Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is an extremely rich man, but he's also very generous with his money.

    Johnson attended a ceremony on Wednesday in which Army Sgt. Adam Keys, who was wounded by improved explosive devices five years ago in combat in Afghanistan, was given a "smart home" in Annapolis, Md., that allows him to live independently. Johnson gave $1 million to build the houses for Keys and Army Sgt. Bryan Dilberian, who was also wounded by explosive devices in combat. Dilberian's home is being constructed in Staten Island, N.Y. The Newark Star-Ledger wrote about Johnson's amazing gift.

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    "These veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and deserve a home that supports their specific physical needs, to enable them to live independently," Johnson said in a press release when the donation was announced last year, according to the Star-Ledger.

    The homes use special technology so the veterans can manage daily tasks without assistance, the Star-Ledger's story said. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named after a New York firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks, builds the homes. By the end of the year, 42 of the homes will be finished, under construction or planned, the Star-Ledger said.

    On a patriotic holiday weekend, it's great to hear about gestures like Johnson's generous one for wounded veterans.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made an appearance “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday night. Predictably, his contract situation was a point of discussion early on in the interview.

    Wilson is in the final year of his rookie contract despite leading Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, and Kimmel asked him if he wants to be the league’s highest-paid player. Wilson made sure to say all the right things.

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    “I just want to be paid based off my play. It will all work out in the end. We’ll figure it out,” Wilson said.

    Wilson is scheduled to be paid $1.5 million in 2015.

    Wilson is also an accomplished baseball player and played parts of two seasons of minor league ball in the Colorado Rockies organization after being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft.

    Wilson obviously decided to pursue football instead, but told Kimmel he would be interested in playing baseball professionally as well. The Texas Rangers currently hold his rights, but if he ends up under the control of the Seattle Mariners, he would “definitely consider” going out for both sports.

    Wilson appeared at Rangers’ spring training the past two years and showed he hasn’t lost his power stroke.

    Unfortunately for him, Robinson Cano seems to have second base locked down for the time being in Seattle.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • Blake Bortles played great in preseason games in August, then not so great late in the season long after he became the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback.

    There are plenty of reasons, but apparently one that he was dealing with a "dead arm."

    General manager Dave Caldwell told USA Today's Tom Pelissero about Bortles' dead arm issue, which makes it seem like Bortles was a starting pitcher in spring training. It's not an injury you hear about too often in football, though it happens. Bortles had shoulder inflammation, but it didn't require surgery. It did require Bortles to change his mechanics just to get velocity on the ball, Caldwell said.

    "You've just got to do what you've got to do to survive," Caldwell said. "It wasn't anything that was ingrained in him [mechanically]. He knew he was doing it. But in order to drive the ball 15 yards, there were some things that he needed to do to get the velocity on the ball."

    Bortles landed on the injury report in early December for what local media said was a right shoulder sprain.

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    Bortles' mechanics have been discussed a lot in the offseason. He frequently dropped the ball too low on his release (something pointed out by NFL Films' Greg Cosell here in February). The poor mechanics and/or shoulder issues were reasons Bortles had a 62.8 rating in December and his yards per attempt dipped way down to 4.8 that month. A bad offensive line, little running game and throwing to mostly rookies at receiver were other issues. Bortles finished with 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

    Bortles might have had a dead arm by December, but that doesn't explain all the mechanical issues. Bortles often dropped the ball too low when he threw even early in the season; this is from an interception to San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle in Week 4, on Sept. 28:

    It's fair to wonder why the Jaguars kept starting Bortles even though they knew he had shoulder issues that were negatively affecting his mechanics, causing bad habits for their potential franchise quarterback that aren't always easy to correct. Jacksonville was 3-13 last season; there wasn't a lot to play for in December. But the good news is that Bortles feels good and reworked his mechanics, USA Today said. He went to visit quarterbacks coach Tom House in California for a week and that stay turned into a two-month visit.

    The Jaguars clearly are still excited about Bortles, last year's third overall pick, as they should be. Being able to throw without a cranky shoulder won't hurt Bortles' progress in year two.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer once he retires, was suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

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    In a statement released via his Twitter feed and the Chargers, Gates blamed the failed test on supplements and holistic medicines:

    "In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails.  I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and never taken any substance that was illegal or banned by the NFL. 

