Dolphins Reset, Patriots Regroup, NFL Recharges

Dolphins Reset, Patriots Regroup, NFL Recharges

June means stock-taking in pro football, so in our newest incarnation of the Monday column, Albert Breer tackles the top issues—especially what’s cooking in Miami and New England, and which defensive stars face a contract showdown—as minicamps kick off this week 
June 04, 2018

Adam Gase knew that the offseason plans he and rest of the Dolphins brass were putting in place would shake things up in the building. And he first wanted to make sure that the plans wouldn’t mess too much with his rehabbing quarterback.

So just before the Senior Bowl in January, the Miami coach sat down with Ryan Tannehill and explained how in the months ahead, no matter the final result, it may look an awful lot like Miami was gearing up to replace him.

“He was well aware of everything we were doing,” Gase said of Tannehill, as he drove home from the team facility on Friday. “He was good, never batted an eye. He focused on himself, he focused on making sure he was healthy for the spring. We wanted to make sure he’d be able to participate in everything. He didn’t have any setbacks. Everything went really smooth. At the end of the day, he’s focused on doing what he needs to.”

You know how the story played out. The Dolphins hosted Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen in the weeks leading up to the draft. Buzz persisted that Miami was in play for some combination of those three quarterbacks. The Jets traded up. The Bills traded up. The Cardinals traded up. The Dolphins wound up drafting defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick with the No. 11 pick, rather than a QB.

During the process, Gase would give Tannehill—who suffered an ACL injury in August 2017 that cost him the season—a heads up before the team would bring one of those players in or go out to see them, just so the quarterback wouldn’t hear about it somewhere else. And Tannehill kept working and rehabbing as he progressed from six months off surgery to seven, then seven to eight, and the team’s offseason program began.

After all that, Tannehill is back in command in Miami—not that he ever wasn’t.

“I really think his thought was—don’t waste the draft pick,” Gase said. “He focused on work and bringing the same intensity he does every day. He’s very competitive. He’s not going to bat an eye at any of those things. He just keeps going. If there’s some kind of internal thing going on, you’re not going to know. He’s not going to show his cards. So I never worried about it.

“Just being around him, this being my third year [as head coach], the guy competes as hard as anyone I’ve been around, especially at that position. And it’s a good feeling as a coach when we’ve got him back out there.”

The end result: The one major element that many people expected to change this offseason in Miami hasn’t. And maybe that’s good, since so much else on the roster, in the locker room and throughout the building in Miami has.


Welcome to the first post-Peter King Monday Morning Quarterback column. As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Peter’s final day as part of the SI family was Friday, and that brings us into a new era of The MMQB. I’m pumped to see it unfold, but I know that most of you want to know what will happen with the Monday column itself. The truth is, we’re still working through the details.

What we know is that you’ll still have a destination on Mondays, during the season and in the offseason, to devour all kinds of NFL news and information. So here’s hoping you’ll still steal some time out of your Monday—whether at work, at school, at home or wherever—to dive into the column. What I can’t say is exactly what it will look like in four months or six months or a year—and that’s part of the plan.

Tim Rohan’s oral history of Peter and his career included a screenshot of the original Monday Morning Quarterback column from 1997. I actually remember reading Peter’s column around that time, and remember how it evolved over the years. There’s a pretty good lesson in there—to allow things to grow and change naturally. And that’ll be our plan with the Monday column.

Also, before we dive into the Dolphins and Patriots, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald, and all kinds of other nuggets during these sleepy days of the NFL calendar, I want to thank Peter for everything he’s done, on behalf of our staff. I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of people I grew up watching or reading—like Rich Eisen, Bob Ryan, Rick Gosselin, Lenny Megliola, Steve Buckley, Tony Massarotti and Dan Shaughnessy.

I’ll just say that working with Peter has exceeded the expectations I had when I joined SI and The MMQB two years ago—and my expectations were high to begin with. And now, let’s get going …


MIAMI ON THE REBOUND

It’s mandatory minicamp season in the NFL, and four teams kick off this week, with the other 28 set to go next week. Two of the four, the Bears and Lions, have new coaches. Another, New England, has the most tenured coach in football. And in the middle, you’ve got Gase and the Dolphins looking for a reset, after the 14–8 start he boasted through 22 games in charge came undone in last year’s 2–8 finish.

