Monthly Archives: December 2016

Bucs RB Doug Martin begins suspension after positive PEDs test

TAMPA, Fla. — Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs and will serve a four-game suspension, effective immediately, he said Wednesday.

“I was notified last week of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy,” Martin said in a statement. “My initial instinct was to appeal the suspension and finish the season with my teammates. However, after numerous discussions with people close to me — including Coach (Dirk) Koetter — I am starting the suspension immediately so I can enter a treatment facility and receive the help I truly need.

“On the field, I must be strong and determined to push through both pain and injuries to become an elite NFL running back. Off the field, I have tried that same approach in my personal life. My shortcomings in this area have taught me both that I cannot win these personal battles alone and that there is no shame in asking for help.”

Martin, a Pro Bowl selection last season, was declared inactive prior to Saturday’s game against the Saints, Koetter called it a “coach’s decision.”

The suspension will begin with this week’s finale against the Carolina Panthers. Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to start Sunday, especially after the Bucs placed Charles Sims on injured reserve Wednesday.

“I sincerely apologize to the Glazer family, general manager Jason Licht and the entire Tampa Bay organization, my teammates and our tremendous fans,” said Martin, who wasn’t at practice Wednesday. “This was not the season I envisioned and I have let everyone down, including myself. However, adversity yields opportunity and I ask for your support in my battle to overcome these personal issues.”

Teammates Jameis Winston and Mike Evans said earlier Wednesday that they were bewildered as to why Martin was inactive against the Saints.

“It was so late, I didn’t even get a chance to sit there and look at his face,” Winston said of the decision to not play Martin. “We had a job to do. I asked him, was he good? He said he was fine. I asked, ‘Is everything OK?’ He said he was fine.

“I can only do my part [for] Doug to be there, be his friend, be his teammate, be his quarterback, just checking on him. Everything that’s beyond my reach, I can’t control. I know we have a great franchise running back in Doug Martin. I’m not worried about his situation.”

Last year, Martin rushed for 1,402 yards, the second-most in the NFL behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. Martin has struggled this season, both before and after a hamstring injury that forced him to miss six weeks. He has just 421 yards, averaging 2.9 per carry after averaging 4.9 in 2015.

“Doug has been a valued member of our organization for the past five seasons and we respect and support his decision to seek help,” Licht said in a statement. “Right now, he is working through issues that are much larger than the game of football. Our primary concern is that he takes this time to focus on getting the help that he needs in order to move forward with his personal and professional life.”

This past offseason, Martin signed a five-year deal worth $35.75 million with $15 million guaranteed. If the Bucs decide to part ways with Martin, the fourth-highest- paid player on their team, sources told ESPN’s Field Yates that the suspension would void his $7 million guaranteed base salary for 2017.

“I’m behind him. Doug’s a great player,” receiver Mike Evans said earlier Wednesday before Martin released his statement. “I don’t know what he did. But I’m sure he’ll come back and have a strong year next year.”

Packers-Lions game for NFC North flexed to ‘Sunday Night Football’

If the Green Bay Packers run the table, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested was possible after their 4-6 start, everyone will get the chance to see it.

The Packers’ regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 1 has been moved into the prime-time slot. It will be on NBC at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The winner will take home the NFC North title and the home playoff game that comes with it.

For the Packers, it’s the fourth straight year their Week 17 game has been for the division title. They’ve won two of the past three — in 2013 against the Chicago Bears and 2014 against the Lions. The Vikings beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in last year’s finale for the division title, although both teams made the playoffs. That game also was moved to prime time.

For the Lions, it would be their first division title since 1993, when they were in the old NFC Central, and their first NFC North crown. It would also be their second playoff berth in three years.

Detroit’s game on Monday against the Dallas Cowboys has no bearing on the NFC North title, although the Lions could clinch a playoff spot with a win.

The Packers (9-6) won the season’s first meeting against the Lions on Sept. 25 at Lambeau Field and also won last year’s game at Ford Field on Rodgers’ Hail Mary touchdown.

“Well, it’s going to be fun,” Rodgers said after Saturday’s win over the Vikings. “It’s going to be a loud environment obviously over there in Detroit, we’ve won a lot of big games over there, but Matt [Stafford]‘s had a fantastic year, their defense’s definitely improved. We haven’t played them since I think Week 3, so it’ll be a lot of film to catch up on and see how they’re playing, but a lot of very good players on their defense, and offensively Matt’s done a great job of spreading it around to their playmakers. So it’s going to be a fun one.”

