Winners and losers from Bills, Rams, Eagles mega-trades


Just when you thought the biggest story of the weekend might be the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, the Bills decided to flip their roster overnight with a pair of out-of-nowhere trades.

Buffalo’s new regime of Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane inherited a roster that appeared to top out short of the playoffs, so it’s no surprise they’ve spent most of the offseason trying to undo deposed general manager Doug Whaley’s mistakes. The Bills repeatedly traded down during the 2017 draft, grabbing an extra 2018 first-round pick from the Chiefs for their troubles, before firing Whaley the day after the draft.

On Friday, they added to their haul by acquiring a pair of 2018 picks as part of deals with the Eagles and Rams. Those trades amount to the following:

Buffalo Bills get: WR Jordan Matthews, CB E.J. Gaines, Rams’ 2018 second-round pick, Eagles’ 2018 third-round pick

Philadelphia Eagles get: CB Ronald Darby

Los Angeles Rams get: WR Sammy Watkins, Bills’ 2018 sixth-round pick

The dust is still settling, but at first glance, let’s run through the winners and losers from these three deals:


Jared Goff

As the Rams try to build some sort of offensive infrastructure for the 2016 first overall pick, it’s hard to imagine their acquiring a better receiver to work with than Watkins, who averaged 80.5 receiving yards per game while healthy in 2015, good for what would be nearly 1,300 receiving yards over a 16-game campaign. While Watkins hasn’t lived up to the draft-day trade that saw the Bills deal two first-round picks to move up and acquire him ahead of Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014, injuries have been the problem, not talent.


Sammy Watkins

This was always going to be a huge season for Watkins, who was set to hit unrestricted free agency after the Bills declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal for 2018. Last year was a lost season for the Clemson product, given that the Bills repeatedly pushed Watkins onto the field with a clear foot injury before Watkins finally underwent what ended up as two surgeries on his left foot. It seemed likely that the Bills would part company with Watkins after the year regardless of what happened.

It’s hard to see how Watkins will be in a better situation for either his short- or long-term future. After being traded to the Rams, who gave up a starting cornerback and a high pick to acquire him, Watkins is likely looking at the franchise tag if he breaks out in 2017. It’s not clear that would have been the case in Buffalo, and the tag will cost him millions of dollars versus what he could get on the free market.

He’s also now set to play out his contract year with Goff, who was one of the worst quarterbacks in recent memory during his debut season, as opposed to the criminally underrated Tyrod Taylor. Goff should be better during his second season, especially with the arrival of Sean McVay from Washington as coach, but there’s a chance Watkins is relying on a replacement-level quarterback to make him millions of dollars.


Tyrod Taylor

Speaking of the Bills quarterback, Taylor also finds himself in a make-or-break year, even if that career might not be in western New York. Taylor just lost his top receiver, and while he’s getting a viable weapon in Matthews, remember that Matthews was the focal point of a wide receiving corps that was seen as one of the worst in the league in Philadelphia last season. Even if you argue that Matthews has a higher floor than Watkins by virtue of missing a total of just two games over the past three seasons, it should take some time for Taylor to develop a rapport with his new No. 1 wideout.


Jordan Matthews

The Broncos were comfortably a three-wideout team under new Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, going three-wide as high as 72 percent of the time in 2014, per Football Outsiders, which was the fourth-highest rate in the league. At the same time, though, the Bills just paid $8.4 million over four years to sign fullback Patrick DiMarco this offseason, suggesting that their organizational plan was to roll a fullback onto the field more often than not.

The presence of DiMarco (and Mike Tolbert) suggests that Matthews will be spending more time on the outside than he did in Philadelphia, where he was primarily a slot receiver. That could be a positive if he succeeds on the edge, given that some teams still discount the work done by receivers out of the slot.

More than anything, though, it’s clear that Matthews is going to get far more targets in Buffalo than he would have in Philadelphia, where he was competing with Alshon JefferyTorrey SmithDarren Sproles and a bevy of tight ends for targets. Now Matthews will be the primary focus of a receiving corps that includes second-round pick Zay Jones, the newly signed Anquan Boldin, a limited Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy. The Vandy product has a great shot at topping the 117 targets he racked up a year ago, which could get Matthews paid this offseason. It’s also possible that the Bills give him a sweetheart deal in an attempt to smooth things over with their fans in advance of what looks like another rebuild.