Gase knew a reset was coming by Christmas of last year, after he saw his team go from an upset of the eventual AFC champion Patriots on a Monday in Week 14 to playing like they had no interest in being in frigid Buffalo six days later.

“They basically drummed us, and it wasn’t even really a game,” Gase said. “That was disappointing. You knew that was a big game, and it was following a big game. We’d gone up there and won the year before. And we didn’t show up.”

Since then the Dolphins …

• Cut Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pouncey, the second- and fifth-highest paid players on their roster, and traded the mercurial Jarvis Landry, who is now making more than any Dolphin not named Tannehill, to Cleveland. This all came after Miami dealt away Jay Ajayi in October, for fit reasons.
• Signed Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, Josh Sitton and Frank Gore, and traded for Daniel Kilgore and Robert Quinn.
• Hired Dowell Loggains, who worked with Gase in Chicago, as offensive coordinator.

Gase is careful now to say that it doesn’t mean that everyone coming in is great and everyone walking out the door was horrific. He just knew what he saw last year, and that was a team that struggled with adversity and prosperity—and needed leaders to steady the ship no matter how good or bad things might be at any given time.

NFL
For One Night, Carson Wentz Returns to the Field

To be sure, there was plenty that went wrong last year. There was the day in August when Tannehill and guard Ted Larsen suffered major injuries at the same practice. There was Hurricane Irma, and the resulting postponement of the team’s opener and loss of its bye week. There was the bizarre AWOL of linebacker Lawrence Timmons in September, and the Sunday night in October when the video of ex-offensive line coach Chris Foerster surfaced.

It’s hard to say how many teams could handle that. What we know, and Gase does too, is that the 2017 Dolphins weren’t one of them. And he took something from that.

“I think it’s that no matter what happens, we’re gonna play Sunday,” he said. “Even when our bye week got switched, we played that game—we just played it later in the season. Our job is to get ready for the game we’re about to play. And I think what a lot of guys learned was, nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. Our jobs are to put our heads down, ignore any kind of noise or distraction and find a way to win the game.

“A lot of guys tried to do that. Some guys might have gotten distracted. And so many of our young guys went through some stuff they never thought they’d experience. It’s a good lesson for all of us on how to operate under adversity.”

So what’s different now? Gase says he can see it in practice—and not just the practice itself, but how prepared the vets are before each one. Amendola’s competitiveness and Wilson’s conditioning and Quinn’s motor and Gore’s grit are part of that, of course, and it’s why those guys were offseason targets to begin with. “Old-school, put-your-head-down-and-work type players,” as the coach describes them.

But it manifests itself everywhere. How these guys take notes. How they ask they ask questions. How they show up for everything prepared, no matter what it is. That can’t help but set an example on the field.

“You can see the tempo is exactly the way you want it—they’re staying off the ground, making sure they’re doing the details of the job correctly, whether it be in individual periods or team periods or 7-on-7,” Gase said. “Individual is where you really do see a difference. They treat those periods like it’s a live period. They go on air, whether it’s a route or a pass set or a schematic thing in the run game, and these guys are going through the work full-speed.

“All those little details that are behind the scenes, that people don’t get to see, these guys set a great example, because it’s full speed, it’s game atmosphere, through the entire practice.”

For Gase, this isn’t so much a start as it is a reset. A year ago, he was seen like Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan are now—a young offensive guru on his way up. Last year knocked him back a little bit. And the lessons he learned are written all over his roster.

Will it make a difference? We’ll see.

Some talent went out the door, to be sure. The Dolphins need young guys like Fitzpatrick and 2018 second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan—players Miami loved in part because they already have hints of the intangibles of Amendola and Gore—to grow up fast. Tannehill, who got full clearance from his Texas surgeon the week before OTAs began and didn’t even wear a brace the last few weeks at practice, has to re-acclimate quickly, too.

The upshot: With a minicamp looming that Gase’s staff views as the final exam of the offseason program for players, Miami’s in a better spot than it was a half-year ago.

“I’ve really enjoyed being around these guys, love the way they’ve worked, I love the energy they bring to practice,” Gase says. “Every day there’s a lot of juice, a lot of talking. I think both sides are doing a nice job competing … Just a good start heading into training camp, and then we have to figure out where we’re at with tackling, blocking with pads and how we’re going to come together.”

Which is really all he could ask for at this point.