    “In an effort to recover from a long season and although I was unaware at the time, I regret to confirm that I tested positive for a substance that is currently on the NFL banned substance list.  As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines.  I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues, and I take full responsibility for my actions.  

    “I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

    Gates, who just turned 35 on June 18, will be playing his 13th NFL season. After sitting out the first four games, that is.

    The Chargers expressed disappointment but supported Gates in their own statement:

    “We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself.  Antonio is a member of the Chargers’ family and we will continue to support him 100-percent.  We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5.  While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level.”

    The suspension was the fourth the NFL announced on Thursday, right before a three-day holiday weekend. New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (four games), Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain (four games) and Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones (one game) were all suspended for violations of the league's substance-abuse policy. That's three former first-round picks. Gates wasn't drafted but is the biggest star among the group.

    [ThePostGame: Chargers DE Corey Liuget shares video of trip to Ethiopia, Egypt]

    Gates revolutionized the tight end position. Gates played basketball at Kent State, but the Chargers signed him. In Gates' second and third NFL seasons he combined for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns. Other teams started looking for college basketball players with little to no college football experience to play tight end, and among the stars who followed Gates' path were Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas.

    Gates is one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, with 10,014 yards and 99 touchdowns. He'll be eligible to return, and try to become the ninth player in league history with 100 receiving touchdowns, on Oct. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will miss the first four games of the 2015 season.

    The NFL announced that McClain violated the league’s substance abuse policy and in a statement, McClain acknowledged his mistake.

    “I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake,” McClain said. “I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error. I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.”

    McClain played the first three years of his career with the Oakland Raiders, who picked him No. 8 overall in the 2010 draft. The team released him in April 2013 and McClain signed with the Baltimore Ravens, but he announced his retirement a month later without playing a down for the Ravens.

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    McClain then came out of retirement and joined the Cowboys last summer after starter Sean Lee was lost for the season with a knee injury. In 13 games, including 12 starts, McClain registered 81 tackles, two interceptions and a sack.

    McClain signed a one-year deal in April to stay with Dallas for the 2015 campaign. As a result of his suspension, McClain will miss games against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, but he is allowed to participate during training camp and the preseason.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • The New York Jets will play the first four games of the 2015 season without one of their best players.

    The NFL announced Thursday that defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year, was suspended without pay for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for substances of abuse.

    According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Richardson was suspended for marijuana use.

    The suspension will hold the 6-foot-3, 294-pound Richardson out for the Jets’ games against the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

    “I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans,” Richardson said in a statement. “However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

    Richardson was the team’s first round pick (No. 13 overall) in 2013 and earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season with 67 total tackles and eight sacks.

    "This is disappointing for Sheldon and the team,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said in a statement. “We’re going to support Sheldon and welcome him back upon his return. We will keep moving forward with our preparations for the upcoming season.”

    Richardson’s departure creates a big hole on the Jets’ defensive line, a position of strength for the team, but gives first-round pick Leonard Williams a chance to see significant playing time early in the season. 

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • The possibility of the San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles seems to be very real, and the team is making sure potential new employees are aware.

    The Chargers recently posted a job listing for a Tax Manager to deal with “tax reporting and compliance within the organization.” The requirements for the job seem fairly standard for the position. Applicants need a BA in accounting or an MA in taxation, CPA certification and a minimum five years of experience with a CPA firm. Oh and there’s one other thing: “Willing to relocate to the Los Angeles area, if necessary.”

    That doesn’t sound too promising for fans who hope the team remains in San Diego.

    Chargers owner Dean Spanos, alongside Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, reportedly were in L.A. earlier this week to meet with city officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, about the their “vision for a shared stadium” in Carson, just outside of Los Angeles.

    Negotiations between the Chargers and the city of San Diego for a new stadium (replacing Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967) have gone nowhere. The Chargers cited environmental concerns last month when they said a public vote for a new stadium was not feasible. Meanwhile, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the team has not been a “willing partner” in the negotiations.

    The proposed stadium for the Chargers and Raiders would cost an estimated $1.7 billion with an approximate completion date of 2019. 

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • The Washington Redskins are considering a move from their current home of FedEx Field in Maryland. But the Obama administration will not make it an easy process to return to the District of Columbia.

