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Thursday, November 21, 2019

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Cowboys trying to stop forcing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott so much?

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott has had some games this season where he really seems to struggle running the ball on first down, and that could be one of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys are having more success through the air than on the ground. Following two straight rough performances from Elliott, the team may have plans to embrace that change.

Elliott rushed for just 47 yards on 20 carries in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. He then had 45 yards on 15 totes in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, while Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott had 397 yards the week before and leads the NFL with 3,221 passing yards on the season, so it’s not a stretch to say Elliott is no longer the focal point of the Dallas offense.

That appears to be the plan going forward, as well. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote this week that a source told him the Cowboys “learned from the Vikings loss when they stubbornly forced the ball to an ineffective Elliott late and shunned the passing game.” Game plans in the NFL are specific to each opponent, but what worked in the past with the running game may not be as effective this season.

The Cowboys have dealt with some injuries along their offensive line this year, and that has likely played a role in Elliott being inconsistent. The star running back also missed the entire offseason while holding out for a new contract, so that could be a factor as well. For what it’s worth, Jerry Jones denied this week that Dallas is going lessen Elliott’s role.

“Let me be real clear about something: Zeke is one of the best football players in the National Football League,” Jones said during his appearance on 105.3 The Fan. “It makes no sense not to be trying to get the ball to Zeke or try to get the plays in and around Zeke.”

Elliott’s 833 rushing yards are nothing to scoff at, but the Cowboys likely expected his typical dominance when they signed him to a $90 million extension. That’s no reason to force the issue, and some comments Jones made over the offseason indicated he may have seen this coming.

Vic Fangio hints that Drew Lock may not play for Broncos this year

Drew Lock

The Denver Broncos are 3-7 and on their way to a losing season, and they have one quarterback on the roster who may have a long-term future with the team. In spite of this, there are increasing signs that quarterback may not play any role this season.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday that it isn’t “vitally important” that rookie Drew Lock gets playing time this season.

It feels like Fangio is setting the stage for Brandon Allen to start for the remainder of the season. There are certainly some unknowns about Lock, who hurt his thumb in preseason and only recently began practicing. The logical thinking was that the Broncos would want to see him in action before the end of the season, but this quote casts some serious doubt on that.

Fangio has been very non-committal on Lock’s status this season. One has to wonder if they’re just not very impressed by what they’re seeing in his practice reps right now.

Mitchell Trubisky shares details of hip injury, won’t rule out playing

Mitchell Trubisky

Mitchell Trubisky is dealing with a real injury that forced him out of Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, and the Chicago Bears quarterback is unsure if the ailment will impact his status for Week 12.

On Wednesday, Trubisky told reporters he has been diagnosed with a hip pointer. The injury led to tightness during Sunday’s game and limited his range of motion, which is why he had to be replaced by Chase Daniel.

Trubisky said he is trying his best to prepare to face the New York Giants on Sunday, but he is currently considered day-to-day while he sees how he responds to treatment.

There was a lot of speculation that Trubisky was benched for poor performance on Sunday and the Bears were covering for him by making up an injury, but both he and head coach Matt Nagy insist that was not the case. Trubisky and Nagy shared a moment on the sideline just before the QB was pulled that ended up going viral, but it was apparently in that discussion that Trubisky told Nagy his hip was hurting.

Injury or not, Trubisky has not played well this season. The former No. 2 overall pick has thrown for less than 200 yards in three consecutive games, and Chicago’s offense has been a mess for quite some time. If Daniel does have to play on Sunday in place of Trubisky, it would not be a shock if he keeps the job going forward.

Bill Belichick irritated with questions about Antonio Brown, other ex-Patriots

Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots knew the risks associated with signing Antonio Brown when they added him to their roster back in September, but that does not mean Bill Belichick wants to answer questions about the star receiver two months later.

As he awaits word from the NFL on any potential disciplinary action, Brown took to social media on Tuesday and seemed to attempt to make amends with the Patriots. He apologized to Robert Kraft and the organization for all the negative media attention he brought, and Belichick was asked about that apology on Wednesday. You can probably guess how the coach responded.

Tom Brady was among several Patriots players who “liked” Brown’s post on Tuesday, and there has been talk about New England potentially bringing him back. Brown is reportedly optimistic that the NFL will clear him before the end of the season after he met with the league recently, and the Patriots are having serious issues on offense.

