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#pounditThursday, October 21, 2021

Stories by Grey Papke:

Nick Saban has interesting method of discipline for Alabama players

Nick Saban

Alabama coach Nick Saban is known for being a strict disciplinarian, but few would have expected the surprising method of keeping players honest he revealed on Thursday.

Saban said on his Thursday night radio show that he has a penalty box for players who miss meals or classes, and uses it as a lesson about doing the right thing. The coach did admit, however, that he’s not sure the message ever lands.

Is it a real box? We may never know. It sounds more like an object lesson than anything else. It’s still an interesting glimpse into how one of the greatest coaches ever operates behind the scenes.

Saban has been in an ornery mood lately thanks to Alabama’s loss. Maybe the box has been getting a lot of use, too.

Congress gets involved in Washington Football Team email controversy

Roger Goodell

The NFL’s handling of the investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace conduct has caught the attention of Congress.

In a five-page letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) requested all documents and information relating to the league’s investigation into Washington’s workplace culture. The letter also requests answers from the NFL on a number of topics, including why no public report was released about the outcome of the investigation.

“The NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems it recently uncovered raise questions about the seriousness with which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia — setting troubling precedent for other workplaces,” the letter states.

The motivation behind the letter certainly seems to be the leak of Jon Gruden’s inappropriate emails that ultimately led to his exit from the Raiders. Those emails were acquired by the league as part of the Washington investigation, which led to calls to release the full collection of communications. The league has not done so, and has claimed that Gruden’s emails were the only problematic ones of the entire trove.

It’s unclear what the next steps are for the NFL. However, it’s obvious that the Washington problem the league has won’t be going away anytime soon.

Video: Reggie Miller had amazing reaction to making NBA 75th Anniversary team

Reggie Miller reaction

The final set of players named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team were announced Thursday night during TNT’s telecast. That meant the network got to personally inform some members of their team that they made the list.

Reggie Miller was on commentary duty in San Francisco for TNT’s coverage of the Clippers-Warriors contest. He did a pregame hit with the “Inside the NBA” crew. Host Ernie Johnson took that opportunity to inform Miller that he was one of the selections to the team.

Miller was genuinely caught off-guard.

The decision to let media partners conduct the reveal has led to some awkward leaks and confusion. The NBA was probably hoping that it would pay off with moments like this.

Miller made the list for his exploits as a player, not a commentator. There’s no doubt he earned the honor.

Kirby Smart hints at intriguing plan for Georgia quarterbacks

Kirby Smart

The Georgia Bulldogs have something of a quarterback controversy, and coach Kirby Smart hinted at an interesting way of solving it.

Smart said Thursday that JT Daniels is nearing a return from a lat strain. Daniels had started the season as Georgia’s starter, but Stetson Bennett has been one of the SEC’s standout quarterbacks since taking over for him.

The Bulldogs have an open week this week, but it sounds like Smart will have a decision to make before Georgia’s Oct. 30 game against Florida. On Thursday, he hinted that he might make that decision on a game-by-game basis.

“I’m not sure we know who the better one is based on which game plan we have,” Smart said, via Chris Low of ESPN. “There are teams we play that we have to be able to use the quarterback in the run game. Well, that’s Stetson. There are teams we play that you have to get the ball out quickly and be really accurate. That’s JT. But the first thing with JT is that he’s got to be healthy.”

In other words, Smart might employ an actual quarterback rotation here. It makes sense, but one has to wonder if Daniels and Bennett would be able to consistently find a rhythm under such a scenario. That’s particularly true for Daniels, who left USC to get an opportunity as Georgia’s full-time starter.

Astros get bad news on star player’s health for potential World Series

Lance McCullers delivers a pitch

The Houston Astros are well-positioned to return to the World Series. However, if they get there, they’ll likely have to take care of business without their ace.

Lance McCullers Jr., who has not pitched in the ALCS due to forearm discomfort, is still not throwing, according to manager Dusty Baker. That likely means he won’t be ready for the World Series if the Astros advance.

With the team needing one win from two home games to make the World Series, the Astros are favored to get there. Losing McCullers for that series would definitely be a big blow. The 28-year-old led Houston pitchers in pretty much every category, pacing the staff with a 3.16 ERA and 185 strikeouts.

Houston starters have had their share of struggles in the ALCS, though they turned it around in Games 4 and 5. The likes of Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia are going to have to step up, both to close out the ALCS and potentially in the World Series.

Photo: Oct 7, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning in game one of the 2021 ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Morey sends message about Ben Simmons trade timeline

Daryl Morey in a blazer

Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey made clear Thursday that he does not see the Ben Simmons saga ending anytime soon.

Morey appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “The Mike Missanelli Show” and advised listeners to “buckle in,” as the 76ers were unwilling to trade Simmons for role players. Morey even alluded to Simmons’ contractual situation by saying it could be a four-year process.

To be clear, this isn’t likely to last four years. Morey is simply laying things out in public. It’s as much a negotiating ploy as anything else. The Sixers do not want to trade Simmons for spare parts. The hope may be that digging in publicly will show teams how serious they are about demanding stronger offers.

It certainly sounds like, in a perfect world, the 76ers would prefer to be done with Simmons themselves. Whether they get an offer they feel is worth pursuing remains to be seen.

Photo: Dec 22, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey looks on before a game between the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

JJ Watt has blunt assessment of Texans

JJ Watt

J.J. Watt will face the Houston Texans for the first time since his release following the 2020 season this weekend. However, it does not sound likely to be a very emotional occasion for him.

Watt, now with the Arizona Cardinals, said Thursday that he’ll still be reminded of his accomplishments with the Texans when he sees them line up across from him. However, that’s where the emotion will end due to the high roster turnover.

“There’s obviously something more to it,” Watt said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “I don’t think that it’s what people may think it is because, I mean, you look at the roster and you look at the guys that are there, I mean it’s been so massively turned over that there’s only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with.

“So, it’s not like, I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to go and beat my old team’ or ‘Oh, I can’t wait to face this guy,’ because it’s not the same team. It’s not the same organization that I remember and that I was a part of.”

That turnover is a big reason why Watt sought his release after the 2020 season. There was some foreshadowing of that, too. Nobody, not even Texans fans, is going to hold his decision against him.

Watt has gotten off to a slow start statistically with the Cardinals, though he did collect his first sack of the season last week against Cleveland.

Tua Tagovailoa rumors spin out of control amid Watson speculation

Tua Tagovailoa

As speculation increased about a potentially imminent Deshaun Watson trade, even wilder rumors began to spread about the future of Tua Tagovailoa.

A report on Wednesday indicated that the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins are making progress on trade talks involving Watson. That cast doubt on Tagovailoa’s future in Miami and led to a flood of unsourced rumors about the Dolphins quarterback’s future.

Further complicating matters was a report from Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk 790 AM indicating that a third team was involved in trade talks that related to the Watson situation.

We do know of two prominent teams that Tagovailoa has been linked to but apparently aren’t involved. One of them is the Denver Broncos, who have no interest in Tagovailoa, according to Mike Klis of 9News.

Tagovailoa was also linked to the Washington Football Team, another organization without a long-term solution at quarterback. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington, however, said he received a “hard no” from sources when asking if Washington had interest.

Where does that leave Tagovailoa? We don’t know, honestly. There’s no doubt that if Miami does bring Watson in, Tagovailoa’s long-term future in Miami is over. It may be that other teams just aren’t that interested. That’s hard to fathom given how much hype Tagovailoa had coming into the NFL, but when you see some of the plays he’s made during games, it just doesn’t look like he’s making much progress toward being a standout NFL quarterback.