Rivers Trade Dead? Draft Intrigue Begins at No. 2

Monday April 27th, 2015

Three days before the 2015 draft, one thing is clear: The drama starts with the second pick. With Tampa Bay very likely to take quarterback Jameis Winston number one, Tennessee is in command with quarterback Marcus Mariota the likely target if anyone wants to come up.

 

Lots can happen, including Philip Rivers being in play, and Chip Kelly getting an itchy trigger finger, the Jets moving up for their quarterback of the long-term, and the Browns using their two first-round picks to jump into the fray. Nothing is clear this morning, but this is what I’m hearing, and what I believe three days from round one:

 

• I don’t think the Chargers will trade Philip Rivers. Just a gut feeling after lots of time calling around over the weekend. Now, I do think the Titans and Chargers will talk this week, but I don’t see a smart match; moreover, as I’ve written all along, San Diego definitely does not want to trade Rivers, and I believe the Chargers have never been told Rivers won’t sign a contract in San Diego beyond this year—though he does not want to currently. I believe Tennessee would want more than the 33-year-old quarterback for the second pick in the draft, and if I’m San Diego GM Tom Telesco, I’m not willing to offer any more. Rivers is a sure thing, for three to five years anyway. Marcus Mariota is 12 years younger, but is not a sure thing.

 

If the Titans don’t get a good offer, I think they pick Mariota. Tennessee wants an offer; the Titans aren’t married to picking anyone at number two. I do not believe Tennessee has gotten a golden offer yet. As one GM in the top 10 told me Saturday: “Tuesday or Wednesday is when those calls are made, the serious calls.” Maybe—but the Falcons did the work on the huge Julio Jones draft deal with Cleveland three weeks before the 2011 draft. I’ve got to think that the Titans would know if they were going to get a really good offer by now. And I hadn’t heard of even a strong rumor of one by late Sunday afternoon. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The Titans, though they feel good about Zach Mettenberger, would feel better about Mariota.

 

 

The Draft QBs, Now And Then
 
 
In his weekly draft column, Robert Klemko has an NFL scout share his team's draft grades on Jameis, Mariota and the 12 first-round quarterbacks taken since 2011, from Luck to Ponder.
 
FULL STORY
 

The Titans were all over Mariota all through the college season, and beyond. One Oregon source told me the Tennessee scouts were the most fervent of all teams during and after the season investigating Mariota. The one thing the Titans feel very good about: Though Mariota has a reputation of being a running quarterback who would have a tough time adjusting to life as an NFL pocket passer, they saw that the majority of his throws this year came from the pocket, without a lot of movement before the throw. In fact, 23 of Mariota’s 36 passes in the semifinal win over Florida State last winter were from the pocket, without significant movement by him.

 

 

I can’t see Chip Kelly going all wacky for Mariota. But that’s just me. Jumping from 20, where Philadelphia is due to pick, to the top five would just be too debilitating for a team with some needs. One of the best general managers in football said to me over the weekend: “I think we’re all waiting for Chip to make a move, and none of us really knows if he will.” I don’t either. But I doubt it.

 

My gut feeling three days out? (Dangerous in a year like this, because nothing looks certain but the top pick.) The Titans don’t get that pot of gold for the pick, and they take Mariota.

 

Kiss of death. Now the pick surely will be dealt.

 

One last thing about the run-up to the draft that happens every year. I spend time the weekend before the draft each year talking to people about my final mock draft, which will run Tuesday here at The MMQB. In talks with team officials, I usually say something like, “Tell me if you’ve heard anything you trust about” Team X. With Jacksonville picking third, I asked 12 people I talk to fairly often to tell me if they heard anything they trust about the Jaguars at three. Eight answered the question with a name. Amari Cooper, Dante Fowler and Leonard Williams all got mentioned as names they heard reliably.

 

This is why, in draft week, you’ve got to qualify almost everything you say.

 

* * *

 

 

 

Why no one can predict this draft.

 

Very little consensus about the order of the top players this year. Have you noticed? It’s been that way consistently since the end of the college season. There’s not an Andrew Luck, or even a Jadeveon Clowney, this year—a player who would be rated the best on the board of most teams or most analysts. When I asked six analysts in the past week for their top 10 players in this draft (regardless of position), four different players were number one: three nods to USC’s Leonard Williams, and one apiece to Amari Cooper, Jameis Winston and Dante Fowler.

 

The book on this draft, essentially, is that there is no book. Trendspotting the top 10 players in this draft, according to six analysts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gil Brandt

 

NFL.com

Greg Cosell

 

NFL Films

Daniel Jeremiah

 

NFL Network

Mel Kiper

 

ESPN

Todd McShay

 

ESPN

Pro Football

 

Focus

1. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

1. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

1. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

1. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

1. J. Winston

 

QB, Florida State

1. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

2. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

2. Todd Gurley

 

RB, Georgia

2. Kevin White

 

WR, W. Virginia

2. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

2. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

2. Danny Shelton

 

DT, Washington

3. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

3. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

3. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

3. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

3. Amari Cooper

 

WR, Alabama

3. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

4. Kevin White

 

WR, W. Virginia

4. Trae Waynes

 

CB, Mich. St.

4. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

4. J. Winston

 

QB, Florida State

4. Kevin White

 

WR, W. Virginia

4. Vic Beasley

 

OLB, Clemson

5. J. Winston

 

QB, Florida State

5. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

5. J. Winston

 

QB, Florida State

5. Marcus Mariota

 

QB, Oregon

5. Dante Fowler

 

OLB, Florida

5. D. Parker

 

WR, Louisville

6. Todd Gurley

 

RB, Georgia

6. Randy Gregory

 

DE, Nebraska

6. Shane Ray

 

DE, Missouri

6. B. Scherff

 

T, Iowa

6. Marcus Mariota

 

QB, Oregon

6. L. Williams

 

DT, USC

7. Marcus Mariota

 

QB, Oregon

7. Marcus Mariota

 

QB, Oregon

7. Marcus Mariota

 

QB, Oregon

7. Kevin White

 

WR, W. Virginia

7. B. Scherff

 

T, Iowa

7. La’el Collins

 

T, LSU

8. B. Scherff

 

T, Iowa

8. J. Winston

 

QB, Florida State

8. D. Parker

 

WR, Louisville

8. D. Parker

 

WR, Louisville

8. D. Parker

 

WR, Louisville

8. Randy Gregory

 

DE, Nebraska

9. Trae Waynes

 

CB, Mich. St.

9. Kevin White

 

WR, W. Virginia

9. Danny Shelton

 

DT, Washington

9. Shane Ray

 

DE, Missouri

9. Todd Gurley

 

RB, Georgia

9. Henry Anderson

 

DE, Stanford

10. B. Perriman

 

WR, UCF

10. Andrus Peat

 

T, Stanford

10. Trae Waynes

 

CB, Mich. St.

10. Danny Shelton

 

DT, Washington

10. Arik Armstead

 

DE, Oregon

10. N. Agholor

 

WR, USC

 

 

 

The big calls from each analyst:

 

• Brandt: Todd Gurley number six … Breshad Perriman the number three receiver in the class.

 

Cosell: Todd Gurley as the second-best player in the class … Andrus Peat as the best tackle … Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston.

 

Jeremiah: Kevin White over Amari Cooper … Shane Ray the number two pass-rusher … Danny Shelton cracking the top 10.

 

• Kiper: Brandon Scherff over every wideout except Amari Cooper … No Trae Waynes in the top 10.

 

• McShay: Arik Armstead cracks the top 10 … Two wideouts ahead of Dante Fowler … Another Todd Gurley fan.

 

• PFF: Stanford’s Henry Anderson, stunningly, a top-10 player … Shelton, who may be a two-down player, number two … Nelson Agholor over Kevin White.

 

The moral of the draft this year is that it’s a beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder draft. It should be fun Thursday night, just because most of what happens will have a surprise element to it.

 

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Chicago is preparing to host the first NFL draft held outside New York City since 1964. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP) Chicago is preparing to host the draft, the first held outside New York City since 1963. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

 

 

A mixed bag about the Chicago locale for the draft.

 

I’m a fan of the draft moving around. I hope one day it’s Green Bay. I hope it goes to a bunch of different places, starting with Los Angeles next year. I’d love to see the draft at L.A. Live, the downtown venue that encompasses the Staples Center, or somewhere else fitting for a red carpet.

 

Having said that, I’ve heard from several agents that their clients want the draft in New York. It’s perhaps a coincidence that the potential top three picks Thursday night—Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Amari Cooper—all chose to skip the trip to Chicago. Perhaps it’s the start of a trend. Players should be free to make their own decisions about attending or not attending, but it’s been a long time since three of the top picks in the draft skipped it. So that bears watching.

 

The last draft held outside of New York City was in Chicago 51 years ago. Actually, it was held 10 days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, in late 1963, as the league drafted players for the 1964 season. So there’s a bit of history to this one.

 

 

 

There will be two distinct venues in Chicago, separated by Michigan Avenue in the South Loop. On one side: The Auditorium Theatre, seating about 3,000, a venue much like Radio City Music Hall. Commissioner Roger Goodell will open the draft inside the theater, and the 26 players who did RSVP to attend the draft will be introduced. They’ll stand above the stage, on a balcony, for the National Anthem, and then go back inside a room upstairs to await their name being called. Goodell, meanwhile will then walk across the street, the length of about a full football field, to “Selection Square” in Grant Park, where all 32 teams will be located and where the picks and trades will be called. In Selection Square, Goodell will put the Bucs on the clock shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern Time (7 p.m. in Chicago), and then walk back inside the theater to announce the picks for the evening.