    FedEx Field is only 18 years old. Even so, Snyder is looking to get out of the stadium before the team's lease expires in 2026. D.C. owns RFK Stadium, the Redskins' former home and the site of one proposed new stadium. However, the federal government owns the land on which RFK stands, and a report in the Washington Post indicates the name is a significant impediment in allowing the team to return to the District.

    According to the Post, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell informed Washington's mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, that the federal government likely would not permit the construction of a new stadium with the team's current name in place. The "Redskins" name has drawn significant heat from protest groups for its racial connotations; team officials and supporters contend that the team's name is indicative of bravery, heritage and tradition.

    Jewell has long been a critic of the team's name. “Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins,’" she said in an ABC interview last fall. "So, personally, I find it surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different."

    The District of Columbia leases the RFK Stadium land, as well as surrounding property, from the National Park Service. That lease is scheduled to expire in 22 years. D.C. is competing against Virginia for the possible construction of a new Redskins stadium site.

    The debate over the Redskins' name constituted most of the news of the otherwise unremarkable team in 2014. Snyder has denied he would change the name under any circumstance. However, the recent push to remove the Confederate flag from various public locales has demonstrated that even entrenched symbols aren't immune from change or removal, regardless of the heritage and pride those symbols' supporters extol. While the Redskins' name does not carry the same negative connotations, either past or present, as the Confederate flag, the racial nature of the name itself means that it will continue to be a target for change, regardless of Snyder's wishes or demands.

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    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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  • Former New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes will avoid jail time after pleading guilty to his role in a June hit-and-run crash.

    According to the Boston Globe, Spikes entered his guilty plea on Wednesday in Wrentham (Mass.) District Court and was sentenced to a year of probation.

    Spikes admitted to leaving the scene after he crashed his Mercedes on Interstate 495 in Foxborough in the early morning hours of June 7. Police found the car crashed and abandoned around 3:20 a.m. and determined that Spikes had rear-ended an SUV, causing minor injuries to the vehicle’s three occupants – a man, a woman and their 12-year-old son.

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    After the accident, the on-board assistance service in Spikes’ car contacted him when it detected a collision. Police said Spikes told the operator that he hit a deer; police found no evidence of a deer nearby or on the vehicle.

    In addition to his year of probation, Spikes was fined for speeding and marked lane violations. His other charges – negligent operation and operating an uninsured vehicle – were “continued without a finding” for one year, meaning he could avoid penalties from those charges if he avoids trouble for a year.

    After signing Spikes to a one-year deal on May 18, the Patriots released him a day after the incident. Spikes spent the first four seasons of his career with New England before playing the 2014 campaign with the Buffalo Bills. 

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • How does a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh sound to you?

    The Pittsburgh Steelers officially submitted an application in May to host Super Bowl LVII at Heinz Field in 2023, the team announced. Additionally, Steelers officials met with community leaders Wednesday to discuss the possibility.

    “We met this morning with local community leaders to provide an update on formally submitting our application to the NFL to bid for Super Bowl LVII in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,” said team president Art Rooney in a statement. “The application is an early step in the bidding process, and we will continue to meet with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, County Executive’s Office, VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny Conference as well as other community leaders to review the requirements with the hopes of submitting our bid to host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.”

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    The application far from guarantees a bid, but the team said it was encouraged by Super Bowl XLVIII, which was held in New Jersey and was the first Super Bowl played outdoors in a northern climate.

    Super Bowl XL in 2006 was played indoors in Detroit and Super Bowl LII in 2018 was awarded to U.S. Bank, the new indoor stadium for the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. But would the NFL really go forward with playing its biggest game in potentially frigid conditions? The average high temperature in Pittsburgh in February is 39 degrees – a bit colder than the New York City area, where Super Bowl XLVIII was held without weather becoming an issue.

    With the application now submitted, the NFL will meet with Pittsburgh and other interested cities in 2018 to “discuss logistics and venues available.” The Steelers said they are “researching other regions, including sending representatives to Northern cities that have already hosted the game” to prepare for their meeting with the NFL.

    If the Steelers get the right to bid on the game, finalists for Super Bowl LVII won’t be decided until October 2018 with the winning city announced in May 2019. 

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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