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Owners to consider tweak to interference reviews

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — NFL owners meeting Wednesday will consider a proposal to refine the new rule that allows challenges involving pass interference, and might also announce locations to host upcoming drafts.

Owners voted in March to allow interference calls or non-calls to be challenged by coaches and reviewed via replay as a one-year experiment.

The tweak proposed this week would take the decision to review pass interference in the final two minutes of each half out of the hands of the officials. Reviews in the final two minutes would require a coach’s challenge.

“The concern is how many stoppages will we end up with in the last two minutes,” Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said Tuesday. “One thing we do not want to do is be a game that has multiple stops in the last two minutes.”

Under the rule adopted in March, in the final two minutes only officials in the booth can stop the game for reviews involving pass interference, as is the case with other reviewable plays.

Owners are expected to vote on whether to let the NFL competition committee decide on changing the rule after it discusses the subject with the league’s coaches. McKay, a member of the committee, said the group has conference calls with coaches scheduled for early June.

Owners also will consider a proposal to exempt Hail Mary passes so they’re not reviewable. That would require the league to come up with the definition of a Hail Mary.

“I actually don’t think it’s that hard,” McKay said. “It’s going to be from what yard line was it thrown, were there multiple receivers, how much time is left on the clock. But you want to get input from the coaches — what definition are you comfortable with?”

Future host sites for the draft also will be discussed. The 2020 draft will be in Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders.

It’s uncertain whether owners will act on a proposed rule change that would require each team to have one possession in overtime. The change is being pushed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost last season’s AFC Championship Game without getting the ball in overtime because the New England Patriots won the toss, received the kickoff and scored a touchdown.

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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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