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Players and owners react to NFL’s


NFL owners have approved a national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they

prefer, it was announced Wednesday.

Here is reaction from around the league:

NFL owners approve new anthem policy

Players are required to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem. Full story »

• NFL says no formal vote on policy »
• Answering the biggest questions »
• Players, coaches and owners react »
• Why NFL is so behind on social justice »
• How anthem rules differ across sports »
• Jets won’t prohibit kneeling »
• 49ers owner abstains from vote »

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor: “To make a decision that strong, you would hope that the players have input on it. But obviously not. So we have to deal with it as players, for good or a bad thing. At the end of the day they call the shots, make the rules, so that’s what we have to abide by. I think the main thing out of all of it is that each ball club is having open communication with the players and ownership about the issues that are going on in the community and trying to change it. I know that [the Browns] and even the team that I came from in Buffalo, they have been proactive about the situation and trying to do things in the community. So I think that should be the focus now and hopefully it is moving forward.”
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees: “I’ve made myself very clear. I will be standing up with my hand over my heart, showing respect to the United States of America and the flag and everything it stands for. … I would expect that everybody’s gonna be out there with their hand over their heart, showing respect to the flag and to the country.”

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer: “I was proud of my team last year. They stood for the anthem. I think it’s important that we stand for the anthem. I think it’s important that we represent our country the right way, the flag the right way. I probably shouldn’t get on a tangent, right? But a lot of people have died for that flag, and that flag represents our country and what we stand for. I think that’s important. I’ll stop there.”

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Malcolm Jenkins


11:02 PM – May 23, 2018
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Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee: “This team did a good job last year staying unified, understanding that we’re teammates and brothers, and that we have to respect each other’s opinions, and that they’re going to be different and that we’re not always going to agree. … On the anthem issue, wasn’t a big deal last year after the debate before the Arizona game. I think we did all get on the same page. I think Mr. [Jerry] Jones did a great job leading to that and understanding that we took a knee for social injustice, and at the same time we stood for the anthem.”

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Chris Long

11:56 PM – May 23, 2018
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Washington Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger: “I didn’t know about it. I don’t get into none of that. To each his own with that. You want to stand out, stand out; you want to stand in, stand in. But everyone should have their right.”
New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said to Newsday: “If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines.”

Texans players knelt and stood during the national anthem before a game in late October. Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns: “I feel like it’s another topic to get everybody against each other. I hate that we have to go down this route but it is what it is. … [Staying in the locker room] makes you look bad. The whole team is out there and you come jogging out (and people say) ‘Oh, he’s the guy that’s (protesting).’ Who wants to go through that? That’s humiliating as a person.”

Saints coach Sean Payton: “At some point we will (discuss our plans). We did a year ago as a team (before they came up with the policy in Week 4 to kneel together before the anthem, then stand together during the anthem). Fortunately we’ve had great leadership, and we still do. So I’m sure our players will have a chance to digest it all, and we’ll come up with what we as a team feels is right. And like anything else, when you’re not a part of the process, like the new kickoff, the new helmet rule, something obviously as significant as this anthem discussion, we’ll handle as a team.”

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy: “We’ll talk it through. From what I was told, there were no issues with this team last year, which is great. We’ll communicate it, we’ll talk it out and we’ll make sure we’re listening to everybody and trying to do the right thing as much as we can. I know it’s a touchy subject, but I feel confident we’ll do it together.”

Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe: “That’s probably the best way to do it. The NBA has been doing it for 20 years, and they haven’t had an issue, right? … I’m going to stand for the national anthem. I think I’ve made that clear, so whatever anybody else wants to do, that’s their decision. They have a right to their opinion; they can do whatever they want.”