 

 

While the draft is going on, Grant Park will host “Draft Town,” where an NFL Experience-type venue will be set up, with a tavern for the adults and games and football tests for all.

 

Thursday's and Friday's picks (rounds one through three) will be made inside the Auditorium Theatre. All Saturday picks (rounds four through seven) will be made outside, in Selection Square. Day three picks will have some interesting venues:

 

• The Jaguars, trying to pump up their London partnership, will be making their sixth- and seventh-round selections late Saturday night (England time) from London.

 

• Seattle will make all day three picks from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in western Washington. Oakland will make those day three picks from Travis Air Force Base in nearby Solano County. The Titans will make final-day picks from the Tennessee National Guard Headquarters.

 

• Other local markets will have different places where picks will be made as well. The Vikings will announce day three selections from the construction site of their new stadium in Minneapolis … the Falcons from a fan event at the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta … the Cardinals from the Big Red Rib & Music Festival at their stadium, where local flag football players will announce the picks.

 

“That’s adding some energy to day three that we’ve never had,” said NFL senior vice president of events Peter O’Reilly, who is overseeing the offsite draft.

 

There’s been a slight change in the timing of the picks. Round one will still be a maximum of 10 minutes per pick, and round two seven minutes per pick, and rounds three through six five minutes per pick. But the per-pick limit for round seven, and all compensatory picks, will be four minutes starting this year.

 

Some 79,000 fans applied in a lottery for free tickets to the draft, and 6,000 were awarded a pair of tickets each. How well the league and the fans and the players adapt to the new setting will determine whether the league continues to go on the road—though from what I hear, Chicago would have to be a significant failure for the league to revert reflexively to New York next year. “We love the move so far,” O’Reilly said Friday. “It’s allowed us to re-imagine what the draft can be.”

 

* * *

 

 

 

A TV draft special from that draftnik, Cris Collinsworth?

 

Collinsworth, the Emmy-winning NBC color man on "Sunday Night Football," usually disappears from the football consciousness in the offseason. Not this year. Collinsworth in 2014 bought a majority interest in the football analytics website Pro Football Focus, and PFF will have a draft special today, “Pro Football Focus: Grading the 2015 Draft,” at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

 

 

MMQB Podcast
 
 
With the help of NFL Films' Greg Cosell, The MMQB's Andy Benoit breaks down this year's crop of cornerbacks. Plus, Robert Klemko on the 2015 NFL schedule.
 
LISTEN HERE
 

(Truth in column-writing: I work with Collinsworth at NBC, and have been employed by NBC to work on the network pregame show since its prime-time inception in 2006.)

 

 

PFF’s stated purpose is to grade the performance of every NFL player on every snap he plays, and nearly half the teams in the NFL have hired the site to do special-project work for them. Last year the site began to do the same work for major-college teams. NBC says PFF analysts graded all plays for each draft-eligible player in the 2014 season and graded the players the way they’d grade NFL players. On this show the PFF analysts will compare the pass-releases of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston to established NFL stars like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Also, pass-rush will be measured differently for the college players than just by sacks and pressures; a new PFF metric will show how—in the site’s view—Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson ought to be a clear first-round pick because of how consistently he gets pressure on the passer. Much of the analysis on the show will be done by the men who have brought PFF to life, including founder Neil Hornsby, a native of England who fell in love with football watching it on Sunday nights in Britain in the Dan Marino years.

 

Two interesting Collinsworth observations after some draft study. One: “When I started watching tape on the quarterbacks, I was 100 percent convinced Winston was the better player. As every day goes by, in my mind, Mariota gets a little closer.” Two: “The best player in the draft, to me, is Dante Fowler. He can rush the passer from anywhere. I’ve seen him hurdle linemen like [Olympic hurdler] Skeets Nehemiah. And he covers pretty well too.”

 

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Recently signed by the Cowboys, Greg Hardy had 15 sacks for the Panthers in 2013, his last full season in the NFL. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Recently signed by the Cowboys, Greg Hardy had 15 sacks for the Panthers in 2013, his last full season in the NFL. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

 

 

Three points about the Greg Hardy discipline.

 

The Hardy case certainly is not over, after the Dallas defensive end was suspended last week for the first 10 games of the 2015 season. If the suspension holds, it means Hardy would be sidelined for playing football for 25 games, longer than any other player for an off-field issue ever. Hardy was found guilty in a North Carolina trial before a judge last July of assaulting and threatening to kill a woman in Charlotte. He was ultimately cleared of the charge last February when the prosecutor dropped the charge because the victim would not come forward to testify in the subsequent jury trial. Three observations:

 

1. Hardy’s case on appeal will be simple: I shouldn’t be kept from playing football for 25 games for what I did. Hardy’s side will add the 10 games this year to the 15 games last year. The NFL will argue, as league counsel Jeff Pash did with me Friday, that the 15 games was mutually agreed to, in essence, when Hardy agreed to go on paid leave without discipline last year. “It’s not 25 games,” Pash said. “The 15 games last year was consensual. That was to prevent any discipline from being imposed on him last year. That was the reason for it, and we were prohibited from doing any disciplinary action on him last year. You can’t say to someone, ‘Let me be on paid leave. Pay me $13 million to perform no services for you while I get my trial continually delayed, and then, all of a sudden, that counts as discipline.” If a very good player’s career averages, say, 150 games, Hardy will make the case that he’s not able to ply his trade for a sixth of that time, and that is excessive. His argument likely will not win in his NFL appeal, because that appeal would be heard by a Roger Goodell appointee. But it’ll be interesting to see, assuming he files suit against the NFL for an excessive suspension, if a court views last year’s 15 games as time served.

