NFL denies Josh Gordon’s reinstatement

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon’s petition for reinstatement has been denied by the NFL after he failed a drug test in March, according to a report from Mary Kay Cabot of Gordon’s sample, collected in March, tested positive for marijuana and dilute, which has given commissioner Roger Goodell pause in reinstating the receiver after a year-long ban for multiple failed drug tests, according to a report from Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports.

Both the “A” and “B” samples in the NFL-administered drug test in March came back positive for marijuana, though it was below the positive test threshold of 35 nanograms per milliliter. Unfortunately for Gordon, the presence of a diluted sample automatically makes it a positive test.

“I think they’re investigating too much,” John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, said in a radio interview after the incident, via the Buffalo News. “They need to just move on with it. If he does not charge the group of individuals that were there that night, that’s an absolute disrespect to Philadelphia police officers.”

I think Eli Apple and Reggie Ragland would have also presented solid investments in a defense in desperate need of talent (both taken ahead of our pick). As it stands, Billings appears to have both the mindset and physical attributes to make material contributions in Washington from the outset. More than just a run-stuffer and space-occupier, Billings will be a playmaker in the NFL. Besides, what could go wrong with a first-round pick out of Baylor?

Analysis: The desire to get Kelly is understanable considering he’s the top player at his position in the draft this year. But there is a good class of centers in this year’s draft, so Washington could fill that need with a good player later (someone like Nick Martin of Notre Dame comes to mind). Considering that, I love the pick of Billings. It’s been common in a lot of my mock drafts because he’s so adept at stuffing the run and disrupting the pocket, two fatal flaws in Washington’s defense.

“If there’s a pass play most running backs can’t block, Zeke picks up every block, he goes down the field 20 yards to cut-block the safety,” Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell told Ralph Russo of the Associated Press. “In practice we don’t cut block each other, but he has let me know it’s coming down. He comes flying down and he’s telling me, ‘Oooo, Tyvis I got you now.’ I’m like, ‘You’re right.’ When I see him on the next level, I know what it is. He know I know. I know he know I know.”

In an era where fewer running backs get selected early in the NFL Draft, Elliott is considered a surefire first-round pick. That has plenty to do with the burst and evasiveness that led to eye-popping stats — 6.3 yards per carry and 23 touchdowns in 2015 — but his completeness as a running back adds tremendously to his value.

While many running backs are only a weapon when the ball is in their hands, Elliott’s ability to block and keep blitzers off of quarterbacks makes him a player who is valuable to have on the field for every offensive snap.

Don Cheadle, Tituss Burgess and Terrence Howard wore one to the 2016 Emmys

Plotner and his partner Ben Ross got the idea of making colorful bow ties out of feathers five years after Ross made ties out of turkey feathers as gifts for his groomsmen in 2007.

Now they’re making bow ties out of feathers from peacocks, pheasants, turkeys and partridges.

“We think our product goes together perfectly with Cam’s sense of style,’’ Plotner said.

Newton began making a fashion statement this season with his hats made by a third-generation hatmaker in the Los Angeles area who said the 27-year-old star asked for a feather in each.

Those two, however, were past their prime and both teams were facing rebuilding situations. McCutchen is just 30 years old, and though he had a poor 2016, he finished fifth in the MVP balloting in 2015. The Pirates fell under .500 in 2016, but they made the playoffs the previous three seasons and certainly will have postseason aspirations for 2017.

The Phillies certainly need outfield help and have plenty of room on the payroll, but they’re still transitioning from rebuilder to contender and are more likely to spend their money in free agency in a year or two.

The Dodgers certainly need a right-handed bat. They could slide Howie Kendrick back to second base to replace Chase Utley and trade for McCutchen to play left field. This analysis also suggests that Dodgers have more money to spend this offseason than any other team, so picking up McCutchen’s salary wouldn’t be a problem.

Two teams that didn’t show up on either list above are the Mariners and Blue Jays. The Mariners need a left fielder after cutting Aoki (and Franklin Gutierrez is a free agent) and their lineup leans left-handed, aside from Nelson Cruz. Their outfield defense wasn’t good in 2016, however, so they’d be betting on McCutchen being OK as a left fielder. In need of starting pitchers, the Pirates would want Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders are both free agents, opening up two outfield slots in Toronto if they don’t re-sign those guys. The Jays and Pirates made a deal for Francisco Liriano, so these front offices have swung trades before.

