Monthly Archives: October 2017

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PITTSBURGH — JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense on the same day Martavis Bryant was inactive after he made comments on social media, saying that “JuJu is no where near better than me.”

Smith-Schuster, who lost his bicycle this week and documented the loss on social media, broke the Steelers-Lions game open with a 97-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. On third-and-long, Ben Roethlisberger squeezed the ball between the corner and safety over the middle of the field, and Smith-Schuster did the rest.

“How I saw it was Ben called the play, and I was like the middle feels open,” Smith-Schuster said. “You got to take it. I took it. Ben believed in me and got the job done. It was great.”

Roethlisberger explained that the touchdown was set up by an earlier route.

“[The Lions] gave us a coverage where the safety split wide, kind of a 22 man. And JuJu had something similar to that earlier in the game, and he tried to kinda juke the guy and then give him an out move and then go up,” Roethlisberger said. “I told him, I said, ‘Listen, next time you get that look, if it’s a 22-type man, beat ‘em with speed. Just get down there.’ And that’s what he did. And I threw it over the top, and I told him, I didn’t know he had that much speed. He said he didn’t either.”

The play was the longest receiving touchdown in Steelers history and the longest of the NFL season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched Bryant over his comments, which refueled his trade demands. He said the Steelers should give him what he wants and can have “JuJu and whoever else.” Smith-Schuster, 20, slid into the No. 2 receiver role with 189 yards on his six receptions.

After the game, running back Le’Veon Bell called Smith-Schuster the “best player ever under [the age of] 21.”

“Hands down, got a lot of room to grow, for him to be 20 and play the way he plays is unbelievable,” Bell said. “He can block, catch the ball short, go balls, mentally in the game, best player ever under 21.”

At 20 years old, Smith-Schuster is the youngest Steeler to record a 100-yard receiving game. Entering Sunday, Roy Jefferson was the youngest, at 22.

The “best player ever under 21″ didn’t celebrate his touchdown in the end zone, but he pretended to lock up an exercise bike on the sideline.

Smith-Schuster also participated in Bell’s celebration of a 5-yard touchdown run in the first half, getting on all fours and serving as the bench as Bell pressed the football, James Harrison style.

The rookie wide receiver has a hand in coordinating the team’s intricate celebrations and says it’s a matter of “bringing my younger generation into the guys. Getting everyone to celebrate more.”

Also an accomplice in the Steelers’ celebration catalog? Smith-Schuster’s phone. He said he has a list stored in his iPhone of even more celebrations that he and Bell have discussed for future use.

Smith-Schuster went into deeper detail in explaining Sunday’s bike lock celebration.
“So today we had a lot of free time, so I decided I got to get a chain, so I went to Home Depot down the street, bought a chain, and I was like, if I score, my celebration is going to be the bike thing,” Smith-Schuster said. “So we have the spin bike where … train to warm up your legs, as soon as I scored, I went to the bike, grabbed the chain and locked it up, and it was fun to prove that I got my bike back and I’m locking it up this time and with my boys and celebrating.”

Smith-Schuster said the past week has been “crazy,” but he didn’t take Bryant’s comment personally.

Smith-Schuster finished the Steelers’ 20-15 victory over the Lions with 193 yards and one touchdown.

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been shopping his story to book publishers in recent weeks, sources told ESPN.

Kaepernick is being represented by agent Carlos Fleming, who also represents Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and tennis players Venus Williams and Nick Kyrgios.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that Kaepernick already had signed a book deal with Random House, but a source told ESPN that no deal is in place.

Sources told ESPN that the Kaepernick team strategy was to wait until the first month of the NFL season had passed before considering his options. Once September went by without any team signing him, Kaepernick took two actions: He sued the NFL and shopped his story to publishers.

Kaepernick started protests during the national anthem last season, when he refused to stand for it during a preseason game to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Other players across the NFL have followed suit, and the topic has been a major storyline in the sport.

Kaepernick, meanwhile, has remained unsigned. He has filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement for collusion against the owners, saying they and the league “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin expressed regret about shoving offensive line coach Tom Cable in a heated sideline moment during the team’s 24-7 win over the Giants on Sunday.

The incident came during the second quarter, with Seattle trailing 7-0. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he told Cable to talk to Seattle’s offense on the sideline after it came off the field, but Baldwin wanted quarterback Russell Wilson to be the one doing the talking. The CBS broadcast showed a replay of Baldwin trying to push Cable aside with one hand while yelling toward Wilson as several other offensive players huddled around them.

"I lost my cool, 100 percent my fault," Doug Baldwin said in apologizing for shoving assistant coach Tom Cable during a player huddle on the sideline Sunday.