PATRIOT GAMES

This most unusual of Patriots offseasons hits another checkpoint this week with the team’s first mandatory activity, which is expected to coincide with the arrival of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to New England’s offseason program. After turning over a few rocks, here are five points I’d make on where the team stands:

One, the biggest question right now is how much the absence of Brady and Gronk has affected the first seven weeks of the program. And the answer I’ve gotten is that it really hasn’t. Spring in Foxboro is for teaching, so most of the work the players are doing is individual anyway. And having Brian Hoyer, who’s 32 and in his second stint as Brady’s backup in New England, has helped assure that things wouldn’t fly off the rails.

Ideal? No. But the work that got done for the others hasn’t changed much, because the competitive phase of the Patriots’ offseason really starts in July. In essence, the absences of Brady and Gronkowski up until this week were treated as if those players were unavailable with an injury.

Ship shape: Brady in was in Monaco in late May for the F1 race.

Getty Images

Two, I don’t think that means there is no fallout. Remember, Brady’s the guy who famously would welcome teammates to the weight room at 6 a.m. by saying “Good afternoon.” Bill Belichick’s program has been enabled in part by the team’s best player being willing to take hard coaching and buy into a demanding program. When he’s doing everything asked, there’s no room for anyone else to complain.

If Brady’s not on board to the same level, and chafing against the program openly in his documentary series, would that have an effect on a younger player who might be upset with his place on the team, or who’s going through a rough few weeks? Interesting to keep an eye on.

Three, the Pats’ advantage has always been in the details. Remember that practice footage of the New England defense repping the Seattle play that Malcolm Butler would pick off in Super Bowl XLIX? That’s a result of hours of work, and the Patriots put in that work at this time of year too. Where a lot of staffs get to work in the wee hours and leave around 5 p.m. during OTAs, the New England staff often works late into the night.

For 18 years, we’ve heard that that stuff matters. It can’t suddenly be irrelevant now, that New England’s two most important players missed seven weeks of the offseason program. So maybe that subtly costs them somewhere down the line.

Four, the stuff about how much “fun” New England’s program sure is interesting, but also a little much. Consider the sources. Eagles linemen Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson never played in Foxboro. As for 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, I’m told he pitched a fit over playing time at halftime of the Patriots-Raiders game in Mexico City (he was in on two snaps that week), which contributed to his release days later.

NFL
NFL’s Great Expectations 2018: 10 Teams, Coaches and Players (Plus a Broadcaster) to Watch

I do think anyone trying to set up a program from scratch the way Belichick has in today’s NFL would have a really hard time. In fact, I’m not sure it would work at all anymore. But thanks to his results, Belichick’s methods are grandfathered in to a different world. And as is the case with anything demanding and difficult, those who get results from it will come to terms with it, and those who don’t (like Marsh) will rail against it.

Five, I still think the Patriots win 12 games, and that Brady will be an MVP candidate and Gronkowski will be the best tight end in football. But again, that doesn’t mean all this offseason drama couldn’t bite them down the line in the playoffs, when the margin for error shrinks. Or with how their young players develop over the next few years.

Everything clearly hasn’t been fine with the Patriots over the last year, nor has everything been fixed since the season ended. One thing’s for sure: The next few months won’t be boring.



THE DONALD/MACK PROBLEM

When Atlanta’s Matt Ryan signed his five-year, $150 million deal in May, the NFL crossed a significant divide in the way its quarterbacks are compensated compared to how everyone else is paid. The $30 million average-per-year barrier was crossed by a quarterback before any other position saw a player hit $20 million APY.

That’s one reason why the Raiders and Rams find themselves in a sticky situation with the league’s last two Defensive Players of the Year. I’d be stunned if Aaron Donald reports to the Rams’ facility absent a new contract anytime soon. Things are a little less certain as to Khalil Mack’s plans on showing up to acclimate to new Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s program.

Aaron Donald should be in for a big payday—but he’ll still be chasing quarterbacks on the highest-paid scale.

Getty Images

But this much is clear: These deals won’t be easy to do. And if Aaron Rodgers get his new deal with the Packers, which could have an APY north of $32 million, before Mack and Donald get theirs, it’ll be even tougher.

There are a few reasons why these deals pose problems, starting with the gap between what quarterbacks make and everyone else does.

