So yeah about “Rodgers and the NFC” /Ed Kracz Balance NFL Contributor

So yeah about “Rodgers and the NFC” /Ed Kracz Balance NFL Contributor
By Ed Kracz
NFL Contributor

Too many of the stars in the NFL heavens have begun to flicker out.
Another weekend of games are complete, and on this one, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers couldn’t make it to the finish line, breaking a collarbone in his throwing shoulder on a clean hit from Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr during their game on Sunday. So Rodgers joins other stars such as the Giants’ Odell Beckham, the Texans’ J.J. Watt, the Cardinals’ David Johnson, the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook, and the Patriots’ Julian Edelman on the shelf for the remainder of the year.
It’s not good for the league or its fans when these types of high-quality players go down before the season has even begun to get within ear shot of trick-or-treaters ringing doorbells on Halloween.
Strictly from an on-the-field perspective, the injury to Rodgers may have the greatest consequences not only on his team, but across the entire NFC landscape, from the east coast where Philly is making plenty of noise to the west coast where Seattle’s defense keeps thumping right along.
Rodgers was arguably the best player in the league. He gave the Pack a chance to win any game they played, even though Green Bay is a flawed team. So is just about every team in the league, though, which made Rodgers the great tiebreaker and his team a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Now, Green Bay will attempt to stay afloat with a former fifth-round draft pick in Brett Hundley and a backup who played his college football at the tiny Division III Wesley University in Dover, Del.
Meanwhile, the rest of the NFC salivates.
Suddenly, the Eagles are the favorite to earn a No. 1 seed. They have the best record in the NFC at 5-1. Seattle is in the hunt for the top spot with a defense that is still ferocious and a quarterback in Russell Wilson who has been to the mountaintop once already in his career. Don’t count out Carolina, yet, either despite a 28-23 loss to Philadelphia last Thursday.
None of these teams have anything locked up, by any means, though.
Not now, not after the momentum Rodgers’ injury gives teams like the Falcons, who were a 13-point favorite at home on Sunday, yet somehow found a way to the Jay Cutler-led Miami Dolphins. Or the Detroit Lions, who looked like a team to be reckoned with until losing their last two games, giving up a whopping 52 points to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The Washington Redskins fought tooth-and-nail to get to 3-2 by surviving an upset bid from the winless 49ers on Sunday.
Go right down the list … Minnesota, especially quarterback Teddy Bridgewater given the green-light to practice this week, the Los Angeles Rams with a 31-year-old coach in Sean McVay doing wonders with former No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff, and on it goes.
Really, there are only two teams who don’t look like they can make it into the playoff field of six and they are the 1-5 Giants and 0-6 49ers. Maybe the Packers are the third now that Rodgers is done.
The rest?
Well, with Rodgers’ star now extinguished most of the NFC teams have an even greater chance to shine.

Follow Ed Kracz on Twitter: @kracze

‘NFL Films Presents Touchdown in Israel’ Follows Robert Kraft and Pro Football Hall of Famers’ Trip to the Holy Land

​​’NFL Films Presents: Touchdown in Israel’ Airs Friday, October 20 at 8:00 PM ET on NFL Network​

“Bringing the game to the rest of the world…There’s nothing better.” – Joe Montana

NFL Films Presents: Touchdown in Israel airs on Friday, October 20 at 8:00 PM ET on NFL Network. The one-hour show produced by NFL Films and hosted by Katie Nolan follows the unforgettable spiritual journey of New England Patriots Chairman & CEO Robert Kraft and 18 Pro Football Hall of Famers to Israel to relish in the faith-filled culture and spread the gospel of America’s Game.

Touchdown in Israel follows Kraft and the team of 18 Hall of Famers including Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Cris Carter, Aeneas Williams and Joe Greene as they visit historical and biblical landmarks including the Mount of Beatitudes, Jordan River, Masada, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, City of David and the Dead Sea. Together, the football legends absorb the Holy Land’s offerings and form powerful bonds with one another.

Included in Touchdown in Israel are reflections from Hall of Fame cornerback and founding pastor of Spirit Church in St. Louis Aeneas Williams discussing how God helped Williams through his football career, and Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter sharing his story on Christ saving his football career and helping him overcome drug abuse, as well as baptisms in the sacred Jordan River for many of the Hall of Famers.