“I lost my cool, 100 percent my fault,” Doug Baldwin said in apologizing for shoving assistant coach Tom Cable during a player huddle on the sideline Sunday.

Baldwin took responsibility for the incident and said he apologized to Cable. The two appeared to be talking amicably at the end of the first half, with Cable putting his arm around Baldwin as the two walked off the field together.
“I lost my cool. It’s 100 percent my fault,” Baldwin said. “At that moment, I was really frustrated with the offense as a whole. Not the coaching staff — the players. Again, it goes back to our X’s and O’s. We had the playcalls. We just didn’t execute. Whether it was passing the ball, blocking, catching, jumping offsides, false starting, whatever it may be, we weren’t executing as players, and to me there is nothing a coach can say. We have to take accountability for that.”

Carroll answered in the affirmative when asked if he wished the situation would have been handled differently, but he called it “no big deal.” Baldwin said he wished he would have gotten his point across in a different way, but he made it clear that he wasn’t going after Cable.

“Y’all know I love Cable to death,” he said. “Me and Cable have one of the best relationships from coach to player. That was 100 percent my fault. I already apologized to him. He knows how I am. It’s just at that moment, the players needed to realize it’s the players — it’s not the coaches.”

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Oct 15, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson (23) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) talk after the game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Oct 15, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson (23) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) talk after the game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Peterson’s Resurgence Helps Cardinals Fly Past Bucs

The Arizona Cardinals found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Sunday. With less than five minutes elapsed from the start of the third quarter, the Cardinals led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 31 points. The offense had been rolling and the defense had been suffocating. By the end of the game the starters were in victory formation, taking a deep sigh of relief, after surviving a furious Tampa Bay comeback. The win put the Cardinals back in the conversation for a division title and ultimately a playoff spot. Here is a breakdown of what happened and how the Cardinals weathered the storm.

The Adrian Peterson Show

In the preview for Sunday’s game a major point of emphasis was getting newcomer Adrian Peterson on track. Peterson’s acquisition earlier in the week seemed to energize the team and fans ahead of Sunday’s clash. The days leading up to the game, talk focused less on what was broken with the offense or defense, and more about how exciting it would be to see Peterson in an Arizona uniform. To be fair, Peterson did not disappoint on Sunday, running rampant against the Buccaneers defense. The Cardinals offense found balance for the first time all season on Sunday. Peterson carried the football 26 times and finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns. The running back needed just one game in a Cardinals uniform to become the team’s leading rusher this season in addition to becoming the team leader in rushing touchdowns and longest run. Keep in mind that this was the sixth game for the Cardinals.
Peterson broke out quickly against a normally tough Tampa Bay defense. Peterson ran hard and ran angry, often requiring multiple defenders to bring him to the ground. The Cardinals utilized multiple tight end sets, often motioning a tight end to overload one side of the line. One play the Cardinals used multiple times was the “Power O” with a guard and tight end pulling over to the other end to create a hole and seal off the second level of the defense. The return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone provided enough bulk on the left side to do some damage. On both of Peterson’s touchdowns, the Cardinals chose to run behind the left side of the line, with Peterson often going untouched the initial few yards after the hand off. The Cardinals have something interesting moving forward with Peterson. It will be important to replicate the success to keep winning.

Carson Palmer Nearly Flawless

One thing that a dominating run game can do is take away pressure from the quarterback to make big plays. Carson Palmer has been begging for some help on offense and Peterson’s fantastic debut allowed the quarterback to have a clean pocket and clearer throwing lanes downfield. Palmer was perfect in the first quarter, completing his first 14 passes, and finishing the day with an 81.8 percent completion rate. The Cardinals passing game benefitted from Tampa’s inability to stop the run. The defense was forced to add an extra defender into the box, often leaving single coverage on the outside and a run-focused linebacker on an athletic tight end. As a result, Palmer threw three touchdowns, all to open receivers.
The offensive line allowed less pressure on Sunday, giving up two sacks, buoyed by play action and multiple blocker sets. That protection gave Palmer the time needed to pick out his receivers, as exhibited by his completion percentage. This is the Palmer who made the Cardinals title contenders in 2015. This is the Palmer that the Bengals saw coming out of USC as the first overall pick. The main benefactor of a clean Palmer was Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran receiver found single coverage for most of the game and took advantage to a tune of ten receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. Fitzgerald had a long of 29 yards and ran wild on the Tampa secondary. On Sunday, the passing game was crisp and dangerous, with Palmer leading the way and Larry Fitzgerald playing the star.

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HOUSTON — In one breath Sunday, Hue Jackson was hinting strongly that DeShone Kizer would return as the Cleveland Browns’ starter at quarterback against the Tennessee Titans.

