him a good candidate for a second chance. All that's left is watching what happens to him off the field.

Here's what we have now: A gossip site citing anonymous associates pleading for Manziel to get help, and publicly worrying about his safety and future. It's not getting any better.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 24, 2016, 5:01 pm

 

 

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

Russell Wilson might have fudged some facts about what happened at NC State during his University of Wisconsin commencement speech, but he got at least one thing right.

"If you can throw a football 80 yards, for some reason, people think that's pretty cool," Wilson said

That's the truth. We can enjoy football on many levels, but there's something uniquely thrilling about a quarterback reaching back and firing one deep. And there's something about a quarterback with a cannon arm that will always appeal to us.

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What's the best throw you've seen in an NFL game? Once I was talking to Greg Cosell, fellow podcaster and NFL Films guru, and Brett Favre's throw to Sterling Sharpe to beat the Lions in a wild-card game was brought up. I asked if it was the best throw he could recall.

"Well, I'll tell you, Jay Cutler had a throw his rookie year, at Arizona ... " Cosell said.

Say no more. I remember. I was there. And while I love the Favre throw when you really watch it, he barely sets while moving left and throws all the way back across the field to the right to Sharpe in the end zone to win a playoff game the Cutler throw is something amazing.

I can't find any throw that's better, and I can't remember one either. A little background: It's 2006, Cutler's rookie season with the Denver Broncos. And yes, it seems like three lifetimes ago he played for the Broncos. Despite anything we want to say about Cutler's career, nobody has ever questioned his ability to throw a football through a brick wall. He's always had an amazing power arm, and that was especially true when he was 23 years old. His third career start was at the Arizona Cardinals.

Early in the game, the Broncos ran a play action to the right, with a Cutler bootleg to the left and Javon Walker running a post pattern. Here's Cutler rolling left ...

 

... and less than one second from that freeze frame, he was unleashing a pass that went 64 yards in the air (a little more actually, considering he throws from beyond the left hashmark back to the middle of the field). He spun his shoulders, barely set his feet and fired a rope. While getting hit. And the pass hit Walker so perfectly, Cutler couldn't have handed it to Walker in a better spot; the pass is right on the money. And Walker was double-teamed.

I remember gasping in the press box. It was unbelievable to see a quarterback under duress throw a pass with that much velocity and that perfectly. Other than the Favre throw in the Silverdome, I don't know of any other NFL throw that matches the velocity, distance and accuracy of this one, especially considering Cutler barely set his feet to throw and was hit right after he threw it.

If you can find an NFL throw better than this (and I'm not talking about historically important passes like Joe Montana to John Taylor, just the most breathtaking heaves in NFL history) you've done well: 

 

It's really not that common to see a quarterback throw a completed pass that travels more than 60 yards in the air, considering this isn't Super Tecmo Bowl we're talking about.

Here are some deep bombs that you might argue are better than Cutler. And there are many amazing throws that are only like 20 yards, in which the quarterback throws a Nolan Ryan fastball to stick it in between two defenders. John Elway, who had the best arm I've ever seen, seemed to have five of those a week in his prime. But I'm just discussing those deep bombs that hypnotize a crowd when the ball is in the air.

Favre to Sharpe

Watch Favre's feet. He doesn't exactly set up shop before heaving it. People have estimated this pass traveled about 70 yards in the air. If this game ever comes on NFL Network, take the time to watch it again; it's one of the underrated great NFL games of all time.

Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson

On the first play of what would turn out to be a blowout win, Vick fired one that traveled about 62 or 63 yards downfield, hitting Jackson in stride for an 88-yard score. I loved watching Vick throw deep because he made it look so effortless. A short step, a flick of the wrist, and he could let it fly. The only thing about this throw, when compared to Cutler, was Vick wasn't under any pressure and could set and deliver deep.

Aaron Rodgers' Hail Marys

It's pretty amazing Rodgers had two Hail Mary touchdowns in the same season. Both were great throws, too. The Richard Rodgers one traveled roughly 67 yards downfield and just about scraped the Ford Field roof. However, there was no pressure and Rodgers' momentum was moving forward, which makes it a little different than the Cutler pass.

The Jeff Janis Hail Mary at Arizona in the playoffs was unbelievable. Pressured, falling back, Rodgers threw it about 60 yards downfield for a touchdown. An incredible throw.

Randall Cunningham vs. the Bills

I think the throw is wonderful, but we remember this one so well for the entirety of the play. If you can escape Bruce Smith in the end zone, throwing about 60 yards downfield to Fred Barnett is the easy part. Another wonderful throw though.

Previous Shutdown Corner NFL throwback stories: Joe Montana's underrated toughness | Barry Sanders' long-forgotten final game | Jake Delhomme's playoff nightmare | Barry Switzer, outspoken as ever | Was Sebastian Janikowski worth a first-round pick?How Jim Harbaugh punching Jim Kelly helped Colts land Peyton Manning | Jay Cutler makes the greatest throw ever

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 24, 2016, 2:07 pm

The Buffalo Bills have enacted a get-tough-on-the-truth media policy that prevents working members from reporting — get this — on things they see with their eyes. Also banned: Things heard with their ears.

Via ESPN's Mike Rodak, the Bills' new reporting guidelines appear a bit, um, restrictive:

Bills begin OTAs today. Reporters are not allowed to tell you who dropped a pass or who threw an interception. pic.twitter.com/TCGVgUtUI0

— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) May 24, 2016

A typical story on the Bills' on-field work this offseason might read as follows:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You ready for some hot Bills summer action?!

So how are the new restrictions, enacted just in time for the Bills' Tuesday OTA session with no prior warning, playing out so far with the local media?

A QB just threw a pick-six on his first pass in 11 on 11. It wasn't Taylor or Jones.

— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) May 24, 2016

Cornerback Corey White caught a pass that was not intended for him during team drills. #Bills

— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) May 24, 2016

I'll answer your question with a math question. What is Tyrod Taylor minus Dan Carpenter? https://t.co/Yl8aFNLFUq

— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) May 24, 2016

A Bills quarterback with a jersey number that is the square root of 25 threw a football that missed its intended target.

— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) May 24, 2016

Jordan Mills is lining up with the Bills' first team at right tackle.

— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) May 24, 2016

This is a pointless and stupid policy. Bills media are openly mocking it. So now, instead of focusing on the action on the field, the Bills now have become a joke and a talking point because of their media policy. Way to drum up the interest, public relations staff!

Other NFL teams have restrictive policies on reporting schemes and specific plays from practice, and there are valid reasons for it. If I am at camp and report that the new rookie wide receiver is running a Statue of Liberty play, well then teams facing them in the regular season might game plan to stop that play. Makes sense to a certain degree.

But here's one problem: When teams tell media they can't report something, they are forgetting about a key element — on both sides of the message. The fans. First off, fans suffer on the receiving end because they're being robbed of information they otherwise hang on during the summer months as they get excited for the season. A lot of that excitement has been sapped — although this is the Bills, who have missed the playoffs 16 years running now, we're talking about.

[More Shutdown Corner: Why do we still care about Johnny Manziel?]

Fans are on the giving end, as well. They're allowed to attend some of these sessions, and so any of them with a smart phone can take pictures, record video and audio and tweet to their hearts' content about what went down on the field. That happens, and Twitter is a wild, unruly place for that kind of information. If media members see something unusual or interesting, we can then ask the players or coaches about it, and they can put it in proper context. Now that has been taken away.

Not even the New England Patriots are this restrictive with the media. Congrats, Rex Ryan! You finally topped Bill Belichick.

The majority of teams are not this overprotective. Not reporting on dropped passes or interceptions? Ridiculous. It's also telling that turnovers are lumped under the "strategic and tactical information."

A new Bills slogan should be molded around this: "Dropping passes and throwing picks since 1960!" Come on here ... We can't report who is rushing the passer? If last season was any indication, the answer would be no one. And, well, it won't be Shaq Lawson anytime soon, apparently. Oops, I just talked about an injury.

Seriously, what would happen if all the Bills media, en masse, decided to ignore the rules? Would they all have their credentials stripped? What if they turned in their badges for a day and sat up in the stands? Could they report freely about the goings-on on the field?

None of this makes sense. The only reason an entity tries to protect the message to this great a degree is because it's afraid of bad press (example No. 1: the NFL suppressing potentially harmful research about football and head injuries). And if you're afraid of that, it can't be a good sign for the team's chances of ending that embarrassing playoffs-free streak.

One more thing: Ryan loves to drivel on and on about his team, and this makes the media focus more about him and his words and less about his players' actions. That's seldom a good thing. We've seen his grip tighten with adding brother Rob to the staff and Rex's apparent signing off on the Lawson pick in Round 1, despite a preexisting shoulder injury. If anyone is going after this season, it's general manager Doug Whaley and not Ryan.

This is a team that's supposed to be in win-now mode, but they're acting like the train is about to run off the tracks. But if it does, you won't likely hear about it from us. Our lips have been sealed. Your disappointment will just have to wait until the start of the regular season!

So long as they deem it OK to report about the actual games, of course. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 24, 2016, 2:07 pm

(AP)Jadeveon Clowney was more than a one-hit wonder.

NFL teams aren't dopey enough to draft a player No. 1 based on one big hit against a Michigan running back. Maybe that's how you came to know Clowney, but long before that play NFL scouts saw the size, the explosiveness and playmaking ability from the South Carolina defensive end. It surprised very few people when Clowney was the top pick of the 2014 draft, to the Houston Texans. He was a fantastic prospect.

How time flies.

Clowney wouldn't even be the first pass rusher taken if we re-selected the 2014 NFL draft (hello, Khalil Mack) and we have little idea if Clowney can be an above-average pro player. In two injury-filled seasons, Clowney has 4.5 sacks. Mack had five sacks in one game against the Denver Broncos last season.

That's why Clowney's message on Monday was important. He said he feels 100 percent physically, which might be a first for him in the NFL since the opening moments of his career. Clowney hurt his knee in the second quarter of his NFL debut, and eventually had microfracture surgery after the season. Late last season he said he had a Lisfranc foot injury, but didn't need surgery according to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.

Now that Clowney is healthy, we should be able to get a clearer picture of what kind of NFL player he will be.

it's not fair to call this a make-or-break season for Clowney. He turned 23 years old earlier this year, and even if he doesn't produce much this season, it's not like he won't get many more opportunities to prove himself. Maybe it all comes together for him in year four, five or six, if it doesn't happen this season. But make no mistake, this is an important season.

The Texans will have to decide on Clowney's expensive fifth-year option next offseason, and we don't know yet if Clowney is worth it. He hasn't been a great pass rusher in the NFL, though he did have some nice moments against the run last year and a few sacks that show his potential in that area. But it's unfair to judge him off his rookie season, given the knee injury, and tough to draw any conclusions from a second season in which he was coming back from surgery and hurt his foot too. After two years, we know practically nothing about Clowney as an NFL player, except that he's had trouble staying healthy.

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Clowney said after last season he planned to dominate in 2016. The ability is there for him to do that, and it would be a boon to a Texans team that won the AFC South last season and had a very good offseason. Clowney being healthy for a majority of the offseason is a huge plus for him as he tries to establish himself in the Texans' long-term plans.

This isn't a do-or-die season for Clowney. But if he wants to show he can be the player the Texans thought he was coming out of college, this wouldn't be a bad time for him to show it.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 23, 2016, 9:20 pm

Monday marks the deadline for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to appeal his deflate-gate case, and all signs point toward his camp starting that ball rolling.

