Why the Patriots could owe money to Aaron Hernandez



In the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s death, the New England Patriots might be forced to pay his family a significant sum of money. This stems from a quirk of Massachusetts law that requires Hernandez’s 2013 conviction for the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd to be voided.

Once the process for vacating that conviction is completed, all of Hernandez’s legal affairs will be concluded. That will clear the way for the longstanding dispute over his payment between the NFL Players Association and the Patriots to play out. According to the NFLPA, there are three outstanding grievances involving Hernandez and the Patriots. How these are resolved will determine what, if any, money changes hands.

The Patriots released Hernandez on June 26, 2013, less than two hours after he was arrested for the Lloyd murder. That set off a series of moves involving Hernandez’s $40 million contract extension, which was signed a year earlier and included guaranteed bonus money. After the arrest, the team refused to make a bonus payment of $3.25 million, leading the NFLPA to file a grievance over the money. The team responded with its own grievance, seeking the return of all funds paid to Hernandez under the contract extension. The union would file a second grievance on behalf of Hernandez, seeking the payment of an $82,000 workout bonus.

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told ESPN that the grievances were “put on hold” until Hernandez’s murder cases were concluded. That process may now move forward. (The Patriots did not immediately respond for comment.) This is a complicated scenario that raises many legal questions:

Why is the NFLPA still concerned about Hernandez?

The NFL Players Association works for Hernandez just as it would work for any player in a contract dispute with a team over bonuses and salary. The NFLPA is obligated to pursue any money he may have been owed.

What is the process for resolving these grievances?

They are decided by an arbitrator. Each side will present evidence and there will be a nonpublic hearing. This arbitration process is established and defined in the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players. The arbitrator’s decision is final. This process will likely conclude before the end of 2017.

NFL contracts typically have “conduct clauses” allowing teams to not pay players who have run afoul of the law. How would that impact Hernandez?

The standard player contract in the NFL provides that both the team and the league may take action against the player for any “conduct detrimental” to the sport of professional football. Both an arrest for murder and a conviction for murder qualify as “conduct detrimental.” Under this clause, the Patriots may terminate the contract and release Hernandez, which they did immediately.

NFL contracts are not guaranteed. A release of the player ends the team’s obligation to pay him the salary described in the contract. But bonus clauses are separate and frequently obligate the team to pay the bonuses even when the player is guilty of “conduct detrimental.”

So what are the chances that Hernandez’s estate wins money from the Patriots?

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a dispute over a contract bonus without knowing the language of the bonus clause, but former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was successful in a roughly similar grievance that resulted from his arrest and guilty plea in a dogfighting prosecution. The language in his bonus clause demanded that he be paid, regardless of circumstances. So however illegal or “detrimental” his actions may have been, the Falcons were forced to pay most of the bonus money.

What happens in the Hernandez situation will depend both on the specific language of his contract and the arbitrator’s interpretation of it.

Does Hernandez’s murder conviction being vacated have any impact on the grievance process?

The only effect is that the grievances may now go through the arbitration process. They had been on hold pending the resolution of Hernandez’s criminal cases.

Why must Hernandez’s conviction for the Lloyd murder be vacated?

Under an ancient principle of Anglo-Saxon and American law, a person convicted of a crime must be allowed to complete an appeal of the conviction. Not all states still follow this principle, but Massachusetts does.

In 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for the killing of Lloyd. But at the time of his death Wednesday, Hernandez was in the process of pursuing an appeal. It had little hope of succeeding. Hernandez would have had to show that the judge made a serious error, but the judge in the Lloyd trial was careful to give him and his lawyers almost everything they requested. If she made any errors, they likely hurt the prosecution.

Nevertheless, because Hernandez is no longer able to complete the appeal, the conviction cannot stand. The local district attorney has the right to contest the conviction’s voiding, but it most likely will be vacated under well-established principles of Massachusetts law.

What is the effect of Hernandez’s death on the lawsuits that the families of the three murder victims filed against him?