In the next, he seemed perplexed by a report on CBS during the game broadcast that he had texted Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson the day of the draft and said, “be ready.”

The implication of the report was that Jackson was alerting Watson to prepare himself to be drafted by Cleveland.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Jackson said after the Browns fell to 0-6 with a 33-17 loss to Watson and the Texans. “That’s so long ago. I met with that crew, and nobody asked me that. I met with the same crew, and that question never came up to me. I did text Deshaun before [the draft]. I was in conversation with him. But I don’t recall draft day at all.

Led by rookie Deshawn Watson, the Texans' offense is suddenly putting up huge numbers.

Led by rookie Deshawn Watson, the Texans’ offense is suddenly putting up huge numbers.

“I don’t think I would have [done] that.”
The significance, of course, is that the Browns traded the 12th pick to Houston so the Texans could draft Watson. That means that for the second year in a row, the Browns traded out of a pick that a team used to take the guy it believes is its franchise quarterback. In 2016, Carson Wentz went to the Eagles with a pick the Browns traded.

“I know I did not send that text on draft day,” Jackson said.

Watson said he did, though he made it sound like a friendly thing about the draft.

“Hue texted me that morning and just said, ‘Be ready. Anything could happen,’” Watson said. “And they took the picks they wanted to take.”
Watson said he developed a friendship with Jackson in the months leading up to the draft.

“Me and Hue during the draft process kind of communicated,” Watson said. “They were a team that was big on me. Brought me in, worked me out, met with me, phone calls throughout the weeks. Just kind of building a relationship, building a friendship.

“I didn’t know where I was going to go, but at the end of the day, God put me here with Houston.”

Watson said he considered the Browns one of many possibilities on draft day.

“I knew they had two first round picks, and anything can happen,” he said. “I just kept an open mind and didn’t want to get my hopes up too big and just kind of enjoyed it, had fun with it. It was a lifetime dream, and it ended up being a great night.”
The Browns took Myles Garrett with the first overall pick and could have taken Watson with the 12th (which they acquired for Wentz). NFL.com reported the week after the draft that Watson was the quarterback Jackson liked, but he wanted safety Malik Hooker at the spot.

The Browns chose to trade down and acquired Houston’s first-round picks in 2017 and 2018. That is one of five picks the Browns have in the first two rounds of the ’18 draft.

“I don’t remember making any texts to him on draft day other than later on telling him congratulations, him being drafted to where he went, to Houston,” Jackson said. “I don’t remember telling him to be ready for us to draft him or anything like that.”
The Browns wound up taking Kizer in the second round. Kizer started the team’s first five games but was benched against Houston in lieu of Kevin Hogan.

Hogan threw three interceptions, fumbled once (the Browns recovered) and was sacked in the end zone for a safety in what turned out to be a long day.

Jackson said he would decide who starts against Tennessee later this week, but he wanted Kizer “to see the game from a different lens.”

“As I told you guys, this was going to be week to week,” Jackson said. “You guys asked me last week. I never said that Kevin was going to be the starter for the rest of the season.”

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FRISCO, Texas — Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint against the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, alleging owner and general manager Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening players if they choose not to stand for the national anthem.

Jones said earlier this week if a player “disrespects the flag” and national anthem by not standing, then the player will not play.

According to the filing to the National Labor Relations board, “the employer, evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying that he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity.”
Jones has said players will not play, not that they would be fired, if they do not stand for the anthem, but Wade Rathke, Local 100s chief organizer, said that is a “distinction without difference when it comes to the law.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said players will not play if they "disrespect the flag" by not standing during the national anthem.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said players will not play if they “disrespect the flag” by not standing during the national anthem.

The Cowboys will not comment on the filing, according to a spokesman. The NFL has declined to comment.

“You can’t discipline somebody for something that is a right they have under the law, whether that discipline be termination or benching or giving a slap on the wrist or writing up in their files they’ve been a bad boy,” Rathke said. “That’s just not what they can do when it comes to concerned activities. I know in the modern age people think workers shouldn’t have rights, but they still do. This union was offended by those comments. Mr. Jones just got carried away being a rich guy and there’s no laws he has to respect.”

According to Rathke, the NLRB will assign a field agent to investigate the claim and if there is a determination that there is a violation of the act it will go to trial if no settlement is reached.
“I’m hoping this doesn’t go to hell and back on the labor board,” Rathke said. “I think Mr. Jones should just say, ‘I stepped out of line.’ Fine. … We’re not looking for blood.”

According to the NFL’s game manual, players are not required to stand for the anthem; however, it is written that they “should” stand at attention.
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL teams expressing a belief that “everyone should stand for the national anthem” and that the dispute surrounding the issue is “threatening to erode the unifying power of our game.” He spoke of a plan that will be reviewed with the teams at next week’s league meeting, which would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”

President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners since last month to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, saying their protest “disrespects the flag” and the country.

