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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Headlines

Myles Garrett now claims Mason Rudolph used racial slur prior to fight

Myles Garrett Mason Rudolph

Myles Garrett met with the NFL to appeal his indefinite suspension this week, and the Cleveland Browns defensive end reportedly told league officials that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur during the infamous fight that broke out last Thursday night.

Garrett made the allegation as part of his initial remarks during his appeal hearing in New York Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Josina Anderson. The Steelers issued a statement on Thursday saying Rudolph “vehemently denies” using a racial slur, and Rudolph’s attorney Tim Younger followed up with a separate statement on behalf of the quarterback. Younger called the claim an “assault on Mason’s integrity” and said it is far worse than Garrett clubbing Rudolph over the head with a helmet.

Garrett did not give any indication immediately after the fight that Rudolph had said something racist, and Rudolph reiterated on Wednesday that he did not say anything to provoke the defensive end. Baker Mayfield and the Browns were also highly critical of Garrett for his actions, which likely means he did not inform them of Rudolph using any racist language.

The NFL will likely speak with other players who were involved in the fight to see if Garrett’s story can be corroborated. People would obviously view the situation a lot differently if it is determined that Rudolph used a racial slur, but it’s unclear why Garrett is just now claiming that happened.

Report: NCAA to target Memphis with ‘major infractions case’ for playing James Wiseman

James Wiseman

The Memphis Tigers took a risk and defied the NCAA by playing James Wiseman even after he had been ruled ineligible, and may pay the price for it.

According to Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, sources familiar with NCAA enforcement procedures said that Memphis is likely to face a “major infractions case” for playing Wiseman despite repeated warnings from the NCAA about eligibility issues.

This stems from the Tigers openly flouted NCAA rulings relating to Wiseman. The NCAA had notified Memphis before their season opener that Wiseman could have an eligibility problem, but played him anyway. Wiseman was then ruled ineligible on Nov. 8 because his family received money from coach Penny Hardaway to move, but Memphis went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order against that NCAA ruling. Wiseman proceeded to play two more games before ultimately dropping the lawsuit and sitting out.

Wiseman was ultimately suspended until January, but that won’t clear the Tigers of potential wrongdoing. Memphis knew the risks of playing Wiseman, a potential No. 1 draft pick, despite those warnings. If the NCAA’s enforcement process isn’t respected, they’re a significantly weaker organization, so this is something they will not take lightly.

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.

Penn State QB Sean Clifford says he got death threats after Minnesota loss

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford had his roughest start of the season in his team’s loss to Minnesota over a week ago, but there is no on-field performance that would ever justify what he had to deal with after the game.

Clifford, who has led the Nittany Lions to a 9-1 record in his first season as the team’s starter, told reporters on Tuesday that he had to deactivate some of his social media accounts following Penn State’s loss to Minnesota on Nov. 9 because he was receiving death threats.

“It’s kind of sad to say, but you know how some fans get. It gets a little crazy. I was, kind of, sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages,” Clifford said, per Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Clifford completed 23 of 43 passes for 340 yards, one touchdown and a season-high three interceptions in the 31-26 loss to the then-No. 17 Golden Gophers. The slip-up in what has otherwise been an outstanding season will make it more difficult for Penn State to make the College Football Playoff, but no player deserves death threats no matter how many times he turns the ball over.

Clifford said he appreciates the passion of Penn State fans but would rather avoid that type of negativity.

“I just try to stay away from it,” the quarterback added. “I appreciate all the positive people that are around, but there are also people that try to tear you down.”

Penn State coach James Franklin ripped the fans who would go to that extent to express their anger, calling it “concerning” and reflective of “behaviors in our society now that we accept that I don’t know why we’re accepting.”

“We’re ranked in the top 10, I think,” Franklin said. “We’ve had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards, and sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way.”

Again, it wouldn’t really matter if Penn State was the worst team in the country. Unfortunately, this is far from the first time we have heard of a college football player receiving death threats, and all you can hope for is that the people responsible are tracked down and held accountable. Clifford declined to say whether or not he informed the authorities, but it would not be a surprise if Penn State does on his behalf.

