Hiding Behind The Shield: Hypocritical NFL continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid – New York Daily News

This is what my friend Adam Schefter wrote the other day after the Seattle Seahawks decided against bringing in Colin Kaepernick for a workout, what would have been his first since becoming a free agent after the 2016 NFL season:

“Seattle had contacted Kaepernick about two weeks ago to arrange a visit to the team’s headquarters, but after tentative arrangements were made and travel was planned, the trip was unexpectedly scuttled over the Seahawks’ last-minute stipulation regarding Kaepernick’s anthem stance, a source told ESPN. The source said the Seahawks wanted to know that Kaepernick wouldn’t kneel this season, and he was unwilling to give that assurance to them.”

This, then, continues to be the current climate of cowardly and small-minded and discriminatory group-think in pro football, where they use that famous shield of theirs to shield them from the political beliefs of players like Colin Kaepernick, beliefs they have clearly decided adversely affect their bottom lines. Apparently they’re worried that if those bottom lines of theirs are adversely affected, we might have to run benefits for NFL owners.

DEC. 11, 2016, FILE PHOTO

The Seahawks decided against bringing Colin Kaepernick in for a workout.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

So the Seahawks did what they did this week, even though they’re saying no, no, no, the fact that Kaepernick famously began kneeling during the national anthem wasn’t the reason they withdrew their invitation. Sure it wasn’t.

Maybe Kaepernick, who is suing the league for collusion, might not be able to ever prove anything about the Seahawks, might not be able to prove league-wide collusion in a court of law. But in the same week as Kaepernick’s Seattle visit was cancelled, Bengals owner Mike Brown questioned Kaepernick’s former teammate, defensive back Eric Reid — also an unemployed NFL free agent — about his future plans for kneeling — or not — during the playing of the anthem, if Reid ever gets another job, that is.

Of course Reid was one of the very first to take a knee next to Kaepernick. These questions were asked by a guy, Brown, who would sign players out of a bar fight if he thought they could help him actually win a playoff game someday.

So this is the current, unwritten policy of NFL owners, who said a lot of big and brave things last fall when players were kneeling in September, and then immediately began to run from those players and run from the anthem controversy and, for the time being, continue to blackball Kaepernick and Reid. This continues to be a shame on this league, which once took millions from the Pentagon for displays of patriotism before and during NFL games. The hypocrisy of it all is rather thrilling.

Eric Reid was one of the first players to take a knee next to Colin Kaepernick.

Eric Reid was one of the first players to take a knee next to Colin Kaepernick.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The men and women who own NFL teams have bought into the cockeyed notion that protest and dissent of the kind practiced by Kaepernick and Reid make these players unpatriotic, even in a country where honorable and peaceful dissent is as patriotic as the flag that they are told they are disrespecting. But this isn’t about politics or beliefs or dissent, peaceful or otherwise. It’s about money. And fear.

But please consider that this is a league where you can be legally intoxicated and be behind the wheel of a moving automobile that kills someone and then resume your NFL career. It happened with Leonard Little, a star defensive end once for the (then) St. Louis Rams. Little left a party in October of ’98 when he was a Rams rookie, and was the driver of a car that killed a woman, and mother, named Susan Gutwiler, whose two children were with her in the car at the time, and survived the crash. Little’s blood alcohol level was 0.19. The legal limit in Missouri is 0.08. He ultimately received four years probation, a penalty of 1000 hours of community service, and an eight-game suspension in the ’99 season.

Little played another decade for the Rams after that. Was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2003.

You know the much longer list of NFL players given second — and third — chances for offenses far less serious than Little’s. Colin Kaepernick may never get one. For taking a knee.

Leonard Little played more than a decade in the NFL.

Leonard Little played more than a decade in the NFL.


Mike Florio, not only a smart pro football guy but a lawyer as well, wrote this the other day at his website, ProFootballTalk.com, after explaining the language in the league’s current collective bargaining agreement about how players “must” be on the field for the anthem, but “should” stand for it:

“Regardless of whether it’s ‘bad for business’ when players protest during the anthem, the NFL gave them that right, the NFL confirmed that right, and the NFL has reiterated the confirmation of that right. Making employment decisions based on the exercise of that right makes that right meaningless, which makes it flat-out wrong to consider past protests or plans to protest in the future when deciding whether to sign a player.”

Florio is right, about players’ rights. It’s not players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem that is un-American. It’s owners discriminating against those players by refusing to consider them for employment. Sometimes you wonder if the owners are the ones who are drunk here.

But the president must love it. NFL owners have built a wall between them and Colin Kaepernick.

Dark Garden, A-Rod the Met & Yankee pitching . . .

– Once the Knicks ended their season the other night, Madison Square Garden was officially dark, until the fall, for both them and the Rangers.

