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Wagner will be at Seattle OTAs, but won’t practice

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RENTON, Wash. — Bobby Wagner is present for the Seattle Seahawks‘ voluntary offseason program, but he’s not practicing as he awaits an extension that he hopes will make him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker.

“Just being the leader, you want to send the right message,” Wagner said Tuesday. “You want to be here to support the guys. I do feel like the quarterback of defense is pretty important, so not having that piece would kind of put a damper on the defense. I just feel like it’s important for our success and so I’m here.”

Wagner, a four-time All-Pro and the Seahawks’ defensive captain, said he’ll continue to take part in offseason work without practicing. He’s not injured; he just doesn’t want to risk getting hurt while his contract situation is unsettled after seeing that happen last year to teammates Earl Thomas (who held out all offseason) and K.J. Wright (who did not) in their contract seasons. Wagner said he’ll “be here helping the young guys, doing whatever I can,” which was the case Tuesday as he watched the Seahawks hold their second Organized Team Activity.

He made it clear that his participation won’t include any on-field work.

“No, I will be here,” he said. “That’s all I will be, is here.”

Coach Pete Carroll seemed fine with the approach Wagner is taking. Other Seahawks in recent past in addition to Thomas — Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch, to name a few — stayed away from the team for some or all of the offseason because of their contracts.

“He’s doing what he has always done — he’s been a leader,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He’s been an integral part of everything that we’ve ever been about and he’s continuing to do that. The decision to do what he’s doing at this tempo is a good decision for him right now.”

Wagner, who is representing himself in negotiations as he enters the final year of his contract, said he would like to get a deal done before the season. He declined to specify where things stand to that end, only saying he’s had conversations with the team.

“I’m not trying to turn this into some big drama thing,” he said. “… It’s a business. If it works out, it does. If it doesn’t, it’s been cool.”

Wagner, who was previously represented by Athletes First, said he wanted to eventually represent himself even before he saw former Seahawks teammates Richard Sherman and Russell Okung ditch their agents and do the same. He refuted the notion that he would have had a new contract by now if he still had an agent, noting that his four-year, $43 million extension he signed in 2015 didn’t get done until early August.

He knows that handling his own negotiations with general manager John Schneider and cap guru Matt Thomas will mean having direct and blunt conversations that an agent would otherwise filter. Asked in April what it’s like working with players who are acting as their own agents — as the Seahawks did with Sherman and Okung — Schneider called those conversations “a necessary evil” and said that even when an agent is there to serve as a buffer, both sides almost never come out of a negotiation feeling great.

“At the end of the day, me representing myself shouldn’t be a big deal,” Wagner said. “They should look at it as any other deal. I think it’s a lot of people worried about them saying things and me being able to take criticism. That’s part of the game. You’ve got to be able to take criticism. At the end of the day, you want the person to say something straight to your face how they feel versus to somebody else. I don’t need a third party.”

Carroll also downplayed the difficulty in working with a player who’s his own agent. He expressed confidence at the owners meetings in March that a deal with Wagner would get done and did so again Tuesday.

“We’re right in stride with the process,” he said. “Bobby’s been great. Everything’s going to come together in time. Everything’s in order. We’re in order with what we want to do. It feels very comfortable and very amicable and all that. So everything is going just right.”

But Wagner’s situation is further complicated by the five-year, $85 million deal that C.J. Mosley got from the New York Jets in March, which blew the market for inside linebackers out of the water at $17 million per season. The 26-year-old Mosley has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five NFL seasons but has yet to make the All-Pro team. Wagner, who will turn 29 in June, has a much more decorated resume with five consecutive Pro Bowls while being named a first-team All-Pro four times in that span. He has topped 100 tackles every season since Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2012, and according to ESPN charting, he leads the NFL in tackles over the past five seasons with 656.

“I mean, the number is the number,” Wagner said when asked about Mosley’s contract. “The market is the market. That’s the top linebacker market. So that’s the standard, so that is the plan, to break that.”

Wagner added: “I know my value. Nobody has to tell me my value. I know my value. No team, no person, no agent can tell me my value. I believe in myself. I’ll bet on myself. Either way, to me, it’s a win. You get a contract, you win. You don’t, it’s a learning experience, so you win. A lot of people are not willing to take that chance. I am.”

Wagner was asked about his recent comments to the NFL Network that he’s preparing as though this season will be his last in Seattle.

“As of right now, my contract ends at this year, so that’s where it stands,” he said. “I’m honoring the contract. I’m here. I’m participating. I’m helping the young guys to be the best that they can be. So I’m here and that’s what I want to do. It’s my decision, so as of right now, there is no other years left for me here. So that was just a very honest opinion. That if I don’t get a deal done, that’s it. But I believe that something can happen.”

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Sources — Redskins TE Reed’s career in jeopardy

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Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, who has suffered multiple concussions during his career and already has been ruled out of Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears because of his latest one, might not be able to return at all, league sources told ESPN.

There are those within the Redskins organization and around the league who are concerned Reed will not be able to play again, according to sources. Reed will continue to undergo testing, but the player, the team and doctors know what he is up against.

Any player who has suffered the number of concussions that Reed has — it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number — puts himself at grave risk by playing again.

The Redskins had been counting on having Reed, a former Pro Bowler and one of their best players, this season. But in Washington’s third preseason game last month against the Falcons, Reed suffered his latest concussion, which already has knocked him out of the first three games of the season.