What will the Pirates end up doing? We don’t know what they know about McCutchen’s health, but my guess is they’d rather trade him a year too early rather than a year too late. It won’t be an easy thing to do, of course. He’s a fan favorite and one of the best ambassadors for the game on any team. This, however, is what small-market teams have to do: They churn talent and have to turn veterans into usable younger players. I think McCutchen will get traded (and I’ll bet on the Dodgers).

A Giants defensive lineman beat an Eagles blocker so badly he confused himself

When the Giants beat the visiting Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, New York got the best of its opponent in all three phases of the game.

“Make the rulebook a lot less extensive,” Sherman said. “You’ve got a bunch of freakin’ rocket scientists writing rules, I guess, for a simple game … They always say they ask players and coaches about rules and rule changes but they really don’t take what they say into account obviously because the game is entirely too difficult to officiate.”

Sherman knows the NFL rulebook, sometimes better than the actual referees, it seems, and he uses it to his advantage. The outspoken cornerback isn’t likely to cut the officials any slack for missed calls, so this controversy will continue.

As always, there are plenty of teams still very much in the hunt for playoff spots and ample storylines still developing as we move into winter. This is why it’s a good time to ponder the five biggest questions of this year’s second half. The first is one that seemingly will never get old …

Will Tony Romo ever play quarterback again in Dallas?

Since everyone else who cares about the NFL has an opinion about this, here’s another to add to the mix. This wouldn’t even have been cause for debate a month ago. Now that the Cowboys are riding a seven-game winning streak, everything has changed.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has gained more confidence with each passing week, and it’s obvious that his teammates respect and believe in him. The turning point came two weeks back, when Prescott overcame a poor performance and rallied Dallas to a 29-23 overtime win over Philadelphia. That victory said the fourth-round pick had the type of maturity that can win games in November and December — and you can bet Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saw the same thing.

Now, does that mean Romo is done in Dallas? That’s a bit of a stretch. There’s always the chance that Prescott sustains an injury or begins struggling as things heat up. Realistically, the likely scenario here is that Dallas follows a script similar to the one the Denver Broncos used last season, when Peyton Manning was injured and Brock Osweiler was leading that team to five wins in seven games. Denver eventually went back to Manning in the season finale, when the Broncos’ chances of winning the AFC West were in danger. However, if the Cowboys can stay firmly ahead of the pack in the NFC East — where they currently hold a two-game lead over the 5-3 New York Giants — it’s hard to see Prescott going back to holding clipboards.

Will Michael Thomas keep stealing Brandin Cooks’ points?

With November football comes more clarity over which NFL teams can support multiple wide receivers as legitimate starters in fantasy and which cannot. Still, it’s worth asking whether members of the fantasy community — and that includes those who rank the players weekly for a living — are choosing the correct wide receiver on these offensive-minded teams.

Over the years, Smith has shadowed Brown in some games and hasn’t in others. This season, Smith has followed Sammy Watkins and Brandon Marshall all over the field, but the Ravens didn’t match him up against Allen Robinson or Amari Cooper.

Smith was asked whether this is a game he could tell coaches that he wants to match up with Brown.

“That is not my call,” he said. “That is the defensive coaching staff’s call. Whenever they call my name, that is where I will play.”

The Ravens’ success against Brown goes beyond the end zone. He has been limited to 60.5 yards receiving, his second-worst per-game average against any team he’s played at least five games against.

As a rookie, Brown delivered one of the biggest plays in this rivalry. In the 2010 divisional playoffs, he caught a 58-yard pass on third-and-19 in the fourth quarter to set up the winning touchdown. Since that game, Brown has caught one pass that traveled at least 25 yards in the air against Baltimore.

“You just can’t allow him to have big plays,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Everybody has to know where he is at all times and everybody has to be willing to help.”

In 11 regular-season games, Baltimore has held Brown under 65 yards receiving eight times. That’s an impressive trend when you consider his career average is 82.6 yards per game.

“Really, it’s about playing our game,” Harbaugh said. “It’s about playing the way we play on defense, doing what we do and doing it really well. When we do that, we’re very confident in our ability to stop anybody.”

When you ask for Von Miller money, you may get traded from the best team to the worst

Former New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins woke up this morning a member of the team with the best record in the National Football League. Now, he’s with the 0-8 Cleveland Browns.