The NFL is billing it as Game 256 — the last of the 256 games in the regular season.

The Packers and Lions both could make the playoffs, but the outcome of the game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins earlier on Jan. 1 will help determine that.

That game has been moved into the 4:25 p.m. time slot along with the New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons. The New England Patriots-at-Miami Dolphins game also will be played at 4:25 p.m. unless both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs win on Christmas Day. If so, that game will remain at 1 p.m.

Michael Floyd had BAC of .217, could face jail time

When Michael Floyd was arrested in his vehicle on Dec. 12, he had a blood-alcohol level of .217, a number which could land him in jail.

Floyd was arrested and charged after the wide receiver fell asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle while stopped at a traffic signal. The Scottsdale, Ariz., prosecutor told ESPN that Floyd has now been been charged with more serious offenses due to the results of his BAC test, which were revealed Wednesday.

Floyd, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals after his arrest and has since been claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, was initially charged with obstructing a roadway, DUI impaired to the slightest degree, DUI blood alcohol content above .08, and failure to obey a police officer. Two additional charges, one for BAC of .15 or more and one for BAC of .20 or more, were added, giving him a total of six charges. All charges are Class 1 misdemeanors, which allow him to leave the state without restriction.

Arizona state law carries harsh penalties, including jail time, for having a blood alcohol level over .15 and even tougher penalties for a BAC over .20. If Floyd is convicted for a first offense of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC over .20, he faces a jail sentence of at least 45 days, will have to use an ignition interlock system, pay a $500 fine and contribute $1,000 to a prison construction fund and $1,000 to a public safety equipment fund. Penalties for a second offense within 84 months of a first conviction are even more harsh.

The prosecutor told ESPN that a conviction on the pending charges in Arizona mandates jail time, but the amount of time is flexible. He could theoretically serve a portion of his sentence in jail and then the remainder under home detention with home alcohol monitoring.

Floyd’s first court appearance is scheduled on Feb. 24 for a pretrial hearing. He does not have to be present.

This is Floyd’s second DUI arrest. While at Notre Dame, he had a BAC of .19 when he was arrested on campus in 2011.

Police have released video of the most recent incident, which shows that Floyd’s eyes were closed, his head was back and his mouth was open when an officer approached his Cadillac Escalade at approximately 2:48 a.m. on Dec. 12. After the officer knocked on the window with his flashlight in an attempt to awaken Floyd, the officer pounded on the window with his fist and Floyd awoke with surprise.

Floyd was ordered to put the car in park and turn off the vehicle, but he did not immediately follow those instructions. Floyd then rolled down his window, with the officer ultimately reaching into the car to unlock the door to remove Floyd from the vehicle.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday said the team was aware of the video of the incident. Floyd practiced with the team Wednesday.

“Yeah, we were aware of his situation when we claimed him,” Belichick said. “He’s in an ongoing legal situation; I’m not going to comment on.”

Belichick was asked if the team has a system in place to support players in those types of situations.

“We have a lot of things on our team to handle a multitude of things that players, coaches, anybody in our organization, really, that come up,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of things outside of football that we all deal with. It’s a long, long list and we provide a lot of resources for everybody on that.”

Jaguars fire coach Gus Bradley after 3-plus seasons, 14 wins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired Gus Bradley, ending his tenure with the second-worst winning percentage of any NFL head coach who has coached at least 50 games.

Owner Shad Khan made the move on Sunday, just hours after the Jaguars’ 21-20 loss at the Houston Texans dropped them to 2-12. Sunday’s loss was the Jaguars’ ninth in a row, which is the most in franchise history in a single season.

The team said Khan will have a statement shortly, and GM Dave Caldwell will have a news conference on Monday afternoon to announce an interim coach for the season’s final two games.

Bradley was 14-48 (.226) in three-plus seasons with the Jaguars. The only coach with a worse winning percentage is Bert Bell (.190), who also was the Philadelphia Eagles’ owner.

This was supposed to be the season that the Jaguars had a legitimate chance to win the AFC South, which is the worst division in the NFL. Khan said after the 2015 season that a winning record in 2016 was “everybody’s reasonable expectation.”