The last time it happened at Mr. Dolan’s Garden was eight years ago.

Now it happens again.

Not only don’t the Knicks and Rangers not have any official games for more than six months, neither one of them has a head coach right now and, well, make up your own joke on that one.

– For the last time (at least for now):

The way the Masters played out late Sunday afternoon, with Jordan Spieth trying to shoot a 62 at Augusta and catch Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler making that birdie on the 72nd hole to make Reed make a par to get the green jacket, just shows you that golf can still be pretty great even when Tiger Woods finishes in a tie for 32nd place.

Though I really did think that television was going to cover Tiger all the way to the airport.

– Here is what Mark Sanchez wrote the other day after getting popped for four games by the NFL for performance-enhancing drugs, and stop me if you feel as if you’ve heard this one before:

“I was blindsided by the news and I want to say unequivocally that I have never cheated or attempted to gain a competitive advantage by using a banned performance enhancing substance.”

– Alex Rodriguez knows, and the Mets know, and just about everybody who doesn’t like to rewrite history the way Alex does, knows, that there was a better chance of Jennifer Lopez being a Met in 2001 than of him being one.

There is a reason why Rodriguez ended up in Texas:

They offered him more money than anyone else did.

Like, way more.

In fact, they offered him exactly twice as much as the $126 million the Timberwolves had paid Kevin Garnett at the time, which meant that our Alex had scored exactly twice as much as Garnett after Garnett had the biggest contract around.

Three years later, the Rangers unloaded Rodriguez’s contract to the Yankees, because they had no chance to build a winning team around him.

Now he regrets not going with the Mets. Got it.

When Rodriguez took a called third strike to end the 2010 American League Championship Series, one that put the Rangers in the World Series at last, veteran baseball writer Gerry Fraley turned to me and said, “The Rangers wanted Alex to put them in the Series. He finally has.”

– Because the Red Sox twice didn’t have to bat in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees this past week, it means they hit in 25 innings against our guys from 161st St.

In the process, they produced 27 runs.

It’s kind of a lot.

Then the Yankees went to Detroit on Friday night and allowed six more.

At least so far, then, you have to say their pitchers are ahead of hardly anybody’s hitters.

Nobody is writing him off, and he may turn out to be a big pitcher for the Yankees this season, but sometimes you look at Sonny Gray and think you really are watching the second coming of Javy Vazquez.

– James Harden had an amazing season, and so did his team, but he’s not the MVP in pro basketball because LeBron James still is.

In addition to everything else he did this season, and the way he looked like an even better player than ever — after already establishing himself as the best all-around player ever — he even managed to play all 82 games.

At 33.

And if he somehow does make it to the NBA Finals for the 8th consecutive time, with two different teams — and essentially leading two different Cavs teams this season — it would stand with the greatest accomplishments in NBA history.

That it’s, that’s all.

– My old Daily News running mate Gary Myers is hosting a pre-NFL draft event at Foley’s (18 West 33rd) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Ernie Accorsi and Rich Cimini will be his guests on the panel.

No cover charge.

They’ll talk quarterbacks — who better than Ernie? — and Jets and Giants and one of the most anticipated drafts for the two New York/Jersey teams ever.

Sounds like it will be more fun than the whole season was at MetLife Stadium, frankly.

– Uh oh, after Friday night’s missile strike against Syria, we’re apparently all the way back to Mission Accomplished-ville.

I mean, what could ever possibly go wrong with a theory or a statement like that?

I keep reading and hearing that both Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are candidates to be the next coach of the Knicks and keep thinking, wait a darn second, what about my pal Mike Breen?

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NFL wants special investigator to look into concussion settlement fraud – ESPN

The NFL is seeking the appointment of a special investigator to address what it claims is widespread fraud of its concussion settlement with former players — another step in a growing feud between the sides.

In a filing Friday to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania, the league said nearly half the claims it has received have been red-flagged for audit. Of that, more than 400 have been rejected after an independent claim administrator found them to be fraudulent.

The NFL is requesting the special investigator to assist the claim administrator and recommend sanctions.

“We want to ensure that players and their families receive the benefits they deserve,” said attorney Brad Karp, whose firm represents the NFL. “Fraud threatens the integrity of the settlement and the prompt payment of legitimate claims. There is significant evidence of fraudulent claims being advanced by unscrupulous doctors, lawyers and even players. The appointment of a special investigator was specifically contemplated in the agreement and will provide important additional tools to assist the independent, court-appointed administrators in identifying fraudulent claims and related misconduct.”

Lawyers for the players alleged in a filing last month that the NFL is intentionally slowing the claims process, according to the Washington Post. Dementia claims have been especially slow to be paid out. According to the Post, only six of the 1,113 claimants with a dementia diagnosis have been paid.