The families who sued Hernandez for the wrongful deaths of their sons and brothers already faced a daunting task. Hernandez’s death makes their quests even more difficult. If Hernandez were still alive, the family of Odin Lloyd could have relied on the evidence presented in the trial in 2015 that resulted in Hernandez’s conviction and sentence. Under a legal doctrine known as “collateral estoppel,” Hernandez would have been barred from denying that he killed Lloyd. The Lloyd family would have been entitled to an instant ruling that Hernandez was responsible for the death, and the trial jury would have decided only the amount of money damages.

But Hernandez’s death will eliminate the murder conviction and prevent Lloyd’s family from relying on the evidence presented in the trial. Instead, the family faces the enormously expensive prospect of reassembling the massive quantity of evidence that prosecutors presented to the jury in 2015.

The families of the 2012 murder victims in Boston, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, are also suing Hernandez and face an even more difficult challenge. Last week, a jury in Boston ruled that Hernandez was not guilty of the two killings. The burden of proof in a civil case is lower than in a criminal trial, but presenting the evidence necessary to prove that Hernandez more likely than not killed de Abreu and Furtado will be expensive and difficult.

What about the families’ ability to win money?

This depends in part on the resolution of Hernandez’s grievances with the NFL.

As of now, the Hernandez estate most likely has few assets that could be collected. Hernandez spent a huge sum on the attorneys who defended him in the two trials, and it will be difficult for the families to find any other Hernandez assets. His friends, lawyers and advisers have had nearly four years to hide whatever he has.

If Hernandez’s estate is awarded money from the Patriots, though, those dollars could be in play.

What is the effect of Hernandez’s death on his NFL pension?

Hernandez was entitled to a pension based on playing at least three years in the NFL. The pension will be paid to his 4-year-old daughter, who was named as his beneficiary in the event of his death. The child’s mother, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, will act on the child’s behalf until she is 18 years old. Federal law stipulates that pension payments are immune from being collected as the result of a civil suit, so there is no risk of Hernandez’s family losing the payments.


2017 NFL draft: Mitchell Trubisky leads five-man QB race for top spot



The NFL’s quarterback draft class was a crapshoot in 2014.

Blake Bortles checked the boxes for talent evaluators but wasn’t considered a surefire franchise quarterback. Johnny Manziel was a sandlot, off-script playmaker with elite competitiveness but questionable work habits and character. Teddy Bridgewater was a dinker-and-dunker whose stock slid. Derek Carr was a natural passer who needed talent around him. And Jimmy Garoppolo was a small-school project with quick-release precision.

Picking the right guy was a challenge. And three years later, that group of five has shown exactly how big of an impact the right (or wrong) decision can have on a franchise.

All of that should sound familiar now because the 2017 quarterback class is shaping up in very much the same way. Figuring the best quarterback in the group is a matter of perspective, system, situational analytics and, well, for the lack of a better measurement, feel.

That’s what has come to define this NFL class, the reality that consensus opinions are hard to come by and nobody is sure who is going where. Indeed, with less than two weeks left, there isn’t a solid grasp on the exact order of the top five quarterbacks. That’s why the position is shaping up to be the biggest mystery of this year’s draft. The field is largely left up to the eye of the beholder.

With that in mind, here’s what NFL teams are seeing from the group with only a few days left to sort through the first-round candidates …

Despite having only 13 starts on his résumé, the opinion that Mitchell Trubisky is the most consistent NFL quarterback fit hasn’t faded with the draft process largely completed. While others in the class have better traits in a one-off competition, Trubisky has checked off more boxes across the board when it comes to what evaluators seek. That has made him the widely regarded favorite as the quarterback who will come off the board first. But that has also tied Trubisky solidly with a number of NFL teams.

The usual suspects have done major homework on Trubisky, including the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. At various points in the past week, four NFL evaluators told Yahoo Sports (adamantly) that different teams had zeroed in on Trubisky as their pick. One suggested Trubisky would be Cleveland’s choice, another pegged San Francisco and two others insisted Trubisky would end up in Chicago or Buffalo. That lack of uniformity suggests the only certainty about Trubisky’s stock is total uncertainty. Either teams are putting out smokescreens and using Trubisky as a chip in hopes of leveraging a trade-down scenario – which is likely – or he’s a lock to land inside the top three picks with a team already there or someone trading to get him.