Torrey Smith

“Appropriate respect for flag and anthem” implies that guys were being disrespectful towards it. Which is an opinion. Most people who believe that ignore the responses from the players and more importantly why men chose to protest. …

10:23 PM – May 23, 2018
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Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan: “We all want the same thing — respect for our nation and the flag, the focus on our game and a pledge to advancing social justice that will be absolute and stand the test of time. I believe we’re closer to that today, and I know that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be committed to those ideals this season and into the future.”
Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich: “Obviously we’re keeping an eye on everything. Everything matters. Everything is important. So the league comes down with a decision. We’ll deal with that as an organization when we have a chance to get together to develop our thinking and philosophy on it.”

Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin to 710 ESPN Seattle: “I’m not surprised, honestly. The NFL cares about one thing, and that’s the NFL, that’s the NFL’s bottom line. I may be privy to some different information because I’ve been in conversations with Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent and the leadership of the NFL in regards to the Players Coalition and what we’re trying to get out of that. So honestly, I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed. I will say that, because the conversations I’ve had with Roger, that I’ve had with Troy Vincent, these guys that you really put your heart out there and say, ‘Look, we’re trying to do something good for the communities that we represent, that represent us,’ and it just felt like again, there was a lack of understanding. To me, this just further punctuates the tone-deafness or the disconnect between the NFL and its players.”

Doug Baldwin on Trump: ‘He’s an idiot’When asked about President Trump’s latest comments on the NFL’s anthem situation, Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin said: “He’s an idiot. Plain and simple.”
Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea: “I still don’t like it. You’re going to fine guys for really expressing how they feel. I mean I think that’s kind of backwards but it is what it is. They gave the option for guys to stay in the locker room so I think it just comes to a point where now it depends on the clubs, however they’re going to handle it and depends on the individuals, how they see fit. You’re going to have some guys that are going to stay in the locker room and then it’s just a matter of just seeing if guys will come out and take a knee still. I just don’t like the fact that you’re going to fine guys for really expressing what they believe in. But, you know, players really don’t get too much say so in matters like this.”

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay: “I, along with Colts players and employees, remain committed to utilizing our unique platform to address social issues and community ills in a positive manner. The NFL’s new anthem policy and corresponding statement reinforces that commitment and our patriotism should never be in doubt.”

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh: “I believe in standing for the flag. To me, the flag represents the ideas and the ideals that make us America. I also believe in the freedoms the flag represents and that people can speak for themselves. I know this: Our players respect the flag and what it represents. And, we’re all proud at the Ravens of the work they do to make this community and country better.”

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: “I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities. In this great country of ours, there are so many people who are hurting and marginalized, which is why I am proud of our players for continuously working to influence positive change. Their words and actions have demonstrated not only that they have a great deal of respect for our country, but also that they are committed to finding productive ways to fight social injustice, poverty and other societal issues that are important to all of us. We must continue to work together in creative and dynamic ways to make our communities stronger and better with equal opportunities for all.”

Former NFL and current CFL coach Jerry Glanville: “My thought is the problem is with the league, with nobody having the courage and the guts to make rules and make people follow them. Players are players. If you say, ‘Everybody stands,’ and that’s the end of it — if you don’t, you’re going home — everybody stands. I know there is injustice in the United States. I know there is police injustice. I know there is injustice in the courts. I would tell my team, ‘We don’t like that we want to protest. Tuesday is the day off. I’ll go with you. And we’ll protest. Don’t bring your protest to the game. Bring it to everybody when we’re not the team.’ As an individual — Kaepernick, you want to protest, let’s go Tuesday. I’ll be there right with you.”

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright to Sports Radio 950 KJR: “It’s crazy. I believe that to keep everything nice and easy, players should just stay in the locker room. If they want to make such a big deal out of it, maybe guys as a team should just stay in the locker room. Do it how they did, I believe like 10 years ago, 15 years ago, players didn’t even come out for the anthem. I believe that the union is going to go back and forth with them and we should just all stay in the locker room.”