Nelson Agholor

Who saw that one coming? Agholor was basically left for dead after two frustrating seasons in Philadelphia, but after training camp reports suggested Agholor looked like a new man in the slot, the Eagles cleared out a spot for him by trading away Matthews. Coach Doug Pederson might not go three-wide all that often — Philadelphia was there 60 percent of the time last season, 26th in the league — but Agholor went from looking like a likely trade candidate to securing a roster spot with an outside shot at meaningful receptions.


The Eagles

Philadelphia was looking downright bereft at cornerback for the second consecutive season, having cycled again through middling veterans while using second- and third-round picks on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, the former of whom is likely to miss a chunk of the 2017 season after rupturing his Achilles at his pro day. While the Eagles had long-term hope at the position, this is a team that should be capable of competing as early as this season. Cornerback was their biggest weakness.

Now they have a promising option in both the short term and long term in Darby, who was stunningly effective during his debut season in Buffalo before slipping badly last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has done excellent work with undersized corners in years past, notably launching Cortland Finnegan’s career in Tennessee. It’s too early to suggest Darby’s a reclamation project, but dealing a wide receiver the Eagles were unlikely to sign for a likely starter at cornerback is a totally logical move, even if it did hurt to give up a third-round pick in the process.


The Rams

So much of what the Rams do on a year-to-year basis seems to be about erasing or accounting for the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Here again they’re addressing their disastrous investment and reinvestment in the badly miscast Tavon Austin by shelling out another draft pick and what is (in the best case) going to be a huge contract to retain Watkins for years to come.

You could understand why the Rams would want to take a shot at Watkins, but the 2018 free-agent wide receiver class is staggering, including players like Matthews, DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson. Some of those guys will re-sign with their current teams, of course, but maybe the Rams end up giving someone like Jeffery or Terrelle Pryor a big deal. That wouldn’t be the end of the world.

What’s frustrating about this move is that the Rams had to give up a second-round pick to acquire Watkins. Given that they’re unlikely to be very good — ESPN’s FPI projects them to finish with the league’s fifth-worst record — chances are they’ll be sending a high second-rounder to the Bills to acquire a player who hasn’t been healthy for most of his career.

After trading away a bevy of picks to acquire Goff, the Rams can’t be in the pick-trading business. If anything, they should be looking at trading down and acquiring selections. (I realize they’re getting a sixth-rounder, but per Chase Stuart’s chart, even the top pick of the sixth round is worth just 12 percent as much as the fifth pick of the second round, the selection the Rams project to send to Buffalo.)

Even if Los Angeles’ bet on Watkins works out in 2017, the Rams are going to be stuck using their franchise tag or making a long-term bet on a player with a history of foot injuries. They could recoup a compensatory draft pick if they let Watkins leave, but that assumes Watkins will have a big enough year to justify a serious deal in free agency while the Rams themselves mostly sit out, which seems like a very unlikely proposition.

They’re also going to be in serious trouble at cornerback, where they just traded away Gaines and won’t be able to afford franchising Trumaine Johnson for a third time after the season. Wade Phillips is a defensive genius, but the best guy on Los Angeles’ depth chart for 2018 appears to be Broncos import Kayvon Webster, who played 58 defensive snaps last season and has spent the past several years buried underneath a stacked depth chart in Denver.


The Bills

As frustrating as this must be for Buffalo’s fans, who are stuck undergoing yet another rebuild, the Bills are making the right sort of moves as they try to build a team to (eventually) make noise in the postseason. It’s clear that the organization had soured on Watkins and had serious concerns about his ability to stay healthy; otherwise, they wouldn’t have passed up the wideout’s fifth-year option. And if the Bills don’t have a lot of faith in Watkins staying healthy enough to pass a physical in 2018, it’s difficult to imagine that they would see signing Watkins as a wise decision in the long term, either.

If you’re going to move on from Watkins, then, this is a reasonable haul. You might argue that the Bills make a slight downgrade at cornerback by swapping Darby for Gaines, who has struggled with his own foot injuries. It’s pretty clear Watkins has a higher upside than Matthews, although the higher floor for Matthews might offer some level of certainty the Bills prefer if they’re handing out a long-term deal.