According to ESPN, the NFLPA plans to file a petition this afternoon to rehear Brady's case "en banc" — which, in legal terms, means in front of the entire court — in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It's a risky approach, as typically the court defers to the findings of its three-judge panel, which previously had reinstated his four-game suspension by a 2-1 vote, as a matter of respect.

But the NFLPA clearly believe it has a case and that Brady was wronged during the process. Tom Brady is appealing his four-game suspension over deflate-gate. (AP)

"The divided panel of the Second Circuit reached erroneous legal conclusions under an unfair and unjust standard," NFLPA attorney Theodore B. Olson said in a statement. "The decision and the standards it imposes are damaging and unfair — not only to Tom Brady but to all parties to collective bargaining agreements everywhere.

"Commissioner Goodell cannot sit as an appellate arbitrator and then affirm the league's initial disciplinary decision based upon a new theory and imagined evidence and pretend to be an unbiased decision-maker."

The legal team's argument is starting to take focus. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith issued a statement that the Brady decision has wider-sweeping effects than to just one star quarterback — every NFL player should be upset at this ruling, he argues — and that Roger Goodell's initial punishment violates the CBA.

"This Union has always stood for protecting the rights of our members. Our filing of this appeal today on behalf of Tom Brady and all NFL players is no different. He was not afforded fundamental fairness and due process as guaranteed by the collective bargaining agreement and case law.

"We also know that the NFL propped up a now completely debunked 'independent' report with a made-up standard as the basis for his suspension. For sixty years we have affirmed the right to seek redress for our members and we will always hold the NFL accountable."

Still, by most accounts, this is the legal equivalent to a Hail Mary pass.

Brady's lawyers had requested and were granted a two-week extension to decide which approach to take, so clearly they've thought things through. How long could a decision to grant the "en banc" status take? It varies, but one month's time appears to be a standard length to be expected. ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt estimated it might occur as fast as three weeks but as long as six. But that's just the next step in the process.

If this is granted, the chances of Brady being eligible from the start of the season until the case has been settled increase dramatically. Assuming that timetable, the case might not begin for many months and Brady might be expected to play in the Patriots' season opener at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. It's possible that Brady serves no time during the 2016 season while this plays out.

And what if Brady's "en banc" request is denied? His legal eagles then could ask for a stay from the appellate court as they prepare his case for an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Yes, it could get that far. And no, this thing is not over. Far from it, it appears.

More on Tom Brady, deflate-gate

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 23, 2016, 8:50 pm

One of the biggest stars of NFL Draft weekend this year wasn't a player; it was a player's mom.

Annie Apple, mother of cornerback and New York Giants first-round pick Eli, became a media darling for her no-nonsense style and her refusal to coddle her star son, both of which are on display on her Twitter feed and personal blog.

Apple, who has a background in broadcasting, has been interviewed extensively since, and on Monday, we learned she won't be fading to the background now that the draft afterglow is starting to fade: she's been hired by ESPN to work as a contributor on NFL Sunday Countdown.

And her first tweet after the news came out shows exactly why:

I am beyond excited to be joining the ESPN family and quite honestly, happier than a Kardashian in an NBA locker room. #Blessed

— Annie Apple (@SurvivinAmerica) May 23, 2016

How can you not love this woman?

In subsequent tweets, Apple thanked Seth Markman, senior coordinating producer for ESPN's NFL studio shows, for "giving me platform to (represent) sports moms' perspectives, contributions, fantastic awkwardness to viewers worldwide" and tells "the truthers" that she has degrees in television production and English so "not only am I quasi cute, I'm semi smart."

Markman explained why the network hired Apple in the story on espn.com.

"Annie caught our attention during the NFL Draft, and when we met her in-person at ESPN, we were blown away by her relatability, her sense of humor and just how unafraid she is to speak her mind," he said. "Annie brings a very unique perspective as the mother of a current NFL player and as a fan, and we look forward to exploring a variety of different story ideas with her on Sunday NFL Countdown."

After the Giants' on-field OTA practice Monday, Eli Apple said he expects his mother to stay the same woman she's always been.

 "She's not going to change," Eli said. "She was like this way back when I was in high school. She's not going to do anything different."

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 23, 2016, 8:05 pm

The New York Jets currently have three quarterbacks on their roster, but not a single one started an NFL game in the 2015 season.

The quarterback who started all 16 of the team's games last season? He's a free agent. And the Jets say they want him back.

And that quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, says he wants back in too.

So what's the problem?

Fitzpatrick was at former teammate Willie Colon's charity golf tournament on Monday, and told Sirius XM NFL radio that contrary to an ESPN report last month that he'd rather retire than take the Jets' offer, he intends to play in 2016. And he wants to play for New York.

"There's plenty that's been written and who knows where the so-called sources are, but I want to play," Fitzpatrick told the channel. "I love playing the game of football, I had a great time, probably my best season last year in terms of how much fun I had with the guys every Sunday, and it's something I really enjoy doing, and something I want to continue to do."

Fitzpatrick noted that both sides have kept negotiations behind closed doors in an effort to get things worked out, and said it's a different offseason for him since he's not at a facility and is working out on his own.

While Newsday reports that the Jets' initial offer to Fitzpatrick was $7 million to $8 million a year, which is less than half of what many starting quarterbacks make these days, Fitzpatrick insists he's not concerned with comparing paychecks, though he didn't want to talk specifics on dollars and cents.

"I think maybe earlier on in my career, that's something you fall into as a player, but right now, no," he said. "I mean, I know, I understand the market, I understand those guys and am happy for them getting what they got, but I know my value to a team is my value to a particular team. You drive yourself crazy if you sit and look at other numbers and say, 'Why not me, why not me?'"

So if Fitzpatrick isn't looking to get $18 million a year (he made $3.25 million last year with the Jets) and the Jets, we assume, would like a veteran QB on the roster, we ask again: what's the holdup?

 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 23, 2016, 7:01 pm

Shaq Thompson (Getty Images)Shaq Thompson, the Carolina Panthers' 2015 first-round pick, and former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone were involved in a car accident early Sunday morning that sent Boone to the hospital, according to Black and Blue Review.

Thompson, a linebacker out of Washington, did not receive treatment for injuries but cited for driving left of the center line, the report said. Black and Blue Review said "alcohol was involved, but it wasn't a factor," and Black and Blue Review said Thompson was below the legal limit. The police report said Thompson wasn't impaired. Sgt. Ben Miller of the State Highway’s Union County division told the Charlotte Observer there was some "residual left over from the night before" but Thompson was well below the legal blood-alcohol limit. 

Boone and Thompson were driving in opposite directions at about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday when Thompson crossed the center line. The cars hit head on. Boone and Thompson don't know each other, Black and Blue Review said. Mark Armstrong of WTVD said Boone's injuries are serious but not considered life threatening.

Thompson did sustain some injuries but they weren't serious; the Observer said Thompson played in teammate Mike Tolbert's charity golf tournament on Monday.

According to the Charlotte Observer, "Thompson told troopers he dropped his phone on the floor board of his 2016 Chevrolet SUV and reached down to pick it up, causing him to cross the center line."

Boone played for Duke from 2011-14. with 38 career touchdown passes for the Blue Devils. Thompson played in 14 games last year, starting 10, and is a big piece of the Panthers' future on defense.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 23, 2016, 5:15 pm

The latest news on Johnny Manziel, which has become the sad new normal for him, has nothing to do with football.

Manziel reportedly was kicked out of a Las Vegas club this past weekend after he allegedly punched a man, according to TMZ Sports. This story comes after news that the NFL is looking into the matter of an accident in Vegas in which Manziel was a passenger from a few months back.

The NFL is treating Manziel like a current player even though he isn't currently on a roster and appears spiraling out of control to the rest of us. And yet he's still one of the most heavily-clicked people related to the NFL on the Internet.

Why is that? Is it because people are voyeurs? Do they enjoy watching the Heisman Trophy winner careen off the tracks?

Do others think he still has an NFL future worth salvaging?

What is it about Manziel that has people so interested in every — often sad — move he makes?

Manziel became a celebrity as a freshman at Texas A&M, especially after he beat Alabama. We heard about Manziel's fast lifestyle off the field and we watched his freewheeling approach on it, and they appeared to go hand in hand. Many even talked about Manziel like he was the second coming of Fran Tarkenton combined with Joe Namath — an old-school throwback in more ways than one.

Getting drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns only added to the drama. The QB-starved franchise, tired of being so limited at the position for so long, wasn't playing it safe — it was pushing a big pile of chips to the middle and praying for a great draw. Of course, we know that not everyone in the organization was behind making that decision. That often doesn't end well, and this was no exception.

Despite flashes of that Heisman Trophy-winning ability, Manziel never put it together. In fact, his off-field slipups were still happening, frustrating the coaches and fans alike. Following a domestic dispute with his ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley, Manziel was released by the Browns earlier this spring. The debates about whether his NFL career would go on started right then and haven't let up.

With Manziel, it's always a paradox. We can't say he's a good guy, not after reported multiple incidents involving Crowley, and yet reports indicate that his teammates generally liked him. We can't say that Manziel is a great NFL talent, and yet there have been enough hints here and there to make many believe he could be an effective quarterback if he ever committed himself.

Of course, the whole thing is cloaked by his suspected substance issues. There has been enough evidence — the most damning of which was Manziel's own father saying he feared his son might not make it to age 24 — to suspect that he has some kind of chemical problem that badly needs treating.

But all of this fails to answer the initial question, even as wild and public as his life has become. Why do we care?

Maybe care is the wrong word. Perhaps we should ask, "why do so many people pay attention?" The fascinating thing about a Manziel story on our site (as I suspect it is on other sites) is that the comments, if you dare venture going there, often hit on the theme of: "I don't care!" But those people cared enough to click in the first place and make their opinion known. It's a fascinating conundrum.

Certainly, the media plays a role in this. Players such as Manziel and Tim Tebow, birthed in a very public SEC petri dish, entered the league as celebrities and they remain just as big despite not being in the NFL. The Heisman might not mean quite as much as it once did, but it's still a big deal to many. 

But it's way beyond that. We're in an era of deep character examination, especially in the NFL, and every year we gnash our teeth over how much that should play into how much stock teams put into it. By most measures, Tebow has A-plus character and Manziel flunks that category for now. Cam Newton entered the NFL with some serious reservations about him as a man, and he has answered almost every single one of his critics.

Despite Manziel's and Tebow's night-and-day differences off the field, they were also criticized and debated with how they played. Neither have shown enough in that department. If either one showed as much promise as Newton has, for instance, NFL teams would be bending over backward to find room for them on their rosters.

So maybe we care because we fall into one of two camps on Manziel — either we "knew" that Manziel had neither the temperament nor the talent to handle this high-pressure league, or perhaps we still think there's a chance he could get the help he needs to return to form. After all, nowhere do we celebrate the comeback more than in America.

For now, maybe we just keep clicking until we find out which side Manziel falls on. As long as he insists on hanging out in Vegas, it looks like he's going to give us plenty of material. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 23, 2016, 4:26 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

Jim Harbaugh came up just short in his bid to land the Indianapolis Colts in a Super Bowl when his Hail Mary pass was dropped in the end zone in the 1995 AFC championship game as time expired.

But Harbaugh would help deliver a Super Bowl — albeit very indirectly — years later when he punched recently-retired quarterback and future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly in 1997.