To date, more than 20,000 former players are part of the class eligible to share in a settlement that is uncapped but could approach $1 billion over its 65-year life. The settlement has approved 377 awards, according to its website, and is committed to more than $411 million in monetary awards.

But the process has been slower than expected because of fraud, according to the NFL. Among the examples listed in the league’s claim:

• A law firm representing more than 100 players directed at least one to report for a medical test hungover and on Valium.

• A law firm representing more than 50 players used a pediatric neurologist to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Of that group, 75 percent were diagnosed, many of whom were in their 30s and 40s.

• The same neurologist submitted identical vital signs for 21 players.

• A “disturbing pattern” of text messages and other communication in which players were coached by claims service providers to “beat the neuropsychological tests.”

Christopher Seeger, the lead attorney for the players, said Friday in a statement that the appointment of a special investigator would be “appropriate.” But he warned that the NFL shouldn’t use the issue of fraud as an excuse to withhold payments to deserving players.

“We have previously expressed concerns about potentially fraudulent claims and agree the appointment of a special investigator is appropriate,” Seeger said. “However, we will not allow this small number of claims to be used as an excuse by the NFL to deny payment to legitimately injured former players. Unlike other NFL benefits programs, this settlement is overseen by the court, and the League cannot escape its responsibility. We will make sure that former NFL players and their families receive every benefit they are entitled to under this agreement.”

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Six quarterbacks taken in first round, including one for the Patriots – CBSSports.com

No preamble necessary for my latest mock draft. Let’s get right into things, which are going to get crazy as teams move around the board in order to snatch their quarterback of the future in the 2018 NFL Draft. 

1. Cleveland Browns

Sam Darnold, QB, USC. A recent NFL Network poll revealed that 17 of 24 GMs asked the question consider Darnold the top quarterback in this class. Sure, the Browns might be one of the two teams that picked Josh Allen. But for now, with public opinion seemingly split on who the Browns will actually take, it feels safer to play the odds — especially since I’ve had Darnold in this spot throughout the process. 

2. Denver Broncos (via mock trade from NYG)

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. With Darnold off the board, the Giants elect to trade down. But it’s not the Bills moving up to No. 2; it’s the Broncos, who decide they don’t want three teams taking a passer before they do. John Elway moves up and gets his QB of the future. 

3. New York Jets (from IND)

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. The Jets stick at No. 3 and get Mayfield, who has the best overall tape of any quarterback in the class but gets dinged for being short and daring to have a personality that isn’t incredibly boring. Something tells me the New York tabloids will love this guy. 

4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU)

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. Cleveland gets its QB of the future and pairs the top defender in this class with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett, to form a potentially electric pass rush. 

5. New York Giants (via mock trade from DEN)

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The Giants move down three spots, picking up the No. 40 and 106 picks in the process. They also get the player they probably would have taken at No. 2 in the first place, solidifying the weakest area of their team with a dominant offensive lineman.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from NYJ)

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. The Chubb pipe dream ended when the Browns snatched him up at No. 4 but the Colts will happily settle for giving Andrew Luck (if healthy … please be healthy) an elite partner in the backfield for the first time in his career. Worst-case scenario, Barkley serves as the foundation of a Luck-less offense. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Derwin James, S, Florida State. The Buccaneers had a dreadful pass defense last season, and James can be a nice salve for the back end. He makes plays all over the field and he tested out as a high-level athlete at the combine. If Nelson is off the board, as he is here, James would be the best selection for Tampa. 

8. Buffalo Bills (via mock trade from CHI)

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Buffalo finally moves up for a quarterback, jumping a few spots ahead of division rival Miami to land the last of the top four QB prospects. 

9. San Francisco 49ers

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Our editor R.J. White said it best when assigning the Niners this same pick in his Thursday mock: “The 49ers still need help in the secondary after adding Richard Sherman, who is coming off a major injury himself. Enter Fitzpatrick, who could slide in at slot corner with Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon on the boundaries, or at free safety if San Francisco decides it wants to move Jimmie Ward to corner. Either way, the Alabama product is a talent you want on your defense.”

10. Oakland Raiders

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Jon Gruden has professed a desire to bring football back to 1998. Drafting a linebacker this high would certainly help accomplish that goal, but Smith is the kind of player that might actually be worth it. 

11. Miami Dolphins

Vita Vea, DL, Washington. The Dolphins cast Ndamukong Suh aside for salary reasons this offseason, and drafting Vea will help them plug the Suh-sized hole in the middle of their run defense. 

12. Chicago Bears (from CIN, via mock trade from BUF)

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. The Bears get picks No. 12 and 22 from the Bills in exchange for No. 8 and 39, and they get the player their defense needs anyway. Edmunds can play all over, and fits right in with the young core of players Chicago has on defense. 