What’s really crucial, though, are those extra draft picks. As projected by FPI and using Stuart’s chart, the Bills trading their sixth-round pick for Los Angeles’ second-rounder and Philadelphia’s third-round pick to trade the Rams pick (37, fifth-lowest FPI projection) and Eagles pick (80, 16th-lowest FPI projection) for pick 190 (the Bills have the sixth-lowest projection and that was the sixth-lowest pick of the sixth round, obviously the exact pick will pend specific compensatory selections) is roughly the equivalent of acquiring the 16th overall pick in a typical draft (17.1 points, closest to value of 16th pick, 16.9 points).

That gives the Bills what essentially amounts to three first-round picks in the 2018 draft, given that they’ll have their own pick and Kansas City’s selection from the Patrick Mahomes II trade. They can add a third-round compensatory pick for Stephon Gilmore if they cut three players from the group of DiMarco, Vladimir DucasseAndre Holmes and Steven Hauschka before Week 10, a move I would strongly encourage. Draft picks alone aren’t a solution, but the best way to build a sustainably effective team isn’t to trade up for a stud wide receiver or an inside linebacker, as the Bills did by sending multiple picks to acquire Reggie Ragland last season. It’s to acquire draft picks and build a core of cheap, effective talent. As the Bills try to chase the juggernaut Patriots, they’re wisely taking a page out of Bill Belichick’s book.


Iran removes soccer players for competing against an Israeli team

(JTA) — Iran reportedly has removed two players from its national soccer team after they competed against an Israeli team.

Haji Safi and Masoud Shojaei play for the Greek soccer club Panionios, which last week competed against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team in a Europa League qualifying round in Greece. The Greek team lost.

“Shojaei and Haji Safi have no place in Iran’s national football team any more because they crossed the country’s red line,” Deputy Sports Minister Mohammad Reza Davarzani said on state television, according to the French news agency AFP.

Davarzani acknowledged that in the previous round, the players had declined to travel with their team to play in Israel despite receiving “pressure.”

“Well done to Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi who broke the taboo of not playing in matches against Israeli athletes,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry wrote on its Farsi language Twitter account, according to reports.



Josh Rosen, UCLA’s starting quarterback and a highly touted NFL prospect, has taken flak before for being outspoken about his views.

Last year, he said that college football should be considered a professional sport and wore a hat that said “F— Trump” while golfing on one of Trump’s golf courses.

In an interview with Bleacher Report on Tuesday, Rosen doubled down on his criticism of the college football model, which he believes leaves no time for academic coursework.

“Look, football and school don’t go together,” he said. “They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.”

(For context, the University of Alabama has won the college football championship four times in the past eight years.) “It’s not that they shouldn’t be in school,” he continued. “Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more — instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.”

Rosen, 20, an economics major entering his junior year, went on to explain that he wants to get an MBA and create his own business after playing in the NFL.

“When I’m finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life. I want to own the world. Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” he said.

Rosen’s comments drew scrutiny from some fellow players, but also praise from sports writers. The NCAA has been harshly criticized for its financial and academic system, which generates billions of dollars of revenue. College athletes are not allowed to make any money from their sports through endorsements or advertisements.

The 6-foot-4 gunslinger is the son of Charles Rosen, a noted Jewish orthopedic surgeon, and Liz Lippincott, who is Quaker (she is the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Wharton, who founded the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania).

Despite having only played in 20 collegiate games and missing about half of last season with a shoulder injury, Rosen was recently ranked the number seven college prospect by ESPN. In 2015, his freshman year, he threw for 3,670 yards and 23 touchdowns.
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Already at nine in the morning, E-Ram’s streets are burning with heat. It crawls through the lively markets and into the crowded buses, lingering above the artificial grass of the town stadium, home to the Palestinian Women’s National Soccer Team. Instead of advertisements for American beer or energy drinks, the banner ads on the sideline feature portraits of Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat.

Three times a week, Dima Youssef, 22, comes here to play soccer. Even last month, during Ramadan, she notes that “games take place at night after people have had dinner, or right before sunset so you can go eat and drink afterward.”

She shrugs her shoulders. Actually, none of this applies to her, she says, since she is a Christian. But it does influence her teammates, she adds, and therefore the energy of the whole team.

According to Youssef, the conditions to pursue a sport professionally are less than ideal in the West Bank for the Palestinian Women’s National Soccer Team.

Founded in 2006, the team has participated four times for the West Asian Cup, but has not been able to partake in bigger tournaments so far. “We are a young team,” stresses Youssef, “and none of the girls can afford to give 100 percent for soccer.”