Saints linebacker Demario Davis: Davis’ father was in the military, so he has a “huge pride and concern and love for our country. … “Any kind of rule is not going to stop me from fighting for people who are disadvantaged in our country. I do respect our league and our policy, and I’ll always do that. But the fight continues. The people who are speaking up for the people who are hurting have a deep love and devotion for our country. That’s kind of gotten misconstrued at times. But it’s important for people to understand that.”

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott: “I’m glad they came to an agreement in some form or another. I’ll be out there standing.”

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Buffalo Bills

A statement from Bills Owner and President Kim Pegula.

11:10 PM – May 23, 2018
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Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry: “I’ve always taken that time anyway to pray, and I’ve always respected the flag, so that really has nothing to do with me.”
Redskins cornerback Josh Norman: “[President Donald Trump speaking out and more players protesting] happened … but I don’t know if that’s still going to take place or what’s going to happen. Who knows? I don’t.”

Steelers tight end Jesse James: “Obviously something had to be done. They had to make some changes or at least talk to the players, talk to the teams in the way they might do that. …They probably should talk with some of the players from the PA, the reps on the team to see what they think. I’m not stressing about it. I’m not too involved and keep doing what I do.”

Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: “I feel like I’m not an owner … yet, so I can’t make none of those rules. I’ve just got to abide by them. It’s still a business at the end of the day, so it is what it is.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter: It’s important to continue to work with the players. If you remember, I really don’t think this started out as a national anthem issue. That’s not what the protest is about. Again we have a policy now, and we’ll work through that policy and we’ll do what we’re supposed to do within the policy.”

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Vikings defensive end Brian Robison: “I love this country that I’ve grown up in, that I’m a part of. I think we have the greatest country in the world. For me, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to stand up for the flag, but at the same time our military has fought for those freedoms to allow those guys to have that decision [to kneel, etc.]. Whether we agree or disagree with their decision doesn’t matter. That’s not part of it. That’s their freedom to do what they want to do.”
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey: I respect our soldiers and everyone that has fought for this country and everything, but to put in a whole policy for it seems like it’s a little bit blown out of proportion. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt any military or anyone that has a military background is waking up in the morning and singing the national anthem.

Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho: “I don’t think anything really changes at this point. Right? Obviously, NFLPA goes back and says, ‘OK, what do we do now? As a union, what do we do? How will we respond?’ But, to be honest, I think a lot of players are happy about the conversations that are happening. So the protest served their purpose.”

Broncos center Matt Paradis: “I can speak for myself: I’ll be out there, standing for the anthem. When it comes to the team policy, that’s something as a team we’ll have to get into that. The union, the same thing. We’ll have to consult with them. … The owners, they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we’ll take it from there.”

Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin: “That’s up to the individual. I’m the type of person that I respect the people that’s over there fighting for us. Whoever want to sit down, that’s on them. Whoever want to stand up, same to them too. I’m the type of person that I believe in what I believe in, and I stand on it.”

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: “I haven’t really thought too much about it, because it’s really not going to affect me. When I go out there, I’m going to stand for the anthem, and I’m going to play football. That’s what we’re there to do — we’re there to play football. We don’t want a ton of distractions.”

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson: I think we’re focusing on the wrong things. … No policy is going to fix our problems that we have in America right now. It’s not going to fix all the shootings that are happening. It’s not going to fix all the racial tension, some policy for the national anthem. I think we’re getting distracted a little bit about what that means. Now, I have family that have served, Ciara’s dad, so I respect the military part of that and what that means and the freedom of that and what they give us. But at the same time, I think we need to be focused on how we can help out communities and how can we help our high schools, how can we help the minority communities, African American communities.”

Why Kirk Cousins is primed for a career season with Vikings
Field Yates, Mike Clay and Dan Graziano break down Kirk Cousins’ value as a QB1 now that he’s moved to Minnesota. (1:55)

May 24, 2018
Courtney Cronin
ESPN Staff Writer
Just over a month after signing a historic fully guaranteed $84 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins was already getting down to business.