Yes, Harbaugh's right hook of Kelly was the first flap of the butterfly’s wings that helped the Colts land Peyton Manning and an eventual title in Super Bowl XLI.  

Allow us to connect the strange dots in this story, which remarkably comes almost full circle again in the end.

Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda was fired after that loss to the Steelers in the 1995 AFC title game.He was replaced by Lindy Infante for the 1996 season. Yet the team’s results were remarkably similar the following year: another 9-7 season with Harbaugh at QB and another season-ending loss in the playoffs to the Steelers, although this one by a 42-14 blowout.

Harbaugh returned in 1997 and the Colts had an exciting young nucleus with Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison, and yet they got off to a nightmarish start with seven straight losses — five by six points or fewer — to open the season. Tension and tempers were rising in Indy.

Enter Kelly, who had been doing TV work following his retirement from the Buffalo Bills. Two of those Colts losses had come at the hands of the Bills, by scores of 37-35 and 9-6. Prior to the second Bills game, Kelly made some incendiary comments toward Harbaugh (three TDs in seven starts) for being to blame for the Colts’ 0-7 start.

Kelly also questioned Harbaugh’s toughness in doing so.

Co-hosting on a local TV show in Buffalo called "Sneak Preview," Kelly downplayed the beating the 34-year-old Harbaugh had taken in recent seasons and said Harbaugh was a "baby" and that he “overdramatized” his injuries, per the Los Angeles Times.

Well, that didn’t sit well with the quarterback who had earned a reputation for his toughness. As luck would have it, the Colts were traveling to San Diego to face the Chargers that next game in Week 9, which Kelly would be broadcasting with NBC. Harbaugh was hurt, set to miss that game with an ankle injury, so replacement starter Paul Justin was the quarterback scheduled to meet with Kelly the rest of the production team.

Still, Harbaugh had heard what Kelly had said about him and wanted to chat about it. So he paid him an unannounced visit — by crashing the production meeting the day before the game. Yup.

“I wanted to ask him where he was coming from with those comments,” Harbaugh explained to Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom in 1997. “We went into a room and started talking about it. He said, ‘I call it the way I see it.’ One thing led to another ...”

When Kelly in essence told Harbaugh that he called it like he saw it, Harbaugh took a swing at Kelly’s nose.

“I hit him,” Harbaugh told Albom. “I threw a couple of punches. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

Kelly managed to duck the punch somewhat, with Harbaugh’s fist reportedly glancing his skull instead. Harbaugh actually came out in worse shape without actually getting hit himself, suffering a broken bone in his hand. A bad Colts season was getting worse by the minute.

“I broke the bone while hitting him,” Harbaugh told Albom. “I’ve heard he’s telling people I never hit him, but I don’t know why he would say that. I would assume he knew what happened, since we were both there.On the way to the elevator, I felt my hand swelling up immediately.”

That crack caused him to miss three more games thereafter, getting docked $140,000 per game..

"I regret throwing the punch, but I felt I had to do something since my toughness was being questioned," Harbaugh said, via the Times. "I regret that I have a crack in one of my bones in my hand."

Harbaugh’s toughness wasn’t questioned too many times after that, but it wasn’t the first or last time the future San Francisco 49ers and Michigan head coach’s zeal in the heat of the action became a story line.

The Colts would lose to the Chargers that game and slide even further to 0-10. Although they won three of their final six games (all three coming against teams with winning records, including the Super Bowl-bound Green Bay Packers), the Colts finished with the worst record in the NFL. Four other teams — including the Chargers, who beat the Colts — finished one game better at 4-12.

That meant the Colts landing the No. 1 pick in the draft. And that eventually meant drafting Manning. You know how that story turned out.

But here’s the kicker: Had the Colts won any of those three games that Harbaugh missed, it’s almost certain they would not have picked first. The first tiebreaker to determine draft order is opponents’ win percentage, and the Colts’ .531 mark was higher than three of the four 4-12 teams. Manning would have been a Charger, or maybe an Arizona Cardinal instead.

The story doesn’t end there.

The Baltimore Ravens needed a quarterback the following season in 1998 after they had planned to waive Vinny Testaverde, who played well for them but had a then-unseemly three years and $15 million left on his contract, which was a bugaboo for the cash-poor team right before it moved into the new stadium.

So the Ravens discussed two veteran options favored by Marchibroda, who was entering his third and final year as Ravens head coach: Harbaugh and Kelly.

Yes, the same Kelly who had retired after getting beaten to a pulp during the 1996 season. After a year off, he was sending out feelers around the league, hinting that he might consider coming back to the NFL if the right situation emerged.

Marchibroda tasked his coaching staff to watch tape of both quarterbacks, the one-time combatants, to decide which would be the better option. He had coached both of them — Kelly when Marchibroda was the Bills’ offensive coordinator during the K-Gun heyday, and Harbaugh in 1994 and 1995 when he was with the Colts — and was feeling the pressure to deliver wins after a 10-21-1 record in his two Ravens seasons.

“Kelly had been hurt a lot, had taken a lot of hits that [1996] season,” Don Strock, the Ravens’ quarterback coach that year, told Shutdown Corner. “I looked at some of those games, and I remember watching the Seattle game vividly. He was just getting killed. I know he’s a tough guy, but as you get older you lose your legs a little bit, that quickness in your arm — believe me, as a former player myself, I know.

“He was kind of at that point. It had nothing to do with leadership. You could see he still had that. The guys rallied around him. But he was at the end of his career. He wasn’t someone who was going to put the Baltmore Ravens over the hump, I don’t think.”

Neither would come cheap. Harbaugh was still under contract with the Colts, and Kelly reportedly was asking for a lot of money to leave his cushy TV gigs and with his own concerns about taking more of a beating in Baltimore. The Ravens’ coaching staff sat down in the weeks following the season for a discussion over what the best route would be.

After other options were quickly dismissed — such as trading up in the draft for Manning or Ryan Leaf, or to try to trade for Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins — it boiled down to Harbaugh vs. Kelly. The conversation went coach by coach until it arrived at respected special-teams coordinator Scott O’Brien. A man who, by his own admission, was no expert on quarterbacks.

“[Marchibroda] wanted Kelly,” O’Brien told Shutdown Corner. “But we had a meeting and we went around the room and took a vote. Now I know Jack and John Harbaugh, worked with them, and had met Jim a few times before that. I love Jim now, he’s my guy, but I didn’t know him then like I know him now.

“I don’t know Jim Kelly at all, but when [the discussion] got to me, I said, ‘Ted, I don’t know [expletive] about quarterbacks. … I just know I want the guy who won the fight.’ I'm not sure Ted had any clue what I was talking about.”

O’Brien isn’t sure if that settled it, he said recently with a laugh, but days later the Ravens had swung a trade for Harbaugh, sending a 1998 third-round pick to the Colts and swapping fourth-rounders. And as if it wasn’t bizarre enough that the choice came down to two quarterbacks who got into a fistfight the year prior, the fact that the Ravens made a major trade with the Colts — the team that left Baltimore 14 years earlier — added just another odd layer to the whole deal.

Kelly is a proud cancer survivor and one of the best to play the game. Manning will join him in Canton the first year he’s eligible. Harbaugh, who came up just short of a Super Bowl with the 49ers, is blazing his own trail as one of the best college coaches in the country.

Could all three converge again in some weird way? Well, there are still direct and indirect connections. Kelly likely will be on the college scene this fall with his nephew, Chad Kelly, one of the best senior quarterbacks in the country at Ole Miss. You know, the same school where Manning’s dad and little brother were stars.

We say bring them all back together — let’s say at Michigan vs. Ole Miss at the Orange Bowl this coming January — and get the three men to sit down and tell the story of the punch that changed the course of NFL history. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 23, 2016, 3:44 pm

At this point, one thing is certain: Abiola Aborishade is persistent.

The former Division III receiver, who set UMass-Dartmouth's single-season receiving record in 2014 when he had 84 catches, has stood near the New England Patriots' facility at Gillette Stadium nearly every day for a month, hoping the team will give him a tryout.

(Abiola Aborishade Instagram)He has made a giant signboard to promote himself: "Talented hardworking athlete hoping for a chance to prove myself" it reads, touting his ability to play slot and wide receiver and special teams.

Aborishade also declares that he "won't disappoint" and is "dream chasing."

Aborishade told his story to MassLive.com's Kevin Duffy last Friday, as he did yet another early morning shift on the busy highway just off stadium grounds with his sign (stadium security won't let him stand on Gillette property).

The 6-foot, 194 pound receiver arrived by 5:45 a.m., and at 6 on the dot the silver Audi belonging to Bill Belichick rolls past Aborishade.

Belichick does not stop.

Aborishade started his daily Gillette shift on April 21, after seeing another receiver, Joe Anderson, standing outside Houston's NRG Stadium with his own sign. Anderson's story got attention and he got a brief stint with the New York Jets.

"There are a lot of talented people out there who haven't been discovered yet, and that's because they haven't separated themselves from everyone else," Aborishade says. "You have to put yourself out there — literally put yourself out there."

He showed up that first day in a shirt and tie; Aborishade works at Enterprise Rent-A-Car a few miles from the stadium, and spends a little more than an hour with his sign on weekday mornings before heading to work. He returns to his post after his shift ends in the afternoon.

He hasn't gotten his tryout yet, but players have taken notice; Aborishade says special teams ace Matthew Slater waves as he drives into the facility each day, and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler stopped to take a picture, posting it to his Facebook page last week with the note, "This reminded me to always be thankful and never take your blessings for granted... On the other hand, this is the attitude you must have if you really want something.......‪#‎NEVERGIVEUP‬"

Aborishade is hoping his persistence pays off.

"I honestly was thinking three things could happen from this. The first thing is that they see me so often that they get sick and tired of me. So they almost give up, give into it, because I'm not giving in. So they give in and they say, 'OK, let's see what this kid can do,' he says. "The second thing is the people who drive around here, who work around here see me so often that they almost say, 'hey, we want to see what he can do.'"

"And the third thing is they just leave me out here."

We're pulling for you, Abiola.

More on Patriots

 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 23, 2016, 3:18 pm

NFL logo. (AP)A new congressional report has found that the NFL sought to improperly influence a major government study on connections between football and brain disease, according to documents obtained by ESPN's "Outside The Lines." (Update: the NFL has rejected the conclusions of the report.)

The congressional research report indicates the NFL had given the National Institutes of Health a $30 million unrestricted gift in 2012, but later sought to pull $16 million in funding from that gift away from one researcher and reroute it to researchers working on the league's own brain injury committee. When the NIH declined to redirect the funding, the NFL balked at paying for the study, despite having signed documents it would do so. Taxpayers were thus on the hook to pay for the study.

"In this instance," the 91-page congressional report concludes, "our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research."

"They wanted to look like the good guy, like they were giving money for this research," said Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.). "But as soon as they found out that it might be somebody who they don't like who's doing the research, they were reneging on their commitment, essentially."

ESPN's "OTL" notes that the report includes several other potentially damning instances of league conduct, including NFL officials apparently acting in self-interest rather than in deference to scientific study; league attempts to avoid the NIH's stringent independent review of studies; and the very real scenario that if the NFL withdrew its funds, "other meritorious research" would not receive funding. The NFL ended up contributing $2 million to the study.

 "I wish I could say I was surprised," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said upon hearing the news of the report, "but the league has a history of being bullies."