 

 

Hardyu2019s New Bench Trial
 
 
Greg Hardy was convicted and then cleared of domestic-abuse charges by the North Carolina judicial system. Peter King takes a look at why the NFL’s new disciplinary process still suspended him for 10 games. Plus, answering reader mail.
 
FULL STORY
 
 

2. The discipline in this case was buttressed by an investigation that’s part of a process brought about after the failures of the Ray Rice case. Part of the NFL’s enlightenment on domestic-violence issues involved hiring former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor and investigator Lisa Friel as the league’s special counsel for investigations. Formerly, as Pash said, “We would have deferred to law enforcement.” But in the wake of the lax penalty and investigation into Rice knocking out his fiancée in a New Jersey hotel 14 months ago, Friel was empowered to gather a team—including a Charlotte attorney and an independent medical examiner—and go to the area to investigate the charges against Hardy. The medical examiner, according to Pash, looked medical reports and photos of the victim and gave his judgment about what would have caused the injuries to her. “[Friel] also independently interviewed a rather important witness, someone who was in Mr. Hardy’s apartment on the night of the incident … You have one or more witnesses that were basically independent. They don’t have anything at stake other than to tell the truth. In one case, it was someone who had never met the victim before, and never saw her after that night. So she happened to be there and was consistent in what she told the police, in what she told the district attorney and what she told Lisa Friel’s team.”

 

 

3. The differences between the discipline because this case happened post-Rice? Huge. If the NFL hadn’t rewritten its domestic-violence policies, how would Hardy have been disciplined? First, it’s likely Hardy would have played as usual for Carolina in 2014, because the case was still being adjudicated in North Carolina; despite the first conviction in July, the league probably would have waited until the final outcome of the appeal before disciplining Hardy. It’s likely that with the dismissal of the case in February, Goodell would have imposed a short suspension based on the findings in the bench trial. So, instead of a 15-game paid leave in 2014 and then 10 games without pay in 2015, Hardy might have gotten two or four games total under the old way of discipline for domestic violence—because the league would have deferred to local law enforcement and courts. “In terms of what’s different about the NFL’s approach and what different about how the NFL’s approaching these kinds of issues, is the fact that we took a case where the prosecutors dismissed the charges, sent the guy home, and we said, ‘We’re not done,’ ” said Pash. “We spent quite a bit of time, at no small expense, to hire investigators to get the facts as best we could. And on the basis of those facts, the commissioner made his decision. That process is what’s really different here. Even if Greg Hardy’s suspension gets sharply reduced on appeal, even if the judge throws out the suspension for some technical reason, the facts are clear. It’s clear what happened. It’s clear what he did. It’s clear what he did because we did the kind of thorough, competent, professional investigation that deserved to be done, and that honored the suffering of this woman, and respected the significance of this issue. And that’s what we weren’t doing the right way a year ago.”

 

* * *

 

 

 

The NFL’s most dangerous case nears closure—the league hopes.

 

When U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody on Wednesday signed off on the concussion lawsuit brought by more than 5,000 former players, her 132-page ruling seemed to quash the chance of further appeals canceling out the deal that could bring relief to needy ex-players by late this year. That doesn’t mean there won’t be appeals, however, and those who object to the settlement have until May 22 to file those objections to Brody’s decision.

 

The key part of Brody’s ruling, I believe, comes on page 71 of her decision, and it has to do with the fact that players would have to prove that all or a great majority of any head-trauma issues were caused by playing in the NFL. As pro careers on average last less than four years, many NFL players played more tackle football before reaching the NFL than they did in the pros, a fact that Brody addresses midway through her ruling.

 

 

 


Can football change? Will the sport become safer? How are concussions impacting the game‘s future?

In 2013, The MMQB produced an in-depth series to tackle those questions, starting at high schools and continuing into college and the NFL. Read the entire series.

 

“Even if Class Members could conclusively establish general causation, the problem of specific causation remains,” she writes. “Class Members argue that the cumulative effect of repeated concussive blows Retired Players experienced while playing NFL Football led to permanent neurological impairment. Yet the overwhelming majority of Retired Players likely experienced similar hits in high school or college football before reaching the NFL. Brain trauma during youth, while the brain is still developing, could also play a large role in later neurological impairment. Isolating the effect of hits in NFL Football from hits earlier in a Retired Player’s career would be a formidable task.”