Collins on the second play of the game does whatever he wants and Bills gain 28 yards. Been happening all year. It was not going to continue

— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016

On Thursday, the cornerback told reporters that his mom’s accusations weren’t accurate:

“She was a little bit upset and I didn’t have a chance to really talk to her, and I guess throughout that whole thing that’s just how she felt, but I never had a chance to talk to her or anything, so maybe that’s just an assumption of hers that she just felt in her gut,” Eli Apple said, via the New York Daily News. “But it’s definitely false. Nobody’s leaning on me or anything telling me things to tell her. It’s not like that at all. I think the Giants are a class organization, and I’m just happy to be here.”

Two weeks ago, Apple told reporters that he had a conversation with the Giants about his mother’s comments, although he didn’t say whether or not the team asked him to control her message.

“I talked to them and let them know my mom’s reactions sometimes are like that. She’s her own person and she’s going to do that. I have no control, so I’ve just got to do my job and that’s just play football,” Eli Apple told on Oct. 23, the same day his mom wrote a lengthy criticism of comments made by Giants owner John Mara.

The Giants publicly backed Brown throughout accusations that he had abused his wife, and the team refused to part ways with the kicker. Even after court documents revealed Brown admitted to the abuse, Giants owner John Mara said the kicker previously told the team about his spousal abuse, but “what’s a little unclear is the extent of that.” Five days later, the team finally released Brown.

“One of the worst things you can do to a domestic violence victim or survivor is to defend the abuser,” Annie Apple wrote in a deeply personal column for Sports Illustrated that accounted her own experiences with domestic abuse. “These abusive men aren’t abusing the women in their lives because they’re sick. These abusers are not the victims. They’re abusing women because they can.

Will Boogie be traded this year? Is Harden going to make history?

The widest of wide-open Most Valuable Player races will inject some much needed drama into the next six months.

San Antonio throttling Golden State by 29 points in the first real game for the Warriors’ Fab Four should have been the first hint that the 2016-17 regular season might not be the straightforward snoozefest so many folks fear.

Another reason to tune into the 82-game prelude to the playoffs: How else are we going to figure out who in the heck should win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy?

DeflateGate ceased being about deflated footballs long ago, and the probability of the NFLPA continuing its legal fight affirms that. Even though Tom Brady announced he will no longer fight his suspension, the Players’ Association still has a strong incentive to try to get this case in front of the Supreme Court.

When a federal judge overturned Brady’s suspension last fall, it seemed as if the NFLPA was on the verge of wrestling away disciplinary power from Goodell. The commissioner was on a losing streak, suffering a series of high-profile legal losses, as neutral arbitrators and judges vacated the BountyGate player suspensions in addition to the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson bans (the NFL is currently appealing the Peterson ruling). An arbitrator whittled down Greg Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to four contests last year as well.

The union has 90 days to petition the Supreme Court, and would likely argue that the ruling in this case could have far-reaching effects for the future of the NFL.

Though the chances of the Supreme Court accepting the NFLPA’s appeal are slim, there’s no downside to the union exhausting all of its legal options. If the Eighth Circuit rules against the NFL in the Peterson case, the Supreme Court may feel compelled to hold hearings, as there would be a split decision in the circuit courts regarding the scope of Goodell’s authority to hand down discipline.

With the rule of law now on his side, Goodell almost certainly wouldn’t cede any of his punitive power without a major concession from the players. Since the disciplinary process only affects a small percentage of players, it’s unlikely that the NFLPA would be willing to give up something that benefits all of its members –– such as decreasing the total percentage of revenue that players receive –– in exchange for placating a select few. The union doesn’t have many bargaining chips at this point.

Something else that figures to be in play for the Warriors: 90 points in a half.

We haven’t seen that since 1990, when the Suns — with a rookie out of Cal State Fullerton named Cedric Ceballos rumbling for 32 points in 23 minutes — erupted for 107 points in the first two quarters in an unforgettable 173-143 trouncing of the Denver Nuggets.

But the Warriors will settle for a win total in the low 60s.

Chiefs give Eric Fisher a 4-year, $48 million extension

The Kansas City Chiefs made a surprising move on Saturday by giving former No. 1 pick Eric Fisher a lucrative deal that makes him one of the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

Four years were tacked on to the remaining two years left on Fisher’s deal, securing him a to six-year, $63 million deal with the Chiefs that includes $40 million in guarantees. He is now under contract with the Chiefs through the 2021 season.

