Morning Huddle: Same Old Stripes
Welcome to the new and improved version of The MMQB newsletter for 2017. Each weekday, you’ll be receiving the same content you love, with a fresh design and a little more news and personality, from The MMQB’s Jacob Feldman. Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Late Sunday, Adam Schefter reported that Vontaze Burfict would be suspended five games for "an illegal hit against a Chiefs FB," sparking 24 hours of debate around two topics. (1) Was the hit clean and (2) Was the punishment fair?
(1) I don't see how you can look at the hit and argue that Burfict is totally innocent, particularly given everything we know about him. Even if you see this instance differently, we know who he is. And (2), I don't get how, in 2017, we can still discuss NFL punishment decisions as if we will discover a consistent logic. But, (3) the last 24 hours do shed light on a third party: the Bengals. A dim, familiar light.
Over the weekend, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty wrote a column, Outsiders don’t get these Cincinnati Bengals, in which he argued that the national media insistently “rehash the bad-boy image from a decade ago.” Except that last year, the Bengals were fourth in unnecessary roughness penalties and first in unsportsmanlike conduct fines, despite the fact they had every reason to clean up after bad behavior directly cost them a playoff game the previous winter. Then came Monday, when Burfict issued a quote eight parts mea culpa and 92 parts spin. The team’s statement, meanwhile, was all-the-way unapologetic.
There would be nothing wrong with Cincinnati embracing its bad-boy reputation. From its take-the-field track featuring the line, “I wanna see you bleed,” to its continued tolerance of borderline behavior, the image is well earned. But don't tell me the issues that have kept Marvin Lewis winless in the postseason are gone when nothing has actually changed.
Scratch that. I admit one thing has. This offseason, as he has in the past, Lewis updated the team's slogan. This year's?
"Smart. Fast. Physical."
Two out of three is good. Marvin Lewis should be sick of good.
NOW ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit unveils his Super Bowl pick and why the Texans defense is the model for beating the Patriots ... 10 things you need to know about the 2017 Seahawks ... Jonathan Jones convened an anonymous panel of players to discuss the NFL's ability to punish them for off-the-field behavior ... Chris Burke on why rookie tight ends have the hardest adjustment to make of any players .... and more.
TODAY ON THE MMQB: Peter King on the Matt Stafford contract and what it means, plus his reader mailbag ... Albert Breer on why the Browns cut Joe Haden and where he might land ... Jenny Vrentas on a planned retirement village for old and struggling NFL players ... and yes, more.
1. The Texans have decamped for Dallas. Rice football was stuck in Australia. The Rangers and Astros are likely headed for Florida. But, as Hurricane Harvey continues to ravage Houston, none of that matters, Chronicle columnist Brian T. Smith writes. “I hope all your families are safe,” Tom Savage said after Saturday's preseason game. Other players have pitched in financial and emotional support. And when the time is right, they'll be ready to bring the city back together again.
2. ESPN convened a panel of 53 experts to “rate NFL players based on how good they will be in 2017.” Here's the Top 100. My biggest initial surprises: J.J. Watt listed all the way down at No. 10, and that the group decided a 40-year-old would be the league's best player this year. See the whole list, and let me know what you think.
3. Derek Carr gets the Tyler Dunne treatment. “Carr,” Dunne says, “is the closest the NFL has to Kobe. Everyone in his natural habitat, from Fresno to Oakland, has seen this Mamba grow...and grow...and knows what's coming next.”
4. Kansas City bolstered its defense Tuesday, trading a 2019 4th-rounder to Buffalo for linebacker Reggie Ragland. A 2016 second-round pick, Ragland missed his whole rookie year to a knee injury and was struggling to fit into new coach Sean McDermott's 4-3 scheme this preseason. A few other notable transactions:
—We got a rare longsnapper trade as Indy shipped Thomas Hennessy to the New York Jets in exchange for safety Ronald Martin. Hennessy, a New Jersey native, will compete with the longest-tenured Jet, 33-year-old Tanner Purdum. Then we got (DJ Khaled voice) another one!
—After the Patriots waived Kony Ealy, the Jets took a gamble on the edge-rusher. NFL Network reported that the Cowboys, Giants, Buccaneers, Lions, Redskins and Cardinals all also put a bid on the former Panther. For what it's worth, Ealy is Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardon's cousin.
—One move that reportedly won't be happening: A Jarvis Landry trade. “I told him there is no chance he’s being traded,” Gase said Monday after rumors grew over the weekend.
5. A new sector of the media industry is learning to pronounce Nnamdi Asomugha as the former corner breaks into Hollywood with a lauded role in the new biographical drama “Crown Heights” about Colin Warner, who was wrongly convicted of murder. Vic Tafur asked Asomugha what drew him to the role. “When I was a kid, between the ages of 13 and 16, I was arrested twice, and both times were for things that I didn’t do,” he said. “I spent a day in a holding cell for ‘driving while black’ — I was driving my mom’s car and the cop just flat out said, ‘This car is too fancy for you.’ It was nothing compared to the 20 years that Colin spent in jail, but there is still this thing of that staying with you when you go through something like that.” Another check-in worth checking out: The New Orleans Advocate's feature on Marques Colston’s sports technology company, Dynasty Sports Group.
6. With the third preseason week behind us, QB competitions are nearing their conclusions. The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh says the Bears’ battle is over, and Mike Glennon is the winner, even if it’s not officially official yet. In Cleveland, starter DeShone Kizer told Mary Kay Cabot, “Until I’m out there, everyone’s going to have a right to an opinion and if that's their opinion, then we'll see week one." (He also joked about his hair). And there one more twist in Denver, where Paxton Lynch sprained his throwing shoulder, which could prevent Vance Joseph from keeping just two QBs on his roster, as he'd planned to do. Oh, plus Josh McCown will start for the Jets.
7. John Harbaugh extended his contract with Baltimore through the 2019 season Monday. After posting one winning season in the last four, and entering this year with an ailing QB (who is supposedly still on track to play Week 1) and as many question marks as he's faced over a 10-year tenure, the new deal means Harbaugh has some job security. But just some.
8. This one is for you, “Hard Knocks” fans, a bit of time with rising star and Bucs linebacker Riley Bullough, AKA Joe Dirt.
9. An update to the Ezekiel Elliott suspension appeal: Clarence E. Hill Jr. from the Star-Telegram reported that Elliott will meet today for a hearing at the NFL offices, and that "Elliott and his representatives asked for a 'truly' independent arbitrator to hear the case, someone other than Harold Henderson, a former NFL management executive picked to oversee the appeal by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell." That request was denied.
10. A month after Kelly Stafford posted the results of a CTE in the NFL Study on Instagram, her husband, Mattthew, said Monday that while he hasn't been diagnosed with a concussion in his eight NFL seasons as Detroit's QB, he often talks about brain trauma with his wife. "I think it’s just an important conversation to have." I should add, the decision to continue playing changes when you become the league's highest paid player.