"It is deeply disappointing the authors of the Staff Report would make allegations directed at doctors affiliated with the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee without ever speaking to them," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. The league maintained that it negotiated "through the proper channels" and stipulated the amount of money it had already paid out to fund studies.

The NFL dominates the sports landscape and, as ever-growing television ratings for both the regular season and the Super Bowl demonstrate, claims a decent chunk of the nation's overall entertainment attention as well. But fighting Congress is another matter entirely, and this is one of several issues that has landed the league in the sights of the federal government. Whether it's from the fallout of the Ray Rice domestic abuse saga, ongoing controversy over Washington's team name, or the "pay-for-patriotism" appearances of vets at NFL games, the league's actions, and inaction, continue to draw federal scrutiny.

Under that kind of spotlight, the NFL's never-give-an-inch approach to concussions is bound to raise eyebrows. When a PBS/"Frontline" study shows that 96 percent of NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the NFL's technique of attacking its critics head-on isn't the kind of approach that fosters collaboration or progress. 

The brain injury study will begin next week in Boston, with 50 researchers from 17 institutions surveying hundreds of former professional and college players.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 23, 2016, 2:44 pm

Add J.J. Watt to the long, long, LONG list of players wanting to be the Jumpman.

Watt has unveiled his new logo, to be used in Reebok branding efforts, and it's supposed to be a combination of "JJ," "W," and "99," if you look at it the right way:

 ESPN.com says the logo is meant to evoke the idea of a building constructed "from the bottom up," much like Watt's career. (It's apparently a contrast to skyscrapers which start construction 400 feet up in the air and build downward, or something.) Anyway, you'll see it on shirts and shoes and whatnot soon enough, even though it's not one percent as iconic as the Michael Jordan silhouette.

Here's the real question, though: how does Watt's logo measure up to other recent NFL player logos? Let's consider, starting with Tom Brady:

Here's Cam Newton:

The recently-retired Calvin Johnson:

And, uh, Robert Griffin III:

Look, this isn't the Yahoo Sports Logo Design blog, but we can all agree that those logos are all pretty hideous. They're all trying too hard to wrestle initials and numbers and flash and flourish into something "cool," and the end result is like your dad trying to freestyle. Simpler is always better; it's why Jumpman still soars above these and every other logo.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 23, 2016, 12:38 pm

Roberto Aguayo (AP)In a long, fascinating story in Pewter Report, which looked back at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' recent draft class, some very interesting news popped up. It appears they earmarked a first-round grade on a kicker.

That, of course, would be Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, whom the Buccaneers traded up high in Round 2 to draft. As Bucs general manager Jason Licht says in the exclusive story, it's easy to connect the dots on how high a grade the team had on Aguayo.

“We had Aguayo ranked high — pretty high,” Licht said. “We moved up into the second round to get him, so that should tell you something about where we had him ranked.”

Typically, a team making such a move, trading up into the late second round (59th overall) to select a player (and give up a fourth-round pick to do so), means it has a very high grade on the player and believes he likely should have been off the board by that point, or that he likely would go before the team otherwise would have picked before the move.

But a first-round grade? On a kicker?! That seemed to be the echo chamber — including from yours truly — outside the building. Inside, there was joy that the Bucs landed such a coveted piece in their eyes, and a Buccaneers source confirmed to Shutdown Corner on Friday that the Pewter Report story framed the Bucs' draft grades accurately.

After all, ask the Oakland Raiders if Sebastian Janikowski, still going strong all these years later, was worth a mid-first-rounder. Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab kicked that topic around on Friday.

“Not a lot of people will ever admit that a kicker is worth a first-round pick,” Licht said. “I’m going to be jumping for joy when a few of the people in your business [the media] realize that some are.”

Licht spent two stints in New England with the Patriots' front office, and during his second stint there (2009-2011) Bill Belichick asked some of his staff to rank the team's roster at the time 1 to 53 in terms of importance. When he got the rankings back from the members, there was one interesting but surprising common theme.

“None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 — even though he was an excellent kicker," Licht said. "After we were done, Bill said, ‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he’s a kicker?’ Bill made us rethink that and he got his point across. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him!’ 

“It was an eye-opening moment for me. I had been around Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski, and those are two of the best. I know how good of a feeling that is to have a guy like that when you know that a lot of the games are going to come down to field goals – a lot of the games come down to the kicker.”

The Buccaneers do not yet know if Aguayo is in that class of kicker but they know that their shortcomings at the position last season cost them opportunities to win games. Aguayo was one of the most decorated college kickers in recent history, and he had an excellent track record making some of the most difficult kicks — especially those from the wider college hashmarks — which sold the Bucs on his ability to convert pressure attempts, especially after he missed only one fourth-quarter kick in his career.

“Roberto is wired differently,” Licht said. “He’s very confident. The folks at Florida State said, ‘He’s one of the leaders on our team.’ You just don’t run across that often at all with kickers. Just the way he carries himself, he’s different. He’s more of a normal teammate as a kicker. He’s a core player and a leader. He has a certain confidence about him. You just like being around him.”

With longer extra-point attempts in the NFL (Aguayo never missed one in college) and an offense that's still rounding into form, he might be a very welcome addition. His draft value appears to be out of whack on the surface from where he was taken, but if Aguayo helps the Bucs win games the pick will be more than worth it. Right now, the Bucs are confident that they stole their new kicker and didn't, like everyone assumes, reach for him.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 20, 2016, 4:27 pm

 

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

The first round of the 2000 NFL draft is an interesting one to look back on.

There were high picks who never quite lived up to the hype, like Courtney Brown or Travis Taylor. Some players had nice, long productive careers, such as Chris Samuels and Thomas Jones. Brian Urlacher and Shaun Alexander and a few others became superstars, although stardom lasted longer for some than others. 

Only one first-round pick from 2000 remains in the NFL, after John Abraham's career ended after 2014. The lone survivor is Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Go figure.

(AP)When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round this year, it drew immediate attention. Some liked it, many hated it. It was a startling pick because kickers are rarely drafted that high. Since the first NFL/AFL common draft in 1967, only 10 kickers have gone in the second round or higher. Most of them didn't work out too well; there are six combined Pro Bowls among those 10 players, and none of them made it more than twice.

Whatever uproar there was about Aguayo, it was a blip compared to the Oakland Raiders picking Janikowski in the first round out of Florida State 16 years ago.

When we talk about controversial draft picks, almost every one is controversial only in hindsight. On draft day itself, how many picks are ripped right away? There's optimism for almost every pick, and then down the road we decide if it was a terrible pick or not.

The Janikowski pick was different. When Janikowski was picked 17th overall by maverick owner Al Davis, nobody knew at the time what to think about it. Not even within the Raiders' building.

"I remember that almost immediately after our selection several of our coaches and football staff expressed to me how disappointed and angry they were that Al used that pick on a kicker," longtime Raiders executive Amy Trask said. "Interestingly, over the course of years, some of those very men suggested both that it was a smart pick and that they agreed with Al’s selection at the time."

That perfectly frames the debate of whether the Janikowski pick was worth it. It's easy to see both sides.

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On one hand, getting 16 years and counting out of any draft pick is a huge plus. Janikowski has played in all but four games the past 16 seasons and is still going strong. He is the Raiders' all-time leading scorer with 1,675 points, nearly doubling up George Blanda and his 863 points in second place. Janikowski is 39th in NFL history in field-goal percentage, 11th in field goals made, 15th in points scored and has made an incredible 52 field goals from 50 yards or longer. Without question, there's value in all of that.

There were 254 picks in 2000 and only three are still playing Janikowski, punter and fellow Raiders pick Shane Lechler (fifth round) and the incomparable Tom Brady (sixth round). Of the first 141 players taken in that draft, only Janikowski is still in the NFL.

"It was a terrific selection," Trask, whose book "You Negotiate Like a Girl" comes out later this year, said. "Kickers are tremendously important and to those who disagree, I ask this: Seconds remaining in regulation, you need a field goal to beat a hated division rival on the road — now do you think a kicker is important?  We drafted Sebastian in 2000 and in both 2000 and 2001 he kicked a game-winning field goal with time running out — each time, I’m delighted to note, in Kansas City."

Fair points.

However, the counter-argument is strong. Janikowski has been good but not great, and every other pure kicker since 1967 cost less to acquire in the draft. Janikowski has been to the Pro Bowl just once, in 2011. He has never been a first-team All-Pro, so at no point over his long career has Janikowski been considered the best kicker in football.

There's the opportunity cost of taking any kicker that high. Great kickers almost always come relatively cheap. Of the 24 other kickers to make the Pro Bowl since 2000, 15 weren't drafted at all, three were third-round picks, one was a fourth-round pick, three were sixth-round picks, one was a seventh-round pick and one was a 12th-round pick. If you can get an Adam Vinatieri, David Akers or Dan Bailey as an undrafted free agent, it seems like a waste of resources to spend a first-round pick on any kicker, much less one who has never been a first-team All-Pro. Especially when Alexander, the NFL's MVP in 2005, went two picks after Janikowski.

You can argue that any kicker going in the first couple rounds better end up as one of the greatest kickers ever to justify the pick, and not simply give you a lot of good, solid years. Put another way: How many extra games over the past 16 seasons did the Raiders win with Janikowski that they couldn't have won with, say, Shayne Graham, who was undrafted in 2000? Graham, for what it's worth, had an 85.5 career field-goal percentage over 15 seasons; Janikowski's is 80.2.

Janikowski is the only pure kicker taken in the first round of the common draft era. Two other kickers taken in the first round, Steve Little (1978) and Russell Erxleben (1979), punted too (and neither ultimately worked out, by the way). It's very unlikely we see another kicker taken in the first round anytime soon, considering Aguayo is one of the best kicking prospects to ever come out of college and he went 59th. Janikowski will hold his distinction for a long time.

And 16 years later, it's not entirely clear if the Raiders made a great pick or not.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 20, 2016, 3:53 pm

A decisive new Washington Post poll released Thursday indicated that an overwhelming percentage of Native Americans do not have a problem with the use of the name "Redskins" to identify an NFL team. Critics of the poll have challenged its methodology and phrasing, but what's undeniable is that, for whatever reason, a significant majority of Native Americans are not pushing for a name change.

However, a significant majority is not unanimous, and a former Washington Pro Bowl offensive lineman is arguing that the minority's voice still has merit. Tre Johnson, who played for the team from 1994 to 2002, has reaffirmed his opposition to the name. Johnson, one of several former Washington players to oppose the name, is now a high school history teacher.

Yes, this is a convenient stance for Johnson to take now that he's no longer taking a paycheck from the team. He owns that, noting that he didn't think much about the name until after his retirement, when he was approached by the National Congress of American Indians. "I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, if it’s something you find offensive,’ ” Johnson told the Washington Post. “I read a little bit more about it. And I was a culprit, as well. I was not as in tune culturally as a younger guy as I am now.”

It's an effective reply to the common refrain that many who oppose change chant to the heavens: "It's always been this way, why's this a problem NOW?" The answer, of course, is that attitudes and beliefs evolve, sometimes slowly, and sometimes all at once. Washington's team officials and team supporters are already pointing to the poll as justification for keeping the name ad infinitum, but Johnson cautions against disregarding the voices of the minority:

“It all comes down to whether this is a majority-wins issue," Johnson said. "Do we care about everybody? Or do we care about most people? Do we only care about the majority and the majority culture? This has been an argument of minorities for some time.”

