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What to Expect at League Meeting, NFL-NFLPA Committees Addressing Player Pain Management

Also, how Reuben Foster’s injury puts his contract in peril, additional background on the Falcons’ draft, more from Chris Ballard on Andrew Luck and more NFL notes.

The NFL Spring Meeting in Miami is on deck … and if you missed this week’s MMQB column, you can find it here.

1. At the league’s spring meeting, which kicks off Wednesday in Key Biscayne, Fla., the competition committee will advocate for tweaking the newly drafted pass-interference review. We discussed this in the MMQB: the idea is to take the power of review out of the officials’ hands in the final two minutes of the half and the game for pass inference only. This change came from feedback that Al Riveron has gathered the last few weeks from coaches, who are worried that giving a replay official power over OPI and DPI reviews at the end of the halves and games will create too many stoppages (almost a free-throws-at-the-end-of-a-basketball-game effect).

Why wasn’t this done from the start? The concern at the annual meeting in March was that coaches challenging Hail Mary calls would be a game-changer. And that, I’m told, would be addressed here—part of the competition committee’s proposal is expected to include a provision that would prevent coaches from challenging Hail Mary plays. On Wednesday the owners will vote on whether to simply empower the competition committee to make the tweak unilaterally. And the committee won’t make the tweak immediately—they have scheduled conference calls with the coaches in early June, where they’ll run it up the flagpole. But I’d say this likely winds up happening. Conversely, it seems like the chance of the Chiefs’ overtime proposal, tabled in March, passing is minimal. Kansas City’s idea was to mandate that each team get at least one possession in overtime.

2. The NFL and NFLPA announced on Monday afternoon that they will form two committees: a Joint Pain Management and a Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee. The league will mandate that each club have a “behavioral health team clinician” on staff before training camp, and a “pain management specialist” appointed before the start of the season. One question is whether or not this will lead to the league eliminating its policy on not allowing players to smoke marijuana. I’ve long been on record saying that the NFL should’ve quietly stopped testing for marijuana a long time ago. More importantly, players could use it as a substitute for addictive and potentially dangerous pain-killers. The one caveat? There’s always been an assumption out there that if the league does stop testing for it, it’ll want something in return from the players for that. We’ll see if the owners soften their stance on that.

3. Reuben Foster’s past could, indeed, come back to haunt him in the aftermath of what looked to be a serious injury (reportedly a torn ACL) at Redskins OTAs on Monday. Last November, Foster was arrested on charges of domestic violence and subsequently released by the 49ers. The charges were later dropped, but the incident voided the guarantees in his rookie contract, which means that the $1.697 million he’s due in 2020 and, depending on the severity of the injury, part or all of the $1.286 million he’s set to make this year are in peril. Washington can’t just walk away from Foster while he’s hurt, but once he’s healthy, they can. If that happens, Foster would lose a good chunk of the four-year, $9.039 million fully guaranteed deal that he signed after San Francisco took him in the first round of the 2017 draft.

4. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was handcuffed, but not arrested, by police after a scuffle at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend. The 23-year-old has grown up a lot in the last 18 months or so, and while that wasn’t erased with this incident, it’s fair to assume that the Cowboys will have a talk with the two-time rushing champion about putting himself in harm’s way (the incident happened, by the way, at an electronic dance music festival).

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5. Interesting backstory here—After his offensive line disappointed in 2018, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff quietly made a January promise to owner Arthur Blank that it wouldn’t happen again, and pledged that at least one, and maybe two, of his first three picks in the 2019 draft would be spent in that area. Then he did Blank one better by drafting Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom with his first pick (14th overall) before dealing back into the first round to get Washington tackle Kaleb McGary at 31, believing the two would bring a toughness and nastiness Atlanta needs. Add those moves to what the Falcons did in free agency (adding James Carpenter and Jamon Brown), and Dimitroff has followed through with his promise.

6. While we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that the closer we got to April’s draft, the more everyone seemed to love Lindstrom—and I have it on good authority that he would’ve been in play at 11, had Jonah Williams not fallen to the Bengals, and at 18, maybe over Garrett Bradbury, to the Vikings, had Atlanta not snapped him up first. Another player who fell into the “everyone loves him” category? Steelers LB Devin Bush. The Bengals would’ve considered waiting on offensive line help if Bush was there at 11, and the Broncos would’ve taken him at 10, had the Steelers not blown them away with a trade offer. And he was never getting to 12, but I believe if he had, the Packers would’ve looked at him there, too.

7. Speaking of offensive lines, the Eagles strongly believe they bolstered their offensive line on draft weekend. The team was as stunned as anyone that Andre Dillard fell into range for a reasonable trade up from 26, and Howie Roseman didn’t hesitate to pounce on the opportunity. His athleticism has flashed big-time early on, I’m told. And while questions exist when it comes to his run blocking (he’s definitely a projection), the Eagles liked his strength, balance and ability to bend. The team believes position coach Jeff Stoutland can develop him in that area. Philly, by the way, also liked what it saw in a couple undrafted guards it signed. Looks like both Iosua Opeta and Nate Herbig have a shot to make the team.

8. Heading into the draft, the Raiders stacked the quarterbacks like this: Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins, Ryan Finley. It’s at least good proof that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden were going into draft weekend without the intention of taking a quarterback. I don’t think they’d have take Murray over Clelin Ferrell at 4. And they passed on their second-ranked quarterback at 4, 24, 27, 35, 38 and 40 (they traded down from 35 and 38, before taking Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen at 40.) So that should serve as nice affirmation for Derek Carr.

9. Two intriguing names to watch for the Colts: Fifth-round CB Marvell Tell and fifth-round LB EJ Speed. GM Chris Ballard rolled the dice on these two guys with outstanding athletic traits, and the team believes there’s a decent shot it’ll walk away with good value for its gamble there.

10. I asked Ballard what having a healthy Andrew Luck for a full offseason for the first time in four years means for the Colts. His answer: “He was really good last year. Andrew’s a great player. When he’s healthy and playing and has good players around him, he’s good. And Andrew, that is how he rolls—all he worries about is the next day. I think the shoulder injury taught him a lot, not only about himself but also about the process he wants to go through to go work and continue to improve. He’s on a constant search for how he can get better. … Knowing that he’s going to go into the season healthy and feeling good, not having to answer the questions, that just eliminates a distraction for him that I think is gonna benefit him long-term in his growth.”

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