That didn’t happen, and Sunday’s loss to the Texans was apparently Khan’s breaking point. The Jaguars intercepted Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler twice, and Jags return man Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but the Jaguars managed just 150 yards of offense and blew a 20-8 third-quarter lead. They lost their sixth in a row to the Texans.

The Jaguars haven’t won a game since Oct. 16, when they rallied to beat Chicago 17-16. Since then, the Jaguars have lost to Oakland, Tennessee, Kansas City, Houston, Detroit and Buffalo for the third six-game losing streak in Bradley’s tenure. The Jaguars’ 33-16 loss to Oakland at EverBank Field on Oct. 23 prompted Khan to attend a team meeting the following day to ask the players why the Jaguars weren’t winning more games. Three days later, the Jaguars were embarrassed again on national television in a 36-22 loss at the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans rolled up 354 yards and 20 first downs and led 27-0 at halftime. The Jaguars scored two garbage touchdowns to make the score seem less outrageous.

Two days later, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson and promoted quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Jaguars’ offense has been marginally better in the four games since but still hasn’t scored more than 21 points in any of those games.

Before the season, everything appeared to be in place for the Jaguars to be competitive in the AFC South, especially after GM Dave Caldwell rebuilt the defense in the offseason. The unit ranked 26th or worse in scoring defense and 24th or worse in total defense from 2013-15 under Bradley. They gave up a franchise-record 449 points in 2013 and 448 points in 2015. From 2013-15 the Jaguars’ defense recorded the fewest interceptions in the NFL (26) and ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.3 points per game), 31st in third-down defense (43.8 percent) and 29th in total defense (375.0 yards per game).

Thanks to several key offseason additions — defensive tackle Malik Jackson, cornerback Prince Amukamara and free safety Tashaun Gipson in free agency, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack in the first two rounds of the draft — the defense has been better under first-time coordinator Todd Wash, whom Bradley promoted from defensive line coach after he fired longtime friend and defensive coordinator Bob Babich after last season.

However, the offense, which carried the team a year ago, has been the problem. Quarterback Blake Bortles has not played well in 2016. After setting franchise records in passing yards (4,428) and passing TDs (35) in 2015, Bortles has struggled with turnovers (20) and hasn’t made big plays in the passing game. He has regressed mechanically, and in October he brought in a personal throwing coach for two days to help him try to fix issues with his footwork and delivery.

Bradley was Seattle’s defensive coordinator when Caldwell hired him to be the Jaguars’ fifth head coach in January 2013. Together they set out to rebuild a franchise that was coming off a 2-14 season and had one of the worst rosters in the NFL.

Bradley went 4-12 in his first season and 3-13 in his second, with 19 of those 25 losses coming by double digits. After the 2014 season, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch over what he said were philosophical differences relating to how much Fisch was asking Bortles to do within the offense. Bradley replaced Fisch with Olson, and Bortles and the offense flourished in 2015.

The Jaguars were 5-11 last season and Khan announced in late December that Bradley would return in 2016, and after the season the owner gave Bradley a one-year extension through 2017.

Foul not called on last-minute steal in Warriors-Pelicans

Draymond Green should have been called for a foul on a decisive steal of Anthony Davis with 4.5 seconds left of the Golden State Warriors’ 113-109 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, according to the NBA.

The league’s last two minute report — which assesses each call made in the final two minutes of a game within five points — deemed that Green’s steal of the ball was legal, but that he “puts two hands on Davis’s back and bunches his jersey in a hand,” which should have resulted in a personal foul. The Warriors were up two, 111-109, when the play occurred.

Davis earned a technical foul — his second of the season — while protesting immediately after the call was made.

“It is what it is,” Davis said Wednesday after reviewing the game film but before the last two minute report was released. “Can’t do nothing about it now.”

The Pelicans were held scoreless over the final 4:45 of the game, and earned just two points on their final 11 offensive possessions. “I knew he wanted to drive left,” Green said of Davis Tuesday night.

“That’s always when he’s on that block. He probably go left 85 percent of the time on that block. So I knew he wanted to go that way. So once he opened up, which is what he do on that block, I just took a swipe at the ball.”

The call was the only one deemed “incorrect” in the game report, which was released on Wednesday.