Kraft pioneers the integration of Israeli culture and American football, opening the Kraft Family Sports Campus to develop another cultural link between the United States and Israel. Alongside Kraft, NFL football greats help foster football’s growth in Israel by coaching and mentoring local Israeli football squads in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Touchdown in Israel features the following Pro Football Hall of Famers:

Joe Montana

Roger Staubach

Joe Greene

Cris Carter

Andre Reed

John Stallworth

Eric Dickerson

Marshall Faulk

Dave Casper

Jerome Bettis

Jim Brown

Ron Yary

Aeneas Williams

Lem Barney

Willie Lanier

Mike Singletary

Andre Tippett

Bruce Smith

Provided below are some select quotes from NFL Films Presents: Touchdown in Israel:

– “You see us with the equipment on. You see us with the helmets on. But at the end of the day, we’re just human beings that are in need of Christ…Learning to worship God helped me learn to overcome fear. So many people never reach their destinies, never reach their potential because they never learn that they are created in God’s image. As they learn to worship the One that created them, the fear begins to dissipate because God becomes bigger then whatever that fear is.” – Aeneas Williams

– “I continue to thank God for allowing my family and me, Jonathan, Daniel and Joshua to help continue to build Jerusalem the Holy City all together, as one nation, one city, and with a prayer for peace, the nation of Israel lives.” – Robert Kraft

– “I came here as just a member of the Hall, but man I am leaving with some special relationships.” – Marshall Faulk

– “Bringing the game to the rest of the world…There’s nothing better. What you’re doing with bringing American football here, it is something that brings people together.” – Joe Montana

This Week in the NFL! Ed Kracz/NFL Contributor

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By Ed Kracz ED

Official NFL Contributor to The Balance

The Dallas Cowboys have the weekend off thanks to their bye, but the drama that has surrounded star running back Ezekiel Elliott did not take a break.
Elliott’s on-again, off-again six-game suspension was reinstated earlier in the week. Elliott, the Cowboys and the NFL Players Association refuse to go quietly into the night, however.
The NFLPA has asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an immediate recall so they can pursue a full-panel hearing with the court. If the recall goes through, Elliott may very well be able to play in Dallas’ next game on Oct. 22 against the winless 49ers. If it does not, he will sit out games against San Francisco, the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angles Chargers. He would not be eligible to return until Nov. 30 against Washington.
By then, the Cowboys’ defense of the NFC East title they won last year, when they went 13-3, may be out the window, because the Eagles appear to be in good shape to unseat them.
The Eagles are sitting at 5-1, compared to Dallas’ 2-3, and Philly quarterback Carson Wentz has taken a huge leap forward from his rookie season. Wentz has thrown seven touchdowns in his last two games and has been over 300-yards passing in half the team’s games this year.
More importantly, the Eagles are playing team football and free of the drama that surrounds the Cowboys and also another NFC East team, the New York Giants, who are sitting at 0-5, have injuries galore at receiver and had to suspend cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie earlier in the week when he complained about being taken out of a recent game.
Elliott and the Cowboys seem to be affected by the suspension issue.
The offensive line, which is one of the league’s best, isn’t playing at the same level as it did last year when Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards.
Also, in his first five games last year, Elliott had 546 yards and five touchdowns. In his first five this season, he has 393 with one touchdown and was held to eight yards on the ground by the Denver Broncos in Week Two.
Should Elliott be lost for the next six games, the running game would be handled by Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Not bad, but not Elliott, either.
That means quarterback Dak Prescott, who was last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, will likely have to shoulder a heavier load.
Prescott has the targets to be effective in future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten and receivers Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley, but the quarterback also has an 11-game streak where he has failed to throw for more than 300 yards.
That would have to end if Elliott’s suspension remains in place.

Ezekiel Elliott Suspension Reinstated

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Source NFL Network NFL

A federal appeals court overturned a district court’s decision in the Ezekiel Elliott case Thursday, meaning the Dallas Cowboys running back’s six-game suspension has been reinstated.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of the NFL that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction in Elliott case after hearing oral arguments from the league and NFL Players Association lawyers earlier this month. The decision vacated the preliminary injunction and directed an order to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to dismiss the case.

“Earlier today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the preliminary injunction that prohibited the league from imposing the six-game suspension issued to Ezekiel Elliott for a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy,” the league wrote in a statement. “The Court also directed the district court to dismiss the union’s lawsuit which was filed on Elliott’s behalf. As a result, Elliott’s suspension will begin effective immediately. Elliott is eligible to return to the team on Friday, November 24 following the Cowboys’ Thursday, November 23 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.”

