Dan Wetzel

  • Roger Goodell, Tom Brady ignore each other; roll dice with deflate-gate judge

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 14 hrs ago

    NEW YORK – They arrived surrounded by lawyers, each wearing a blue suit and displeased expression. Here was Roger Goodell and here was Tom Brady back in federal court in a fight over power, ego and legacy, as much as whether the footballs were deflated in January's AFC championship game.

    New York Giants owner John Mara came in an attempt to soften the face of the league's side a bit. Jay Feely, a long-time NFL kicker and friend of Brady's from back at the University of Michigan, arrived to stand by his side.

    Once again, nothing worked. A private meeting in front of Judge Richard M. Berman yielded nothing. No one budged. No one backed down. No settlement was reached.

    And now both sides roll the dice and sit and wait for a ruling.

    So that's that, all or nothing, all or everything, all eyes on the court docket here.

    For Brady it's either a quarter of the season lost or a measure of redemption gained. For Goodell it's either a reaffirmation of the totality of his authority or another humiliating public defeat.

  • Roger Goodell, NFL could get favorable deflate-gate ruling yet still lose

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    NEW YORK – In late July, moments after Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension in the deflate-gate scandal, the NFL filed a lawsuit in lower Manhattan seeking to have the U.S. District Court there confirm the ruling.

    This was so-called "forum shopping," the league seeking a favorable, historically pro-business court. The NFL Players Association preferred to get the case to Minnesota in front of Judge David S. Doty, who has routinely ruled against the league.

    By filing first, the NFL got its wish – New York's Southern District, just steps from Wall Street, was selected.

    Like many things in this forever scandal, though, it backfired on the NFL. What was hoped to be a quick decision based on case law that pays "great deference" to Goodell's power as arbitrator no matter how bizarre and befuddling the system, has turned into a growing public relations nightmare.

    On Monday, both Brady and Goodell return to the 17th floor downtown courtroom of Judge Richard M. Berman, the man responsible for whatever angst the once confident NFL is now feeling.

    So the NFL is still the most likely party to win, eventually.

    At what cost, though?

  • Solution to meaningless NFL preseason games with meaningful injuries: Dual practices

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    On the sixth of his just 11 plays Saturday, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford was tackled at his twice surgically repaired knees. Two snaps later, Bradford was slammed again, leaving him slow to rise and with a bloody lip.

    Bradford's knees survived the first shot. His brain the second. And with that Philly, and the NFL as a whole, dodged the disaster of seeing the Eagles lose their starting quarterback and perhaps postseason hopes.

    They were fortunate, not a concept shared in Green Bay (blown knee for Jordy Nelson), Pittsburgh (broken ankle for Maurkice Pouncey) or Washington (concussion to Robert Griffin III), among other spots. It's likely only RG3 plays this season.

    As for Nelson, Rodgers said, "It's difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game."  The QB looked distraught as he renewed the old debate over shortening that meaningless preseason.

    "I think a lot of players around the league [believe the preseason is too long and pointless]," Rodgers said. "At least cut it down, maybe, to a couple [games]."

  • Deflate-gate is rotting Roger Goodell's spoils of lockout victory

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    NEW YORK – Across Wednesday morning here in United States District Court, Judge Richard M. Berman peered down from the bench and tried to make sense of the NFL's disciplinary system.

    He asked questions of the NFL's lawyer, Daniel Nash. He teamed up with the NFLPA's guy, Jeffrey Kessler, to ridicule how the NFL conducts business – "outstanding observation," Kessler comically noted to the judge at one point, like they were co-stars in some buddy movie.

    He expressed exasperation, confusion and outright mockery at the NFL's defense of its four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for either being generally aware of other people deflating footballs, or actively participating in it, or not cooperating, or, well something, or everything.

    "There has to be some basic process of fairness," Berman said at one point, but the truth – and the crux of the case – is that maybe there doesn't.

    "We had a hearing and the commissioner gave a verdict that is final and binding," Nash said.

    What exactly, though, did it really win?

     

    "There are standards of fairness," Berman said.

    "A quantum leap," Berman declared.

  • Deflate-gate judge hammers NFL's case against Tom Brady; 'Your Honor is spot-on,' defense crows

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    NEW YORK – Daniel Nash stood behind a courtroom lectern on the 17th floor of a federal court house here and tried to argue the NFL's case in suspending Tom Brady for four games in the deflate-gate saga.

    Yet as the attorney made his presentation he kept getting interrupted by Judge Richard M. Berman, who repeatedly engaged in direct counterarguments against Nash, sometimes even warning that legal precedent suggested the NFL could lose its case.

    It happened over and over during Nash's 63 minutes in front of the judge and with each Berman question or counterpoint, none of them positive for the NFL, Nash began taking a small, but telling, step back from the lectern, like a boxer retreating in the face of an incoming haymaker.

    He may have expected to duel NFL Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler here. He probably wasn't expecting the judge to be even tougher on him and it figuratively rocked him.

    Berman reminded everyone last week not to read too far into the tone and frequency of his questions to lawyers because it wouldn't necessarily reveal his feeling on the case. This week he didn't repeat the request.