One way or another, the consensus appears to have solidified under Trubisky as the first quarterback off the board. Where that will be is a lot of white noise at this point.

As NFL teams start splitting hairs in the quarterback group, there is one reality that almost always holds true: Size and arm strength get a second look. And a third. And a fourth. That’s a theme that has helped Davis Webb, whose top-shelf arm and stature (6-foot-5 and 230 pounds) is drawing eyeballs from a few NFL teams looking to groom an heir apparent at quarterback.

Deeper dives on Webb have been undertaken by the Chiefs, Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, New York Giants and 49ers. Webb has also said on a few occasions that “double-digit” NFL teams have told him they have put a first-round grade on him. That’s a buzzy statement but it remains to be seen if it materializes. What isn’t in question is whether Webb is drawing serious attention. He is, despite being billed as a player who will need a year or two of mechanical work (on his throwing and footwork) to be effective in the NFL. Seen as a likely middle-round pick in January, Webb is looking like a second-round lock. And his arm strength may get a team at the end of the first round to bite or induce a trade up by an early second-round team.

In a way, DeShone Kizer has experienced the opposite momentum of Webb, seemingly drawing more critical reviews as the draft process has gone along. His college coach, Brian Kelly, hasn’t helped with some eyebrow-raising comments to media about Kizer’s needed growth as a player and leader. Given Kelly’s biting opinions, it’s fair to wonder what he’s privately telling NFL teams about his former starter.

There is strong interest in Kizer. At least 10 teams have done significant work on him, including the Cardinals, Chiefs, Jets, 49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, L.A. Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. The intrigue from so many quarterback-needy teams is testament to Kizer’s ideal size and arm strength. But as the process comes to a close in the next few weeks, he is still being dogged by accuracy issues. Most specifically, teams have problems with his performance under duress.

Basically, when the pocket gets ugly, Kizer’s accuracy is all over the place. While the concern isn’t on the level of Christian Hackenberg one year ago, there is reticence over a similar flaw.

Kizer has slipped from a potential top-five pick to a fringe first-rounder who could slip into the second.

Deshaun Watson isn’t the surest lock to be a successful NFL quarterback. His arm is noted to be adequate for the position but not exceptional. His timing and accuracy can be diced up depending on the situation. And even his physique is thought to need some fine-tuning. But there appears to be a consensus of some safety as Watson being the guy who has the most reliable first-round grade based on his overall body of work.

He produced a lot of tape and faced every imaginable scenario that evaluators wanted to see. When it comes to looking for intangibles or performances in different scenarios, there isn’t much mystery because Watson left Clemson with 38 games (and 35 starts) under his belt.

NFL Draft: Deshaun Watson breakdown beats

Yahoo Sports’ Tank Williams uses his signature style to profile the former Clemson quarterback heading into the 2017 NFL Draft.

Like Trubisky, Watson does a lot of things well. He also has maxed out the scale on intangibles and leadership qualities. But unlike Trubisky, his game has been nitpicked with nearly three times the tape available to NFL evaluators. That can sometimes become a negative because it can be a suggestion of a ceiling. In a way, evaluators feel like they know exactly what they are getting with Watson, while Trubisky is seen as a player with room to grow and with his best football ahead of him. Is there something that could ultimately vault Watson ahead of Trubisky on draft day? One evaluator said there is: Watson’s wealth of high-intensity, championship-caliber games. Those include two ACC championship games and four college football playoff contests. The impressive postseason games against Oklahoma, Ohio State and Alabama (twice) will carry a lot of weight on draft day. At the very least, enough to make Watson appear to be a safe first-round quarterback. Possibly among the teams that have done the most work on him, a group that includes the Browns, 49ers, Jets, Cardinals, Texans, Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Every few drafts, there is a volcanic “media heat” quarterback. Almost always, it’s a guy who wows everyone with exquisite arm talent. This year, that’s Mahomes, who has drawn some media comparisons to Hall of Famer Brett Favre’s unforgettable cannon. That’s some serious praise and probably overhyped.