13. Washington Redskins

Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama. Washington would probably prefer Vea, who is a slightly better run defender, but Payne will do in a pinch. 

14. Green Bay Packers

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Ward helps the Packers remake their defensive backfield. He can step right in and play on the boundary right away with his athleticism and physicality; and he should be a long-term answer, unlike some of the recent defensive back draft picks Green Bay has made. 

15. Arizona Cardinals

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Arizona resists the urge to move up the board and still gets an intriguing quarterback prospect. It will take a creative offensive mind to unlock Jackson’s full potential, but if somebody taps into it, he could have a higher upside than any other QB in the draft. 

16. Baltimore Ravens

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Ravens did sign Michael Crabtree and John Brown this offseason, but their receiver room could use an injection of talent that will last beyond the next couple years and is reliable enough to stay on the field. Ridley didn’t test well at the combine but he has excellent movement skills and great hands. In the right scheme, he should be able to get open very easily. 

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. The Chargers already have a ton of talent and athleticism on defense, and Vander Esch would fit right in. Imagining him on the same defense as Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, and one of the best secondaries in the AFC almost seems unfair. 

18. Seattle Seahawks

Will Hernandez, G, UTEP. If the Seahawks can’t move down for more picks, expect them to finally give Russell Wilson some help up front. 

19. Dallas Cowboys

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Yes, the Cowboys have a crowded wide receiver room after signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. Yes, they still have Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer. But they don’t have an athletic playmaker like Moore, who should be able to help them beyond whenever the tenures of Bryant, Williams, and Beasley end, which could be sooner than we think. He can create those wide throwing windows Dak Prescott needs to recapture his rookie year success.  

20. Detroit Lions

Marcus Davenport, DL, UTSA. The Lions need someone to help Ezekiel Ansah rush the passer. Davenport has a twitchy motor and is the kind of high-upside player they can mold into a long-term partner for Ansah on the defensive front. 

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF)

James Daniels, G/C, Iowa. The Bengals took a step toward addressing their offensive line woes by acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills and moving down to this pick. They can get help on the interior of the line by nabbing Daniels here. 

22. Chicago Bears (from KC via mock trade from BUF)

Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. The Bears make out really well in their deal with the Bills, picking up a versatile defender and some help on the interior of their offensive line. Mitchell Trubisky will appreciate having Wynn on the line in front of him. 

23. New England Patriots (from LAR)

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. The Patriots land Tom Brady’s next quarterback apprentice. 

24. Carolina Panthers

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The Panthers have some intriguing offensive pieces but they still need a reliable speed threat on the outside. Torrey Smith might be able to help some, but he’s not a long-term piece and whatever upside he once had is no longer as intriguing. Sutton has a great frame and top-notch athleticism, and would make for a nice fit alongside Devin Funchess, Christian McCaffrey, and Curtis Samuel in the Panthers’ passing game. 

25. Tennessee Titans

Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College. The Titans have made some nice upgrades on defense this offseason, including adding a cornerback in Malcolm Butler. Adding a pass-rusher will further upgrade their pass defense. Landry had elite production and athletic traits at BC, even while struggling with injuries last season. 

26. Atlanta Falcons

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. The Falcons love nothing more than taking plus athletes on defense in the first round. Bryan fits that mold nicely, and would also be a fantastically helpful player for the current iteration of their defense. 

27. Cleveland Browns (via mock trade from NO)

Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan. The Saints move out of the first round here, picking up extra selections from the Browns, who come away as big winners of the first round. A defensive line with Garrett, Chubb, and Hurst on it would immediately be unfair. 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Pittsburgh is going to miss Ryan Shazier this season, and possibly beyond. Evans can help them in both the short and long-term, whether Shazier ever returns to the field or not. 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M. After losing Allen Robinson and Hurns this offseason, the Jags need to get Marqise Lee some help. Kirk landing in the first round is somewhat of a surprise but he has the talent to be the best receiver in the class if everything works out for him. 

30. Minnesota Vikings

Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. It’s difficult to think of a better pick in this spot for the Vikings. 

31. New England Patriots

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. The Pats lost Malcolm Butler this offseason and even though pass rusher might be a bigger “need,” they’ve never really operated with the idea that they need a dominant edge guy. Instead, they shore up the back end of the defense by taking a corner that fits all their criteria. 

32. Philadelphia Eagles

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. The defending champs land a strong corner to replace the departed Patrick Robinson. 

The Eric Reid situation exemplifies the hypocrisy of the Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL – New York Daily News

The Cincinnati Bengals have always been a peculiar bunch.