Down in Atlanta, where he spent part of the offseason, Cousins met up with Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and running back Mack Brown in April to sling the ball around with the players he’ll share a field with this fall.

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Cousins labeled the session “productive,” and that’s aside from the always-beneficial extra reps a quarterback can get in with his receivers.

“More than just the football,” Cousins said. “Just to get to know one another a little and build somewhat of a foundation before we started with the whole crew.”

As Cousins and the Vikings begin OTAs this week, Minnesota’s new QB will continue to build upon the chemistry he started to form with his pass-catchers before the voluntary offseason program began. He has all the pieces in place to be on the cusp of something great this season with a career year while solidifying his status as a franchise quarterback.

Cousins knows having strong chemistry with the playmakers around him leads to success, the likes of which he experienced during the best year of his career in 2016 with the Washington Redskins.

He reached his first Pro Bowl surrounded by a strong supporting cast. At the forefront was his receiving corps, highlighted by DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder.

Jackson established himself as one of the NFL’s top vertical threats dating back to the start of his career in 2008 and helped Cousins become one of the league’s most productive deep-ball passers that season. He made 39 of his 94 deep-ball attempts (passes that traveled 20 or more air yards) for an NFL-best 1,359 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2016. Regularly at the other end of those passes was Jackson, who averaged 17.9 yards per catch and became Cousins’ favorite vertical threat.

Kirk Cousins had a career season in 2016 with talent around him that could be eclipsed by the Vikings’ weapons in 2018. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Garcon churned out high-volume production over his five years with the Redskins. In 2016, he posted a career-best 69.3 percent catch rate on 79 receptions for 1,041 yards and three touchdowns. Over the course of their Washington careers, the duo recorded a handful of memorable clutch moments, and elevated each other’s games two seasons ago. In turn, when it was time for Garcon to vote for the NFL’s top 20 players in December 2016, the receiver listed Cousins for every answer, 1-20.

In the midst of Cousins’ career year, Crowder had one as well as a reliable target in the slot who caught almost 68 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns in 2016.

When his supporting cast was at its best in Washington, complete with a dynamic tight end duo and an exemplary group of pass-catching running backs, so was Cousins. Without Jackson and Garcon last season and a rash of injuries to his crop of playmakers (not to mention the dire state of the offensive line), Cousins struggled. He was labeled by some as a system QB, incapable of being the difference maker his team needed.

That’s why when exploring options for a fresh start and the chance to become a franchise quarterback, few, if any teams, were as appealing as the Vikings, given all they had to offer.

Cousins’ clean slate comes with a host of established weapons, the NFL’s No. 1 defense and one of the most complete rosters in the NFC. The players surrounding him in 2018 hold the key to Cousins’ success, particularly the group of receivers that may be even better than the ones he had in 2016.

Adam Thielen, left, and Stefon Diggs combined for 155 catches, 2,125 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire
Diggs and Thielen elevated themselves into an elite category of wideouts last season while simultaneously elevating at times mediocre quarterback play. Establishing themselves as the league’s top receiving duo, they combined for 12 touchdowns and 155 receptions. Thielen had the Vikings’ best season at receiver since Randy Moss, and Diggs led the NFL in contested catches.

Entering their third season as a duo, having Thielen and Diggs on the same team creates a matchup nightmare. Teams struggled to figure out which guy to shadow and that often led the other receiver to break out for a big performance. Thielen and Diggs have become interchangeable chess pieces, finding success via the slot and as vertical threats.

The sheer versatility presented by both of these receivers should make Cousins’ job easier. Diggs did most of his work out of the slot in 2016 (43 catches, 478 yards) and shifted to a role outside last season whereas Thielen lined up inside more often than not (46 catches, 592 yards) in 2017 and caused mismatches with his speed. Both of these receivers can torch defenders who show an ounce of hesitation in coverage, are tremendous route runners and can create space and separation.