 

 

“That,” said one of the attorneys for the class of players, Christopher Seeger, “highlights the causation rules … Maybe some of the brain damage happened at a young age.”

 

Not in any way to minimize what happened to players in the NFL, but there is no question in my mind that if the case ever went to trial, the NFL would have taken some of the big-name plaintiffs in the case, found some old video of college collisions, and asked at trial: Which ones of the big hits caused Player X to have significant post-concussion syndrome today? If one single hit didn’t, how much of his condition can be attributed to his six years in the NFL, and how much to the 10 years of tackle football before entering the NFL?

 

The pool of $675 million originally agreed upon to cover the brain-trauma issues will be adjusted for inflation over time. The $75 million set aside for players to be baseline-tested after their careers end so they can document any decline in brain function will not be capped, so that if $75 million isn’t enough, the league will have to pay more. Also, the compensation fund is uncapped, though Seeger and the NFL still believe that $675 million will be enough over the 65-year period of the agreement. For those dubious that $675 million will be sufficient, the fact that the league will have to pay more if $675 million doesn’t cover it was enough to sway Brody to approve the settlement.

 

Seeger now is focused on getting money to the men—in particular those suffering from ALS, such as former Eagle and Patriot Kevin Turner and former Raider Steve Smith, who could receive $5 million each—and avoiding further appeals. “I believe I can have the monetary fund set up within 90 to 120 days, and then rolled out within a matter of weeks after that,” Seeger said. He estimated that appeals could delay the disbursements by a year to 18 months. “The objections that had merits were dealt with and dismissed by Judge Brody in a thoughtful 132-page opinion,” Seeger said. “To tie up the benefits now … just seems horrendous to me.”

 

* * *

 

 

 

Finally, a very good deed by the Raiders.

 

In 1999, the 20-year-old daughter of Raiders Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, Tracey Biletnikoff, working as a counselor at a drug-treatment facility, was murdered by an abusive boyfriend. Her death was a spur for Fred Biletnikoff and wife Angela to found a residential shelter for adolescent girls who face addiction and abuse issues, called Tracey’s Place of Hope, east of Sacramento. And last week, with the home in need of significant work, Raiders owner Mark Davis made a significant donation to push the construction project over the top. Said Angela Biletnikoff: “We’re really happy and excited that we finally get to break ground and get these girls moving in an amazing direction to make the house more functional for their treatment and their recovery and for their safety. This is a goal that we’ve been wanting to attain for three years now. The Raiders just let us cross the finish line.” 

 

 

Quotes of the Week

 

 

Jameis and his Accuser
 
 
Jenny Vrentas talks to Kirby Dick, director of the campus rape exposu00e9 The Hunting Ground, on why NFL teams should be listening to Winston’s accuser.
 
FULL Q&A
 

I

 

 

“What Judge Brody did was not simply approve the settlement, but she assessed the objections that were raised and that would be the basis for the appeals, and really, comprehensively, addressed them, and found them to be without merit, and without merit compared to the benefits of the settlement. It goes back to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ really, where Atticus Finch says to his daughter, ‘It’s called a compromise, Scout.’ A settlement is just that—a compromise.”

 

—NFL legal counsel Jeff Pash, to me, on U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody’s 132-page decision in which she approved a settlement in the legal battle between the NFL and a class of more than 5,000 players on the issue of the long-term effects of head trauma on retirees and their families.

 

II

 

“Due to an ongoing public safety issue, the Mayor of Baltimore City & the BCPD have asked all fans to remain inside the ballpark until further notice. Thank you.”

 

—Sign on the center field scoreboard Saturday night in the ninth inning of the Red Sox-Orioles game at Camden Yards in Baltimore, as a roiling protest went on outside the ballpark over the death of local citizen Freddie Gray after his spine was broken while in police custody.

 

Eerie scene Saturday night. A police helicopter hovered a few hundred feet over the ballpark and neighborhood as the police and protesters faced off.

 

III

 

“I gave them the message to go out there and not make the mistakes that I made. If I can help them understand, then I've made an impact. It costs no money to give them a good message like that.”

 

—Unemployed running back Ray Rice, to Steve Politi of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, on what he told the Rutgers football team before the annual spring game on campus at his alma mater. Rice is hoping to resume his NFL career after his 2014 banishment for striking his fiancée and knocking her out 14 months ago. 

 

IV

 

“The main one is Randy Gregory. And trust me, I've had a bunch of teams in the bottom half of the first round going, ‘Uh-oh, we've got to be all over this guy from our owner, because you might have to bring him into this conversation, from our owner down to our coaching staff.’ And what I think it really becomes, it's an organizational call. You've got top-10 talent in Gregory. And if you're going to pull the string with him at 16 or 32 or 48, I don't care where, because of the well-known off-the-field issues, you've got to get ownership to buy in and you've got to have a coaching staff that understands what they're going to have to do to provide an infrastructure to help this kid succeed.”