Talent has never been an issue in Cincinnati, but it always feels like the Bengals underachieve every season. Since 2005, the franchise has been to the playoffs seven times.

However, they haven’t actually won a postseason game since 1991.


While postseason success has never been one of the Bengals’ calling cards, their willingness to consistently take risks by signing and drafting players that come along with off-the-field baggage is.

Which is why it was so hypocritical of the Bengals when they brought in free agent safety Eric Reid this week in hopes of signing him but decided not to because there’s a chance that he might kneel again during the national anthem in the future.

Never mind the fact that he is only 26 years old, made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and has 10 interceptions, 36 pass defenses, 264 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries in five seasons.

But this is Cincinnati, and the Bengals organization wants their players to “stick to sports.”

“Football and politics don’t mix easily. Fans come to NFL games to watch great competition on the playing field and that’s where our focus should be,” the Bengals wrote in a statement last season after the president called for the firing of any player who kneeled during the anthem.

According to multiple reports, the Bengals brought Reid in with every intention of adding him to their roster, as new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was supposedly excited about the possibility of adding him to his secondary. Reid took a physical and even watched game film with the coaching staff.

Eric Reid’s peaceful protest during the national anthem may have led to the Bengals opting against signing him.

Eric Reid’s peaceful protest during the national anthem may have led to the Bengals opting against signing him.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

But then team owner Mike Brown personally met with Reid to inquire about the kneeling, not football. Mind you, Reid, who was the first teammate to take a knee next to Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season, is on the record for saying that he no longer plans to kneel or do any other demonstrations during the anthem.

So, when Reid didn’t have any definitive answers for Brown for what his future plans were, you can see where head coach Marvin Lewis, the longest-tenured black coach in NFL history, was going when he asked Reid if he wanted to clarify any statements he made to ownership.

“Dude, if you want this job. I suggest you tell the owner that you’re kneeling days are over.”

Reid made no clarifications to Brown, which is why he’s still without a job. I guess he left his tap dancing shoes at home.

“We are about playing football,” said Lewis to reporters at last month’s owners’ meetings. “[Players who] have other agendas, this is not the place to be. On Sunday for us and throughout the week in the building, it’s about football.”

In Cincinnati, they’d prefer to employ criminals instead of a guy like Reid who took a knee against police brutality as unarmed black men continue to die at the hands of the police, happening again last month in Sacramento.

According to a story by Bleacher Report, the Bengals franchise had more than 32 players arrested between 2000-2011, and a USA Today Sports database shows that the Bengals have an unimaginable 44 total player arrests in the last 17 years. That’s more than two players a season.

Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones has been in multiple domestic disputes with women, along with multiple incidents with the law throughout his entire career. But, he’s been on the Bengals roster since 2010. Jones was also arrested twice in 2013, and once again last season for poking a hotel security guard in the eye. And in 2007, Jones was also involved in a Las Vegas strip club altercation that left manager Tommy Urbanski paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by a member of Jones’ party. A Nevada jury later ordered Jones to pay Urbansky $11M for his role in the shooting.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict has paid out over $2 million in fines to the league over his tenure in the NFL with the Bengals, and he still has a job.

Marvin Lewis and the Bengals passed on signing Eric Reid.

Marvin Lewis and the Bengals passed on signing Eric Reid.

(John Autey/AP)

Before he passed away in 2009 in an automobile incident, former Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was arrested six times in a three-year span for assault, drunk driving, and drug and gun charges.

And just last summer, the Bengals decided to draft Joe Mixon after he was suspended during the 2014 season at the University of Oklahoma for punching a woman in a bar that left her with broken bones in her face. But still, many expect Mixon to be the Bengals starting running back this upcoming season.

As you can see, criminal behavior is accepted in Cincinnati, but fighting for social justice isn’t.

So, if you’re not going to stick to sports, you better be committing felonies instead of peacefully protesting, apparently.

“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous. If you think [IT]is, then your mindset is part of the problem, too,” Reid tweeted last month. “GMs aren’t the hold up broski. It’s ownership,” Reid wrote to @abel1408.”People who know football know who can play. People who know me, know my character.”

I thought this kneeling thing was behind us, but apparently, it isn’t.

In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen the Baltimore Ravens sign Robert Griffin III as a slap in the face to Colin Kaepernick. And now Eric Reid can’t get a job because he won’t kowtow to a wealthy white man’s wishes.

Only in America, can your career be cut short for exercising your rights, but not for breaking a woman’s face, or driving while intoxicated, or committing assault.

Freedom ain’t free after all.

eric reid
cincinnati bengals
cleveland browns
vontaze burfict
robert griffin iii

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Cowboys' Jaylon Smith feels great, wants more work – NFL.com

After missing his entire rookie season, Jaylon Smith made it through the 16-game schedule in 2017, starting six tilts for the Dallas Cowboys.