The loss marked the Pelicans’ eighth in their past 10 games and dropped them to 8-18 on the season. The Warriors lead the NBA at 22-4.

Rex Ryan doesn’t ‘know anything’ about report he could be fired soon

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan said after Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that he did “not know anything about” a CBS Sports report before the game that he could be fired as soon as Monday.

“Guys, I’ll promise you one thing: This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said at his postgame news conference. “I never knew about [the report] until you guys just said something, so that will tell you how true it is.”

The Buffalo News also reported that Ryan could be fired before the end of the season.

The Bills allowed 460 total yards to the Steelers, including 298 yards from scrimmage by running back Le’Veon Bell. The loss dropped the Bills’ record this season to 6-7. In 29 games with Buffalo, Ryan has a 14-15 record and risks becoming only the fourth coach since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to miss the postseason in six consecutive seasons.

Although Ryan’s defense struggled Sunday, the defeat also raised further questions about the future of quarterback Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo. Taylor went 15-of-25 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but was limited to 46 passing yards in the first half.

Ryan was noncommittal after the loss about Taylor remaining the starter for the Bills’ final three games.

“We’ll see,” Ryan said. “I don’t have any idea, guys. … I’ll do whatever I think’s best for the team.”

As part of a contract extension signed in August, the Bills must guarantee Taylor about $30 million if he remains on the roster by the fourth day of the 2017 league year, which begins in March. Rookie fourth-round pick Cardale Jones is the most likely option to replace Taylor if Ryan makes a quarterback change, although Ryan said Sunday that there has been “no movement” from the front office to let Jones see action.

Ryan also said that his relationship with fourth-year general manager Doug Whaley is “just fine,” adding, “We’re all in this thing together.”

Taylor was brief in answering questions about Ryan’s “we’ll see” comment, saying, “that’s [Ryan's] decision” if the Bills turn away from Taylor as soon as next Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

As for the CBS Sports report about Ryan’s future, Taylor responded, “I definitely don’t know about that. Those decisions don’t come from me. Definitely bigger, that comes from the top. Definitely don’t want to hear news like that — like I said it’s my first time hearing it.”

Running back LeSean McCoy, who was limited to 27 rushing yards on 12 carries Sunday, defended his coach.

“I haven’t heard that,” McCoy said of the report. “I love my coach. I am happy he brought me here. So I am totally behind him. It is a business and things happen, and I learned that the hard way [in 2015 trade from Philadelphia]. So I understand how that works, but I am totally behind him.”

McCoy also stood behind Taylor.

“That is above my pay grade,” he said. “I don’t know how that is working out. I love my quarterback. I think he is a hell of a player, a good leader, an amazing athlete. However, [the front office working] that out is what they do.”

Odell Beckham Jr. wants to take back comments but still makes quip

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would like to take back his comments after Sunday’s 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, even if he still believes “Stevie Wonder can see it” when referencing the officials’ questionable decisions throughout the contest.

Beckham was upset about several calls and non-calls — especially a questionable first-quarter offensive pass interference — and being told by one official to “get out of my face” when he asked for an explanation. He even suggested that referee Terry McAulay’s crew shouldn’t be allowed to work another Giants game given their past history.

Three days later, as Beckham and the Giants were in the midst of preparing for a Sunday night matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, he was feeling some regret for his comments.

“It’s not really any point of talking about it. Nothing is going to change,” Beckham said on Wednesday. “You’re sitting there wasting breath.”

Coach Ben McAdoo agreed with Beckham that there were some questionable calls in the game. McAdoo said he was going to utilize the league’s process where teams can send plays in for clarification purposes. That process would get “plenty of use” this week, according to McAdoo.

The Giants’ coach clearly had his star player’s back.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Beckham said. “Like I said, everybody knows what is going on on the field. Everybody can see it. Stevie Wonder can see it. It is what it is. You can’t do anything about it. There is no point.”

After the loss to the Steelers, the Giants (8-4) are going to need some wins down the stretch against difficult competition to qualify for the playoffs.

Beckham doesn’t see any benefit harping on the past at this point. His full attention is on the Cowboys and helping the struggling Giants get back on track.

“I don’t even know why … I shouldn’t have even brought it up because it’s always a lose-lose situation bringing something up,” he said. “Either you’re speaking out on it or now you’re trying to defend yourself. Or the other way around, you’re complaining.”

