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Thursday, November 21, 2019

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Browns, Steelers players did not hear Mason Rudolph use racial slur

Myles Garrett

If Myles Garrett is telling the truth about Mason Rudolph calling him a racial slur during the ugly fight that broke out last week, it does not appear the Cleveland Browns star is going to have any witnesses.

Garrett met with the NFL to appeal his indefinite suspension on Wednesday, and he reportedly told league officials that he lost his cool after Rudolph used racist language toward him. The quarterback has vehemently denied the allegation, and players from both the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have said they did not hear anything racist.

Baker Mayfield and other Browns were asked on Thursday if they heard Rudolph use a racial slur. They said they did not hear it themselves or second-hand from anyone else on the team. Many said this was the first they had heard of the allegation.

Players on the Pittsburgh side seemed equally puzzled.

Garrett was asked following the game if Rudolph said something that inspired him to club the quarterback over the head with a helmet, and he said he was “not going to comment on it.”

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered now. Can the NFL review audio from the game to see if it’s true? One report says no players were mic’d up for the game.

Rudolph’s attorney has already released an extremely strong statement ripping Garrett for the allegation.

Terrell Owens tells Stephen A. Smith that Max Kellerman seems ‘blacker’ than him

Stephen. A Smith has been highly critical of Colin Kaepernick for the way the quarterback handled last Saturday’s workout, and Terrell Owens called Smith out over his take in a big way on Thursday.

Owens was a guest on ESPN’s “First Take,” and he defended Kaepernick for changing the location of his workout and wanting “transparency” from the NFL. Owens then told Smith that co-host Max Kellerman, who has defended Kaepernick, seems like he is “blacker” than Smith with the way he has spoken about the situation. As you might expect, Smith didn’t appreciate it.

Smith told Owens he “crossed the line” and then criticized him and others for trying to “bait me” in front of the black community. He also addressed the situation with a tweet.

Like others, Smith concluded from the way Saturday’s events unfolded that Kaepernick does not actually want to play football. He ripped the 32-year-old for showing up to the workout with a T-shirt that alluded to slavery and said he needs to seize the opportunity at some point if he actually wants to play again. Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid then accused Smith of “tap dancing for the NFL,” and Smith unloaded on Reid in a Twitter rant.

We believe we have uncovered the real reason why the NFL tried to organize a workout for Kaepernick, and it seems like both sides have their agendas. The issue is, and always will be, about more than just football.

Hue Jackson believes Steelers would be best fit for Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Hue Jackson was not able to get an up-close look at Colin Kaepernick after the free agent quarterback bailed on the workout the NFL organized for him, but the former Cleveland Browns coach still has an opinion on which team might make the most sense for Kaepernick.

Jackson, who was supposed to lead the drills for Kaepernick at last Saturday’s workout, sat down to discuss the situation with Kristine Leahy of FS1. He said he believes Kaepernick is good enough to play in the NFL again, but it would have to be with “the right team and the right environment and the right people.”

“Some (team that has) a strong head coach who has been through the ups and downs of the NFL and understands how to deal with the media. That’s going to be a huge piece if he’s on your football team,” Jackson said. “A team and organization that has a strong locker room that can handle that type of personality in the locker room. Colin’s become iconic, somewhat. … I don’t think everybody’s equipped to (handle) that.”

When asked if there is a specific team that comes to mind, Jackson mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“When you think about the Steelers, because of how they do their business,” he said. “Any team that has that longevity of a head coach in an organization, they normally know how to do it and do it right. That’s the team that comes to mind right away for me.”

That is an interesting choice, especially given all the drama that unfolded in Pittsburgh with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The Steelers are still a winning organization and have been able to remain in the playoff hunt despite losing Ben Roethlisberger to an injury this season, but people have been critical of the way head coach Mike Tomlin has handled star players.

Jackson was also asked if he believes Kaepernick genuinely wants to play in the NFL again.

“I’m not gonna say that he really doesn’t want to play. Obviously, there’s something that’s stopping him from feeling comfortable around National Football League employees to demonstrate his ability,” Jackson said. “But I also understand that the only way you’re gonna get back in the league is to do that in front of this group.”

We believe we have discovered why the NFL suddenly reached out to Kaepernick to invite him to work out in front of teams, though Jackson said he thinks the league was genuinely trying to give the 32-year-old a chance. As for whether or not the Steelers will sign Kaepernick, that seems as unlikely as any team bringing him in given what unfolded last weekend.

Tom Brady explains why he ‘liked’ Antonio Brown’s apology to Patriots

Tom Brady

Tom Brady was among several New England Patriots players who “liked” Antonio Brown’s social media post apologizing to team owner Robert Kraft and the organization this week, and the future Hall of Famer clearly did so intentionally.

Brown shared a photo of him and Brady from the duo’s brief time playing together, and he apologized for the “bad media attention and the drama.” When asked on Wednesday about hitting “like” and commenting with smiley face emojis, Brady was honest.

“I liked him. We had a great rapport when we were here,” Brady told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “I’m trying to support him to be the best person that he can be, that’s all.”

With New England’s offense having struggled again in Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles and Brady clearly frustrated, there has been speculation that the quarterback could be trying to show the Patriots he wants to bring Brown back. Brady seemed irritated by that assumption.