Before their Sept. 25 game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys players, coaches and staff, including Jones, stood locked arm in arm and took a knee before the anthem. During the anthem, they stood arm in arm. In the past two games, the Cowboys have stood on the sideline as they had before President Trump’s initial comments.

Defensive linemen Damontre Moore and David Irving raised their fists at the end of the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. They told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that they did so “well after” the anthem, and the coach said they would not be disciplined.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Jones left open the opportunity for a player to have a form of silent protest before the anthem — similar to the way the Cowboys handled the situation before the anthem in Arizona as a team — or after the anthem.
“If we’re going to have any other recognition the place to have it is before the anthem in my view and be real clear that it’s not associated with the anthem,” Jones said. “I think it’s real important for our players that they have that to reply to anybody whether they’re asking them to express themselves or not that the way we do it where I work, where I earn my livelihood is that we stand for the flag.”

When asked if he would really sit a player like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant, Jones initially deferred.

“The policy and my actions are going to be that if you’re not honoring, standing for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that’s not the case, then you won’t play,” Jones said. “That’s nothing new as far as that being my wish on the way that I want the Cowboys to have. As far as whether or not I will basically institute or basically do what I said, I just would say that the implication that we’re not respecting the flag … is just not going to be accepted and so I would just ask anybody to look at my record relative to what I say I’m going to do and you go from there.”

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Vice President Mike Pence says he left Sunday’s 49ers-Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis because of protesting that took place during the national anthem.

For the second week in a row, the 49ers had more than 20 players kneeling during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts. Teammates stood behind the kneeling players with one hand on a kneeling teammate’s shoulder and the other over their hearts.

The Colts wore black T-shirts with the words “We Will” on the front and “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back for the second straight week. The players stood with their arms locked during the anthem.

Vice President Mike Pence left the 49ers-Colts game Sunday shortly after the national anthem.

Vice President Mike Pence left the 49ers-Colts game Sunday shortly after the national anthem.

Pence tweeted a statement in which he said he would not dignify any event that disrespects soldiers, the flag or the anthem.
On Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he had asked Pence to leave the game if any players knelt during the anthem.
49ers safety Eric Reid said he believed Pence’s actions were premeditated.

“First of all, does anyone know the last time he’s been to a football game?” Reid said after the game. “OK, with that being said, he tweeted out a 3-year-old photo of him at a Colts game. So with the information that I have, the last time he’s been to a football game is three years ago. So this looks like a PR stunt to me.

“He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game in an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I made.”

A former governor of Indiana, Pence had been in Indianapolis as part of the celebration of Peyton Manning and his jersey retirement and induction into the Colts’ Ring of Honor during Sunday’s game.

Pence had tweeted a photo of him and his wife, Karen Pence, saying they were looking forward to cheering for the Colts and honoring Manning. But the Indianapolis Star noted that the photo appeared to be from 2014.

The photo the vice president tweeted showed him wearing a Colts polo shirt. He was photographed wearing a suit during the national anthem Sunday.
The pool reporter with the vice president had been told to stay outside the stadium and that Pence might leave the game early.

Aides to the vice president did not respond to questions on whether he had planned to make the public walk-out in the game against the 49ers, who have regularly held the demonstrations.

Pence has attended other NFL games, including December’s Colts-Jets game at MetLife Stadium when he was the vice president-elect.

The NFL and the Colts declined to comment on Pence’s exit, while Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano steered clear of the topic in his postgame news conference.

NFL players who have demonstrated during the national anthem over the past year have said they are protesting police brutality and racism, not the flag or the anthem itself.
The protests began in August 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in a preseason game.

During a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22, Trump chastised the practice, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.’” He later encouraged fans to leave NFL stadiums if they saw it happen in front of them.

Reid said the 49ers’ actions during the anthem Sunday were not as planned as last week’s display in Arizona.

“These were guys that felt compelled to continue to protest. I think it is gaining ground,” Reid said. “… I will continue to say and encourage people to educate themselves on how we got to where we are today because it didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to happen overnight to fix these issues. So we’re going to keep talking about it. I know that I will keep doing what I feel is necessary to use the platform I have to make those changes.
“It’s really disheartening when everything that I was raised on was to be the best person I could be to help people that need help and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message on what we’re trying to put out there. I don’t know what else to say about it.”

Around the NFL on Sunday, at least seven players from two teams knelt during the national anthem while three Miami Dolphins players and the Tennessee Titans’ Rishard Matthews remained in the tunnel or locker room for the anthem. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch continued to sit during the anthem.