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Thursday, November 21, 2019

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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.

Colin Kaepernick Workout: The most complete analysis you will find anywhere

Colin Kaepernick

There have been many questions about the NFL’s motivation for hosting a private workout for Colin Kaepernick, which became all the talk throughout the sports world last week and over the weekend.

To recap: Kaepernick’s camp said they hadn’t heard from the league in several months. Supposedly out of the blue, the league called them on Tuesday, November 12, to offer the opportunity for Kaepernick to work out in front of NFL teams in Atlanta on Saturday, November 16, and they gave him two hours to respond to the offer. The league reportedly had already prepared some prominent NFL reporters the week before to be ready for a big news announcement that would come in the following days. That news came when select reporters were told on Tuesday that Kaepernick would participate in an NFL-backed workout that weekend.

From Tuesday to Saturday, the two sides negotiated various points about Saturday’s workout. The matter ended with Kaepernick’s side announcing the quarterback would not work out in the league-sponsored event and instead would host a workout at a nearby high school, with teams invited to attend. 25 teams were set to attend the workout at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility, but according to reports, only representatives from 6-8 teams attended the workout at the high school facility.

In the days since Saturday’s workout fell apart, Larry Brown Sports has combed through various reports and spoken with different sources to gain an understanding of exactly what happened. This is our best analysis of the events.

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LeBron James was hilariously unaware about historic feat he accomplished

LeBron James

LeBron James added yet another feather to his cap on Tuesday, and it came with one funny story from The King as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers star accomplished an incredible feat in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder by recording 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The huge stat line gave him a triple-double against all 30 teams in the NBA for his career, making him the first player in league history to do so.

After the game, James said he was unaware that the Thunder were the only team left that he had yet to record a triple-double against, per Tania Ganguli of the LA Times. The four-time MVP added that when head coach Frank Vogel congratulated him after the game, he thought it was a sarcastic reference to his seven turnovers on the evening.

James, who is in his 17th NBA season, is usually hyper-cognizant of his place in the history books, making this an even funnier moment. There is, however, one particular accomplishment he has yet to attain that we badly want to see.

Jarvis Landry looking forward to revenge game against Dolphins

Jarvis Landry

Jarvis Landry will face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday for the first time since they traded him to the Cleveland Browns. He is looking forward to the matchup.

Landry told reporters that he had the game targeted and is “happy it’s here.”

Landry has been the Browns’ leading receiver this year, edging out Odell Beckham Jr. in a few categories. He has 49 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns this season, compared to the 48 catches and 692 yards for OBJ.

The Browns are 4-6 compared to the 2-8 Dolphins. Although Cleveland’s season has not gone as hoped, it’s hard to argue that Landry is not in a better spot now than had he remained in Miami.

Kyle Kuzma eye injury: He has abrasion after being cut

Kyle Kuzma eye

Kyle Kuzma was bleeding from around his right eye after taking an elbow to the face during the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 112-107 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.

Kuzma was defending Darius Bazley, who was trying to get by his man. Bazley caught Kuzma in the face with his elbow while making a move.

Kuzma began bleeding and left the game. He was termed questionable but did not return to the game despite taking some shots at halftime.

After the Lakers’ win, head coach Frank Vogel said Kuzma had an eye abrasion and was cleared to return, but the coach used his better judgment in not playing the forward any further.

Kuzma had five points in nine minutes before exiting. He’s averaging 14 points in 23.7 minutes per game this season.

Fired Astros scouts providing information to MLB about cheating?

Minute Maid Park Houston

MLB is investigating the Houston Astros over sign stealing that allegedly occurred in 2017. Four former members of the team reportedly told The Athletic for an article published last week about the cheating schemes by the team. One of the team’s former pitchers, Mike Fiers, even went on record about what he said the team was doing.

Since then, more evidence of the alleged cheating has been published, including an email that reportedly directed scouts to potentially use cameras to steal signs.

So who is supplying some of this information to MLB? Peter Gammons gave a clue. He tweeted Monday that if Houston’s front office hadn’t been “so cavalier” about firing scouts and treating them with disdain, those same people would not be coming forward to provide information to make the team look bad now.

The current Astros regime has touted the way they’ve eschewed traditional scouting in favor of a technological and analytic approach. They have fired most of their scouting staff, feeling they have no use for them because that they can analyze players better using their data and technology.

According to a book excerpt published by The Ringer, the Astros had 55 scouts in 2009 — more than the league average of 41 at the time. In 2019, they had fewer than 20 scouts, which was less than half the next smallest scouting staff in MLB.

Another excerpt from the book “The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players.”

More recently and radically, though, the Astros have virtually eliminated any form of in-person scouting of professional players, even in the minors. One scout the Astros recently let go mentions a directory of pro scouts that’s circulated around the industry. On the Astros’ page for 2018, he says, “It just says Astros, and it has a picture of [Special Assistant] Kevin [Goldstein] at the top. One photo.”