A significant percentage of Native Americans surveyed in the poll indicated that an NFL team name was the least of their concerns, and certainly both the NFL and Native Americans have more pressing issues to consider than a team name. But as Johnson's words indicate, the issue's not going away, no matter how much the name's supporters hope it will.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 20, 2016, 1:26 pm

There isn't much New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can't do on the football field. And off the field, he's the guy pretty much everyone wants to hang out with, thus his recent coronation as "funnest guy in sports."

Gronkowski loves to dance, though it's questionable just how good he is at it, and that clearly extends to ballet. Getting a lesson from Miami City Ballet soloist Nathalia Arja, Gronkowski gives it his best shot, but Bill Belichick doesn't have to worry about losing him to the stage.

The best part of this video might be the size difference between Gronkowski and Arja. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds Gronk is huge compared to most people, but Arja is a petite 5-foot-2.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 20, 2016, 1:25 am

There are plenty of criticisms of the Pro Bowl. Rarely does anyone say that Hawaii was a part of the problem.

But the Pro Bowl is on the move, reportedly headed to Orlando, Fla.

Bloomberg News cited three sources that confirmed the Pro Bowl is heading to Orlando. The NFL told Bloomberg that Orlando, Honolulu, Houston (next season's Super Bowl host) and Sydney, Australia (oh?) were in the running, and Bloomberg said Orlando will get it. Orlando made a public push in wooing the NFL's all-star game.

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It would be a big shift for the NFL. The league moved the Pro Bowl to the Super Bowl city twice in recent years, first to Miami in 2010 and then Glendale, Ariz. in 2015. Every other season since 1979, it has been in Honolulu. The Pro Bowl moved around some before 1979, though it was usually at the Los Angeles Coliseum, before Honolulu became its home. The NFL's contract with Hawaii's tourism authority ends May 31, Bloomberg said.

There is no word in Bloomberg's report on how long the agreement with Orlando might be for. Los Angeles, which is getting a new stadium in Inglewood in 2019, would presumably be a natural host down the road, too. The NFL has been tinkering with the Pro Bowl, changing formats and moving the game from a week after the Super Bowl to the week before. Nothing has really worked. The game is becoming a tougher sell, because star players don't want to risk injury by playing full speed, and understandably so. Ratings have been dropping the past few years. Changing the venue doesn't appear to be an obvious fix, especially moving it to a non-NFL market. The move is unlikely to be popular with the players, who enjoy the reward of a trip to Hawaii for the game.

The NFL apparently thinks changing the venue will help in some way. Nothing else it tries seems to be helping the Pro Bowl's popularity.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

 

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 19, 2016, 10:30 pm

(AP)This offseason, Greg Cosell and Frank Schwab will explore key questions for each of the 32 NFL teams in "The Shutdown" podcast, going team-by-team for each division over eight episodes.

In our first podcast for this series, we looked at the NFC East. Now we turn our attention to the AFC East, which has four very interesting teams coming into this season. 

You can find the podcast at the end of this post, and here are a few of the key questions we tackled for each team:

BUFFALO BILLS

- Why did Rex Ryan's pressure schemes not work as well in 2016, his first season with the Bills?

- Can Buffalo's run-first offense produce big results?

MIAMI DOLPHINS

- After four seasons, what positives and negatives do we see from Ryan Tannehill?

- How did Ndamukong Suh play last season, when you break down the game tape?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

- Bill Belichick is often referred to as a great coach, but what specifically makes his teams so tough to prepare for?

- The Patriots' offense is a bit unconventional, but how is it so effective? And how will Martellus Bennett fit in?

NEW YORK JETS

- Is Darrelle Revis still the same cornerback we're used to seeing, or did he take a step back in 2015?

- Why was Ryan Fitzpatrick successful in this offense in 2015, and could Christian Hackenberg have the same type of success if given the chance?

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: May 19, 2016, 8:59 pm

If it wasn't for bad luck, the Jacksonville Jaguars might have no luck at all. Especially with their first-round draft picks.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the team's top pick in April, suffered a knee injury during offseason activities that is believed to be a small meniscus tear. Although it doesn't appear to be a season-ending injury, like the one rookie Dante Fowler Jr. suffered last year in the offseason, but another opinion is coming.

Statement on Jalen Ramsey. pic.twitter.com/9VIzQiG1Y3

— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) May 19, 2016

Source: Depending on 2nd opinion, Jags' Jalen Ramsey could miss 4-6 weeks or 4-6 months. Two possible treatment options.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) May 19, 2016

Ramsey figures heavily into the Jaguars' defensive plans, as does second-round linebacker Myles Jack, who fell that far because of concerns about his knee. So naturally, there are some nervous folks right now in the organization holding their collective breaths. Back in high school, Ramsey required microfracture surgery to repair his knee, which ended his sophomore season entirely.

Jack told the New York Post prior to the draft that some doctors believe that his injured meniscus might one day require microfracture, which is performed to help heal the loss of cartilage but often ends football career prematurely. But the Jaguars checked out Jack's knee thoroughly prior to the draft and considered drafting him with the fifth pick they used on Ramsey before they traded up two spots in Round 2 to select Jack there.

Prior to Fowler tearing his ACL 15 minutes into the first day of offseason training last year, 2014 first-round pick Blake Bortles stayed healthy as a rookie but was forced into the lineup earlier than expected and took a beating behind a bad offensive line (a league-high 55 sacks in 13 starts). Left tackle Luke Joeckel, the team's 2013 first-rounder suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of the season that year.

The two years prior to that, the team selected top-10 picks Justin Blackmon and Blaine Gabbert, neither of whom are effectively with the team, although there is a slim possibility that Blackmon returns from his indefinite league suspension.

The team's lack of recent success — a 19-61 record the past five seasons — can be directly tied to the bad luck and bad decision-making with its first-round picks.

We'll find out if their luck is improving with Ramsey's second opinion when it comes.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 19, 2016, 7:34 pm

The NFL, which was criticized for its teams receiving profits for sponsored military tributes, will pay back $723,734 in taxpayers' money, according to ESPN.com.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league would pay back the money for "paid patriotism" — acts of military recognition during games — that had been funneled from the armed forces budget to teams.

This is the right move by the league, but one that, even in admitting its own fault, makes the NFL look bad for profiting off these events in the first place. From 2012 to 2015, teams were found to have earned that total from 100 marketing agreements over that span, which included on-field flag ceremonies and tributes to welcome home veterans, based on an internal audit by accounting firm Deloitte & Touche.

U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, who previously revealed that the Department of Defense had spent $5.4 million in contracts with 14 NFL teams from 2011 to 2014, received word of the payment in a letter on Wednesday. Goodell's letter also indicated that the auditing process would be changed in the future to prevent this from happening again.

"In all the years I've spent rooting out egregious federal spending, the NFL is the first organization to perform due diligence, take responsibility and return misspent funds to the taxpayers," Flake said. "The NFL's response to this investigation sets a new standard and only strengthens its reputation as a supporter [of] our nation's military service members and veterans."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 19, 2016, 7:14 pm

Jimmy Garoppolo finds himself in a good situation.

He can prepare all offseason as if he'll be the New England Patriots' starting quarterback for the first four games of the season, thanks to Tom Brady's deflate-gate suspension. He prepared all last offseason for the same opportunity, only to have a court overturn Brady's four-game ban at the last minute. But Garoppolo still had a chance to get used to the feeling of being a starter.

Maybe Brady finds a court to overturn his suspension again, though that seems unlikely. Garoppolo is probably going to be the Patriots' starter to begin this season, and it's an opportunity that could pay off in a huge way for him.

Think about Brock Osweiler, who was looking at the possibility of going into free agency with almost no regular-season snaps on tape. But Peyton Manning got hurt, Osweiler showed enough in seven starts with the Denver Broncos last season to get a $72 million deal from the Houston Texans, and now he's their starter. It's easy to see Garoppolo, who was a second-round pick drafted to sit behind a legend just like Osweiler was, following a similar path. The Patriots already seem to be preparing for just that, having drafted N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the third round of this year's draft.

Here is the optimistic plan for New England: Garoppolo plays well in four games, the Patriots flip him for a high draft pick, Brissett is then groomed to be Brady's possible successor, Garoppolo signs a huge extension with his new team, and everyone wins.

Can it happen that easily? Perhaps. Garoppolo has played well in the preseason, for whatever that's worth. He seems to have the skills to run the Patriots' offense just fine, and he'll have a great team around him. His play will be compared to how Brady does upon his return (Osweiler didn't deal with that because he was compared to 2015 Peyton Manning, which ended up being favorable), but it's easy to see Garoppolo playing well, the Patriots winning a few games and a desperate team talking themselves into investing in him. It's an incredible opportunity for Garoppolo, assuming he doesn't have the rug pulled out from underneath him again.

Here's what Garoppolo faces, in terms of New England's first four opponents, and a glance at what he's done in his limited playing time:

Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be taking the field during Tom Brady's four-game suspension. The Patriots will be relying on the third-year quarterback to get them off to a fast start to the 2016 season.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

 

 

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 19, 2016, 5:50 pm

 

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

Barry Switzer will interrupt you at times. He’ll swear a lot, so hope you don’t mind that.

And the former Dallas Cowboys and Oklahoma coach will tell you what he thinks. Always.

“I came from Oklahoma, and most of the writers there were Southwest Conference guys,” Switzer said this week, when asked about the media heat that was constantly on him as Cowboys coach. “And I kicked Texas’[expletive] when we played at the Cotton Bowl when I was at Oklahoma. We recruited most of the kids out of Texas and I was kicking their [expletive] with Texas kids. So many of the writers didn’t like me already.”

(AP)To say this is Switzer unplugged would be wrong because that would mean that at some point there was a plug.

At 78, Switzer is just as you remember him, still outspoken in that recognizable southern drawl and unapologetic for everything he has to say.

Take this tale. He’s asked about going for it on fourth-and-1 at Philadelphia. In 1995, long before Bill Belichick became synonymous with going for it on fourth down in your own territory, Switzer did it. Late in a 17-17 game against the Eagles, at their own 29, the Cowboys went for it and a run to the left got stuffed. However, the Cowboys were saved — the two-minute warning came before the snap, so the play was dead. Then after the two-minute warning, the Cowboys ran the exact same play. It was stuffed again, and the Eagles went on to win.

Remember the heat the Indianapolis Colts got for that weird trick punt play last year? That was Switzer after the Eagles loss in 1995, and maybe worse. It was such a big deal, reporters asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones if he had plans to fire Switzer after the season. Switzer’s record was 22-8 at that moment.

Hold on, Switzer has something to say.

“People say it was fourth-and-1. If it was fourth-and-1 I’d have kicked the son of a [expletive],” Switzer said. “It was fourth and 3 inches!

“After the first one you don’t all of a sudden change your mind and say, ‘I don’t trust you guys anymore.’ And everyone wanted to go for it, Michael [Irvin], Troy [Aikman], Emmitt [Smith] were all saying, 'Let’s go for it, coach.'”

Switzer will add the postscript.

“I end the discussion with this: Who won the [expletive] Super Bowl that year? I don’t believe it was Philadelphia,” Switzer said, knowing the Cowboys won all five games after fourth-and-1, finishing in Super Bowl XXX.

“I get the last laugh on that one.”

Didn’t Switzer get the last laugh on everyone?