That probably isn’t going to happen, though. Brown signed with the Patriots just days before it came out that a former friend and personal trainer was suing him for sexual assault. New England initially stuck with him while the situation played out, but Brown was then accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman. The Patriots decided to release him after he sent text messages to the second alleged victim. Brown unloaded on Kraft in a tweet not long after the Pats parted ways with him, though he has since deleted it.

The Patriots could certainly use Brown the football player, but they already got a first-hand look at what a loose cannon Brown the person can be. Belichick tries to limit those types of distractions, which is why he has no interest in talking about it anymore.

Mason Rudolph takes responsibility for role in Myles Garrett fight

Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph spoke to the media on Wednesday for the first time since his altercation with Myles Garrett last week, and the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback took responsibility for his role in things getting out of hand.

Rudolph read a prepared statement before taking a few questions from reporters. He said he was frustrated with the way Garrett took him down on what he thought was a late hit near the end of a game in which the Steelers had already lost multiple players because of targeting fouls. The 24-year-old also said there is “no acceptable excuse” for the way he reacted.

“I should have done a better job of keeping my cool in that situation,” Rudolph said. “In retrospect, I put Maurkice Pouncey — one of the best teammates I’ve ever had — in a tough spot, as well as my (other) teammates.”

Many will interpret that as an admission of guilt from Rudolph, and that is fine. The situation probably would not have escalated had he simply gotten up after the hit from Garrett without losing his cool, but that doesn’t in any way excuse Garrett swinging a helmet at Rudolph and clubbing him in the head with it. What Garrett did was so far above and beyond dangerous that it could have resulted in a severe injury, and that is why the NFL decided to suspend him for the remainder of the season.

Rudolph is reportedly facing a fine from the NFL, and he said he will accept whatever punishment the league hands down. While he may have technically “started” the altercation, there’s a reason Garrett’s own teammates and organization have not even considered coming to his defense.

Le’Veon Bell rips NFL over drug tests, says he will not take any more

LeVeon Bell

Le’Veon Bell is the latest NFL player to feel targeted by the league’s drug testing program, and the star running back says he is not going to submit to any more tests for the rest of the season.

Like many other players have done before him, Bell took to Twitter on Wednesday to imply he does not believe the NFL’s random drug testing program is truly random. He also accused sample collectors of using “dirty a– needles” and said he will not take another test after submitting to five in the past 10 weeks.

The NFL tests players for performance-enhancing drugs on a random basis, and they have had the legitimacy of the program questioned many times in the past. Carolina Panthers defensive back Eric Reid believed he was being targeted last year because of his role in national anthem protests, which led to both the NFL and NFL Players Association releasing a statement confirming there was evidence Reid’s name was randomly pulled from a computer program.

Bell has 817 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns so far in his first season with the Jets. He is the second star player in the past week to call out the NFL over drug testing, and he likely won’t be the last.

Cincinnati Bearcats take shot at Bengals to promote upcoming game

The Cincinnati Bengals are having one of their worst seasons in franchise history, and an institution of higher learning located nearby is trying to use the team’s struggles to its advantage.

Unlike the Bengals, the University of Cincinnati football team has won a game this year. In fact, the Bearcats have won nine and are currently 9-1 and ranked No. 19 in the nation. They’re playing Temple on Saturday night for a chance to win the AAC East championship, and the school is promoting the contest as “our city’s biggest game of the year.”

If there was any doubt that the Bearcats were taking a shot at the Bengals, the spelling of “Saturdey” seals it. That is an obvious play on the “Who Dey” chant Bengals fans do to support their team.

The Bengals are 0-10 heading into Week 12 and look like they have a great shot to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which is a good thing given the current state of their quarterback situation. They may not have expected an in-state school to kick them while they were down, but they certainly deserve the criticism.

Tyreek Hill’s hamstring injury reportedly considered minor

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is dealing with another injury that forced him to leave Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, but he may not miss any time going forward.

Hill had an MRI on his hamstring this week and the results showed the injury is minor, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. With the Chiefs having a bye this week, it seems likely that Hill will be ready to go in Week 13.

Hill is an important part of Kansas City’s offense and one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL. He has 33 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns this season despite missing several games early on in the year with a collarbone injury.