 

—NFL Network’s Mike Mayock on one big hurdle facing Nebraska pass-rusher Randy Gregory, who admitted testing positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine—and whose off-field life at Nebraska has been the subject of much investigating by NFL teams in advance of Thursday’s first round.

 

V

 

“We tried to move up last year with a team, and they wanted my first three grandchildren. I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ ”

 

—Denver GM John Elway, on trading up in the draft.

 

VI

 

“Yes, the Pope did influence the NFL schedule. My name may be Katz, but I wasn’t taking any chances.”

 

—NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and the chief schedule-maker in the league, Howard Katz, Tuesday night, to me, on an outdoor mass in downtown Philadelphia that pushed the Eagles to an away game in Week 3 of the 2015 season, their third road tilt in the first four weeks. For that and other oddities in the making of the 2015 schedule, this story might be of some interest. 

 

Stat of the Week

 

Cautionary Tale NFL Stat of the Week:

 

In 2013, the Miami Dolphins traded the 12th and 42nd overall picks in the draft to Oakland for the third pick and selected pass-rusher Dion Jordan from Oregon.

 

After two unimpactful and pricy seasons (both of those adjectives are understated), Jordan stands on the verge today of either being cut by Miami or being kept but needing to dig himself out of a huge hole with a coaching staff that doesn’t trust him to be on the practice squad, never mind start for a playoff contender.

 

The two years of Jordan, in numbers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total compensation Games Starts Snaps played Sacks Tackles
$14,970,306 26 1 562 3.0 46

 

 

 

Jordan has had one sack in his past 15 games.

 

Oh, and if Miami had not made that trade in 2013, and had kept the two picks? With the 12th pick, they could have taken either defensive tackle Star Lotulelei or guard Kyle Long; with the 42nd pick, to fill a major running back hole, Miami could have picked Le’Veon Bell.

 

That’s the kind of trade, and pick, that can haunt a franchise for a long time. 

 

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me

 

I

 

For the first three months of his NFL career, Todd Gurley will not be able to drink a beer legally. He turns 21 on Aug. 3.

 

II

 

“The Greatest Catch Ever,” Spike Lee’s 30-minute documentary on David Tyree’s Velcro-helmet reception in the Super Bowl (and on a few other catches), has this note of interest that I never knew: The ball Plaxico Burress caught for the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII is the same ball Tyree caught four plays earlier against his helmet as Rodney Harrison mugged Tyree to the ground.

 

Quite a coincidence, seeing that the NFL has approximately 128 footballs conditioned and ready for play for each Super Bowl. It’s Burress’s ball now. He had a Giants’ equipment guy write in red sharpie the number “17” on the white laces of the football, and though he and Tyree joke about who really deserves possession, Burress will never give up the ball he caught to beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the final minute of a Super Bowl. 

 

III

 

NFL Draft Quiz:

 

The third quarterback picked in the 1998 NFL Draft (after Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf) gave the commencement address at his alma mater Sunday. Who was it, and where did he speak?

 

Answer in Ten Things I Think I Think.

 

IV

 

May 25 is Tommy Lasorda Garden Gnome Day at Dodger Stadium.

 

Good decision in the collectibles realm. Lasorda’s a better garden gnome than bobblehead. 

 

V

 

This was the first year the NFL used the cloud—computers outside of the league’s Park Avenue offices—to increase the number of possible schedules the NFL could play. A total of 136 computers, about 52 of them in North Carolina, New Jersey and Colorado, chipped in with scheduling options to come up with the golden slate. 

 

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

 

So I ran the 6.2-mile Central Park loop Saturday morning (58:33—hey, anyone ever notice it’s different running on a windy 47-degree morning, with real hills, than it is on a flat treadmill in the basement of a health club?), and for nearly a mile I found myself trailing  a woman having a great time running and chatting away on her cell phone. She had one of those earpieces, the kind with two earbuds and then the mike somehow affixed between her lower lip and chin. We were both running about the same pace, about 9.5-minute miles, up and down the slight grades of the beautiful park, and I was interested in her conversation with—I believe—a girlfriend on the other end of the conversation.

 

(When I run, I have nothing in my ears. I struggle, and think, and watch the surroundings, and then struggle some more. But I certainly do not converse more than is absolutely necessary. I can’t.)

 

I did find out, though, that this 30ish woman was going to a baby shower later that afternoon, hadn’t bought a gift yet but was thinking about a gift card from Bloomingdales, wondered how much would be appropriate, settled on $50, then asked if the person on the other end wanted to meet for a margarita beforehand, and then she drifted behind me on a bit of a decline.

 

It’s a free country and cool if you can use all this technology wherever, and I know I’m a 57-year-old dinosaur, and I get that just running and thinking and pondering life is probably passé, and I understand no one gets hurt when someone is on the phone while jogging in one of the great parks in the world.