Later in the day, Davis reported to 49ers’ training camp.

But going from retired to reinstatement wasn’t exactly a smooth process. Davis, known for being quite unfiltered on his Twitter account, suggested in early April that dealing with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke gives him a “headache” after he confirmed his intentions to return to the NFL. A little over a week later, there were rumors that the 49ers wanted to trade Davis.

As training camp approached, Davis finally made good on his word that he would be returning this season:

My Official Reinstatement Letter to the @NFL & @49ers has been sent!

Smith was thrown into the fire and struggled mightily. While the Jets finished with an 8-8 record, Smith held the team back with 21 interceptions to just 12 touchdowns. His 66.5 passer rating in 2013 is the worst for any 16-game starter since Joey Harrington’s 2003 season with the Detroit Lions.

A year later, though, Smith made significant improvements in every statistical category. He had a higher completion percentage, threw fewer interceptions and finished with a 77.5 rating. Smith improved as the season went on and finished the last four games with 1,001 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 105.3 passer rating.

When Fitzpatrick was added to the fold a year ago, it was as a backup for the team’s young, ascending quarterback who had matured right before everyone’s eyes. Brandon Marshall, who has a close friendship with Fitzpatrick now, said he handpicked the Jets as a landing spot in a trade after a conversation with Smith.

Then all that momentum was derailed by a punch from IK Enemkpali that broke Smith’s jaw and gift-wrapped the starting job to Fitzpatrick, who never gave it back. The only playing time for Smith in 2015 came in a loss to the Oakland Raiders after Fitzpatrick injured his thumb. Smith completed 27 of 42 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Smith was a player who required time to develop and the Jets have put in that time. The team can even save $3 million by letting Smith play and keeping Fitzpatrick from reaching his contract incentives. By giving Fitzpatrick the job again in 2016, the team is robbing itself of the chance to see what that developed product actually looks like.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco: ‘Obviously not playing good enough

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Quarterback Joe Flacco accepted blame for a struggling offense that has held back the Baltimore Ravens for the first half of the season.

“I’m obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said Wednesday after the team’s final practice of the bye week. “We’re not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I got to be better.”

The Ravens (3-4) rank 25th in the NFL in scoring with 19 points per game, and Flacco is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL (75.4). In Baltimore’s current four-game losing streak, Flacco has had the ball in his hands in the final two minutes and has failed to deliver the winning drive each time.

Coach John Harbaugh vehemently defended Flacco’s play.

“Joe Flacco is the key to our success. So, we need to all do everything in our power that all the things are falling in place for him,” Harbaugh said. “He can play. He can throw it. He can make decisions. He can score touchdowns for us. He can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that.”

The Ravens have scored 10 offensive touchdowns this season. Only the Houston Texans have fewer.

Part of the inconsistencies on offense is due to injuries. Flacco and the Ravens have been without their top receiver in Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) and their best two linemen in guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) for a chunk of the season. The Ravens expect all of them to be ready to play after the bye.

As a result, the Ravens have struggled with poor blocking, penalties, dropped passes and interceptions.

“When you’re an offense in this league and things aren’t going great, a lot of times you can be so close, and I think we are on that verge of being really close,” Flacco said. “But it’s a bunch of little things, and it’s not just one thing. It’s things that add up. That’s why this game is an awesome thing: 11 guys have to be fully locked in for 60 minutes in order for it to work. Nobody notices that. We don’t even notice it when we’re out there playing, but it is the reality of it.”

Harbaugh reasserted that he’s “a Joe Flacco fan” and believes in him.

“Joe will take care of what he needs to do,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than anybody. He cares about it more than anybody. We need to protect him. We need to run routes. We need to create confidence in our passing game. We need to run the ball well. We need to do the things we need to do to make the offense work. And Joe will make the offense work.”

Quin declined to divulge all of his investments, partly because of privacy and contractual agreements, but most fit this mold. A notable exception are daily fantasy sports providers FanDuel and DraftKings, an idea he liked because of his interest in football.

“I want to be seen as, yeah, I’m in the NFL, but I’m not a typical guy, you know,” Quin said. “I’m different. I’m smart. I know business. I didn’t go to [junior college out of high school] because I didn’t have grades. I do like for them to look at me as I’m an investor.

