Replay rule expected to be changed for the playoffs
The immediate reaction among NFL coaches and executives to the events of the Thanksgiving game between the Texans and Lions was decisive, as many expressed to me a strong belief that the rule negating replay review when a coach throws a challenge flag on a scoring play needs to be changed. And, according to league sources, there is an expectation that change could come before the playoffs start.
There has already been some internal communication between members of the Competition Committee, sources said, in the wake of this controversial rule coming into play twice in a five-day span. And that group is likely to recommend this rule be changed at the next league meeting, Dec. 12 in Dallas. Many members of the committee believe the 15-yard penalty is sufficient. And even though these high-profile instances would seem to be enough to prevent another coach from making this mistake again, this rule will be altered at some point. For the sake of competitive balance, any rule change implemented at that December meeting would not go into effect until the postseason, as regular-season games have already been altered by the rule as it currently exists, sources said.
But with the play swinging this Thanksgiving game -- with the entire league watching in a very high-profile setting -- and clearly impacting the final result of that contest, if not the Lions' season, the strong sentiment remains to change its punitive nature as soon as possible. If, for some reason, the Competition Committee did not address this on Dec. 12, it would be a top priority at the annual league meeting in March.
Suh suspension would not be a surprise
While the NFL will not begin its official review until Monday of the play from Thanksgiving in which Lions defensive end Ndamukong Suh appeared to kick Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin, it is quite possible that Suh will receive a suspension for the play, according to league sources.
As is always the case in these situations, the league will review the play in question from every angle and make a determination if anything unusual took place. The league will examine if this was a routine football motion involved in the play or if this appears to be out of bounds of a normal action. If the latter is found to be the case, then the player's history is examined to determine if this is a repeat offender and someone who has not curbed such behavior. Suh was suspended for stomping on an opponent during a Thanksgiving game in 2011.
Even a cursory review of the play, as some would make over the weekend, reveals a motion from Suh that does not appear within the bounds of what is normally seen on a football field. And given the discipline that Suh has already faced and the amount of infractions he has accumulated related to personal fouls or intending to injury, league sources anticipate any discipline discussion involving him to begin with the possibility of suspension.
Franchise tag figures for 2013 largely unchanged
Players generally blanch at being hit with the franchise tag, which, despite being a fully guaranteed contractual designation, precludes a desired multi-year, mega-deal by virtue of its one-year status. With the salary cap projected to be relatively stagnant in 2013, you can
expect another record number of teams using the tag. At many key positions, the franchise figures will remain well below the totals from 2010.
In the new CBA, the formula for computing the franchise totals changed significantly -- with the formula including the figures of the highest-paid players at each position calculated over a five-year period instead of just the preceding year -- resulting in a significant drop in the totals for 2012 from 2011. And in 2013, the news is not much better. Despite players like Drew Brees and Mario Williams signing monster contracts last offseason, the figures raised
modestly for defensive ends, receivers and safeties but did not change much otherwise.
The figure for quarterbacks went up to just $14.6 million from $14.4 million in 2012, which is good news for Baltimore, among other teams. The Ravens have made no progress with Joe Flacco since training camp, and he would be one of the more high-profile candidates for a
franchise tag when teams can begin to tag players in February.
The offensive line projection is $9.7 million, up from $9.4 million. The Dolphins might have to use the tag on left tackle Jake Long, short of a new contract materializing, and the same goes for the Broncos and stud left tackle Ryan Clady.
Green Bay has a decision to make on oft-injured receiver Greg Jennings (receivers projections jump to $10.3 million from $9.4 million). On the defensive side of the ball, Houston end Connor Barwin could be staring at an $11 million tag if the two sides can't do a deal after the season, up from $10.6 million. Giants safety Kenny Phillips would
be a candidate as well, with his figure moving to $6.8 million, up from $6.2 million.
Here is the position-by-position breakdown of the projections for 2013 and a historical look at the figures:
- Quarterback: $14.6 million; $14.4 million in 2012, $16.1 million in 2011, $16.4 million in 2010
- Running back: $8 million; $7.7 million in 2012, $9.6 million in 2011, $8.2 million in 2010
- Wide receiver: $10.3 million; $9.4 million in 2012, $11.4 million in 2011, $9.5 million in 2010
- Tight end: $6 million; $5.4 million in 2012, $7.3 million in 2011,$5.9 million in 2010
- Offensive line: $9.7 million; $9.4 million in 2012, $10.1 million in 2011, $10.7 million in 2010
- Defensive end: $11 million; $10.6 million in 2012, $13 million in 2011, $12.4 million in 2010
- Defensive tackle: $8.3 million; $7.9 million in 2012, $12.5 million in 2011 $7 million in 2010
- Linebacker: $9.4 million; $8.8 million in 2012, $10.1 million in 2011, $9.7 million in 2010
- Cornerback: $10.7 million; $10.6 million in 2012, $13.5 million in 2011, $9.6 million in 2010
- Safety: $6.8 million; $6.2 million in 2012, $8.8 million in 2011, $6.5 million in 2010
NFL Media has been tracking detailed, specific player movement. in earnest this season. Handfuls of players wearing small chips inside their shoulder pads during Thursday night NFL Network games, according to league sources, are part of an initiative the league believes could one day change the way consumers receive information, updates and statistics on their phones, computers and video gaming devices.
The NFL has been trying various devices to gather data for a few years now, league sources said, but the project has expanded this season and the league believes within a few years, if done properly, fans might be able to see images and recreations of games in real time, have statistical downloads available for Madden consoles based off the data just accumulated from completed games, and consumers could run recreations and simulations on their own, based on the motion-capture data.