Practice almost makes her late for class at the university, where Youssef studies journalism. Soccer as a career? “I never even thought of it,” she says. “This is not really an option. In contrast to Europe, there really is no money in the clubs around here.”

She turns her head and looks at the girl next to her, awaiting affirmation. Gina Khnouf claps her hands together and sighs. A gesture of resignation? For over a year Khnouf has been coaching girls under 19: a task between hope and frustration.

“So many talents here are wasted,” she says. “Most Palestinians don’t even know that there is a women’s soccer team. It is a man’s sport, even more than in Europe. But I am trying to spread the word.”

This is an undertaking which is twice as hard: even most male Palestinian athletes have trouble expanding their talents outside the territories, not to mention Gazans or underage girls for whom travel to games and training camps abroad often remain virtually impossible.

The opposing team usually has to come to the West Bank, and that only happens very rarely. “In 2011 we played against Japan; that was a highlight,” Khnouf declares proudly, despite having lost 19 to 0.

Soccer has become an integral part of Palestinian culture since the first soccer union was founded in 1928. Since 1998, the men’s soccer team has been part of FIFA; in 2006 the women followed suit. All this was undeterred by the fact that soccer is considered among some Palestinians to be a Western import brought to the region by the British Mandate and early Jewish immigrants and should be avoided.

For girls wishing to play, the hurdles are even higher. “Most families do not appreciate seeing their girls in short clothing on a soccer field and traveling around without supervision. Also, they consider the game as being too rough for a woman,” explains Yousef Zaghloul, one of the women’s team coaches. “For most of the girls, the game is over at around age 16.”

He sounds truly distressed. Zaghloul is an engineer, but soccer has been his passion from a very young age. “One day I saw a group of kids playing in front of my house. One girl was among them and I was very impressed by her skills, but at the same time it hit me that she probably would never be able to benefit from her potential.”

That moment forever changed his life, as well as the destiny of his hometown, Dura, near Hebron. There Zaghloul founded one of the first female soccer clubs in the West Bank after having trained two boys’ teams. People know him and trust him. This is essential, he stresses, explaining how only a familiar face can change anything around here.

“But I understood that, by supporting women’s sports, I can really make a difference in my society. It might sound like a cliché, I know, but in places like this, sport still retains its vital power.”

The place where the first training field was established – a pitch of pure rubble – bears the name “Joseph Blatter Street” after the former FIFA president, who has been suspended from his position due to corruption allegations. “He was here for the inauguration of our first stadium and has traveled around to observe the Palestinian soccer scene,” Zaghloul recalls.

He has been pushing for the acceptance of women’s soccer in the region and the sport seems to have gained popularity. There are now nearly 30 women’s clubs.

Team sport offers young girls an opportunity to leave the house for communal activities other than school, emphasizes Zaghloul. “I noticed that the girls – in contrast to the boys – are always on time for their training sessions. Often they even come half an hour before and don’t mind staying longer for some extra practice. It is their moment in the week to spend time with their girlfriends.” Most of them have never missed a single class, he adds: “Even when they are sick, they come and watch the game from the sideline.”

Many times Zaghloul has had to convince the girls’ parents. Many cups of coffee and tea were served while many cakes and cookies were eaten in the company of worried mothers and fathers, all in the name of soccer. “I have a good rate of success convincing them of the safety of the sport and the environment it takes place in,” he says.

With joy he remembers the two girls who were allowed to accompany him to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, representing the Palestinian Authority abroad. “Apart from short trips to Jordan, they’ve never been outside the territories,” he notes.

There have also been many cases in which even Zaghloul was not able to keep the girls on the team. “Sometimes I couldn’t really figure out the core reason. The clothing? That could be adaptable. The travels? But there is always supervision! In the end, some figure it’s just not for girls, period.”

Fortunately Dima Youssef never had to suffer through such an experience. As a Christian her upbringing was a bit more liberal compared to her Muslim friends. It is the politics and economics of the region that keep her from considering soccer as more than a passion, she discloses.

“I love the game, I do. But there is so little support – no scholarships, no sponsors, no investors. How are we supposed to get our jerseys? The equipment? The coaches? We pay in order to play.”

Zaghloul himself works on a volunteer basis even today – just like Khnouf. “Several evenings a week,” he stresses. “You really have to believe in what you are doing. I am doing it for the next generation, no more and no less,” he says.