One evaluator said it was more along the lines of Jay Cutler, noting that the challenge was determining if Mahomes was more Favre or Cutler when it came to intangibles and leadership – not arm strength. That undertaking, along with the possibility that Mahomes may be on the draft board longer than Trubisky or Watson, has led to personal visits or workouts with more than half the NFL since the scouting combine. Among those who have done the most work on Mahomes: The Browns, Chiefs, Texans, Saints, Chargers, Cardinals, Bears, 49ers, Giants, Jets, Steelers and Bills.

Where Mahomes lands might ultimately depend on what his other traits show in his meetings. One evaluator raved about Mahomes’ love of football. Another lamented his lack of natural athleticism, comparing him to Carson Palmer, a quarterback with a huge arm who can be statuesque in the pocket against a pass rush. Almost all shared some form of universal agreement that Mahomes’ ultimate destination will depend on how a team feels about the development left ahead for him – which could be immense because Mahomes’ elite arm allowed him to improvise and go off script a lot. Teams don’t see a lot of mechanical discipline in his game. Instilling that might take some time – if it’s doable in the first place.

Such a high-risk, high-reward proposition could lead to Mahomes being a stunning and unexpected high pick. Conversely, he could slide right into the second round.

Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison

Aaron Hernandez comitted suicide in prison Wednesday morning, the Department of Correction said.
According to a statement for the DOC, the former New England Patriot star was discovered hanging in his cell at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley Massachusetts at approximately 3:05 a.m.
“Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population unit,” the statement said. “Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bedsheet that he attached to his cell window. Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.”
State Police are investigating and his family has been notified.
The statement said Hernandez was transported to UMass Leominster, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. Wednesday.
Hernandez’s suicide comes five days after he was acquitted of murdering two men in Boston in 2012. However, he was still serving a life without parole sentence for murdering Odin L. Lloyd in North Attleborough in 2013.

Report: Eli Manning teamed up with Giants equipment manager on memorabilia scam



According to the New York Post, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was involved in a scheme with the team’s equipment manager to sell fake gear that could be advertised as “game used” based on game-worn gear.

The Post obtained court papers that show Manning sending an email to Joe Skiba, the team’s equipment manager, asking for “helmets that can pass as game used,” which Manning was forced to turn over last week in connection to a civil racketeering suit. It alleges that Manning and the Giants worked in conjunction to bilk collectors into purchasing what they believed were authentic gear that was used in NFL games.

Three memorabilia dealers are suing Manning, Skiba, the Giants, team owner John Mara and others in the case. The emails were filed on Tuesday at Bergen County (N.J.) Superior Court.

In one email from 2010, Manning’s marketing agent, Alan Zucker, asked Manning to give him “2 game used helmets and 2 game used jerseys,” and Skiba replied to Manning: “Let me know what your looking for I’ll try to get something down for you … ”

Manning reportedly responded by saying, “2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli.”

Lawyers for the Giants issued a statement: “The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday.”

It continued: “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server …

“Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.”

Manning was named co-winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award — given annually to the “NFL player for his excellence on and off the field” and “who has had a significant positive impact on his community” — along with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Manning also was a 2015 finalist for the award.

Another lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleged that Skiba sold former Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s actual game-worn jersey from Super Bowl XLII and gave Strahan a fake jersey that was made to look real, “even adding Gatorade stains to the fabric.” That same suit alleged Manning was involved in keeping his own game-worn gear and passing off other items as legitimate, although some of those claims have been dismissed since then.

Manning, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft of the San Diego Chargers, was traded to the Giants shortly after being selected. He started midway through his rookie season, has spent his entire career with the Giants, is the franchise’s all-time passing leader at 48,218 yards and has led the franchise to two Super Bowl victories — both over the New England Patriots. Manning currently has a consecutive-games played streak of 199 dating back to 2004, which could be in jeopardy if the NFL finds Manning at fault in the case as part of the league’s player conduct policy.