There are only 31 men who have coached a Super Bowl champion. Switzer is one. There are three men who have won a national title in college and a Super Bowl: Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carroll and Switzer.

His .625 win percentage in the NFL is 23rd all time, better than Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Bud Grant and Tom Landry, to name a few. He coached 20 seasons in college and the pros and his only losing season was his last one, his fourth in Dallas. He was fired after that. The Cowboys haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since.

“I won a Super Bowl. I’ve got the best win percentage of anyone who coached the Cowboys,” Switzer said to a question about whether he gets enough credit for the job he did with Dallas. “So I don’t care. It’s irrelevant.”

Switzer’s Cowboys tenure is one of the most unusual in NFL lore. The Cowboys had an opening after the 1993 season because Jones and Johnson couldn’t get along anymore. Switzer hadn’t coached since the end of the 1988 season and had never coached in the NFL. But he and Jones were friends since Switzer was a young coach at Arkansas and Jones played there. Switzer said he probably wouldn't have taken any other job, but couldn't say no when his old friend Jones asked.

That’s how Switzer, a legendary college coach who had been off for five seasons and had no NFL experience, took over the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. It was a no-win situation in many ways for Switzer.

If he won, it was because he took over an already great team. If he lost, well, he totally screwed it up. And people piled on him from the beginning.

“I was Bozo the Clown, I was the guy they could beat up,” Switzer said.

(AP)Like the time the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at the end of the 1994 season, in part because the Cowboys left too much time for 49ers receiver Jerry Rice to score a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.

“I said to our offensive coordinator, Ernie Zampese, ‘Run the ball three times,’” Switzer interrupts, clarifying how the Cowboys left too much time on the clock. “He was saying, ‘We just scored, we can keep it going.’ I should have told him, ‘You run the ball three straight times or I’ll fire your [expletive] right now.’ I let him talk me into it. He sold me on being a gambler. If we had done what my gut told me to do … “

And there was the Philadelphia fourth-down controversy, after which Jones was asked if his 22-8 coach would be fired if the Cowboys didn’t win the Super Bowl.

"There won't be any coaching changes," Jones said then, according to The New York Times. "He'll be back next year. Definitely."

“That’s the question people wanted to ask Jerry all the time,” Switzer said with a laugh. “You know how writers love controversies. It didn’t bother Jerry or me. I laughed at it.”

Switzer, despite his comments about kicking Texas' behind and the writers not liking him for it, said all he asked was that the media treated him fairly, and many did. It’s also probably safe to say that few coaches in the past 25 years in the NFL got the kind of scrutiny Switzer did, in that market, leading that great team.

“I never worried about pressure,” Switzer said. “[Expletive], you win or lose and if you lose, your [expletive] is probably going to get fired. Coaches don’t sit around worrying about that.”

He eventually resigned after a 6-10 season in 1997, although everyone assumed he was under pressure from Jones to quit. There was an infamous incident before the 1997 season in which Switzer was caught at the airport with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag, and people point to that as the beginning of the end. Not so, Switzer said. Key injuries and the resulting record were the culprits, and not the gun issue in which “the media was killing gnats with a sledgehammer,” in his words.

"The players laughed their [expletives] off about it.”

When you think about Switzer’s time with the Cowboys now, how much credit do you give him for that Super Bowl? For many, the perception is that Switzer got on the train when it was going full speed and rode it all the way to a ring. That Cowboys team Switzer took over might have been the most talented in NFL history, or is at least on a short list. And Switzer freely admits that, yeah, he inherited a great team. So what?

“Every coach inherits a team,” Switzer said. “Jimmy [Johnson] went to Miami and inherited a national title team from Howard Schnellenberger. How come nobody mentions that?”

After 1997, Switzer never coached again. “Nobody knocked down my door and I wasn’t interested anyway,” Switzer said. And that’s fine. Although Switzer says he loved the college game more, for the enduring relationships he made, he enjoyed the four Cowboys seasons. Despite the ridiculous pressure and the microscope he was under, he and his team had a lot of fun.

“Oh hell yeah we did!” Switzer interrupts.

And if you want to avoid giving Switzer his fair credit for those 40 regular-season and five playoff wins, and for winning Super Bowl XXX, that’s not something he’s worried about these days. In one breath he’ll say all the success was due to the players and assistant coaches and even Jones for “signing those huge checks” to get players like Deion Sanders, but Switzer also knows what he accomplished. Talented players or not, there was never any guarantee of a Super Bowl ring in Dallas.

“I could have lost,” Switzer said. “But I didn’t.”

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

 

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 19, 2016, 3:53 pm

Patrick Willis is living the good life in his retirement from the NFL, but he's not sitting on a beach. He's working a Monday-Friday schedule now, embarking on his second career with a Silicon Valley tech startup company.

How about that? Work ethic never has been a problem for Willis, who picked cotton growing up in Tennessee to help support his family and later had to escape with his  siblings from an abusive, alcoholic father. He turned himself into a fantastic football player at Ole Miss, was the 11th overall player drafted in 2007 and turned in eight terrific seasons in the NFL before walking away from the game at age 30.

Now a year later, according to Mashable, Willis is just another millenial tech worker trying to find his groove, working at Open Source Storage and making something of himself after football.

"For me, this is an opportunity to be able to tell young kids that you can be more than just a physical specimen to be great," Willis said. "I'm a person that can't speak about something until I've done it myself."

A chance meeting with tech entrepreneur Eren Niazi, who launched Open Source Storage in 2001 in his early 20s, happened when he spotted his neighbor, Willis, struggling after recovering from surgery to move some trash bags to his curb.

Niazi and Willis struck up a friendship, and two years later Willis signed on with the company as a board member and with an impressive title — executive vice president for partnerships — but a humility and a work ethic to match.

"A lot of guys come in with a big ego, but Patrick’s not like that," Niazi said. "He's just a total pleasure to work with."

For Willis, he had been thinking about his next move after football for years, so this career change isn't as wild to him as it was to 49ers fans who were stunned when he walked away from the game he was so good at in March 2015.

“Honestly, I pay attention to guys when they’re finished playing, walking around like they’ve got no hips and they can’t play with their kids. They can barely walk,” Willis said at his farewell press conference. “People see that and they feel sorry, but they don’t realize it’s because he played a few extra years.

“For me, there’s more to my life than football. It has provided an amazing platform for me to build on, but it’s my health first and everything else just kind of makes sense around it.”

The 60-employee (some full time, some contract workers) Open Source Storage provides storage and infrastructure solutions to other companies, according to Mashable. Willis helps interview most of the company's prospective hires, which leads to some interesting reactions when candidates realize whom they are sitting across the table from.

At least he's not coming after them like he stalked NFL running backs for years. And Willis' post-playing career is a great example of a man who has prepared himself extremely well for life after the NFL, and one whom the players' union should hold up as a model of how players can transition into the next phase of their lives. Willis walked away from the game on his terms, and now he's attacking his next venture with as much enthusiasm as he has everything else in his life.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 19, 2016, 2:08 pm

Washington helmet. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)Washington's NFL team name has been the source of controversy for decades, a controversy that's ramped up in recent years as groups on multiple fronts have protested the use of the name 'Redskins.' A new Washington Post poll has brought the question surging back to the fore with a definitive finding: 9 of 10 Native Americans do not have a problem with the name.

The poll, conducted by SSRS on behalf of the Washington Post, surveyed 504 Native Americans, a sampling that included respondents in every state and the District of Columbia, over a five-month period that ended in April, and included respondents from a wide range of demographic classes. The poll found that 7 of 10 Native Americans did not find the term "Redskin" disrespectful, and 8 of 10 said they would not be offended if called that name by a non-Native American. Nine out of 10 Native Americans said the name "does not bother" them.

These poll results are a sharp rebuke to advocates of the name change, and "nine out of 10 Native Americans" is going to become a rallying cry for both the team and its supporters. Team owner Daniel Snyder has vowed he will never change the name, and this survey, conducted by a news organization on the record as opposing the name, will only strengthen his resolve.

Opponents of the name include a range of political, religious, media, and activist organizations, including some associated with Native American causes. But this survey was the first conducted since a 2004 Annenberg Public Policy Center study that found remarkably similar results. In short, the increased attention to the name and its racial implications has had no effect on the perception of Native Americans.

When taken in conjunction with other surveys, what's clear is that the Post survey indicates that people who are not Native American object to the 'Redskins' name more than twice as much as actual Native Americans. Given that the team is considering a move from its current Landover, Md., home to either the District of Columbia or Virginia, this survey could serve as a crucial persuasive element.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 19, 2016, 1:35 pm

(AP)Before this week, which of these two things was less likely to happen?

1. Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri would be excited to get a shout-out in a rap song, and say that was on his bucket list.

2. Vinatieri would get shouted out in a rap song.

Those two were probably tied with a 0 percent chance of happening, but dreams do come true. The 43-year-old kicker has been immortalized in a hip-hop song.

T-Wayne mentioned Vinatieri (and let's break down this statistical improbability further; it's not just that Vinatieri doesn't seem like the type who throws on some Beats headphones to listen to rap music, "Vinatieri" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue or rhyme with anything) in a song called "Tell Me What You Want?" and the Indianapolis Star was kind enough to transcribe the lyrics:

"I took her to the club with me because I know she fire; Bought her (expletive) a new car so she can be my rider.

"I had to take her to the crib just to be beside her; Them other girls be hating on, but they don’t even try her.

"They so unnecessary, cause this is legendary, yeah; And I’m just tryna kick it like I’m Vinatieri.

"Do it all, yeah we gonna do it all, yeah; Let me see you throw it back like a booty call."

It doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would ever be on the radar of a middle-aged NFL kicker, but Vinatieri found out and mentioned on Twitter how excited he was (and if you are sensitive to bad language, there is some on the video linked in the tweet):

Growing up I dreamt of 2 things
1) win a SuperBowl ✔
2) be mentioned in a rap song✔@twaynebsm, bucket list completehttps://t.co/CC0eAXznqQ

— Adam Vinatieri (@adamvinatieri) May 17, 2016

Vinatieri doesn't appear to be a fan of hip hop, so we can assume that was a tongue-in-cheek joke (though, who knows, it would be cool to get mentioned in a rap song). Here's what Vinatieri told Colts.com a few years ago about what he was listening to in the offseason:

"Unfortunately, when I’m at my house the kids listen to the teeny-bopper, hip-hop stuff," Vinatieri said. "I keep trying to change the channel. I’m more of an acoustic or country guy. I’ll hit a Zac Brown Band on my Pandora and let it run. I also like the John Mayer-type music, and some local small bands no one’s ever heard of that I listen to.

Pretty big leap from Zac Brown Band to T-Wayne. I'm not sure Zac Brown Band tosses in lines about great NFL kickers alongside mentions of booty calls, but you'll have to let me know. 

Either way Vinatieri, the NFL's oldest player, seemed to enjoy the recognition. Of all the honors Vinatieri has gotten in a fantastic career, this is probably the most unexpected.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 18, 2016, 5:46 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

I never thought I would see the look that I saw in the eyes of the quarterback that night.

The only other time I  saw a player so spooked after a nightmare game was a few years later when Wes Welker, who dropped a pass that might have ensured the New England Patriots of beating the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Welker was shaken. But Jake Delhomme was something different.

I wasn’t at the NFC championship this past January between the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals, but it wasn’t hard to draw a short, straight line between what I saw up close in Delhomme’s eyes back in early 2009 and what unfolded this past January with Carson Palmer.