If there’s anything this story teaches us, it’s that how you treat people still matters very much. And when you cheat, your methods can come back to burn you if people who participated in the schemes ever leave for a competitor or lose their jobs.

This lesson about treating people well seems to be one the Astros did not give much care or attention to.

Look: Frank Vogel has some seriously huge calf muscles

Frank Vogel

Are we sure Frank Vogel is coaching the Los Angeles Lakers and not looking to pick up some playing minutes for them?

The Lakers shared some photos on Twitter this week from Dave Chappelle’s visit with the team. In one of the photos, Vogel was pictured wearing shorts rather than pants. Some observers noticed his massive calf muscles:

This just in: Frank Vogel does NOT skip leg day.

The 46-year-old Lakers coach played for D-III Juniata College and clearly spends some time working out. We need him to start working out with LaRon Landry.

Analysis: Which teams are most likely to make the College Football Playoff?

Ryan Day

Though we’re only two weeks from the various conference championship games across the college football landscape, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty in how the College Football Playoff field will come together. There are only a couple teams who can really feel confident about making it, though a number would seem to control their own destiny, so to speak. That said, the field is still wide open, and the number of teams that still have at least a glimmer of hope sits in double digits.

Here is analysis are the teams most likely to make the Playoff, how likely their chances are, and what they have to do to get there.

HIGHLY LIKELY

Clemson Tigers (11-0, at South Carolina, ACC Championship Game)

Clemson might not be able to afford a loss, but the reality is they’re unlikely to suffer one. They’re the class of the ACC and will be clear favorites in their season finale against South Carolina, as well as in the ACC title game. Clemson should go unbeaten, and that will be an easy ticket to the playoff. Concerns linger that they’re not quite as good as they were last season, but that won’t really matter until they get to the playoff.

LSU Tigers (10-0, vs. Arkansas, vs. Texas A&M, SEC Championship)

The Tigers are exceedingly likely to reach the SEC Championship unbeaten, with winnable home games against Arkansas and Texas A&M on the schedule. That will likely lead to an SEC title game between LSU and Georgia, with the winner almost certainly assured of a spot in the playoff. There’s definitely a route for LSU if they lose. Their resume wins are impressive and include wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama. There’s plenty of precedent for one-loss SEC runners-up to make it in, so the Tigers should be feeling good right now.

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NFL scouts believe Tua Tagovailoa could still be top ten pick

Tua Tagovailoa

Tua Tagovailoa’s draft stock will probably be impacted by his hip injury, but it sounds like he still has a very good chance to go in the top 15, at the very least.

Three NFL evaluators told Matt Zenitz and Mike Rodak of al.com that they would still expect Tagovailoa to go in the top half of the first round, and possibly still in the top ten.

“Right now, I’d still say top-15 for him,” one scout said. “Every year, you have 15 blue-chip players, and he’s one of them.”

“Let’s just say he did fall out of the top-five or top-10,” another longtime NFL evaluator said. “I think there would be a pretty big scramble to take him, even if you had to redshirt him next year. … May not go top two or three just because there’s uncertainty there and some reservations with all the injuries. But, like Miami and ‘Tanking for Tua,’ they’ve won a couple games and are going to be picking third or fourth probably. Would he get past a team like that? I don’t know.”

Tagovailoa’s prognosis is excellent, and based on his timetable, it’s at least possible he can play next season. The long-term concerns will linger, but ultimately, there’s enough talent here that someone will take the risk — probably fairly early on.

Doug Marrone admits ‘big’ mistake in Leonard Fournette’s low Week 11 usage

Doug Marrone

The Jacksonville Jaguars got clobbered in an important divisional game on Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone thinks he knows where he went wrong.

Speaking this week after the team’s 33-13 loss to Indianapolis in Week 11, Marrone admitted he made a mistake in failing to feed Leonard Fournette.

“That was my mistake,” he said, per John Oesher of Jaguars.com. “That was a big mistake by me. I thought we needed to score points in a quicker fashion. That’s what led to the increased pass attempts. That’s on me as a head coach. We need to be more balanced moving forward.

“Believe me, I know more than anyone that a strong rushing attack will open things up in the pass game,” Marrone added. “I know it works hand in hand. I know we’re frustrated. I know Leonard’s frustrated … He wants to make plays and help us win the game … I was wrong and I made a mistake.”

Fournette, the ex-No. 4 overall pick, entered play Sunday with 100-plus yards from scrimmage in five of his last six games. He got a season-low eight carries for 23 yards against the Colts however, also adding seven catches for 34 yards.

Marrone and Fournette have had their issues in the past, and while the team may have been trying to get quarterback Nick Foles back up to speed in his first game back from injury, episodes like this will do little to ease whatever tensions remain between head coach and star running back.