THE DIVIDE

When free-agent Ndamukong Suh signed his six-year, $114.3 million deal with the Dolphins in 2015, the APY, $19.06 million, was 86% of what Ravens QB Joe Flacco, then the highest-paid player, was making ($22.13 million APY). When Texans star J.J. Watt signed his six-year, $100 million extension in 2014, with two years left on his rookie deal, the APY ($16.67 million) was 76% of what Rodgers ($22 million APY) got.

Why does that matter?

Because contracts for defensive players haven’t really moved since Suh got paid. Von Miller’s 2016 deal, coming on the franchise tag, was largely the same as Suh’s, and landed at 78% of what Andrew Luck was making then. Quarterback contracts, meanwhile, keep moving up.

Let’s say, based on those numbers, that Donald and Mack get 80% of what the top quarterback is getting. Right now, based on Ryan, that would $24 million per year, with $80 million guaranteed. If Rodgers gets done at $32 million per and, say, $110 million guaranteed? Then, 80% is $25.6 million annually and $88 million guaranteed.

Yes, those numbers are staggering. But that’s a result, again, of the fact that the numbers for defensive players haven’t moved like they have for, say, receivers (Sammy Watkins just got $16 million per) or guards (Andrew Norwell is making $13.25 million). So how to square all that? Good question.

TEAM PRECEDENTS

Both the Rams and the Raiders are among teams that have, as a rule, stayed away from full guarantees of late, citing the NFL’s funding rule (which I wrote about in March) that forces teams to put into escrow every fully guaranteed dollar that doesn’t go straight to the player. Recent Rams deals for Andrew Whitworth and the since-traded Alec Ogletree reflect the influence of that rule, as does Derek Carr’s deal with Oakland.

NFL
Matt Forte: ‘Football Is Not Nice, and It’s Not Meant To Be’

Donald’s generational production as an interior lineman would seem to peg him as an outlier. Mack’s place as a premier edge rusher, given how such players are compensated, makes him different from most, too (although the Raiders stuck to these rules for a quarterback). Both guys could wind up in Canton.

The flip side is that teams generally hate going against precedent, especially if they’re the ones purposefully setting it.

THE TAGS

If the tags go up at the same rate this year as last, it would cost the Raiders $17.4 million to tag Mack and the Rams $15.1 million to tag Donald in 2019. Those are bargain prices. And if Donald doesn’t report by August 11, he’ll lose the accrued season, and the Rams could put a restricted free agent tender on him next year, which, at the first-round level, would cost around $4 million (though another team would likely come in and poach him at that rate).

Usually, these numbers can serve to set the framework for a deal. But because of the lag in the elite defensive market, they don’t work here. Which could lead to …

THE FIGHT

Say Mack or Donald show up. Now, everyone in the locker room is watching how the players—both of whom have been beyond reproach over four-year as pros—conduct themselves. What if they’re doing the bare minimum? What if other guys see it as a green light to do the same when the team hits a rough patch?

There’s risk for the teams, for sure, in exacting leverage against players like this. It’s all part of what should make for an interesting summer in how these guys are handled.


… OF THE WEEK

TWEET

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a tweet cross over a million retweets before, but here we are, proving yet again this self-evident truth about America: We love free stuff.

VIDEO

During the whole Pats/fun argument, I couldn’t stop thinking of this video that my buddy Danny put together in April. Just perfect. He earned all 3,000 of those retweets, without question.

QUOTE

“I was trying to help a guy up out of the pile, and he wanted to say some foul stuff. Listen, I’m not here to be pushed over. You can come at me because my name is in the papers or on TV, so you can come at me. I’m not backing down. I’m here for a reason. I’m here to play ball, and I’m not going to be treated like [expletive]. It is what it is.”

That’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats backup quarterback Johnny Manziel, and it’s good that this is part of his re-entry into competitive football, because there’s no question he’ll get his share of lip from opponents if he makes it back to the NFL. Oh, and by all accounts, he looked pretty good in his preseason debut as he tries to make a case for playing time behind starter (and ex-Oregon star) Jeremiah Masoli.

MEME

And we’ll get to JR Smith … now.


OFF-FIELD ISSUES

1. You think about how football coaches drill even the most unlikely situations, and you wonder about all that time they spend on it … and then you see what JR Smith did with the ball the other night and you remember why. I’m not saying, to be clear, that an NFL player wouldn’t forget the score during a game. It absolutely could happen. I am saying there are a number of teams that I believe it almost certainly wouldn’t happen to.