Same teams, same field, same stat line — six turnovers in a playoff loss, each one more haunting than the next.

What I saw in Delhomme’s face that night — something odd and eerie — was still different, still unlike anything I had experienced. I have been in plenty of losing locker rooms in my life, but little matched what went down on Jan. 10, 2009.

I fear, or wonder, if Palmer will carry that same endless nightmare with him the way I suspect Delhomme did after that game. It was his 34th birthday. He’d never play in a postseason game again.

Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers had bounced back after two disappointing seasons to finish 12-4 in 2008, and despite losing at the New York Giants in Week 16, which cost them the top seed and home field throughout the postseason, the Panthers were a strong, balanced team with a strong defense and an opportunistic offense.

Meeting them in this divisional round game at Charlotte that night was a 9-7 Arizona Cardinals team that:

• Had lost four of six heading into the playoffs

• Was 3-5 on the road

• Had lost all five games east of the Mississippi River

• Was outscored by 83 points in eight road games

• And had lost to this same Panthers team in Bank of America Stadium earlier that season

“Jake and the Pressure Boys are about to take the playoff stage!” Panthers radio play-by-play voice Mick Mixon said just before kickoff. They clearly felt like the favorites to reach the NFC title game heading into that night.

Kickoff was right when I had arrived. A terrible storm had blasted Chicago that morning (lesson learned: never fly in the day of a game) and delayed my flight more than five hours. I finally landed in Charlotte around 6:15 p.m. local time and somehow managed to get my rental car, drive the seven miles through game-night traffic, park in a remote lot, get my credential and make it up to the press box about 10 seconds before Neil Rackers kicked off to return man Mark Jones.

And before my perspiration even dried, the Panthers had scored. They marched 50 yards on five plays and took a 7-0 lead on a Jonathan Stewart touchdown. It looked like this was going to be easy, having controlled the line of scrimmage offensively on that possession, as well as defensively, knocking the Cardinals back for three losses on their first drive.

But it started to unravel after that. Rather quickly.

The Cardinals converted a few Panthers mistakes on defense into a tie game, and then Delhomme was strip sacked on the next play. The Cardinals punched it in two plays later for a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, and on the first play of the second quarter an unraveling Delhomme attempted a poor pass to Steve Smith, who was bracketed, and it was picked off at the Arizona 1-yard line by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Cardinals then sandwiched two clock-chewing drives ending in field goals around a Panthers three-and-out. With 5:28 left in the first half, down 20-7 but still very much in the game, Delhomme imploded. He gunned a pass over the head of DeAngelo Williams and well behind Muhsin Muhammad, and it was easily picked by Cardinals linebacker Geno Hayes — the fifth (and final) interception in Hayes’ career, which would last 99 games.

The first interception was bad. But this one was worse. Delhomme snapped, yelling to himself and clapping his hands in disgust near midfield. He clearly had no solutions nor an idea how to get himself out of the situation.

“It was inexcusable,” he’d later say.

The Cardinals once again capitalized. Three plays later, Kurt Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for a crowd-silencing touchdown. Although the Cardinals missed another chance to tack on points before the half with a field goal that came up short, they led 27-7 at half.

“Jake wasn’t Jake tonight,” Smith told me in a quiet moment after most of the locker room had cleared out. He continued to defend his quarterback — “That’s my quarterback. That’s the guy I stand behind.

But Smith couldn’t help but notice how Delhomme tried in vain to break out of his funk mid-game.

“He kept trying to get out of it, but it was like quicksand,” Smith said. “The harder he tried the faster he sank.”

Following a Warner pick early in the third quarter, Delhomme came back with one more of his own, trying to force a pass to Smith, who had been held in check to this point. The Cardinals were in Delhomme’s head. They had sniffed out the screen, and instead of just grounding the ball, he tried to fit it into a window that wasn’t there.

Wasn’t happening on that night. He was 5 of 12 passing for 35 yards with three interceptions at this point; a Rackers field goal made it 30-7 late in the third quarter.

The game was pretty academic, but Delhomme’s nightmare worsened. His fourth-down pass on the following possession was incomplete, and on the Panthers’ next try — their only promising drive in more than an hour — Delhomme followed up his own delay-of-game penalty inside the red zone with a brutal throw in the direction of Smith. Yep, pick No. 4.

No. 5 (oh yes, there was more) came a little more than three minutes later. Muhammad had slipped, and at this point Delhomme was seeing red. Five picks — to five different Cardinals — for a player who had thrown only 12 all regular season in 16 games.

"I had a hand in six turnovers," Delhomme said with a shrug, not able to look his questioner in the eye. "You’re not going to beat anybody [like that], especially in a playoff game. It’s inexcusable and disappointing.”

Prior to that night, Delhomme had thrown only five playoff interceptions in seven games and 192 attempts. Once before on his birthday, Delhomme had delivered one of the biggest clutch performances in franchise history in the Panthers’ double-overtime win (with Stephen Davis injured) over the St. Louis Rams five years prior. Delhomme celebrated his 29th by hitting Smith for the walk-off 69-yard TD. But this night there were no postgame candles to blow out.

Delhomme walked off the field, head slung low, and made his way back into the locker room looking unsure of what he’d just experienced. As he entered the room for his postgame conference, he looked milk white. Delhomme had few, if any, answers.

“I’m at a loss for words. Usually I’m not,” he said. “For one reason or another, I didn’t give us a chance tonight.

“Disappointed. Extremely disappointed. I don’t know what else to say. My fault. I should get the blame.”

Delhomme fell on his sword to his teammates after the game, even though none of them publicly blamed their quarterback.

“I told them I apologize for not giving us a chance," he said. “That’s just how I felt. I’m not looking for sympathy one bit. That’s the last thing I want. I just wanted to let them know, the work I put in this week, obviously it wasn’t good enough.”

Minutes later, he walked through the crowed but pin-drop-quiet locker room with a cell phone glued to his ear and his eyes glued to the ground, navigating through the pile of uniforms, pads and sweaty tape to get out to the players’ lot. I have no idea to this day if Delhomme was actually talking to anyone or if it was a ruse to avoid any eye contact with anyone at that moment. I couldn’t have blamed him if it was. This was a man in shock. I don't know how I knew, but I felt at the time that he might never be the same.

Even the five-year, $42.5 million extension he received three months later couldn’t heal those wounds. He led the NFL in interceptions the next season with 18 (with only eight TD passes) and was benched and then released. That also was the beginning of the end for head coach John Fox and GM Marty Hurney in Carolina.

For every Delhomme-like effect, there’s that of Brett Favre (six interceptions in a playoff loss to the Rams) or Rich Gannon (five in the Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Both of them played well after that. It’s not a guarantee that Palmer, for instance, will go from MVP candidate in 2015 to bum in 2016 because he had a bad game, even if it was a chance.

But could it linger? Could that doubt recur all offseason? You can’t rule it out, especially for a player who has won one playoff game in 12 years, had eight turnovers in two playoff games last season (after 13 all regular season) and who is entering a season in which he counts more than $20 million against the salary cap (with a roster bonus in 2017 looming for $8.15 million). That's a lot coming off such a brutal season-ender.

Now I wish I had seen Palmer’s eyes after that playoff nightmare. I might have a better idea how things might go for him this season.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 18, 2016, 4:43 pm

Running back Jahvid Best hasn't been on an NFL roster since 2012, after spending three seasons with the Detroit Lions. But now he's in training for a different pursuit.

A first-round draft pick in 2010, Best's football career was derailed by concussions; he suffered four in three years, including two in his final year at Cal and two during the 2011 season. He hasn't played a snap since Week 6 of that season, against the San Francisco 49ers, when he had 110 yards from scrimmage but also suffered another concussion. (Getty Images)

Best, 27, was a California state champion in the 100 meters at Salesian High School, and finished second in the 200 meters in an impressive 20.65 seconds.

He's been in training full-time since Jan. 2015, and works out of ALTIS in Phoenix, an elite facility for track and field athletes.

Best is likely a longshot to make the U.S. team, but Best's father David is from St. Lucia, the small island nation in the Caribbean. Best isn't a citizen of the country yet, and has visited twice, most recently in 2012, but seems determined to represent the nation of his father's birth.

“I just want to bring pride to Saint Lucia, to the Olympic team, to the sport of athletics. I want to carry the flag around the track and make my family and country proud. I will be seeking a place on the team, representing my country would mean a lot to me, and to my family.”

Citizenship isn't Best's only challenge. He also has to run the Olympic qualifying minimum standard of 10.16 seconds in the 100, which he did last month at the Arnie Robinson Invitational in California, a personal-best time for him; he also must run in a meet on the island. The national championships are June 25-26.

Though so far he's visited only twice, Best told the St. Lucia News he is proud of his roots; he has a tattoo of the island on his left arm, and has heard many stories of his father and aunts and uncles (his father is one of seven children) growing up in the town of La Clery, the men playing cricket and soccer.

While his 10.16 last month is respectable on the world stage, if he gets to go to the Olympics, Best will have to continue to lower his time to advance through the competition.

He knows what's necessary, and the work that has to be done.

“I never look too far into the future. So as far as sub-10 talk or expectations I can’t say. I’m just focused on getting better every single day," Best said. "I’m a hard worker and I know there’s room for improvement. How much room is to be determined, but whatever room there is I will find it.”

 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 18, 2016, 3:14 pm

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is one of the best in the NFL at what he does, and he's also one of the best when the microphones are on.

And if the topic is quarterback Sam Bradford, it's a safe bet Bennett will not mince words.

Speaking on 710 ESPN Seattle, Bennett talked about his contract – he admitted he's not happy with his current contract but won't hold out of training camp – but also talked about Sam Bradford, who used to be in the NFC West with Bennett but is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

And ... whoa. Michael Bennett prepares to hit a QB not named Sam Bradford. (AP)

"I listened to Sam Bradford again. I just almost threw up," Bennett said. "I can't believe Sam Bradford is complaining about making $40 million in the next two years, and because he actually has to compete for a position. This guy, this guy right here definitely sets a bad tone of what a player should be.

"If I was his teammate ... How can you play with a guy that doesn't want to compete at a high level and feels like his position should be solidified without even putting up the stats or the wins to back that up?"

Bradford, traded to Philadelphia last year, made 14 starts for the Eagles, with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions; the team was 7-7 with him at quarterback. In his career, Bradford, the No. 1 pick in 2010, is 25-37-1 with 78 touchdowns and 52 interceptions, and zero postseason appearances.

Despite the mediocre numbers, the Eagles signed Bradford to a two-year extension earlier this year, a $36 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. But they also signed Chase Daniel as a free agent, and then traded up in the draft to take Carson Wentz with the No. 2. spot.

Not long after trading for No. 2, Bradford asked for a trade of his own, for which he was roundly mocked.

And he continues to be mocked by Bennett.

This wasn't the first time Bennett teed off on Bradford, either. In a riff last year about quarterbacks in general, Bennett mentioned Bradford and a couple of other players at the position.

"There's some mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL that make a lot of money," Bennett said last August. "You take a guy like Sam Bradford - he's never played really in the last three years, but he's made more money than most guys in the NFL."

Lucky for all of us, the Seahawks host the Eagles in Week 11.

More on NFL

 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: May 17, 2016, 6:55 pm

The odd thing about Sam Bradford's trade demand is that it was always clear the Philadelphia Eagles wanted him to start Week 1 this season.