Mark Walton accused of punching woman who is pregnant with his child

Mark Walton

Miami Dolphins running back Mark Walton was waived by the team on Tuesday morning following his latest bout of legal trouble, and his NFL career could be over if the allegations against him are true.

The Dolphins announced in a statement that they are parting ways with Walton after they were “made aware of a police matter” involving the 22-year-old. According to multiple reports, Walton was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman after he allegedly punched a woman who is five weeks pregnant with his child “several times in the face and head.”

Walton, a former star at the University of Miami, is currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. That suspension stemmed from separate incidents involving the police, but Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said earlier this month that Walton’s behavior had been good since he joined the team and that he would be back following the suspension.

Walton took over as the Dolphins’ featured back after they traded Kenyan Drake, and he rushed for 201 yards on 53 carries. He is likely facing a lengthy suspension in the wake of the alarming allegations, and it would be a surprise if any team signs him going forward.

Rob Gronkowski’s ‘big announcement’ leaves Patriots fans disappointed

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski took to social media over the weekend to tease a “big announcement” that he was planning to make on Tuesday, and New England Patriots fans have once again been let down by their former tight end.

Gronkowski is planning to be in attendance at the Super Bowl in Miami, but not as a player. He is hosting a music festival called “Gronk Beach.”

“Future Hall of Famer and 3X Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski is no stranger to Big Game Weekend. He may not be playing in the game this year, but he is taking Miami by storm with his personal music festival – Gronk Beach,” a description on the event’s official website reads. “Constructed right on the sand of Miami Beach, GRONK’s eccentric personality will come to life combining his favorite artists, food, drinks, beach performers, and more!”

So, there goes that. Gronkowski has until Nov. 30 to decide whether or not he will return from the reserve/retired list, but this almost certainly means he has no plans to play again this season. We probably could have guessed that based on what Bill Belichick said this week about Gronk’s upcoming announcement.

This is the second time Gronk has teased a big announcement that made Patriots fans think he could be making a comeback, but he is simply using all the comeback buzz as a marketing tool. Fans in New England probably don’t appreciate it, but it’s a smart approach.

Philip Rivers raises serious concerns about his future after latest brutal game

Philip Rivers

You won’t find us saying that Philip Rivers is washed up, not a year after he enjoyed arguably the best season of his career. However, it’s 2019 now and a new season, and Rivers has not come close to reproducing the Hall of Fame-level play he showed last season, raising serious concerns about his future.

Rivers was intercepted four times in Monday night’s 24-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City. For the second straight game, Rivers threw multiple interceptions and was picked off on his final pass of the game as he was trying to lead his Los Angeles Chargers to a comeback win.

Rivers went 28-for-52 for 353 yards with a touchdown and four picks. He fumbled once, but his team recovered the ball. The team had a few drops, while the offense’s plan seemed to be having Rivers heave the ball into traffic and hoping his receiver would come down with the ball. He didn’t see Tyrann Mathieu on an interception that led to Kansas City’s first touchdown of the game. The way he was picked off on that play was reminiscent of what happened in the loss to the Raiders when Erik Harris got him three times, though the third interception was negated by a penalty.

Rivers appears to be telegraphing passes. When he’s not doing that, he’s getting fooled by coverages, according to ESPN analyst Booger McFarland. He also was sloppy in getting balls batted down at the line of scrimmage or even throwing balls into his lineman’s head.

Rivers has been outright bad and costing the Chargers the last few games. He’s up to 14 picks in 11 games thanks to his seven interceptions in their last two losses. The 14 interceptions puts him second in the league behind only Jameis Winston.

The combination of facing the Raiders on the road in a short week and then heading to Mexico City was tough, but Rivers’ stretch really could not have gone worse. He needs to improve his play rapidly to show that he’s not done as a successful quarterback in this league. He’s been able to defy age — he turns 38 next month — but he has not looked good this season — especially the last two weeks.