There will be a lot of watchful eyes on how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell eventually handles this case, depending on what other information surfaces. He hit the Patriots hard for what was deemed as an integrity-of-the-game violation for their role in deflate-gate — which included the highly scrutinized roles of two Patriots equipment employees. The league also has spent countless money and time cracking down hard on phony NFL gear being sold online and in or around its stadiums.

It has been quite the newsworthy offseason for the NFL memorabilia industry. The jersey of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was stolen immediately following Super Bowl VI by a journalist who bypassed security and it was later recovered in Mexico following an international investigation.

Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez acquitted in 2012 double slaying

Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez has been acquitted in a Boston double slaying that prosecutors said was fueled by his anger over a spilled drink at a nightclub.
The former tight end for the New England Patriots was acquitted of all but one charge Friday over the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
Prosecutors said Hernandez opened fire on the men’s car because he felt disrespected when one of them bumped into him and spilled his drink. Hernandez had denied killing them men.
He’s already serving life in prison in the death of a man who was dating his fiancee’s sister

N.C.A.A. Ends Boycott of North Carolina After So-Called Bathroom Bill Is Repealed

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The N.C.A.A. on Tuesday “reluctantly” lifted its ban on holding championship events in North Carolina, removing its six-month-old prohibition less than a week after the state’s Legislature and governor repealed a so-called bathroom bill that had led to boycotts of the state.

The organization, which governs college athletics, said in a statement that the law’s replacement in North Carolina had “minimally achieved a situation where we believe N.C.A.A. championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.”

The earlier law, known as House Bill 2, or H.B. 2, had removed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and it required transgender people to use bathrooms in public facilities that aligned with their sex at birth. While the replacement bill bars local governments from passing their own ordinances on the topic until 2020, it left regulation of bathrooms up to the State Legislature.

The N.C.A.A.’s carefully worded statement left the door open to its continuing to make decisions on a case-by-case basis and even to retracting hosting opportunities on short notice in light of new developments — as it did last year, when it moved several championship events, including men’s basketball tournament games, out of the state. The N.C.A.A. noted that it requires prospective hosts to submit “additional documentation” — it includes a questionnaire — about their ability to protect visitors from discrimination.

At the same time, by providing a clearer blueprint of what is not and, now, is acceptable, the N.C.A.A. gave comfort not only to North Carolina lawmakers but to those in other states considering restrictions similar to those in North Carolina’s new law. In Texas, where next year’s Final Four is set to be held (in San Antonio), the author of such a proposal, known as Senate Bill 6, or the Texas Privacy Act, cheered the N.C.A.A.’s decision on Tuesday.

“I applaud the N.C.A.A. for now agreeing that there is nothing discriminatory about the Texas Privacy Act,” its author, Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican state senator, said in a statement, “or our honest efforts to address the serious issue of privacy and safety in our public facilities and school showers, locker rooms and restrooms.”

While advocates on both sides of the debate have tended to describe North Carolina’s compromise as insufficient, the state’s business community, which opposed H.B. 2 on pragmatic grounds, saw the N.C.A.A.’s decision as a high-profile vindication.

“We’re grateful to see that the N.C.A.A. has renewed its faith in North Carolina and the Charlotte region once again,” Tom Murray, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said. “The events that the N.C.A.A. touches are far more important to our region than just the significant economic impact they inject into our community. We’re energized that we’ll be able to both partner with the N.C.A.A. and compete to host these events in the coming years.”

J. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., said that as a practical matter, “the reluctant hesitancy but acknowledgment of North Carolina having these opportunities from the N.C.A.A. will hopefully start to smooth the waters in this state” and will, to outside businesses, act as a “signal to start putting North Carolina back on their plate of opportunities.”