 

But I do not want to be on the phone when I am running through Central Park. I’m just not going to understand that. 

 

Tweets of the Week

 

I

 

 

The editor-in-chief at The Hill newspaper, live from the White House correspondents dinner Saturday night in Washington. 

 

II

 

 

The longtime Bucs beat man, on the status of the first pick of the NFL draft and the whole Jameis Winston smoke-screening process.

 

III

 

 

The retired wide receiver, after watching the former Olympic gold medalist say on ABC Friday night that “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman … That’s what my soul is.” 

 

IV

 

 

The Philadelphia Daily News writers, on the year-round news machine that is Kelly, in a town souring fast on the baseball team. 

 

 

 

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Marvin Lewis has been coaching the Bengals since 2003, the second longest current tenure behind Bill Belichick. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

 

Ten Things I Think I Think

 

1. I think there is a cottage industry out there saying the Bengals are nuts for extending Marvin Lewis and asking what Marvin Lewis has won that would merit him getting a contract extension through 2016. Idiocy, in my opinion. Regular-season wins over the past four seasons:

 

Cincinnati: 40

Baltimore: 40

Pittsburgh: 39

 

Does he need to win in the playoffs? Absolutely. Losing in the playoff opener four years in a row isn’t good, nor should it be something anyone with the franchise accepts. If Mike Brown were a Steinbrenner, Lewis would have been gone after last season. But I refuse to blame this all or even mostly on Lewis. The Steelers and Ravens start first-round quarterbacks who have played great in multiple playoff games, and both have won Super Bowls. Andy Dalton hasn’t—yet. I’m not putting the blame for that on Marvin Lewis. Now, I would put the blame on him for so solidly standing behind Dalton, without any consequence for his lousy January play. The Bengals need to draft a challenger to Dalton, not necessarily to hand him the job but to say, If we’re going to be better than we’ve been, we need to be better everywhere, including at quarterback. To be clear: I’m not absolving Lewis of blame for never getting past the first playoff game. But I’m putting more of that blame on the quarterback than on the head coach.

 

 

 

2. I think there are those inside Jaguardom who want Amari Cooper with the third overall pick, and those who want Dante Fowler with the third overall pick. Leaning toward Cooper winning for my mock draft on Tuesday, but I still have a day to mess that one up. So give me time.  

 

 

3. I think it wouldn’t shock me if the Saints used the Jimmy Graham pick from the Seahawks, the 31st pick of the first round, on Dorial Green-Beckham. But I can’t see him going much earlier than 31. With the great group of wideouts in this draft, what sense would it make to take a great prospect with the most checkered history of any player in this draft in the first round?

 

4. I think it probably wasn’t the best idea for Greg Hardy, or someone Tweeting for him, to re-tweet the day of his 10-game suspension this wish from an apparent fan of his: “F--- Goddell.” [Sic.] That’s the kind of thing that’ll really help him win a reduction in his suspension.

 

5. I think I was glad to see Mike Mayock admit his mistake before the draft last year in being convinced Johnny Manziel was growing up. I bought it too. And that’s one of the reasons why you should be skeptical of every guy in this draft with some pockmarks in his past, such as Jameis Winston and Marcus Peters and Randy Gregory. Said Mayock: “I have to put my hand up and say I missed that last year on Manziel, and I'm upset with myself for that. He's an immature kid … When kids have significant red flags, how often do they change, and I would say my perception in my experience is that plus or minus 90 percent of the time, the kid ultimately turns into who he's always been. When you get a repeated pattern of bad decisions, you might be on your best behavior leading up to the draft—you've got all kinds of people around you telling you what to say and how to act—but once you get comfortable, whether it's one year in, two years in, three years in, once you get comfortable again in the NFL and you get paid, typically that kid goes back to being who he always was.” Good lesson to remember this week.

 

6. I think one of the things that made this year’s schedule particularly challenging was this rule the sked czars mandated to the 136 computers spitting out possible versions of the 256 regular-season game: No team could follow a Sunday night game with a short-week Thursday game, either at home or on the road. Last year, that happened three times, incuding one that seemed insane: Dallas played at the Giants on a Sunday night, then flew home, arriving at 4 a.m. Dallas time Monday, and then prepared to play the Eagles at home Thursday night. They lost to the Eagles 33-10. Denver and New Orleans both swept their two back-to-back games; neither team had it as hard as Dallas. “This schedule eliminates any of those situations,” Katz said. “So no team is playing the Sunday night game prior to a short week Thursday. We think all the teams from a competitive standpoint, and reviewing this with the competition committee, thought this was a major step in the right direction … Some clubs raised it with me. Even if they were successful, they thought it was unfair and put too much of a burden on the players and the coaching staff. I discussed it with the Competition Committee and we never had to have an instance of somebody playing Sunday night and then Thursday.”