The NFLPA also issued a statement on the court’s decision: “The NFLPA is reviewing the decision and considering all options. The appellate court decision focuses on the jurisdictional issues. The failure of due process by the NFL articulated in the district court’s decision were not addressed.”

Elliott’s lawyer, Frank Salzano, released the following statement to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport regarding Thursday’s ruling:

“We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days. Until that time we have no further comment on the 5th circuit’s decision.”

The NFLPA is expected to re-file the case with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in order to keep Elliott playing, according to Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program. The Cowboys have a bye this week and there’s a chance Elliott might not miss a single game if the NFLPA refiles the case and is granted a TRO or preliminary injunction.

Elliott and the NFLPA have other legal options as well. They could seek an en banc hearing with the 5th Circuit or refile an amended lawsuit in Texas, according to Feldman.

“So the Players Association could ask the district court in New York or perhaps some other court to reinstate the preliminary injunction, which would put that suspension back on hold,” Feldman said on NFL Network’s TNF First Look. “So this is not over yet, particularly with the bye week, that Elliott will not serve the suspension.

“Again it’s an uphill battle but it’s possible to get that ruling in eight days,” Feldman said. “Just because they get a ruling though doesn’t mean it’s a favorable ruling, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.”

Unless lawyers for Elliott and NFLPA can get the suspension put on hold again, Elliott will miss games against the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. The next game he’d be eligible to play in would be against the Redskins at home on Nov. 30.

In it’s majority decision, 5th Circuit judges Edward C. Prado and Jennifer Walker Elrod did not weigh in on the merits of the NFLPA’s case. Rather, it ruled the lower court lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” because the union filed a “premature” lawsuit before an arbitration decision was made on Elliott’s suspension.

“The procedures provided for in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA were not exhausted. … At the time the NFLPA filed the complaint, it was possible the arbitrator could have issued a final decision that was favorable to Elliott. Elliott cannot show it was futile to wait for a final decision simply because he believed the arbitrator would issue an unfavorable ruling.”

The majority found Elliott was “required to exhaust his contractual remedies” before filing a lawsuit that accused the NFL of an unfair grievance process.

“The NFLPA takes issue with the outcome and fairness of the arbitration proceedings. However, for the repudiation exception to the exhaustion requirements to apply, the NFL would have had to completely refuse to engage in the process.”

In his dissenting decision, judge James E. Graves concluded the district court “properly executed subject matter jurisdiction” and the “NFL is unable to show a likelihood of success on the merits of any irreparable injury for purposes of a stay.”

The NFL’s appeal was part of an attempt to enforce Elliott’s suspension this season and confirm NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s authority to issue punishment based on “conduct detrimental” to the league as mandated in Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement.

U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III issued the preliminary injunction last month after agreeing with the NFLPA that Elliott didn’t receive a fair suspension appeal hearing from Goodell-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson.

Goodell suspended Elliott after a year-long investigation into domestic violence accusations made by his former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. The league found he violated the league’s conduct policy, which mandates a six-game suspension for first-time domestic violence violations. In a letter sent to Elliott informing him of suspension in August, the NFL stated it believed he used physical force against Thompson three times over a span of five days in July 2016.

Elliott, 22, was never charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Elliott, who set a Cowboys rookie record with 1,631 rushing yards rushing last season, has 393 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. He had a season-best 116 yards last week against the Green Bay Packers.

Letters From The General

Letters From The General
Rick Riggin

General

Dearest Beth,
On a day where we honored our battalion’s retired Commander, Gen. Manning, our Vice President seemed to concede an early defeat by leaving the battle arena as he faced the crouching enemy. Today was bittersweet as I, once again, was not able to join my men in the trenches. But we were able to come away victorious against the invading gold miners of San Francisco. Now we depart these blood soaked fields to battle Titans from Tennessee. The journey will be short, but the fight will be long.

Sincerely,
General A. Luck

ED KRACZ: Could Derek Barnett be the next Reggie White?

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The following article is contributed by Ed Kracz NFL contributor for the Balance, Beat writer for the The Philadelphia Eagles and Calkins Media
ED KRACZ: Could Derek Barnett be the next Reggie White?