Youssef is doing it for fun, no more and no less, she confides. Her favorite club is Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. “I would love to see them play once,” she jokes, “Maybe they’ll come to E-Ram one day, what do you think?”

Gaza soccer team wins Palestine Cup despite Israeli restrictions

HEBRON, West Bank — Shabab Rafah became the first Gazan team to win soccer’s Palestine Cup in more than a decade Friday, despite Israeli restrictions keeping 10 of its players off the pitch.

Rafah and Ahly al-Khalil from the West Bank city of Hebron which hosted the game ended the second leg in a 0-0 tie, but Rafah’s 2-0 first leg lead meant it took the title.

The Gazan club had to field a weakened side, with only 15 of its 25 members of the playing squad given Israeli permits to travel to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.

Rafah director Khaled Kweik told AFP it was the first time the team had ever won the cup, calling it a “historic” victory.

“We were harassed as we entered the West Bank and the Israelis banned 10 players from entering,” he said after the final whistle.

“But the rest of the players were able to protect the draw and take the title.”

Players from Gaza's Shabab Rafah soccer team celebrate following their victory in the second leg of the Palestinian Cup final at the stadium in the city of Dura, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on August 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

The West Bank and Gaza are separated by Israel, and Palestinians looking to travel between the two must apply for Israeli permits. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks the elimination of Israel, runs Gaza.

Ahly won the cup in 2015 and 2016, but its home advantage in this year’s second leg was not enough to see it overturn the two-goal deficit.

The annual fixture pits the winners of separate cup competitions in Gaza and the West Bank over a two-leg final — with one game in Gaza and one game in the West Bank.

The cup did not take place for 15 years largely over problems with Israeli permits, but resumed in 2015 after world soccer body FIFA intervened.

A player from Gaza's Shabab Rafah soccer team (blue) jumps to head the ball against a member of Hebron's Ahly Al-Ahli team during the second leg of the Palestinian Cup final at the stadium in the city of Dura, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on August 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

On Thursday, Shabab announced that 10 of their players had been prevented from entering Israel through the Erez border crossing with Gaza.

The Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and at the Gaza border crossings, said the ban was for “security reasons” compounded by a late submission of paperwork.

Iran condemns its soccer players for match with Israeli team

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team on Friday for participating in a match against an Israeli team, Iranian media reported.

The federation “strongly condemns” the participation of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi in a match for Greece’s Panionios against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv a day earlier in Greece, it said in a statement reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

On its Farsi-language Twitter account, Israel’s Foreign Ministry praised the players for ignoring what is considered a taboo in Iran by playing against the Israelis. Maccabi won the UEFA Europa League match 1-0.

Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and traditionally, Iranian athletes refrain from playing Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.

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Two Iranian football players , Playing match Panionios Vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv. Making history of sport in Iran ! 

The federation said it is reviewing the case and will make a final decision after speaking with both players who in the past have also played for the national soccer team. Fars reported that the two may now be banned from playing on that team again.

At a previous match against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, both refused to play.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine. From time to time, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played Israeli teams.

In February, a teenage Iranian chess player angered authorities when he played, as an individual, against an Israeli competitor in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that call for the Jewish state’s destruction.

Polish soccer club denies its fans attacked Israelis

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish soccer club, Legia Warszawa, said Friday it condemns anti-Semitism and vehemently denied that any of its fans were behind an attack on an Israeli soccer team.

Masked soccer hooligans attacked and slightly injured two Israelis following a friendly match in Poland on Wednesday. The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw described it as “anti-Semitic incident.”

The match took place in Suchocin, a town near Warsaw, between Israeli club Hapoel Petah Tikva and local Polish club MKS Ciechanow.

The Israeli club said fans of Warsaw’s Legia Warszawa club emerged from a forest and attacked Hapoel Petah Tikva staff members.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group, has urged European soccer’s ruling body to take disciplinary measures against Legia Warszawa over the incident.

Legia Warszawa said in a statement Friday there were “no grounds to link our club to the incident that took place in Sochocin.” It noted that the town is 70 kilometers (45 miles) away from Warsaw and that the team was preparing for a different match at the time of attack.

The club said it considers the Wiesenthal center’s move to be unjustified and “very harmful” to its image.

A neuropathologist has examined the brains of 111 N.F.L. players — and 110 were found to have C.T.E., the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.


Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

C.T.E. causes myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped.
The brains here are from players who died as young as 23 and as old as 89. And they are from every position on the field — quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers, and even a place-kicker and a punter.

They are from players you have never heard of and players, like Ken Stabler, who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Some of the brains cannot be publicly identified, per the families’ wishes.

The scan above is from the brain of Ronnie Caveness, a linebacker for the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs. In college, he helped the Arkansas Razorbacks go undefeated in 1964. One of his teammates was Jerry Jones, now the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones has rejected the belief that there is a link between football and C.T.E.

The scan above is from the brain of Ollie Matson, who played 14 seasons in the N.F.L. — after winning two medals on the track at the 1952 Helsinki Games. He died in 2011 at age 80 after being mostly bedridden with dementia, his nephew told The Associated Press, adding that Matson hadn’t spoken in four years.

Dr. McKee, chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the CTE Center at Boston University, has amassed the largest C.T.E. brain bank in the world. But the brains of some other players found to have the disease — like Junior Seau, Mike Webster and Andre Waters — were examined elsewhere.

The set of players posthumously tested by Dr. McKee is far from a random sample of N.F.L. retirees. “There’s a tremendous selection bias,” she has cautioned, noting that many families have donated brains specifically because the former player showed symptoms of C.T.E.

But 110 positives remain significant scientific evidence of an N.F.L. player’s risk of developing C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death. About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players would have tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.

The N.F.L.’s top health and safety official has acknowledged a link between football and C.T.E., and the league has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form, encouraging safer tackling methods and promoting flag football.
Linemen make up the largest share, by far, of those tested by Dr. McKee, partly because nearly half of the 22 players on the field are offensive and defensive linemen.

But that may not be the entire reason.

Linemen knock heads on most plays, and those who study brain trauma say the accumulation of seemingly benign, non-violent blows — rather than head-jarring concussions alone — probably causes C.T.E.

Data compiled by researchers at Stanford showed that one college offensive lineman sustained 62 of these hits in a single game. Each one came with an average force on the player’s head equivalent to what you would see if he had driven his car into a brick wall at 30 m.p.h.


Quarterbacks, the stars and most highly paid players in the league, are now provided more protection against hits to the head than other players. But that has hardly eliminated concussions and other blows to their heads. The quarterbacks still hit their heads hard on the turf when they are sacked, or take head-jarring hits when they leave the pocket to run.

The rules that provide more protection have only recently been established.

They were not in place when Ken Stabler was leading the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s.

Before Stabler died, at 69, of colon cancer in July 2015, he had requested that his brain be examined to see why his condition had been progressively slipping.

Dr. McKee found that he had a “moderately severe” case of C.T.E. The lesions were widespread, she told The Times.

From Ken Stabler’s Brain
The trauma of repetitive blows to the head triggers degeneration in brain tissue, including the buildup of an abnormal protein called tau. Thin slices of tissue are dyed and the tau shows up as these darker areas.
C.T.E. often affects the superior frontal cortex, an area important for cognition and executive function, including working memory, planning and abstract reasoning.
The insula may be involved in C.T.E. — an area of the brain important in emotion, social perception and self-awareness.
The amygdala is often severely affected. It is important in emotional control, aggression and anxiety.
C.T.E. frequently damages the mammillary bodies, an area important in memory.

The brains of the 13 linebackers shown here do not include the most high-profile of them all, Junior Seau. Seau, 43, whose brain was examined by the National Institutes of Health, killed himself with a gunshot to his chest in May 2012. Suicide is not uncommon among players who suffer the effects of C.T.E., but Dr. McKee and other researchers caution that no correlation between the two has been firmly established.


Linebackers, like linemen, sustain many sub-concussive blows to the head, the ones that show no immediate symptoms but can have a cumulative impact over time. Dr. McKee has said that linebackers who play in the league for 10 years could sustain upward of 15,000 of these sub-concussive hits.

Tyler Sash was found dead of an accidental overdose of pain medications on Sept. 8, 2015. He was 27.

Sash had played safety for the Giants on their 2011 Super Bowl team after playing the position in college at Iowa. The Giants released him in 2013 after he sustained what was believed to be his fifth concussion.

“Those concussions are the ones we definitely know about,” his older brother Josh said. “If you’ve played football, you know there are often other incidents.”