2. Watching Alex Ovechkin’s flying goal on Saturday night in the NHL finals was another reminder of how crazy it is that he didn’t make it to this stage, or even within a round of this stage, until after his 32nd birthday. The guy has been a top-two or top-three player in his sport for most of the last decade.

3. Tiger Woods contending at the Memorial through three days reminded me of when I was in college in Columbus and he absolutely owned that tournament—which mattered to him because it was Jack Nicklaus’s tournament on Jack’s home course. And it seemed a foregone conclusion then that he’d wind up catching Jack’s mark of 18 majors. Which makes that seem like a long time ago.

4. The Sixers/Twitter story was absolutely incredible. Good job by the guys at the Ringer, which is an “online media outlet”, per the team.

5. So I have 10 days to figure out what’s happening in soccer, right?


S/O TO …

Chiefs G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, because the idea of being a pro athlete and completing medical school at the same time gives me awful flashbacks to nights at Ohio State with an exam 14 hours ahead that I hadn’t started studying for. And by the way, I still have weird dreams about that anxiety.


TEN TAKEAWAYS FROM THE WEEK

1. We’ll hit the other two teams opening minicamp this week here that we didn’t touch on before, and we’ll start with the difference I’d expect you’ll hear about regarding the Lions this week, which is based on the way people in Detroit are thinking after five months under Matt Patricia. The main factor is that going from Jim Caldwell to Patricia isn’t the sea change that some might think it would be. For one, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and special teams coach Joe Marciano remain. For another, it’s not as if Caldwell didn’t lead disciplined groups. Those Lions played a clean brand of football, and his emphasis on how guys conducted themselves showed in how Detroit’s off-field issues vanished over the last four years. Really, the biggest differences under Patrica to this point have come in the ramped-up tempo and efficiency of practice, and the delivery of the message. While Caldwell was hesitant to use the word “shoot,” Patricia isn’t afraid to drop a few four-letter bombs. And where Caldwell would fine guys to the moon if they weren’t with the program, Patricia’s style is more confrontational. So you’ll probably hear some of that coming from that camp this week.

2. Three magic letters you’ll hear from Bears minicamp: R-P-O. We know new Chicago coach Matt Nagy will be implementing run-pass option concepts for quarterback Mitch Trubisky (and that’s good, since he ran some in college). I noted a couple weeks ago in the Game Plan that Minnesota will be doing it behind new coordinator John DeFilippo. And you’ll see it with Indy and new coach Frank Reich too. All that makes sense, since Kansas City (Nagy) and Philly (Reich, DeFilippo) ran more RPOs, per Pro Football Focus’ numbers, than anyone else in the league, and all these guys, including Eagles coach Doug Pederson, branch off the Andy Reid coaching tree. What’s more interesting? As I’ve heard it, coaches all over the NFL are tapping into their connections in college football to learn more about RPO concepts, both in an effort to learn to implement them (with the main concern being protecting your quarterback) and defend against them.

Trubisky, Nagy and the Bears are looking for a good ROI on RPOs.

Getty Images

3. There’ve been questions about fit regarding Carolina’s new offensive staff, behind coordinator Norv Turner and QBs coach Scott Turner, and Cam Newton. I’ll say this: If you’re worried about the Panthers jamming a square peg into a round hole, don’t be. As I understand it, there’s no makeover of Newton going on right now. Instead, the offense is being worked to Newton’s strengths as a guy who was the MVP just two years ago. The quarterback and his coaches have focused on the details of individual plays being installed—from start to finish. The idea is to get investment on each one, so that Newton is playing quarterback, and not just playing football. If there’s a difference you’ll see, I’d say it may be a little like the makeover Ben Roethlisberger underwent about five years ago in learning to play the game a little more like a point guard, to get the most out of the guys around him. But I don’t have much question that the Panthers offense will be tailored to what Newton does well.

4. One thing that should help there, and I mentioned this on the podcast last week, is that word is first-round Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore already looks like the real deal. Add him to big targets like Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess, slash-types like Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, and that Carolina offense should be fun to watch.

5. When I saw the story on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes turning down endorsement deals last week, I immediately thought of the best story I heard about the second-year phenom over the last few months. It’s one that meshes right in with the idea that he’d say no to a local car dealership or two. Over the course of the season last year, Mahomes would look to get extra work in after practice, since his reps became sparse when the real games began. But he’d never ask the front-line guys, like Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce or Albert Wilson to go with him. Instead he’d get backups to run routes for him. Why? Because he didn’t want to create any sort of appearance that he was gunning for Alex Smith’s job, or playing politics. Those first-string guys were Smith’s receivers, as he saw it. It’s a little thing, of course. But I think it shows plenty about how conscientious Mahomes is.