Hill scored 14 touchdowns a year ago, and he showed off his elite speed recently by somehow catching up to a teammate who was sprinting to the end zone for a touchdown. With Patrick Mahomes now back and finally looking healthy, the Chiefs need Hill on the field to fulfill their offensive potential.

Female reporter unloads on Charles Barkley over ‘joke’ that he wanted to hit her

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley is known for pushing the envelope with his unapologetic style, and that is the main reason his time as a broadcast analyst has been arguably more successful than his playing career. It also gets him into trouble on occasion.

Alexi McCammond, a reporter for Axios, took to Twitter on Tuesday night to reveal that Barkley made what he called a “joke” to her about wanting to assault her. She said the remark came in response to her pointing out inconsistencies with Barkley’s political endorsements.

Barkley obviously had no intention of hitting McCammond, but the reporter wasn’t the only one who didn’t see the humor in his comment. Many people began unloading on the Hall of Famer and pointing out that he has made inappropriate quips about domestic violence in the past in addition to providing sexist commentary.

These are the reasons Barkley is a polarizing figure who drives ratings. On one side you have people who will laugh at what he said to McCammond, and on the other there are people who are outraged. Barkley has shown in the past with remarks like the ones he made about the women of San Antonio that he is unafraid of ruffling feathers. Although when he crosses the line, he does apologize like he did on Wednesday:

The missing piece: Why the NFL suddenly reached out to Colin Kaepernick’s camp with workout offer

Colin Kaepernick

The prevailing theory for why the NFL invited Colin Kaepernick for a unique workout last week is that the league was trying to mitigate against a second collusion lawsuit from the free agent quarterback. The league springing the offer on Kaepernick only four days ahead of time and giving him just two hours to accept the offer, while not coordinating his team ahead of time, signals that their intentions were less than pure, as discussed in Larry Brown Sports’ lengthy analysis on the topic.

But why now? Why did the league suddenly decide on Tuesday, November 12, that they were going to invite Kaepernick to a workout on Saturday, November 16, after not communicating with the quarterback in months?

The answer seems to stem from a press release issued by Kaepernick’s camp a month earlier.

On Thursday, October 10, Adam Schefter tweeted out a document that came from Kaepernick’s side. The document was titled “Facts to Address the False Narratives Regarding Colin Kaepernick.”

Among other things, the document affirmed that Kaepernick could legally seek employment in the league, still wants to play, hasn’t had any workouts, and said that Kaepernick’s agent had reached out to all 32 teams and received no response.

The release of the document seemed confusing. Why would Kaepernick’s team send it out? What was the purpose for it and the timing behind it? There hadn’t been any published stories about Kaepernick in the media that pushed “false narratives” the document supposedly addressed.

Where was this coming from and why was it out there?

Finally, in light of the workout and talk that Kaepernick could file a second lawsuit against the NFL for collusion, it all clicked: perhaps this statement was distributed in an effort to lay the groundwork for a second lawsuit. Why else would they share that Kaepernick is still ready, still qualified, and still hadn’t heard from any teams despite reaching out to them all? It seems this was done to help establish that the same conditions that led to the first lawsuit were still present.

Also, keep in mind that Pro Football Talk reported Kaepernick’s settlement with the league only covered his lost wages from 2017 and 2018, but not beyond that. Sources with whom Larry Brown Sports spoke also suggested a second employment-related lawsuit against the NFL would be possible.

In response, the NFL probably saw this on October 10 and recognized that Kaepernick’s team was setting the grounds for a second lawsuit. From there, follow the timeline.

They probably got together, thought for a week, and started to devise a plan for how to combat the second suit. That plan (as we came to find out) involved inviting Kaepernick to an NFL-backed workout, where they would ask him to sign a legal waiver that included information about his employment status. Then they probably had lawyers work on drafting the legal waiver for Kaepernick to sign — a report said the league had outside counsel work on the document — and that probably took a few weeks.

Then, about four weeks after Kaepernick’s team released the document, the NFL reportedly began calling select reporters to tell them to be ready for some big news the following Tuesday.

Exactly 33 days after this press release from Kaepernick’s camp was distributed, the NFL responded with its workout offer.

If you believe this was the missing piece and the antecedent to the NFL’s well thought-out workout scheme, then you understand that the league did not merely reach out to Kaepernick’s camp out of the blue, but they were responding to what they believed was a legal threat.

For more analysis of the Colin Kaepernick workout, make sure you read Larry Brown Sports’ complete breakdown.