Bitzer added that this was so even though the policy landscape in North Carolina remained ambiguous: The new law, he said, “certainly took H.B. 2 off the books, but it didn’t necessarily take off the policies, considering that the state still controls nondiscrimination policy.” (Republicans enjoy veto-proof supermajorities in the Legislature, he noted.)

The two sides that struck the deal last week were motivated in no small part by a desire to placate the N.C.A.A., in a state where college sports are culturally vital (and where the flagship university’s men’s basketball team won its sixth national championship on Monday night). North Carolina Coach Roy Williams and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski had publicly criticized H.B. 2.

Both sides welcomed the N.C.A.A.’s decision on Tuesday.

“We are pleased with the N.C.A.A.’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting N.C.A.A. championships,’ ” the State Senate leader, Phil Berger, and the House Speaker, Tim Moore, both Republicans, said in a statement.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in his own statement that while “more work remains to be done,” the N.C.A.A.’s decision was “good news.”

Critics of the state’s new law condemned the N.C.A.A.

“The N.C.A.A.’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect L.G.B.T.Q. players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of H.B. 2, the N.C.A.A. simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”

Athlete Ally also released a statement criticizing the N.C.A.A. Hudson Taylor, the organization’s founder and executive director, had said that the N.C.A.A.’s rescinding of its ban would set “a challenging precedent.”

“If the N.C.A.A. is willing to go back to North Carolina when there is still an overt lack of L.G.B.T. protections and respect under the law,” he said in an interview on Monday, “then other states looking to pass anti-L.G.B.T. legislation know they will still be rewarded with N.C.A.A. events and can go forward with that legislation.”

Advocates on the right also continued to train a cautious eye on the N.C.A.A.

“H.B. 2 was never as controversial as the media and liberal activists wanted us to believe,” said Francis De Luca, president of Civitas, which calls itself North Carolina’s Conservative Voice. He added, “We will be watching to see if the N.C.A.A.’s action matches their rhetoric.”

The N.C.A.A. is expected to begin announcing championship events through 2022 this month.

Last week, the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is headquartered in the state and had joined the N.C.A.A. in moving its neutral-site championships out of the state after the passage of H.B. 2 last year, announced that it was again open to staging such events, like its football title game, in the state. The N.B.A., which moved its All-Star Game in February from Charlotte in response to the old law, is expected to address the issue at its owners’ meeting this week.

The N.C.A.A.’s boycott of North Carolina for championship events had intense reverberations in the state. The Duke and North Carolina men’s basketball teams had to begin play in the N.C.A.A. tournament in Greenville, S.C., rather than in Greensboro, N.C., closer to campus.

An Associated Press study found that House Bill 2 could have cost the state nearly $4 billion over 12 years because of canceled events.

Russell Westbrook has 57 points in highest-scoring triple-double in NBA history



Less than a week after recording the first “perfect” triple-double, Russell Westbrook put another mark in the NBA history books Wednesday with the most points in a triple-double.

Westbrook scored 57 points and added 13 rebounds and 11 assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s 114-106 overtime win over the Orlando Magic, topping James Harden and Wilt Chamberlain, who each scored 53 points in a triple-double.

“That is definitely a blessing,” Westbrook told reporters of his historic night in Orlando, Florida. “I definitely don’t take this game for granted, and I try to come out each night and try to compete at a high level. That is definitely something that is a blessing and definitely something that I can be proud of.”

It is Westbrook’s second 50-point triple-double this season, joining Harden for the most in the league this season. Before this season, a 50-point triple-double hadn’t been done since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975.

Westbrook had 36 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists after halftime, including 19 points in the fourth quarter. The Thunder overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit for their largest comeback in franchise history, with Westbrook forcing overtime with a wild, fading 31-foot 3 with seven seconds left.

“No, I didn’t know [it was going in],” Westbrook said. “I couldn’t see right away because two people jumped.”

In the extra frame, Westbrook scored or assisted on all 12 of the Thunder’s points.