NFL
Patrick Mahomes Is Ready to Show Off His Fastball

6. There’s some optimism out of Cincinnati that the Bengals may finally have their offensive line issues sorted out—which really have been the biggest reason why the team went from five straight playoff berths to 13-18-1 over the last two years. Losing Kevin Zeitler and then Andrew Whitworth didn’t help; and the Bengals may finally have made up for it in trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn and drafting Billy Price. But just as big has been the addition of new position coach Frank Pollack, who helped build the Dallas line over the last five years, and it can be seen in some salvage work he’s doing with veterans Cedric Ogbuehi and Bobby Hart.

7. Denver’s ownership situation was in the news, so I figured it would be instructive to lay out how things have worked there over the last five years, since owner Pat Bowlen got sick. At the time, the decision was made that there wasn’t one specific candidate out of Bowlen’s seven children who was ready to run the franchise, so his ownership was turned over to a three-person trust made up of team president Joe Ellis, general counsel Rich Slivka and attorney Mary Kelly. Ellis was named controlling owner delegee, making his role roughly equivalent to the one Packers president Mark Murphy holds in Green Bay—he doesn’t own the team, but he carries out the duties of an owner. And more recently, the league voted to approve the Denver arrangement for another four years (stretching past the expiration of the CBA) in 2017. So where does Beth Bowlen’s move last week for controlling ownership play into all of this? It’s unlikely to change anything in the short term. The trust isn’t squatting on the team, but it is charged by Pat Bowlen to determine when there is a son or daughter ready and capable to take over. (Some have worked for the team, but none have been involved in ownership circles at the league level. The team would be sold only if the trust comes to the determination that Bowlen’s kids will never be prepared to lead the franchise, and any such determination is still  a ways off. Now, if there is one Bowlen child who’s shown promise, it’s probably 28-year-old Brittany Bowlen, a Notre Dame grad and Duke MBA. As for how the ownership situation has affected the team, the truth is, it really hasn’t much. The Broncos renewed a league-high 98 percent of their season tickets for 2018 coming off a 5-11 season, and they won a Super Bowl a couple years back under this arrangement. So they’ll probably be fine, despite all the drama.

8. In case you’re worried about the Vikings getting cocky, I’m told the newcomers to the team have been pretty impressed with the way that Mike Zimmer’s team practices. And two tempo-setters, as I’ve heard it, are receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who’ve taken quickly to new quarterback Kirk Cousins.

NFL
True NFL Draft Grades: 2015 Draft, Three Years Later

9. On the rules: I’d expect the new kickoff rule will lead to a ton of strategic experimentation in the preseason. Accordingly, one special teams coach said to me Sunday he thinks kickoffs in August will be a “s---show.”

10. One ICYMI, from my May 24 Game Plan. We wound up updating the lead on the anthem discussion a few days later, after ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reported that there wasn’t a formal vote, to reflect how the decision went down in the room. So here, one more time, is how the vote was taken: Commissioner Roger Goodell simply asked the group if there were any no’s or abstentions. That’s when 49ers CEO Jed York stood up and said he couldn’t vote for the new policy but wouldn’t vote against it. So, since no one said “no,” the policy was pushed through. It’s not the first time a vote has been done that way, but that it would happen like that on a significant issue like this on struck some in the room as pretty unusual.


FIVE-DAY FORECAST

This week will be the front end of a lot of commentary coming from defensive players on the new helmet rule—especially now that the language separating the 15-yard penalty from an ejection has been spelled out.

The ejection standard reads like this: a) Player lowers helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet; b) Player delivering a blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent; c) Contact was clearly avoidable; player delivering the blow had other options.

My feeling is that the third part of the rule, where intent will be legislated, is where players will have a problem, and where officials will be working through the kinks in September and October. And I was able to get some confirmation of that on Sunday night.

“I think it’s all idiotic,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman texted, when I sent him the language of the rule. “First ejection will be ridiculous, regardless of circumstance. If they don’t want people getting tackled, put flags on them.”

You can count on more comments like this in the days and weeks and months to come.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)