Under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, it’s safe to assume Minnesota’s offense will feature a high dose of movement sparked by where its top two receivers line up, how the backfield is utilized in the passing game (Dalvin Cook in the slot, maybe?) and the use of multiple tight ends at a time. All of that should benefit Cousins, who will have plenty of reliable pass catchers on the other end.

There are a couple of areas to zero in on in determining how having Thielen and Diggs can take Cousins’ game to the next level. The first goes back to his bread and butter with Jackson: the deep ball.

Few receivers are as prolific a deep threat as the former Washington receiver, but the Vikings’ top two pass catchers boast impressive numbers of their own. From 2015-17 on throws of 20 yards or more, Thielen posted a 51.4 reception percentage on 35 targets. Diggs notched a 43.5 reception percentage on 46 targets, with five of his touchdowns coming on such deep routes. That should help Cousins pick up where he left off with consistent, reliable vertical threats. He ranked third in completion percentage (48.9), third in passing touchdowns (30) and fifth in yards per attempt on passes of 15 yards or more during this same stretch, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Vikings GM Rick Spielman, second from right, made one of the biggest free-agent splashes in landing Kirk Cousins. Jim Mone/AP Photo
Additionally, Diggs coupled his pristine route-running ability with his physicality to become one of the best wide receiver threats in the red zone. He has a league-high 132.2 receiver rating inside the 20-yard line since 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. Along with tight end Kyle Rudolph’s 15 touchdowns in the red zone over the past three seasons, Cousins has plenty of weapons to help him improve in an area he struggled last season.

Thielen quickly established himself as Case Keenum’s go-to guy on third down, receiving 32 percent of Minnesota’s third-down targets. Crowder was Cousins’ guy on third downs last season, with 24 percent of Washington’s third-down targets going to him. This is another area where Cousins struggled — producing a passing first down on just 30.4 percent of dropbacks on third down last season with a completion percentage of 57.2 percent. Cousins typically zeroes in on one player in these situations. Lucky for him, Thielen is used to being that guy.

As the Vikings offense gets to take the field as an entire unit over the next four weeks, Cousins will begin to learn the intricacies of a system built just for him. The things he does well likely will be magnified between his play-action passing, deep-ball accuracy and decision-making. The areas where he’s struggled in the past (ball security, red zone, third down) could eventually be mitigated given the combination of scheme and playmakers to help elevate his game.

Cousins walked into a situation in Minnesota with few questions about the talent around him. He won’t feel the need to overcompensate for the players around him like he had to at times in Washington due to injury and when his top playmakers left in free agency. These pieces were already in place when the Vikings sought Cousins as the missing link to a Super Bowl. With Pro Bowl talent at every skill position and the tools to succeed around him, Cousins is primed to achieve the success from two years ago.

As the quarterback found out then, when others around him are playing at a high level, it elevates his game to the same place.

Panthers’ new owner David Tepper not like the man he replaces
May 23, 2018
David Newton
ESPN Staff Writer
ATLANTA — David Tepper had a team of speechwriters and a public relations department at his disposal when he began preparing the commencement address he would deliver Sunday at Carnegie Mellon University.

They all told him to be proper and not too controversial.

He also listened to some of the best commencement speeches “of all time” from politicians and actors, noting how they were delivered with “eloquence” and in a “professional manner.”

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“Let me apologize to all of them in advance,” the hedge fund billionaire told the graduating class and other honorees as he began. “Sorry, guys. Not going to happen. … To all those in attendance, if you expected to hear a professional speech today, you may be at the wrong commencement.

“What I can promise you is as much honesty and personal life experience as I can muster.”

This is the man, who on Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Atlanta, received unanimous approval from the 32 owners to purchase the Carolina Panthers.

That he was a 5 percent minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers made it a formality since he already had passed the league’s vetting process.

That was a big reason his winning bid of $2.275 billion was chosen over a bid by Charleston, South Carolina-based billionaire Ben Navarro, who according to sources bid $50-60 million more.

The league wanted to get the sale completed so it could move on with the results


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