“There’s nothing else you can do,” Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. “He had like 50, 15 and 15. He’s a hell of a player and he’s been doing it for 70 games now, carrying that team every night. I think the numbers he’s putting up are amazing. You just tip your hat when he does stuff like that, and even in overtime, he made a lot of big shots, and before, in the fourth quarter, he made a couple of big 3s. He’s a big-time player.”

Westbrook started the game sluggishly, turning the ball over seven times in the first eight minutes. He didn’t record another turnover the rest of the game.

“Yeah, just got to take care of the ball,” Westbrook said. “I was being too reckless and loose. Coach got on me at halftime for being reckless and loose with the basketball, and I was definitely more attentive to that.”

Two nights ago in Dallas, Westbrook led a furious 14-0 run in the final 3:30 against the Mavericks, scoring 12 himself, including the game-winning jumper with five seconds left. He has built a stable full of clutch moments this season, leading the league in most clutch-time (last five minutes of a game and within five points) stats.

“Words can’t really describe it,” teammate Victor Oladipo told reporters of watching Westbrook. “It’s just an honor to play alongside him as he kinda etches his name in history.”

Westbrook needed overtime for his historic stat line but still played only 42 minutes. Thunder coach Billy Donovan has remained committed all season to managing Westbrook’s workload, keeping him under 40 minutes for every non-overtime game this season. Westbrook has played 40-plus minutes only five times this season, and Wednesday was the first time it had happened since Nov. 30. For comparison, Harden has played 15 games with 40 or more minutes, and LeBron James has played 20.

“For me, every night I don’t ever think about ever getting tired,” Westbrook said. “I just go out and keep going … keep going. I am very, very thankful and blessed to have that energy and constantly keep moving and playing. I don’t take it for granted.”

It’s Westbrook’s 38th triple-double of the season, putting him three away from tying Oscar Robertson for the most ever in a single season. The Thunder have eight games remaining. According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Westbrook now has a 99.9 percent chance to finish the season averaging a triple-double, the first player to do so since Robertson in 1962.

2017 NFL Draft: Quarterbacks

The 2017 NFL Draft is coming up in about 5 weeks and I have been working diligently to scout this year’s upcoming quarterback’s class. This is a very interesting group of quarterbacks especially when compared to the last few years; while it may not be as strong as group as last year’s class, there are definitely a few quarterbacks that have franchise quarterback traits. Usually I profile 5 quarterbacks that I rank as my top 5 in the class and I will still do that for this year’s group, but I will also throw out my under the radar quarterback, a guy who if he lands in the right system and in the right situation that I could see them at the very least being a spot starter and as a high end backup and another quarterback that shouldn’t even be touched due to what I call high level bust traits. One very interesting situation in this draft class and all of my draft classes is that the quarterback must be at least 6 foot 2 inches in height and it is one of the traits that I will never compromise upon. For the simple reason that only 2 quarterbacks under that height threshold have ever been drafted in the first round in the past 15 years and one of the quarterbacks drafted, Johnny Manziel, ended up being an alcoholic and a drug addict, despite my warnings over 3 years ago not to draft him for what I suspected to be substance abuse issues. Anyways, here are my rankings, enjoy!