“It’s that time of year,” Brady said. “People put a lot of words in people’s mouths. It’s just part of the world we’re living in.”

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler learned this week that Brown has filed a countersuit against his former friend and personal trainer Britney Taylor, who is suing him for sexual assault. There have also been rumblings that Brown is optimistic the NFL may clear him before the end of the season after he stated his case in a meeting with the league last week.

From a football standpoint, the Patriots could undoubtedly use Brown. Their defense has been carrying them while the offense looks borderline inept, and Brady didn’t even seem like he enjoyed Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Eagles.

However, Brown has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, and Kraft was reportedly furious after the receiver sent threatening text messages to the second alleged victim. Brown also unloaded on Kraft in a since-deleted tweet after the Patriots released him.

If Brown is, for some reason, cleared by the NFL without a suspension, there’s at least a chance the Patriots might bring him back. His apology this week and Brady’s reaction to it may be part of setting the stage.

5 NFL players earning themselves a big 2020 contract

Amari Cooper

Every season there are some players who step up and outplay their current contract. There are also players who have big years just as they’re about to hit free agency, setting themselves up for big pay day. This season we have several players who fit in either category.

Here’s a look at five players who are now primed for a big contract in 2020 thanks to how well they’ve played this season.

5. Markus Golden, LB, New York Giants

There’s not much going well for the Giants on the defensive side of the ball, but that is no fault of edge rusher Markus Golden. Two years removed from a torn ACL, and back under defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Golden is experiencing a bit of a career resurgence — something he banked on when signing a one-year deal with Big Blue this past offseason. Through 10 games, Golden leads the Giants with 6.5 sacks and seems to be a relatively consistent force when on the field. He’s on pace to eclipse 10 sacks for the first time since his remarkable 2016 campaign. He will undoubtedly be considered among the best available pass rushers in free agency next year.

4. Shaq Barrett, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After four underwhelming seasons in Denver, Barrett signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers this past offseason and like Golden, has seen an impressive career resurgence. He’s managed to not only find a niche, but to also excel under Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay, recording 11.5 sacks and one interceptions through 10 games this season. And while he has slowed down slightly after a torrid start (nine sacks in his first four games), there will be plenty of teams willing to shell out some big-time dough for him come 2020.

3. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Cooper seems like he should remain in Dallas where his career has completely taken off, but there’s been little progress on contract talks between the two sides, so the wide receiver now prefers to wait on negotiations until after the season. That will allow for a potential bidding war, assuming he’s not designated the team’s franchise player. As much as he may want to remain with the Cowboys, big money elsewhere could alter his thinking. In 10 games this season, Cooper has 56 receptions for 886 yards and seven touchdowns, which are numbers that extrapolate to career highs across the board over the course of 16 games.

2. Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England Patriots

Is Van Noy a young star in the making or is he just another product of a Patriots system that manages to milk the very best out of every player who comes along? It really doesn’t matter, because Van Noy has been a star on one of the most dominant defenses in decades, and every GM across the league is just waiting for the opportunity to open their checkbook. In nine games this season, Van Noy has recorded 32 tackles, 5.5 sacks and forced three fumbles. He’s played well against the run and in coverage, and his 85.7 PFF rating is among the best at his position in all of football. Some may view Van Noy as a “no name” on New England defense, but I assure you talent evaluators don’t look at him the same way.

1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints

When Bridgewater signed a one-year deal to return to the Saints this past offseason, some were surprised. After all, Bridgewater, years removed from a gruesome leg injury, was looking for an opportunity to prove to NFL executives he could still perform at a high level. Getting an opportunity to prove that seemed unlikely behind Drew Brees, but that all changed when Brees suffered a thumb injury in Week 2. Bridgewater, a former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year contender, took advantage of the opportunity, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 1,370 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions over seven games (5-1 as a starter). Whether or not he sees the field again this season, someone will probably pay Bridgewater big money in 2020.

Jerry Stackhouse confronted by Austin Peay assistant coach in handshake line

Jerry Stackhouse Sergio Ruoco

Jerry Stackhouse was confronted by Austin Peay assistant coach Sergio Rouco in the handshake line after Vanderbilt’s 90-72 win over the Governors on Wednesday night.

Commodores guard Saben Lee dunked the ball with seven seconds left instead of dribbling out the clock as Stackhouse wanted. That was the final basket of the game and gave Vandy the 18-point win.

Rouco took issue with the dunk and held onto Stackhouse’s hand extra long in the handshake line so he could say something to the coach:

Stackhouse, who had to forcibly pry his hand away, said he told Rouco “I’ll coach my team and you coach yours.”

Stackhouse also said after the game that he doesn’t want that type of play from his guys.

“(Lee’s dunk) is not a play that we want to have happen. We want to be a team of class and a team of dignity,” Stackhouse said after the game, via The Tennesseean. “Saben just had a lapse right there. But that’s something I’ll correct with my team, not something that anyone else is going to correct with my team.”

Stackhouse had a great answer for Rouco, who apparently wants to play the role of sportsmanship police. Rouco may have gone overboard with the extended handshake though.

Vandy is in its first season under Stackhouse, a former North Carolina star and NBA All-Star. So far he seems to be handling his team well.

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.