    Not that it would've mattered.

  • Bills' Rex Ryan charges into second-chance job with second-chance guys

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Richie Incognito was suspended in Miami for his role in a bullying scandal. He's now a Buffalo Bill. Percy Harvin was dumped by Seattle after getting in two separate fights with two separate teammates. He's now a Buffalo Bill. IK Enemkpali was cut by the New York Jets after busting quarterback Geno Smith's jaw in a locker-room punchout. He's, of course, now a Buffalo Bill.

    The head coach of the Buffalo Bills doesn't shy away from any of that, doesn't pretend it's some kind of a coincidence.

    Yes, Rex Ryan, acknowledges, he and the front office haven't shied away from bringing in talented players who bombed out elsewhere because they couldn't coexist with their teammates. They aren't, at least publicly, a bit worried about it.

    These, he notes, are the kinds of attitudes he seeks. Second chance, last chance, another chance … guys who almost lost it all now back with the desperation that comes with having something to prove.

  • Browns dim spotlight on Johnny Manziel, offer better path to success through mentorship from a journeyman

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    CLEVELAND – At one point in the second quarter here Thursday, Johnny Manziel was running and cutting through a secondary and into the end zone like he was back on Kyle Field or at Kerrville Tivy High.

    "There's one free safety there sitting in the middle of the field and that's the only guy left," Manziel said, describing the second-quarter touchdown. "It opened up and I just made a play."

    Here in Cleveland's preseason opener, Manziel showed speed. He showed elusiveness. He showed a strong arm on most throws. He showed that when he left the pocket to scramble, he at least did it because he had no other choice. And when he did, coach Mike Pettine said Manziel kept his eyes downfield as he went.

    He went 7 of 11 for 42 yards, plus that 12-yard rushing TD.

    Not bad.

    "Nothing special, nothing terrible," Manziel said. "Right there in the middle. It's never as bad, never as good. Learn and move on."

    If this were a year ago, there would've been excitement for a first-round rookie, Johnny Football firing up Northeast Ohio.

    "Poised," Pettine said. "Focused."

  • Why Ray Rice could be the Browns' best (and only?) answer for help at running back

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    CLEVELAND – It was a series of slow-to-develop failures, a pathetic 1.7 yards per attempt, an effort by the Cleveland Browns running backs in Thursday's preseason opener that no one could love. Well, maybe one guy could.

    Ray Rice.

    Rice hasn't played football since 2013 because of an ugly domestic violence incident. The former Baltimore star is free from NFL suspension, though, and desperate for another chance. His production dropped significantly in 2013 – just 3.1 yards per rush – but at age 28, fully healthy and well rested, he seems like a worthy gamble for a team desperate enough to take a shot on him.

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    If 27 total yards on 16 carries – including eight carries for 16 yards from the two guys vying for the starting job – doesn't qualify as desperate, well, it might just be a matter of time.

    This isn't trending in a great direction, though.

    That won't last without a run game.

    On Thursday, though, they sure didn't do much with it.

  • As Brady-NFL settlement talks begin, unsettling picture continues to emerge on league's conduct

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 20 days ago

    Roger Goodell and Tom Brady are scheduled to meet Wednesday for a mediation session in federal court in Manhattan.

    Brady should take the opportunity to make the first settlement offer: a zero-game suspension, no fine, full exoneration and a public apology from the commissioner for completely misrepresenting Brady's under oath testimony and then somehow using it to declare Brady untrustworthy.

    Goodell won't go for that, of course. That's the point. If the actions of the league office from the start have told us anything, it's that the NFL isn't going to go for any deal, so why pretend otherwise?

    The good part of this getting to federal court is that it is no longer about whether or not the footballs were deflated at the AFC championship game and, if they were, whether Brady knew about it.

    Everyone can believe whatever it is they choose.

    This is now all about how the case has pulled the curtain back on the NFL's disciplinary process. The more light that gets into the crevices of the procedure and the practices used to prop it up, the better.

    Even if you suspect Brady is as guilty as sin there is no denying the NFL had a profoundly weak case here.

     

     

  • Here's what life after 0-16 looks like for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 25 days ago

    OXNARD, Calif. – An impressive array of talent stepped onto the twin practice fields of the Dallas Cowboys' training camp here last Thursday morning. There was Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith and so on. They were milling about waiting for an air horn to signal the start of the first session of the first day of a season with Super Bowl possibilities.

    Standing near one of the end zones may have been the unlikely key to it all, a blue-collar, 66-year-old, Vietnam War veteran who in football terms holds a humbling, and considering his current role, unlikely distinction:

    Coach of the worst team in NFL history.

    Rod Marinelli is the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. In 2008 he was the head coach of the Detroit Lions, which isn't just the only NFL team to go 0-16, but one that barely even threatened to win a game. Those Lions, in one example of futility among many, lost their eight home games by an average of 22 points.

    Still, 0-16 is 0-16 and it isn't easy for anyone's career, let alone their confidence, to recover from such a calamity.