“Either way it goes, I should’ve never brought it up. It’s irrelevant. Nothing is going to change. No calls are going to be made because of what I say now. You just have to keep playing.

Eric Berry has pick 6, ‘pick 2′ in emotional homecoming victory

ATLANTA — Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry said last week that his concern for Sunday’s game against the Falcons was his ability to hold things together emotionally for his first NFL game in his hometown.

Berry acknowledged he “shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few during the game and I shed a few after,” but he held his emotions together long enough to make two of the biggest plays in Sunday’s 29-28 Chiefs victory.

He returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown and in the fourth quarter intercepted a pass on an Atlanta 2-point play and returned it to the end zone to convert a 28-27 deficit into a 29-28 lead. It was the first interception for a defensive conversion on a 2-point try since the rule was enacted in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The previous three defensive conversions came on blocked extra point attempts.

“I think I held it together pretty good,” Berry said. “There were a lot of emotions so I just tried to contain them and let it show through my play.”

Berry was diagnosed almost two years ago to the day with lymphoma. He returned to Atlanta then for his treatments sessions at Emory University.

“The last time I came home during the season, it was to get chemotherapy and then this time it was actually to play the game,” Berry said of the reasons for his emotions on Sunday. “I was just thankful for the opportunity. I take pride in a lot of things people take for granted so when opportunities come my way I cherish them and try to make the most of them.”

Berry presented the ball after his touchdown to his mother Carol, who was sitting behind the Chiefs’ bench. He indicated he made up his mind to present his mom the ball before the game.

“I just handed it to her and told her I’d be back,” Berry said.

Then, getting serious, Berry said, “I can try to give her whatever. It won’t amount to the things she’s given me, and my dad as well.

“So many nights I was crying on their shoulder trying to make sense of everything that was going on and they just kept telling me, ‘Keep pressing and keep pressing and you’ll be back, you’ll be able to play the game the way you want to play the game.’

“Both of them supported me throughout the whole process. I can’t thank them enough.”

Clay Matthews says ‘cheap shot’ by Eagles’ Allen Barbre to blame for shoulder injury

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Clay Matthews has a separated AC joint in his left shoulder, and he’s not happy about what caused it.

The Green Bay Packers linebacker was injured Monday night in a win when Eagles right tackle Allen Barbre delivered a blindside block on an end-around in the first quarter.

“I wasn’t a fan of it,” Matthews said of Barbre’s block. “I mean, I’ve got a lot more to say about it, but I’m going to say it behind closed doors. It was a cheap shot, but it is what it is. I ate it. Unfortunately, I landed on my shoulder, and that’s kind of what I’ve been dealing with since.”

Matthews said he wasn’t sure if it was legal block by Barbre, who wasn’t penalized on the 3-yard gain by Eagles receiver Bryce Treggs.

“I don’t know. They didn’t throw a flag probably because I wasn’t a quarterback,” Matthews said. “I know all about that.”

Barbre and Matthews were teammates in Green Bay during the 2009 season.

Matthews, who was forced to move to inside linebacker against the Eagles because of injuries to starters Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan, said he took a pain-killing injection in order to return to the game. Safety Morgan Burnett had to take a few snaps at inside linebacker while Matthews was in the locker room getting examined.

“I’m in some pain, no doubt about it,” said Matthews, whose status for Sunday night against Houston remains up in the air. “There’s some swelling [and] bruising, but we got an X-ray and nothing’s broken, so that’s good. So we’ll see moving forward the progress I make going into this game. That’s ultimately the goal, but we’ve got some work to.”

Earlier Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy expressed confidence that both Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers would play against the Texans. Rodgers pulled his left hamstring in the third quarter against the Eagles, and his mobility was limited after trainers taped his leg.

Although Rodgers said it was too early in the week to tell how the injury might impact him, McCarthy said he did not expect it to be as limiting as the calf injury that Rodgers sustained late in the 2014 season.

“The calf injury, that was a big injury,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “We made a ton of adjustments. And for him to play through that was extraordinary. But we’ll see how he is. I really don’t want to comment until I see him move around tomorrow.”

In a rare move, McCarthy did not hold a practice Wednesday. He said that was his plan all along coming off back-to-back night games.

“It probably doesn’t help where I’m at physically, but I think [not practicing] is a good idea,” Rodgers said.