The NFL approved a new owner for the Carolina Panthers Devin Shore Jersey , passed a rule to eject players who hit with their helmets, and took steps to spice up the kickoff.
Still to be resolved: a much more contentious issue.
What to do, if anything, about players who kneel during the national anthem?
”We recognize with our visibility and the interest itself that it’s taken a life of its own,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Thursday.
”We ask the world, `Don’t turn your head. Look at us. Wait a minute. Look at the NFL. Look at everything we’re doing.’ And then when we have some issues we’ve got to work through, we realize we’ve asked you to look.
”Let’s do as good as we can do.”
At their annual spring meeting, league owners welcomed David Tepper to their ranks by signing off on his record $2.2 billion deal to purchase the Panthers from disgraced team founder Jerry Richardson, who abruptly decided to sell after the NFL began investigating alleged sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.
During a brief news conference in which he took only a handful of questions, Tepper immediately made a bit of news by seeming to imply he would be willing to listen to offers for a new stadium from other cities in North and South Carolina. The team has made no secret of its desire to replace 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium, and its lease runs only through the upcoming season.
”What’s the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It’s going to be the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said. ”And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That’s right Womens Luke Kunin Jersey , there’s two of them.”
But Tepper, a hedge fund owner who is worth a reported $11 billion, also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the ”logical place for this team.”
”As far as a new stadium, you’re asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge,” he said. ”I’ll learn a lot more in the future.”
Tepper’s purchase was the first order of business at the luxury hotel in Atlanta’s tony Buckhead neighborhood.
That was the easy part.
As a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper was already familiar to the league’s owners and his approval was a mere formality. The vote was unanimous.
Anthem protests are a much thornier issue.
”We certainly want to make and will make a thought-out, deliberate decision,” said Jones, who has made it clear he opposes kneeling during the anthem and was one of the few people to speak with reporters in the hotel lobby after the meeting broke up. ”Whatever we do, let’s put the focus on what the NFL’s about and that’s playing football.”
The owners began discussing the issue – which has reached all the way to the White House – and will talk more before wrapping up their meetings Wednesday.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.
Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.
President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue , saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during ”The Star-Spangled Banner.” The NFL hasn’t gone that far Nathan MacKinnon Jersey , but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protesters, safety Eric Reid, is also out of work.
Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL .
”I think there’s certainly resolve and I can assure the issue is getting the very best of every owner and the very best look at all our constituencies with an eye first and foremost to our fans. That’s No. 1,” Jones said.
”We know our fans want us to zero in on football, and they don’t want to think about or think that we’re thinking about anything other than football.”
The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who takes a knee or conducts any other protest during the anthem.
Another possible option would be to change up the pregame routine, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem has played.
That is the protocol long followed by college football, preventing anthem protests from being carried out in its stadiums.
The new kickoff rules are aimed at making the high-speed play a bit safer and perhaps more exciting.
Players on the kickoff team can’t get a running start, while eight of the return team’s 11 players must start out in a 15-yard zone near midfield, forcing them to run down the field alongside the coverage players. That will make the play more like a punt and should improve safety.
Wedge blocks – two blockers teaming up on the same player – will also be banned. In addition, any kick that hits the ground in the end zone will be an automatic touchback.
The new rules will be re-evaluated in 2019 to determine their effectiveness, but the league doesn’t want to eliminate kickoffs altogether.
”It’s part of the game,” said Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, head of the league’s competition committee. ”If we can make plays more competitive and safer Dustin Brown Jersey , we should do it.”
In another attempt to improve safety, any player who initiates contact with his Ryan Shazier is neither gone nor forgotten. The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker remains a fixture at the team’s facility as he continues his recovery from spinal surgery last December that left his football future uncertain at best.
While there is a sense of loss, there is no sense of panic. The Steelers understand there is no one player that has Shazier’s mix of speed and smarts. So they’re not even going to try to replace him.
Expect a group that includes free-agent signee Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich and possibly even rookie Terrell Edmunds as part of the committee that will be in Shazier’s spot at inside linebacker when the defending AFC North champions open the 2018 season in Cleveland.
The front office felt so comfortable with the idea it passed on selecting a linebacker in last month’s draft, the first time in nearly a decade the Steelers didn’t use one of their picks on a position coach Mike Tomlin considers among the most vital on the field.
That’s fine by Bostic. The well-traveled 27-year-old signed a two-year deal in March following a productive if injury marred season in Indianapolis. Bostic’s arrival appeared to be for depth purposes but when the draft came and went, he now finds himself with as good a shot as anyone as lining up next to veteran Vince Williams. While he kept tabs on the draft, he didn’t exactly celebrate when Pittsburgh didn’t pick up a linebacker.
”At the end of the day, I don’t get paid to do that type of stuff,” Bostic said during organized team activities this week. ”All I can control is me preparing, when my number is called upon, make sure that I’m ready.”
Something Bostic was last season for the Colts, finishing with 97 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in 14 games before a knee injury in December sent him to injured reserve. He’s good to go now and eager to show he’s ready to unpack his bags and stay awhile.
The Chicago Bears chose Bostic in the second round of the 2013 draft Authentic Jonathan Toews Jersey , but he found himself on the move following a coaching change after the 2014 season. The Bears sent him to New England in 2015 and the following January the Patriots flipped him to Detroit for a draft pick. He never played a down for the Lions after breaking his left foot during a practice against the Steelers.
From there it was on to Indianapolis, where he breathed life into his career by being one of the most consistent performers on a team that won just four games. The expectations are considerably higher in Pittsburgh.
”Last year, when I was out there, I proved myself and going forward I plan to prove myself again,” Bostic said. ”I got a lot of unfinished business.”
So do the Steelers, who were gashed for 164 yards rushing and 45 points in a stunning playoff loss to Jacksonville. Though Pittsburgh led the league and set a franchise record with 57 sacks, the defense struggled at times following Shazier’s injury against Cincinnati on Dec. 4.
Throw out a Christmas Day game against Houston – which played without quarterback DeShaun Watson – and the Steelers allowed 33.5 points and 381 yards after Shazier’s exit. They’ll have a full offseason to get ready for life without him. The plan includes potentially flipping from a 3-4 to a 4-3 look in certain situations and getting creative with substitutions.
That’s where Edmunds comes into play. Though technically a safety, he served as a de facto linebacker late in his time at Virginia Tech when the Hokies played with five or more defensive backs. There’s also Matakevich, a special teams ace who will finished 2017 on injured reserve due with a shoulder issue.
General manager Kevin Colbert pointed out after the draft that Matakevich was injured during the same quarter the Steelers lost Shazier. Who knows what he could have done if asked to fill in for Shazier? It’s one of the reasons Colbert said he didn’t feel comfortable ”reaching” for a linebacker in the draft if one who fit the profile wasn’t available.
”Between Jon and Tyler we don’t know what we have at those two quite honestly because Jon is new to us and Tyler will be in the rotation and competition as well,” Colbert said. ”If there are positions that are available to us when we are picking, and they fit and they are at the right spot, great.”
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