With linebacker Anthony Hitchens signing in Kansas City this offseason, the Cowboys are counting on Smith to play a full-time role in 2018.

“Oh man, well I played an entire season in the National Football League. I played every game, started [six] of them, improved each week,” Smith said Tuesday on KRLD-FM, via the Dallas Morning News. “I feel amazing. Just the overall comfort of everything I had to go through, it was just a tremendous first year, and it’s going to be a great one this year.”

The linebacker compiled 81 tackles, fourth-most on the team last season, despite playing a rotational role. Smith began the 2017 season starting the first five games. Dallas then moved Hitchens to the starting gig, preferring to lighten Smith’s load.

Smith was at his best last season playing downhill but struggled at times with his lateral quickness, which was to be expected after dealing with a drop-foot condition stemming from his torn-up knee.

The 22-year-old believes the further he gets from the injury, the better player he’ll become in Dallas. Smith noted he feels “substantially better” than 2017.

“It showed on the field, week by week my growth, my comfort and just being able to play the position again,” he said. “I’m prepared and I’m ready to tackle even more this year. It’s going to be a great year.”

Once deemed a top-10 draft pick before the devastating injury, Smith showed flashes of his natural ability last season. With holes throughout the defense, the Cowboys are hoping and praying to see more of it in 2018.

Dallas went on a limb to use a second-round selection on a linebacker some medical analysts believed would never return to form. If he progresses in a full-time role this season, the Cowboys will be justified in their decision.

2018 NFL Draft Guide: One burning question for each NFC team – NFL.com

The 2018 NFL Draft will be held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. As we hurtle toward the offseason’s marquee event, Jeremy Bergman examines one pressing question for each NFC team.

Arizona Cardinals: Will Steve Keim surprise us all and trade up for their franchise QB?

Strange things could happen in the desert this spring. Despite signing Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon to replace Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert, the Cards are contenders to find their QB of the future in the first round. The Steves (Wilks and Keim) were fixtures on the QB pro-day circuit. Arizona was negligent last year, when both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were within reach, but the Chiefs and Texans each hopped the Cards via trade. In retrospect, that inaction was one of last season’s great blunders. Will Arizona use its 15th overall pick — and whatever else it might take — to make up for it?

Atlanta Falcons: How will the defense replace Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe?

For the Falcons this draft, the focus should be on the front seven. Though Atlanta spent its first pick last year on Takk McKinley, the losses of Clayborn and Poe in free agency impair a defensive line in need of more pocket-crashing power. Not much changed on the offense this offseason — aside from the exit of Taylor Gabriel, as illustrated in our NFC South Roster Reset — so the Falcons are free to focus on this, one of their few weak spots. Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne would be a steal at No. 26, while fellow SEC defensive tackle Taven Bryan and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst also represent good value in the back end of Round 1.

Carolina Panthers: Time to finally replace Josh Norman and/or Kelvin Benjamin?

Things are complicated in Carolina. The Panthers are in the middle of an ownership change; they hired Marty Hurney for another GM go-around after firing him in 2012; and Carolina’s big offseason move was to fill a hole while simultaneously digging another one in trading 23-year-old cornerback Daryl Worley for 29-year-old deep threat Torrey Smith. In Hurney’s first draft since ’12, he must address Carolina’s issues outside the trenches, which have grown more prevalent ever since Norman’s unceremonious ouster in 2016 and Benjamin’s trade in 2017. But which vulnerable position is a greater priority for Hurney?

Chicago Bears: How closely will Ryan Pace follow the Rams’ playbook?

Da Bears’ hype train left Chicago Union Station in early January, when Chiefs offensive coordinator and latest Andy Reid disciple Matt Nagy was hired to replace John Fox and coach up Mitchell Trubisky, a signal that the organization was looking to replicate, literatim, what the Rams did with Sean McVay and Jared Goff in 2017. Chicago has since surrounded The Truth with his very own Robert Woods (Allen Robinson), Sammy Watkins (Taylor Gabriel) and Cooper Kupp (Trey Burton). But where will Ryan Pace find his version of Andrew Whitworth, a bacon-saving offensive lineman? Chicago will keep its fingers crossed that the top of the draft is as QB-heavy as advertised, and somehow Quenton Nelson, arguably the draft’s top talent, falls to No. 8. If not, it’s BPA for a young roster looking to forge its own identity — as long as it somewhat resembles the Rams’.

Dallas Cowboys: How exactly will the Joneses choose to go on the defensive?