Reed, 29, still would like to resume playing, but it is hardly automatic that he will. The more time that goes on without him coming back, the less likely it is that he will return to a sport in which he has excelled.

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Source — AB texts ‘crossed the line’ for Patriots

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Had Antonio Brown not sent intimidating group text messages to a female artist who accused him of unwanted sexual advances last week, the star wide receiver would be playing in the New England Patriots‘ game Sunday against the New York Jets, league sources told ESPN.

But when Brown sent those text messages as a member of the Patriots — he was not with New England during the time period when he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman — the organization felt that it had to move on from him.

“That crossed the line,” one source familiar with the organization’s thinking told ESPN. “This was real evidence.”

Now the question becomes how New England handles Brown’s departure. The Patriots are expected to withhold the $9 million signing bonus they agreed to pay Brown when he signed; $5 million is due Monday and the other $4 million is due Jan. 15, 2020.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Brown will file a grievance Monday to try to recoup that money, setting up a legal battle between the player and the team.

Among other factors, New England will lean on the “representation and warranty” clause in Brown’s contract that specifically states: “Player represent warrants and covenance to the club that he will 1) execute in good faith and to the best of his ability all of his obligations to and for the club; 2) he does not and will not participate and is not engaged or will not engage in any conduct or activity that is illegal, unlawful or immoral. And 3) No circumstances exist that would prevent player’s continuing availability to the club for the duration of the contract.”

However, other NFL sources strongly believe that the Patriots eventually will owe Brown the $9 million. Those sources insist that once a signing bonus is earned, it’s earned, and there’s no turning back.

“They are going to lose,” one NFL executive predicted about the Patriots’ plight, referring to the looming financial battle between Brown and New England.

Brown called out Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of his Sunday morning Twitter tirade, referring to Kraft’s ongoing case in Florida in which he was charged with solicitation for allegedly receiving a sex act at a massage parlor. After the tweets, a source told ESPN that “Kraft [is] never writing that check, no matter what the ruling is now.”

Brown was officially released by the Patriots on Friday, one day after the lawyer for the female artist reached out to the NFL because Brown apparently sent what were described as threatening text messages to her client.

The sides spoke Friday morning, with the woman’s attorneys saying in a statement that the league “pledged to conduct a thorough investigation under its Personal Conduct Policy.” According to that statement, the league also contacted the Patriots, who then directed Brown to have no further contact with the woman.

As part of a Sports Illustrated report published this past Monday, the woman accused Brown of sexual misconduct when she was working at his Pennsylvania home in 2017.

Brown also has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, Britney Taylor, according to a lawsuit she filed Sept. 10. Taylor met with the NFL this past Monday. A source had told ESPN that there are “more interviews and information-gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.”

It remains unclear when or if Brown will interview with the league. He is an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team, and the NFL said Friday that Brown would not be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while he is a free agent.

But the league also warned, “If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation.”

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Sources — Brees consulted Trout before surgery

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees reached out to baseball star Mike Trout before undergoing thumb surgery this past week, sources told ESPN.

Brees had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The operation was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin, the doctor who also operated on Trout’s thumb in 2017.

Trout, a two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Angels, missed just over six weeks during the 2017 season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.

Trout told Brees, however, that he could have returned from the surgery in five weeks, and once he did, he was pain-free and had full range of motion, sources told ESPN.

Brees, 40, who is expected to miss six weeks but has not been placed on injured reserve, wanted to know about the rehab process, and Trout spelled it out for him. So even before he began his rehab, Brees already was eyeing the quickest possible return.

Brees visited with Shin after suffering the injury in last Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles to the Rams. He traveled to Houston for a consultation with Dr. Tom Hunt, another hand specialist, before returning to Los Angeles to have Shin perform an InternalBrace ligament-augmentation operation, virtually the identical surgery Shin performed on Trout.

“After speaking with both doctors and other professional athletes, there have been no other NFL quarterbacks to have this surgery with the internal bracing on their throwing hand — I take that as a challenge!” Brees wrote in a text message to ESPN.

The Saints also haven’t given up hope that Brees could return sooner than the expected six-week timeline, according to sources. The Saints’ schedule sets up for Brees to be back Nov. 10 against Atlanta, after the bye week, which means he would miss six games.

Returning after the bye would give Brees seven weeks to recover — with six games missed — but Brees “wants to play and knows the window [in New Orleans] is short,” one source said.

Brees wanted to join the Saints in Seattle for their game Sunday against the Seahawks but was warned by Shin not to fly to Seattle because of the risk of a setback due to possible “swelling and inflammation.”

“The first 7-to-10 days of post-surgery are really important,” Brees said in a text message. “It crushes me not to be there with them, but I have to do everything I can to get back as fast and strong as possible.”

Brees is aware he has an opportunity to be an injury pioneer for the second time in his NFL career, having made an unlikely comeback from major reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2007 when Dr. James Andrews repaired a radically torn labrum and rotator cuff with 13 anchors. Andrews did the repair without having to open Brees’ shoulder with a scalpel.

Brees was under center nine months later for the Saints, who took a risk by signing him to a free-agent contract. The rest literally has been history, as Brees broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for career passing yards last season.

“Drew was a one-in-a-million comeback,” Andrews said. “The surgery was one thing, but the rehab Drew did with [therapist] Kevin Wilk was everything. Drew had an insatiable appetite for every detail of surgery and rehab. He was relentless.”

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