 

7. I think, if you want to know the value of Peyton Manning to the league, you should know that the Broncos in 12 of 16 regular-season games this year will either be a prime-time game or a doubleheader game in the late-Sunday-afternoon time slot. Matt Ryan’s a pretty good quarterback, right? He and the Falcons have only two prime-time/late-Sunday-doubleheader slots. One other marquee-game oddity: The final four games of the Super Bowl champion Patriots' season are scheduled to be on Sundays at 1 p.m.

 

8. I think it’s going to be good to see what IMG and Microsoft can do with a documentary on the life and mission of Steve Gleason, the former Saints special-teamer who has ALS. An early version of “The Gleason Project” documentary was screened last Thursday in California, and the intent is to take footage of Gleason’s life pre- and post-ALS diagnosis and show his aim not just for a cure but for those suffering from the disease now to live meaningful lives. The documentary is due out in 2016.

 

9. I think, as we sit three days before the first round, the most polarizing figure among great talents is Randy Gregory. I’ll have him sliding in my mock draft tomorrow. Too many people with teams too worried about maturity level.

 

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

 

a. Good for you, Bruce Jenner. Really good for you.

 

b. Seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft: Stephen Curry.

 

 

Talk Back
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c. Second pick: Hasheem Thabeet. Sixth pick: Jonny Flynn.

 

 

d. As you all know, I am not basketball guy. But Steph Curry is such a marvelous athlete and competitor and player. I think he’s the most compelling player in sports today.

 

e. How does a human being make the kind of shot he made getting mugged and falling out of bounds that Curry made against New Orleans Thursday night? In front of Sean Payton, by the way … according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

 

f. Memo to Rajon Rondo: One thing you should learn from this season is it’s not always the other guy’s fault.

 

g. If it hasn’t happened already, someone with the Kansas City Royals whom Yordano Ventura respects needs to take him out to dinner and bring the conversation around to behavior during competition. And this person needs to say to Ventura: “You’re 23 years old. You won’t make it to 25 as a baseball player if you get in fights every time you pitch. Either someone’s going to maim you, or you’ll continually get thrown out of games.”

 

h. I’d bet a lot of money, actually, that a conversation something like that one has already taken place.

 

i. There have been many bad contracts in baseball history, but the Josh Hamilton deal has to be in the top five.

 

j. This is what Angels owner Arte Moreno will get, in the end, for about $110 million: 240 games, 31 homers, 123 RBI.

 

k. Speaking of RBI, interesting ranking of David Ortiz on the all-time list. This doesn’t have everyone on it, but a few notables among all-time RBI stars: Ortiz 1,541, Willie Stargell 1,540, Joe DiMaggio 1,537, Mickey Mantle 1,509, Yogi Berra 1,430. Papi ahead of DiMag and the Mick. Notable.

 

l. I don’t know all the reasons why some peers are calling Dr. Oz a quack, but for Oz to go on NBC and say that the name of his show—“The Dr. Oz Show”—is unimportant because the “Dr” in the logo of the show is tiny … Well, that is beyond preposterous. Listen to the man: “It’s called ‘The Dr. Oz Show.’ We very purposely, on the logo, have ‘Oz’ as the middle, and the ‘Doctor’ is actually up in the little bar for a reason. I want folks to realize I’m a doctor, and I’m coming into their lives to be supportive of them. But it’s not a medical show.”

 

m. Uh, Oz? You just hurt your case. Quite a bit. Ambushed it, in fact. Because of the type size of your title, people shouldn’t think a show called “The Dr. Oz Show” just might be dispensing medical advice? And does, by the way.

 

n. Coffeenerdness: Very glad to have discovered walking through Grand Central Station the other day Joe, a tiny to-go coffee shop with tremendous care taken in making good espresso drinks. The smell in there: heaven.

 

o. Beernerdness: A Winenerdness note. Tipped a glass in your honor Friday night, Joseph Phelps, a glass of 2012 Cabernet. Phelps four decades ago was a construction magnate who loved wine and followed his dream to found a vineyard and produce quality wines. He did it ecologically in St. Helena, Calif. My wife and I visited the Phelps Vineyard a few years ago. The acreage was mowed by scores of sheep. Fertilizer, much of it, was pure compost. I have no idea how much of a difference that makes in the wine, but the Cab is one terrific wine. Phelps died April 15. He certainly left the wine lovers of this world a great gift.

 

p. I guess the financials made it happen, the Islanders moving from suburbia and the Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn and the shiny new Barclays Center next fall. But watching the third period of that playoff game against Washington—possibly the last game in the history of the old coliseum—it’s a major shame that hockey is leaving central Long Island for Brooklyn. What a rabid crowd.

 

q. NFL Draft Quiz answer: Charlie Batch, picked in the second round by the Detroit Lions in 1998, gave the graduation speech at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Sunday.

 

r. “Veep” is on its A game through three shows. Make that its A-plus game.

 

The Adieu Haiku

 

Ted Wells probe of Pats:

Day 94. Please end it.

Publish the report.

 

 


 

 

 

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