PHILADELPHIA — Had there been a roof, it would have blown off. This was the first outdoor draft in National Football League history so the ear-splitting noise that a crowd of about 80,000 gathered on the Ben Franklin Parkway simply rose to the heavens when it was announced the Eagles were on the clock.

After nearly 10 minutes passed, league commissioner Roger Goodell strode across the stage at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Rocky theme song blasting.

Then came the pick: pass rusher Derek Barnett from the University of Tennessee.

Maybe someone up in the heavens heard the roars. Maybe even Reggie White himself heard them, because the late, great defensive end, who gave the Eagles so many great years and memories, must know Barnett.

It was Barnett who broke his sack record at Tennessee. The Nashville, Tennessee, native was the first freshman to start on the d-line for Tennessee in 2014, and he responded by having three straight double-digit sack seasons. If he can do that in the NFL, he could be this team’s next White.

It’s a tall order, though, especially because there are some knocks on him. Speed and burst are two.

But 32 sacks are 32 sacks.

“What Derek is proficient at is at the top of his rush, when Derek gets there, he has the bend and can finish,” vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “He can really close. He has a variety of moves, speed, he can use power and he can finish when he gets to the top of the rush. I think there is a high ceiling for Derek. He’s going to get better, improve his hand technique. He said after he was drafted, he’s only scratching the surface of his potential and I fully expect him to reach it.”

There is no questioning that Barnett is a person of a high-character, and in this draft, where red flags popped up on players like a South Jersey beach when rip tides are present, that is saying something.

Running back Dalvin Cook was still on the board when the Eagles made their pick but several off-field incidents may have steered them away. Same with linebacker Reuben Foster. The Eagles could’ve had him but maybe the diluted urine sample during the NFL Scouting Combine scared them away.

“We’re real excited to get Derek,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “He was the highest-rated player on our board. We’re always built along the lines but, at same time, take highest-rated guy. He fits our scheme, he fits our culture and I think we got a tremendous player and a tremendous person. Everyone in this city will see the kind of person he is. He has unbelievable character, a hard worker and is really productive.”

Pass rushers are hard to find, and the Eagles believe they found one.

He may not have tested well at the Scouting Combine but Douglas said that was the case with Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs. That didn’t stop Douglas’ employer at the time — the Ravens and Ozzie Newsome — from taking Suggs, who became the league’s defensive player of the year shortly after being drafted.

“Both players didn’t test outrageously well but both are highly productive players, high toughness, great people,” Douglas said. “Again, his production is unmatched.”

Roseman defended Barnett’s testing by saying that Barnett had the flu at the Combine and at his pro day he had a hamstring issue.

As expected, this draft was about as unpredictable as any in recent memory.

So many mock drafts had defensive players coming off the board early and often. It was the other way around. Seven of the first 10 picks were offensive picks.

For the Eagles, who are looking to complete the puzzle around quarterback Carson Wentz, that was not a good thing.

Three of the top 10 players were receivers who had all been heavily linked to the Birds: Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross. Another offensive player the Eagles no doubt coveted was Christian McCaffrey. The Stanford running back went to the Carolina Panthers, which was where most experts thought he would go.

The good news was, there were three trades before the Eagles’ turn came at No. 14. All three of those teams trading up took quarterbacks, which pushed talent down the board.

“We spent a lot of time going through scenarios and we did not have any scenarios with what happened here,” Roseman said. “It was real interesting how it went.”

When all that shuffling was complete, the Eagles had plenty of talent from which to choose, especially on defense. There was one offensive weapon they could’ve had and that was Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Imagine a two-tight end set of him and Zach Ertz. That would’ve been scary.

In the end, though, defense was the direction they found too difficult to ignore.

They could have taken Alabama defensive tackle Johnathan Allen, who was the 2016 Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Award on the nation’s top defense and had 10.5 sacks. Maybe if Allen was an end, he would have been the pick, because there was a clear need on the edge after the release of Connor Barwin.

So it’s one down and seven more picks to go.

The next two come Friday night, where the Birds own the 43rd and 99th overall picks.

Maybe the puzzle piece around Wentz will come then. Maybe a cornerback or two.

“There are a lot of different turns and twists as we go forward,” Roseman said, “but this is a good start for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Ed Kracz: 215-949-3070; ekracz@calkins.com; @kracze

The Balance Air Date 12/5/2015

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