“I’m in your world right now. I didn’t come in here in shoulder pads and a helmet. I came here with a suit on, just like you. Right now, I’m in your world. So let’s talk business, but I am a football player.”

NFL defends 1-game suspension for Giants K Josh Brown

The NFL is defending the minimal punishment handed down to New York Giants kicker Josh Brown after receiving backlash for a seemingly lax stance on domestic violence.

Brown’s ex-wife told police that the kicker was physically violent with her in more than 20 incidents, including when she was pregnant. With such serious allegations, the NFL was lambasted for handing down just a one-game suspension when the new personal conduct policy mandates that players face a mandatory six-game ban for a domestic violence offense.

On Saturday, the NFL released a statement explaining that a lack of cooperation from Brown’s ex-wife didn’t allow for a full investigation of the allegiations. The statement in full, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

“In May 2015, the NFL was informed by the New York Giants of Josh Brown’s arrest for an incident in his home involving his then wife. We began an investigation into the incident and circumstances surrounding it.

The Niners took over, and Jeff Driskel completed a pass to running back Mike Davis for no gain. Broncos linebacker Zaire Anderson forced a fumble, and defensive tackle Billy Winn recovered. The Niners’ possession lasted two seconds.

Two straight incompletions from Mark Sanchez later, he was sacked by San Francisco’s Marcus Rush, who stripped the ball. Rush recovered, and when Driskel came back out onto the field for the 49ers, it was clear that Chip Kelly wasn’t interested in a fourth fumble in a 45-second span. Driskel took a knee with 14 seconds remaining in the half.

To recap, the final minute of the first half looked like this:

But it didn’t end there, because on the very first series of the second half, Davis fumbled yet again.

The Broncos got the ball and back and Sanchez, miraculously, managed to get through an entire possession without turning the ball over. Now it’s Paxton Lynch’s turn under center, which definitively ends the vicious cycle of Sanchez and Davis trading fumbles.

After reviewing the evidence in this one incident, we imposed a one-game suspension for violation of the personal conduct policy.

Referee sends Tyrod Taylor into concussion protocol after illegal hit despite his objections

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was removed from Thursday’s game against the New York Jets by the officials to be evaluated for a concussion under the NFL’s protocol. Taylor was cleared, and after two offensive plays on the sideline, he returned to the game.

The Cowboys still can’t win without Tony Romo and other reasons for NFL fans to panic. Pump the brakes on eulogizing Darrelle Revis’ career, though.

Keyshawn Johnson said that “Jeff Fisher was forced to draft Jared Goff.” Rams ownership wanted to make a splash. Jeff Fisher just wanted his draft picks. Neither Fisher or the team has said a peep about Keyshawn’s allegation, and they won’t. But it does make for some intriguing backdrop with reports of a potential contract extension coming.

The 49ers knew what the Rams offense was going to do as soon as the Rams did. The particulars of Monday night’s shutout loss continue to haunt the Rams, leaving even more questions for the new team in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the most egregious tackle of the night came from Stewart, who crashed into Newton while the Panthers were driving for a game-winning score. It was the only headshot that was flagged, but the penalty was offset due to an intentional grounding call.

Marshall said the Broncos are not a dirty team. “We just play hard, man,” Marshall said via Andrew Mason of the team’s official website.

“And I feel for [Darian] Stewart and them safeties. Those guys are 200 pounds, 210 pounds, so when they get a 250-pound guy running at them, they’re going to either hit them high or low,” Marshall said. “They’re going to get them down any way they can.

“[Cam] is bigger than all of our linebackers.”

On Sunday, the NFL Players Association announced it’s launching an inquiry into the handling of Newton, who never missed a snap despite taking several vicious shots to the head. Though the Carolina Panthers say Newton passed four concussion tests after the game, he was never examined during the contest.

A league spokesman told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport last week that Newton wasn’t checked out because an independent neurotrauma consultant and Panthers physician concluded there was no indication that he had suffered a concussion.’s Judy Battista also says medical officials did go to Newton on the sidelines during a stoppage of play.

Despite those reports, the NFLPA is going forward with its investigation. The NFL is also looking into the matter. For the first time this year, the NFL and NFLPA have the ability to designate a representative to investigate whether the mandated concussion protocol was properly followed. If the two sides disagree, then the decision will go to an unaffiliated arbiter. Teams that are found to violate the procedure could face severe fines and even the loss of draft picks.