With Dez Drama, Part XLII tabled following a pair of low-wattage receiver acquisitions (Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson), the Joneses are free to play keep-up on defense. Dallas is entering the third season of the Dak-Zeke rookie-contract era, meaning it has about two more seasons to completely maximize its roster potential outside of the QB and RB positions. The Cowboys’ promising secondary still needs more work, but Dallas spent four of its first six picks last year on defensive backs. Sean Lee isn’t getting any younger, and Jaylon Smith needs more help at linebacker, too. Dallas could also double down by taking another defensive lineman in the first round to protect against a potential DeMarcus Lawrence departure next offseason. Big D’s D needs more D-velopment, but where to start?

Detroit Lions: How can Matt help Matt?

Matthew Stafford is the franchise, so the new regime should try its damnedest to protect him with either skill-position or line help. Eric Ebron’s out after four meh years. Is it time to try again at tight end in the draft? Detroit signed old-school (not “Old School”) tight end Luke Willson in the offseason to replace Ebron, but new Lions coach Matt Patricia is used to practicing against multi-TE sets in New England. Might he go searching for his own Rust Belt Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the first round and reach for Dallas Goedert or Mike Gesicki? Or will the lead-head rookie signal-caller stay level-headed and protect Stafford the old-fashioned way: with help on the offensive line, where a guard (Graham Glasgow) is taking over at center?

Green Bay Packers: How’ll the new guy handle his first draft on the Throne of Cheese?

Green Bay is in unusual territory. Fresh off a losing season, the Pack is back in the top half of the first round for the first time since 2009, when Green Bay snagged 2010 NFC Championship Game hero B.J. Raji with the ninth overall selection. The Packers have also taken an unconventional approach, at least by their standard, to free agency. They’re participating! Brian Gutekunst’s new regime addressed roster needs by signing Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham, but will he continue the Cheesehead tradition of successfully building through the draft? Partially due to injury, Green Bay’s defensive selections from last year haven’t born fruit quite yet, so Gutekunst wouldn’t be blamed for tapping another rookie defensive back. After the initial run of corners and safeties at the end of the top 10, secondary secondary options like Mike Hughes and Josh Jackson will likely be available for Green Bay at No. 14.

Los Angeles Rams: Who will be the cherry on top of Wade Phillips’ wild offseason?

Mwah! The masterpiece is nearly complete. Les Snead’s offseason reshuffling of the defense saw three decorated defenders (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh) swoop in and claim starting roles, instantly improving Wade Phillips’ unit from last season. But now this Extreme Makeover: Rams House Edition needs a finishing touch in the form of an edge pass rusher or a linebacker to replace the losses of Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree. The Rams haven’t truly hit on a front-seven draft pick since taking Aaron Donald in 2014. Unfortunately, L.A., having gone ALL-IN on 2018, sold its first- and second-round picks and doesn’t draft until the back half of the third round (87th overall).

Minnesota Vikings: Draft to protect Kirk Cousins and guard against Ragnarok?

Protect Captain Kirk at all costs. That mantra should be printed on serifed inspirational posters and plastered on every wall in Minnesota’s new Eagan complex. $84 million in guaranteed money tells us that Cousins is the Minnesota Vikings for the next three years, so any and all resources further acquired should be used to keep him upright. With their tackles signed through 2021, Minnesota should look to draft the best guard available — and trade up to get one if necessary. With Joe Berger out to pasture and Nick Easton and new addition Tom Compton both in line to hit free agency next March, guard is the only high priority on an otherwise-loaded roster.

New Orleans Saints: Can Mickey Loomis three-peat?

Will New Orleans’ 2018 draft be remembered as “Return of the Jedi” or “The Godfather Part III”? Loomis and Jeff Ireland have put together back-to-back bonkers drafts by the Bayou. They snagged Sheldon Rankins and Michael Thomas in 2016 and reaped a quality quartet in 2017, one that produced two Rookie of the Year awards (Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore) and took the Saints from 7-9 purgatory to the cusp of the NFC title game. How in the wide, wide world of sports can you follow that up? With Demario Davis and Patrick Robinson in-house, the defense looks locked and loaded. Might New Orleans stock up on offensive talent for the stretch run of the Drew Brees era by drafting a late-first-round weapon like Christian Kirk or one of the tight ends? There’s also chitter-chatter about New Orleans selecting the heir apparent to Brees in this year’s draft — Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk are possibilities. But would New Orleans dare trade up from 27 to make a splash, perhaps for Baker Mayfield?

New York Giants: How will Dave Gettleman choose to alter the course of NFL history?

The above question is not hyperbole. Gettleman holds all the cards in his hands — or, more specifically, an infinitely valuable No. 2 overall pick at the top of a QB-rich draft filled with QB-needy teams licking their chops behind him. The Giants can thank the crosstown Jets, who traded up for the No. 3 pick, for their burdensome responsibility. Big Blue’s roster is wallowing in the purgatory between playoff contender and rebuild-in-waiting, so how Gettleman attacks the draft will say a lot about the direction of the franchise he has inherited. And it will also dictate the pace of the draft and the course of league history, setting into motion a chain of events that will affect the landing spots for multiple organization-altering (for better or worse) quarterbacks.