The monitors are able to track how fast players are running, how much they accelerate, the angles with which they cut, how far they jump, capture the movements that made up a receiving route, or the directions a running back went in carrying a ball. The goal is to find the right platform in which to transfer this data, with the league purposefully taking its time in the developmental stages before bringing it to market.
Eventually, however, the goal is to see this data quickly assimilated into various products. For instance, instead of just seeing a real-time update of a 10-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith, which would show up as a sentence on a website like NFL.com, or CBSSports.com (Flacco to Smith, 10 yard gain). Instead, users would actually see the route develop in a representation on the web, be able to determine if he broke off his route or how he got to the ball. Fans would be able to see how much ground Smith covered on how fast of a time and have it all within an instant in an active stats platform.
Rather than just see how many yards Darren Sproles picked up on a kickoff return, the potential would be there to see how fast he ran, between which yard lines that he accelerated the most, the degree of the angle he used to spin around, etc. Rather than just see that Calvin Johnson caught a 20-yard pass in the end zone, this technology would show where he went up to get the ball and how high his vertical leap was.
This data could also potentially be available to the league's broadcast partners to augment the viewing experience at home. It could also transform some of the ways in which fans follow their fantasy football teams or perhaps even open new avenues of fantasy statistics. And, also, on Monday, downloads could be available for games like Madden with realtime updates for speed, jumping ability and agility based on how a player in actually performing that week.
The league has not used such technology to measure collisions, G-forces or concussion-related data, as this is an NFL Media project at this point. Down the line, there could be potential for the technology to have a health-and-safety component as well.
In the past, the league flirted with the idea of using expanded deployment of cameras to provide more of a 360-degree look at the game and enhance the ability to gather stats and data. But the collision-nature of the sport, with so many big bodies converging at the line of scrimmage on plays, made it difficult to ascertain in that manner while that approach works for soccer, for instance. The NFL has also worked hard to make the devices themselves as inobtrusive as possible and not cumbersome to the players in any way.
By and large, player feedback has been positive, sources said, though some have been unsure about the project and felt it was odd, ripping off the devices or refusing to wear them. Furthermore, in Article 51, Section 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (On-Field Microphones and Sensors), Article C sets forth the right for the league to conduct such gathering under the following terms:
“The NFL may require all NFL players to wear during games and practices equipment that contains sensors or other nonobtrusive tracking devices for purposes of collecting information regarding the performance of NFL games, including players' performances and movements, as well as medical and other player safety-related data. Sensors shall not be placed on helmets without the NFLPA's consent. Before using sensors for health or medical purposes, the NFL shall obtain the NFLPA's consent.”
Jets' dysfunction born of lack of discipline, bloated contracts, sources say
The Jets (4-7) are on the brink of another lost season following another lopsided defeat Thursday night. It's a predicament that several players who have been in that locker room in recent years attribute to an overall lack of discipline, as well as a sense of entitlement furthered by contracts loaded with guarantees and specific language that, in essence, binds players to the team regardless of how they act and how poorly they might perform.
Coming off a 49-19 defeat at home to New England on Thanksgiving, questions continue to swirl about the future of coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Several NFL executives who have surveyed the Jets' 2013 salary cap situation, contractual obligations and locker room culture believe it will be difficult for any new coach or general manager to quickly turn the team around if there is a new regime in place this offseason.
Guys love playing for Ryan, according to several players with the Jets in recent years, but maintain there is not sufficient discipline and deterrents in place throughout the organization to eliminate the kind of chemistry and inter-personnel problems that have plagued the team the past two years. Players are further empowered and emboldened, the former Jets said, by a roster short on talent and depth to push for starting spots as well as a bevy of recent contracts that, in the cases of a malcontent like Santonio Holmes or a slumping veteran like Mark Sanchez, preclude the team from cutting them.
Holmes is due $7.5 million guaranteed in 2013, for skill, cap and injury. That means that, if the Jets part with him, he is still owed that money (Holmes had similar language in his deal for 2012, which prevented the Jets from being able to cut him after his meltdowns led to their rapid descent down the stretch). Sanchez is due $8.25 million fully guaranteed in 2013 (and then makes another $500,000 in workout bonuses from being on the roster). Furthermore, according to sources with knowledge of the contract, there are no offsets in the contracts -- so the player, if released, could earn a full salary from the next team that signed him. The contract language dictates that, if they are released, they must be paid the full amount they are owed within 30 days. There is offset language in such contracts in many cases, and guaranteed payments can be spread out over a much more lengthy period of time.
Also, the Jets owe corner Antonio Cromartie $4.75 million guaranteed in 2013, David Harris has $9.5 million of his $10.9 million salary guaranteed. Sources who have studied their contract situation expect Bart Scott and Calvin Pace to be among those not back next season, regardless of who is making decisions there. But the restrictive contract language will limit other options. The Jets project to be over $20 million over the 2013 cap, sources said.
And, in what could be the biggest issue for the team in the offseason, their best player, corner Darrelle Revis, will be coming off season-ending ACL surgery and seeking a contract extension. His previous deal was constructed with an eye toward re-negotiating in 2013. With ACL injuries becoming less significant to overcome these days (see Adrian Peterson), don't expect the injury to deter the demand for a new contract with the top defensive players in the NFL earning $15 million a season or more since Revis signed his deal in 2010. Revis is set to earn just $3 million in base salary and $3 million in bonuses in 2013.