And just to let everyone know that hasn't changed since Bradford skipped some OTAs hoping for a trade that was never going to happen. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Bradford is his preferred choice over rookie Carson Wentz.

"He's my guy," Pederson said about Bradford. "He's my No. 1 guy. I want him to embrace that."

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

Pederson doubled down, saying that even if Bradford were to get hurt, Wentz wouldn't necessarily inherit the job because the team has highly-paid backup Chase Daniel too. See Sam? Nothing to worry about.

(AP)This could all change. Mostly because Bradford hasn't shown in his NFL career that he can be a consistent producer. That's another thing that made his trade demands so strange. Nobody with an 81 career passer rating should feel, at any point, that he has the power to tell an organization who to draft or not draft. But Bradford was apparently upset that the Eagles drafted Wentz second overall, and everyone knows Wentz will start eventually (for more on the dynamic between the two, here's a report from Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson, who was at Eagles camp).

But with Pederson's vote of confidence, the situation for Bradford is exactly as it was since the Eagles traded up to No. 2 for the opportunity to get Wentz. If Bradford does well in training camp, he'll start Week 1. If he plays well to start the regular season and any quarterback getting paid $18 million annually like Bradford is should play well — then he'll keep the job. No matter how much the Eagles might want to play Wentz sooner rather than later, if the Eagles are in first place in the NFC East in November and Bradford is playing at a Pro Bowl level, Bradford isn't getting benched. So, for the first time in his NFL life, Bradford will have to actually earn his spot and his salary. Doesn't seem like too crazy of a concept. 

What happens after this season is harder to figure out. While it's possible Bradford could play so well that he forces the Eagles into starting him again in 2017 (and again, at $18 million a year, this shouldn't be an outlandish scenario), it's more likely the Eagles would look into trading him in the offseason with one year left on his contract. Wentz won't sit for that long, not after how much the Eagles gave up in the trade to go get him.

That's a problem for another day. Right now Bradford is the starter, and he controls how if he'll keep that job for the length of the 2016 season. It's just up to Bradford to play well. Imagine that.

More on Eagles/Bradford drama

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

 

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: May 17, 2016, 5:58 pm

This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

The story of Barry Sanders faxing a retirement letter to his hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, is as strange and infamous now as it was when it happened back in the summer of 1999.

But the decision to retire, Sanders later admitted, likely was all but decided prior to his final game in the NFL. A game that few fans likely remember and one that Sanders probably would love to forget.

Sanders was on the verge of history entering Week 17 of the 1998 season, his 10th in the NFL. In the short term, he was 50 rush yards short of another 1,500-yard season, which would have been his fifth in a row (Sanders still holds the record with four straight) and the sixth total of his career. Breaking Walter Payton's cherished rushing record wasn't a priority for Barry Sanders. (AP)

And in the bigger picture, he stood less than 1,500 yards total away from surpassing Walter Payton for the all-time hallowed mark. But as Sanders explained in “Barry Sanders: A Football Life,” he had lost the “drive, determination and enjoyment” of football and entered that cool, gray day in Baltimore, with nothing more to give to the game.

"Over the next few years it looked like we would probably be rebuilding and we had gotten rid of some good players,” Sanders said. “I just felt like it was time to make a change.

"I knew going into [the final game of 1998 season] that was pretty much it, so I remember after the game I just broke down. I didn't really say what was going on. I was glad to get out of there."

No one else likely knew it would be Sanders’ final NFL game two days after Christmas 1998. Heading into the first meeting of the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens (at their newly built stadium, then known as Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards until the naming rights were sold the following year) the narrative at the time was far different — this almost certainly was the final game of head coach Ted Marchibroda’s Ravens career.

The only coach the relocated franchise had known in its three years of existence, Marchibroda was a Baltimore Colts legend, coaching that team in the late 1970s to some glory years, and later coordinating an explosive Buffalo Bills offense and coaching the Indianapolis Colts to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl. He’d had a mostly terrific NFL coaching career.

But Marchibroda, then 67, had gone 15-31-1 to that point over his first three seasons with the Ravens and after the bye that season had lost 10 of 13 games after a 2-2 start. Late in the year, the team’s executives started to meet in clandestine fashion outside the facility to start the process of finding his successor.

“Ted probably knew,” Ravens executive David Modell told Shutdown Corner. “He knew what was going on, saw it unfolding. The signs were there.”

Both the Ravens and Lions were 5-10 entering the game. Attendance, however, was fairly strong that day — the announced total of 68,045 was the lowest home total for the Ravens that year, but it was only a few hundred fans fewer than the season average. Football was still new and novel again in Baltimore, although fans’ patience was growing a bit thin with this new franchise’s lack of success over its first three seasons.

(Getty Images)Even amid that disappointment — and just as Sanders’ light was secretly dimming — a fire was quietly kindling with the Ravens. Although the Marvin Lewis-coordinated defense had turned in mostly middling results in 1998, there were small signs that something special might be brewing on that side of the ball. Even with some disappointing efforts, such as allowing Chicago Bears running back James Allen to gash them in Week 16 for 163 rushing yards, the most he’d ever rush for in an NFL game, there were building blocks in place.

Linebacker Ray Lewis was a burgeoning star. Pass rusher Peter Boulware was developing nicely. Team leader Rod Woodson helped glue together an emerging secondary. A strong front was led by Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett and Mike McCrary, plus good depth. The pieces were coming together, slowly but surely.

Eight of the defensive starters against Sanders’ Lions and six more defensive reserves on the Week 17 roster in 1998 also would be on the field two years later when one of the best defenses of the past several generations would dissect the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

Bennie Thompson, a reserve defensive back on that 1998 team, played one final NFL season thereafter before becoming a coach on the 2000 title team. He felt like things were starting to come together and that shutting down Sanders was the start of something special, even with a coaching change certainly afoot.

“I knew that would give us the confidence we needed heading into the [1999] season,” Thompson said. “We owned Barry that day. That was big.”

Sanders gained 8 yards on his first two carries of the game against the Ravens but then had those yards wiped out and more, taken down for losses on each of his next four carries. Lions tackle Ray Roberts was called for holding against Boulware in the Lions’ own end zone on their second possession, giving the Ravens a safety and an early 2-0 lead.

On their third possession the Lions again were pinned back — this time at their own 4-yard line. That’s when a little-known defensive lineman stepped up and had the game of his life to that point.

“I remember we loaded up the box. Barry had a tough time getting going,” said Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, then a defensive coach on that Ravens staff. “A player named Lional Dalton, an undrafted free agent who ended up becoming a key player on that Ravens Super Bowl team a few years later, played a really big game that day. We had a lot of injuries heading into the game and he had barely played before that. He stepped up and made some big plays inside.”

Dalton ripped into the backfield, hit Sanders at the 1-yard line and knocked the ball free, which Siragusa fell on. Jim Harbaugh was the Ravens’ quarterback that day, and after he had missed a series with injury, he came back into the game and handed the ball to Priest Holmes, the second-year back who was quietly putting together a nice little season, for the touchdown and a 9-0 Ravens lead.

Another series, another poor result for the Lions. Sanders ripped off a 9-yard gain, but two penalties and a poor pass from quarterback Frank Reich to Sanders meant another punt. Sanders was dropped for a 3-yard loss on the Lions’ fourth possession, and they had to kick it away again.

Harbaugh and Holmes went back to work, and the Ravens drove 97 yards — bailed out by a bad defensive holding penalty against the lions — and made it 16-0. As halftime approached, the game was competitively almost over at that point. The Lions quickly realized that they needed points and that Sanders was being ganged up upon, suffering yet another loss (a run for minus-6) before they went into a hurry-up passing attack that netted a field goal before the half.

But this was Barry David Sanders, the most electric back of his time — or any other time, for that matter. He wasn’t going to he held down all game, especially if he knew down deep that this was it. So on the Lions’ second possession of the second half, he tore free and was pushed out of bounds after a 31-yard sidewinder of a run that had them in business at the Baltimore 25. Little did we know it at the time, however, that it would be the last vintage run of his brilliant career.

“I remember that one,” Schwartz said. “It was grass, and you think of Barry as a turf guy, but he made a cut on that one that looked like he was on a basketball court. He still had it, despite the appearance [he had lost it] that day. He might have been frustrated, but he could still go.”

From there on, the Ravens put the clamps down once more. Sanders’ 6-yard run got the Lions inside the red zone, but Lewis stopped him short of a first down on third-and-2. And inexplicably, the Lions tried a fullback dive on fourth-and-1 — in lieu of giving it to Sanders — and Tommy Vardell was stuffed.

“We just held [Sanders] down that day,” Burnett said. “Time and time again. We tried to hit him in the backfield because we felt we had gotten to him a bit when we hit him before he had a chance to get going.”

The Lions would get the ball back three more times. After a 9-yard run near the end of the third quarter, Sanders sat at 1,499 rushing yards on the season, as close to the mark without hitting it. But his final three NFL rushing attempts went for negative yards: minus-2, minus-5 and minus-1. His final handoff came with just over 11 minutes left in the game. He’d never touch the ball again in an NFL contest.

The Ravens, led by Holmes’ 132 rushing yards that made him the first Raven to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, ran out the clock and won, 19-10. Sanders’ final line: 19 carries (an incredible nine of which went for negative yards, plus three more for 0 or 1 yards) for 41 yards and one fumble.

"I think the emotion that's most prevalent is disappointment,” Sanders said after the game, via The New York Times. “Really, it's almost regret — like you wasted a whole year of football."

Elsewhere in the NFL, Terrell Davis ran for 178 yards, bringing his season total past 2,000 — only the fourth man to achieve that in league history, with Sanders being the third to do so the season before. But on that day, a page quietly turned on Sanders' career without Davis or anyone else aware.

The effort of shutting down Sanders was not enough to save Marchibroda’s job. He respectfully deflected all the postgame questions about his future but didn’t hide the fact he knew even shutting down a back such as Sanders in a meaningless Week 17 was not going to be enough to save him. Marchibroda never again coached in the NFL.

I can leave here and I can walk the streets of Baltimore with my head held up high,” Marchibroda said after the game.

But the bigger story, which came to light the following July, was that Sanders was walking away from the game after 10 incredible seasons. Doing so right before the Lions were set to report to camp, with Payton’s record in sight, made it all the more unbelievable to the team’s long-suffering fans.

As he explained in a “Football Life,” the record seemed to mean more to others than it did to Sanders.

"I understood full well who Walter Payton was, what he accomplished. Not just Walter Payton [but] with all the guys that had tried to do what Walter did,” Sanders said. “The record for me wasn't important enough to force myself to stay around to try to get the record."

Four seasons later in 2002, Emmitt Smith broke the record many thought Sanders would. Sanders never admitted to second-guessing his decision to walk away from the game two weeks after his 31st birthday.

And few would remember the game as such, but holding Sanders in check kicked off a streak of the Ravens not allowing a single 100-yard rusher that lasted 46 consecutive games. That streak remained through the 2000 championship season to 2001, registering as the third-longest such streak in NFL history behind the Buddy Ryan-led Philadelphia Eagles of the early 1990s (53 games) and by the Fearsome Foursome-fueled Los Angeles Rams of the mid-1960s (51 games).

It was a strangely important day in NFL history. Two legends, one past his prime and one with gas left in the tank, left the game. And the first seeds for one of the most dominant defenses of his era were planted that day. But it’s one that’s often left on the sideline of league lore.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: May 17, 2016, 5:47 pm

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