Despite Sash’s young age, his family requested that his brain be examined for C.T.E. because he was showing uncharacteristic signs of confusion, memory loss and fits of anger.

Their suspicions were confirmed. Dr. McKee said at the time that: “Even though he was only 27, he played 16 years of football, and we’re finding over and over that it’s the duration of exposure to football that gives you a high risk for C.T.E. Certainly, 16 years is a high exposure.”
Dr. McKee found the disease at a level similar to that found in Seau’s brain, and it was in the region of the brain that is consistent with the symptoms he was exhibiting.

Sash’s mother, Barnetta Sash, said: “Now it makes sense. The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making and reasoning was damaged badly.”

The One That Tested Negative

The family of the only N.F.L. player without C.T.E. in Dr. McKee’s study did not authorize her to publicly identify him.
The Complete Study

In addition to the 111 brains from those who played in the N.F.L., researchers also examined brains from the Canadian Football League, semi-professional players, college players and high school players. Of the 202 brains studied, 87 percent were found to have C.T.E. The study found that the high school players had mild cases, while college and professional players showed more severe effects. But even those with mild cases exhibited cognitive, mood and behavioral symptoms.

There is still a lot to learn about C.T.E. Who gets it, who doesn’t, and why? Can anything be done to stop the degeneration once it begins? How many blows to the head, and at what levels, must occur for C.T.E. to take hold?

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem,” Dr. McKee said.

Sweden: ‘Lunatic’ neo-Nazi disrupts tennis match

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A man shouting a Nazi slogan briefly disrupted the Swedish Open semifinal between Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer on Saturday in Bastad, south-western Sweden.

A video released by the daily Expressen showed a man wearing a black t-shirt with a symbol of the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group, casually walking on to the court and shouting “Hell Seger!” a Swedish translation of “Sieg Heil.”

The young man, who raised his right arm, was quickly met with a booing crowd. He was later led away by security guards.

“I got scared when (the man) talked the way he did. He’s a lunatic… what he did is not normal,” Ferrer was quoted as saying by Expressen.

The match, which resumed after a short interruption, ended with a 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 victory for Ferrer, who will meet Alexandr Dolgopolov in Sunday’s final.

The Nordic Resistance Movement, founded in 1997, was described as the most violent Nazi organization in Sweden by Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo.

It has nearly 200 active members, according to Expo.

Police suspend investigation into incident involving Ezekiel Elliott (Nigger) at Dallas bar

Dallas police announced Wednesday they have suspended their investigation into an incident Sunday night that involved the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott. A man was punched in the face at a bar, suffering a broken nose, but neither he nor any potential witnesses have been cooperative, authorities said.

Reports had indicated that Elliott was at the scene of the incident, but his degree of involvement was unclear. The second-year player, who led the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie, continues to be under investigation by the league for previous accusations of domestic violence, and possibly also for Sunday’s episode, and he could still be suspended.

Police said in a statement that the case was being “suspended due to the lack of a complaint.” They said that detectives had “made several attempts to contact the victim through various ways but at this time have not been able to make contact,” adding, “To date no witnesses have come forward to provide any additional information about this incident.”

The alleged victim, identified by Dallas newspapers as Nkemakola “Daryl” Ibeneme, was also known in the club scene as “DJ D Train.” A man who claimed to have been an eye witness to the incident told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Elliott “didn’t throw the punch.”

@DJ_dTrain Can you please contact Detective Kreun with @DallasPD at 214-671-3617?

Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said he hadn’t spoken with Elliott about the incident but planned to when they meet Friday. Elliott, who turns 22 on Saturday, was described by his coach (via ESPN) as “someone we believe very strongly in as a person and as a football player.”

“As you well know, because of his style and personality, it’s like a rock star wherever he goes in terms of attention,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Elliott this week. “Anybody that’s experienced that knows that takes getting used to. You have to learn many aspects of that.

“Certainly Zeke is evolving and being subject to needing to learn how to deal with the media and social media the way it is today.”

The domestic-abuse accusations, made by a former girlfriend of Elliott’s, date back to July 2016 and are alleged to have taken place in Columbus, Ohio, where the running back starred at Ohio State. Since being drafted by the Cowboys, Elliott has committed some questionable acts, including exposing a woman’s breastat a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas and visiting a recreational marijuana shop in Seattle hours before a preseason game against the Seahawks.