The NFL Today: Roethlisberger cleared to practice fully on Friday, chose not to
Ben Roethlisberger is taking a cautious approach to returning from injury, ex-Vikings coach Brad Childress will participate in the Bountygate appeals hearing process, and Titus Young is still a Lion though his future with the team is in doubt.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger surprised some teammates and frustrated others by not pushing to practice more this week, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, as he recovered from a shoulder sprain. Many in the organization thought Roethlisberger would face the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore after suffering the injury more than two weeks ago; he was cleared medically to do as much as he wanted this week, sources said, but did little besides throw the ball on the sidelines.
On Friday, with Roethlisberger having yet to perform much in practice, coach Mike Tomlin informed Roethlisberger he would have to practice fully Friday to play, sources said. Otherwise, he would be ruled out on that day’s injury report. In the past, some injury situations with Roethlisberger have lingered into the weekend, complicating preparations for the fill-in starter. In 2009, for instance, in an eventual loss at Baltimore, backup Dennis Dixon was not certain he would be starting until the day before the game. Tomlin wanted to avoid such a situation here. Roethlisberger has told some he was unable to throw the ball, but sources said he was not being held back by team doctors and was given clearance to practice fully.
This is not the first time there has been something of a disconnect between Roethlisberger and the team over a medical situation. He previously talked about a potentially life-threatening rib injury but has been listed on the injury report only with a right shoulder problem.
The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback's cautious approach to a return has led to frustration among some teammates, given the Steelers' 6-5 record and tenuous place in the playoff race. But the issue is not expected to be major going forward. The current expectation is that Roethlisberger will do more in practice this week and play in Week 14, against the Chargers at home.
Charlie Batch is starting Sunday's vital game against the Ravens, with newcomer and ex-Patriots backup Brian Hoyer the No, 2. Byron Leftwich, the other quarterback on the roster, is still recovering from broken ribs and was unable to practice or play this week.
Should the 37-year-old Batch struggle in Baltimore as he did last week against Cleveland, Hoyer could see action in Baltimore, with the Steelers needing a win to keep hold of a wild-card position.
Browns OC Brad Childress to testify at bounty hearings
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who as Vikings coach was one of the first figures to broach the possibility of the Saints having bounties on players, will be cross-examined Monday on the subject at hearings in Washington, D.C., according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Childress was coach of Minnesota when the Vikings and Saints met in the 2009 NFC Championship Game and informed the league at the time that he'd heard of a possible bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. According to a memo the NFL sent to its teams in October, briefing them on the case: "Brad Childress, then Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, informed us that he believed that Saints players had placed a bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. In subsequent discussions, Coach Childress said that a Vikings player, Jimmy Kennedy, had told him that the Saints defensive unit had offered a $10,000 bounty on Mr. Favre and that Mr. Kennedy had identified Anthony Hargrove, then a defensive player for the Saints, as the source of his information. During the NFC Championship game between the Saints and the Vikings there were an unusual number of penalties for unnecessary roughness due to hits on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, and fines of $30,000 were subsequently imposed on Saints players. Our office promptly investigated this matter. We interviewed Coach Childress and Mr. Kennedy."
Childress’ account of his interactions with Kennedy led to an initial investigation into the case, and both Kennedy and Hargrove have vehemently denied Childress’ version of the events.
The current round of proceedings began last Thursday and is expected to last deep into this week. Testimony in the hearing has lasted more than eight hours some days, with exhaustive and detailed questioning by lawyers on both sides as well as former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who is overseeing the appeal hearings at the request of commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell has yet to appear as part of these meetings.
To this point, Tagliabue has expressed some concern over the evidence in the hearing and has asked the league to provide more notes and evidence in some instances, sources said, including assigning “homework” to be brought back the following day by one of the sides. On Thursday, NFL Security investigator Pat Foran was probed by NFLPA lawyers about his role in the case and how thorough his notes and minutes were of meetings, sources said. Troy Vincent, the vice president of the NFL’s Player Engagement Organization, was questioned about his role in possible bounty or pay-for-performance programs in the past and his understanding of how commonplace they might be, as he played in Washington under suspended ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo also offered testimony for several hours on Thursday. According to information revealed at the hearings, the NFL could not find evidence proving a bounty program existed based on Childress’ post-2009 NFC Championship Game claims but re-opened the matter after Cerullo came forward presenting what he said was evidence of the program. Cerullo, whom NFLPA lawyers are casting as a disgruntled ex-employee fired at least in part for making false claims about his whereabouts during absences from the team, is a key figure whose credibility was the subject of a significant line of questioning, sources said.
Gregg Williams and former head of NFL Security Joe Hummel were questioned on Friday and, again, there were requests made for more thorough notes on the part of the investigator. Saints players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith were in attendance Friday, but former Saints Scott Fujita and Hargrove -- who were also suspended -- have not been in attendance, sources said.
There is a possibility that more players, including those from teams other than the Saints, could be asked to appear at this week's hearings, sources said. Tagliabue is being incredibly meticulous in his approach, with a federal court in Louisiana watching the proceedings closely and set to make its own ruling about the validity of the NFL’s case against the players. The appeals process to this point has focused on the individuals on the NFL side who conducted the investigation. Former prosecutor Mary Jo White, who led the investigation, has not been cross-examined as a witness but has been presented questions by Tagliabue at times, sources said.
Lions do not intend to cut Titus Young now
Lions receiver Titus Young -- who was effectively suspended from the team amid reports that he had purposely tried to sabotage the Lions' offense by lining up in the wrong place -- had another tumultuous week despite returning to the practice field on Wednesday. Several teammates took direct public shots at Young this week, and the controversial figure also had a terse interaction with the media that was cut short by the team. While Lions officials did make Young inactive from Sunday’s game, there are no plans to release him as of now, according to a team source.
The Lions are trying to finish strong after what has been a difficult season filled with disciplinary issues and tough losses. If Young stays in line on and off the field moving forward, he has a chance to play down the stretch, the source said. What his teammates think of him right now, and the negative media perception, are not paramount to his long-term future with the team.
The Lions have to examine their chemistry in the locker room and elsewhere after a disappointing season preceded by a series of arrests and off-field issues last offseason.
Young, a second-year player whom the Lions selected in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Boise State, might end up being back in 2013 and has not been written off for the remainder of 2012.
Young has 81 catches for 990 yards and 10 TDs in two seasons with Detroit, including a career-best nine-catch, 100-yard, two-TD performance in a win over the Seahawks on Oct. 28.
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