(Tri-state side note: Gettleman and Co. also have the added power of dictating the Jets’ future at QB. How much cross-Jersey gamesmanship and sabotage will go into the pre-draft waffling and misinformation campaign?)

Here are the GM’s options at No. 2, ranked by sense, in my opinion:

1) Draft the QB of the future, possibly Josh Rosen after Cleveland nabs Sam Darnold.
2) Trade down for an absolute haul — potentially from Buffalo — signaling a rebuild.
3-6) Await apocalypse.
7) Draft best player available (i.e., Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson). Yes, New York would be filling a position of need, but with so many teams in need of a QB, the Giants would be absolutely wasting the value of this pick in doing so. Nelson and/or Chubb can be acquired by trading a little farther down in the top 10; Barkley won’t last past the top five.

Philadelphia Eagles: What do you get for the roster that has everything?

Yawn. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles — holy hell, that sounds weird — had yet another stellar offseason under Howie Roseman, improving an already top-tier front seven by trading for Michael Bennett, signing Haloti Ngata and apparently yanking Chris Long out of impending retirement. Philly also made a lateral — er, vertical — move at wide receiver by trading Torrey Smith and signing Mike Wallace. In essence, the best roster in football got … better. “SKOL,” your Philly friends incessantly mock this summer. The Eagles’ first-round pick won’t improve their roster demonstrably, but he might fill one of Philadelphia’s few holes or shallow positions. With Brent Celek and Trey Burton out, Philly needs a second, athletic tight end, and there should be many available at No. 32.

San Francisco 49ers: Best player available or trade down again?

In the second year of their five-year plan, the 49ers are in a fascinating spot in the draft. San Francisco is selecting ninth, right at the end of a top 10 that could see up to five quarterbacks fly off the board. Considering their desire for young talent, the Niners are in a perfect position to trade down to a team desperately desiring the fourth or even fifth quarterback available, like Buffalo, Arizona or New Orleans. It would be the second time in two years under John Lynch that the 49ers traded down. But San Francisco needs depth in nearly every area — defensive line and secondary are the most pressing — and there will be highly touted options still available at No. 9. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s active first draft was generally regarded as a success, but does it behoove Santa Clara’s dynamic duo to attack this year’s go-around with the same free-wheeling attitude?

Seattle Seahawks: Can John Schneider hit in Round 1 for the first time since 2012?

John Schneider’s early-round draft history ain’t got not alibi — it’s ugly. A crap cocktail of trading down from late-first-round picks and just drafting poorly has left the Seahawks in the problematic place they inhabit in 2018. They’re too talented at certain positions (QB and LB) to completely rebuild, but too chronically hamstrung elsewhere (RB, offensive line) to look the other way. Drafting at No. 18, their highest first selection since choosing Bruce Irvin at No. 15 six years ago, the ‘Hawks need to upgrade their offensive line for the nth season in a row, but they also must replace departed vets Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett at CB and DE, respectively. It’s imperative that Schneider and coach Pete Carroll hit in the first round. If they don’t, Seattle will have to wait until the fourth round, on the draft’s third day, to try again; the Seahawks have two picks in the first four rounds and six in the final three. Go figure.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Following the run on QBs, who will fall to the No. 7 slot?

Keep it simple, swashbucklers. After focusing on the front seven in free agency, the Bucs only have a few glaring needs left to address early in the draft: running back (vacated by the ship-jumping Doug Martin) and defensive back. Tampa Bay is in a comfortable position at No. 7 — not too early, not too late — and could get lucky if Saquon Barkley falls. If not, it’s best defensive back available, baby. Take your pick. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James or Denzel Ward. Whoever tickles tharrrrr fancy.

Washington Redskins: After an offensive overhaul, what’s the plan on defense?

Washington is littered with controversy and commotion, but across the Potomac, the Redskins are having a quietly solid offseason, at least on offense. The ‘Skins re-jiggered their attack by trading for Alex Smith, letting Kirk Cousins walk into a historic deal and signing Paul Richardson. But aside from replacing the 23-year-old Kendall Fuller and 26-year-old Bashaud Breeland with 31-year-old Orlando Scandrick, D.C. did little to improve a mediocre defense ravaged by injuries the year before. If Washington is to contend in an unpredictable division, it will need to improve its talent on that side of the football — snagging a linebacker like Roquan Smith to complement the re-upped Zach Brown would be a steal at No. 13.

Follow Jeremy Bergman on Twitter @JABergman.