  1. Mitchell Trubisky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4q7edDLXQE It should have come as no surprise to anyone that I have been pumping up the overall game and resume of Mitch since the end of December of 2016 and while it may seem like a stretch to take him with the number 1 overall pick, I view him as worthy of a top ten pick. Sadly most teams in the top ten have already went ahead and chosen to go with a veteran option at the position with the signing of Mike Glennon to the Bears, Brian Hoyer to the 49ers, and Tyrod Taylor going back to Buffalo. I am very hesistant to believe that the Jets will draft yet another QB but this is the pathetic Jets we are talking about and there is no way the Browns will pick a QB number 1 overall but I see a situation where they could easily trade up from the 12th pick to the top 10 and grab Trubisky if he starts to slide towards the bottom of the first 10 picks. Now I was very skeptical due to the short body of work of Trubisky just like I was very skeptical of Carson Wentz but going through the tape, the talent is there for him to develop as a franchise quarterback. Through the limited body of work, I saw a quarterback that was accurate throwing on the run, able to work through progressions, show off excellent arm strength and plus scrambling ability, display the proper footwork even while working from a spread system, and displayed the poise under pressure with excellent decision making and good pocket mobility to extend plays. If there is one flaw in his game it is due to poor mechanics when making downfield throws that he makes the mistake of putting too much air on the ball and thus, gives the DB a chance to make a play on the ball, but overall I am confident in him, just like I was confident in Carson Wentz last year to be able to make the transition to being a franchise quarterback despite the limited body of work. The player that I would compare him to would be a less talented throwing version of Matthew Stafford due to similar body sizes and playing styles. Top Ten Grade
  2. Deshaun Watson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frm1oeO2yu0 If there was to ever be a prospect as highly scrutinized it has to be Watson, a man that I am not particularly fond of but I see a lot of similarities in Watson and Dak Prescott in that Prescott was able to be a distributor, being able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. I remain very critical of Watson’s decision making but I like his pocket awareness and poise under pressure. Such traits were evident when evaluation his game tape against great SEC defenses like Alabama and how he was able to rally his team under duress. His game is also a little similar to Vince Young in his ability to galvanize the troops (before Young became a black nigger he was a highly respected team leader in the University of Texas) and lead his men through the darkest times in the football game. Nothing seems to get to him with respect to the big stages but when evaluating these quarterbacks, I look at accuracy, pocket awareness, arm strength, leadership ability, and overall potential as I fully believe no matter how strong your arm is, if you can’t get the ball on time and if you can’t operate under a muddled pocket, you will never succeed in the NFL. We don’t need another white idiot like Blaine Gabbert becoming a top ten pick and proving that I was right to never even draft him in the first 4 rounds of the draft. Watson does possess good short to intermediate accuray and a strong arm. His athleticism is above average and will allow for him to be a plus scrambling threat in the pros. I do not like his deep ball accuracy as he misses too many throws down the field despite having some excellent receiving options and he has to continue to learn to play from the pocket but he has all the tools to develop into a franchise quarterback in my eyes; he just needs to work on his decision making and accuracy that has led to him having over 30 interceptions in the past 2 years. I see him as a fit with the Texans and the Chiefs as those teams would give him the time to develop and they also have systems and talent around the QB that would allow him to simply get the ball out to his weapons and play the role of ball distributor. First Round Grade, Top 25 pick

  3. Deshone Kizer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXj76WC6nF4 There was a time in my evaluation where I was prepared to name Kizer my number 1 QB due to concerns that Trubisky was a little person and would measure under the 6 foot 2 inch threshold that I have for all of my quarterbacks. Thank the gods that Trubisky did not let me down in those regards, but it shows my affinity that I have for big, strong, mobile quarterbacks that I even made Cam Newton my number 1 QB over Ryan Mallett due to my conerns that Mallett was a drug addict and of course a mal content with a terrible attitude and work ethic, concerns that have yet to be dispelled by Mallett and his supporters. Kizer has excellent, elite size for the position with an absolute cannon for an arm. He is a plus athlete for the position and in the YouTube link I have provided you will see many 20 plus yard runs by Kizer. So if he is loved by me so much, why do I rank him as the 3rd best quarterback, well it is very simple; his pocket mechanics breaks down as the game progresses which leads to poor accuracy on throws that he should be able to make. It also leads to poor sacks and poor decision making, which is why he was benched multiple times late into the 4th quarter. You really have to go back to the 2015 tape to see his overall potential but still this is a guy with all the traits needed to develop into an excellent quarterback but I will admit he is like a wildcard. I just have a major love for big armed, tall, and mobile quarterbacks. It did not help matters that his footwork was not up to par with other quarterbacks when throwing at the combine last month. He will need at least 2 years to sit, learn and watch but I fully believe that he will end up being an excellent quarterback since all of the tools are there. I also do question his leadership and intangibles as to whether he truly cares about the game due to how many times he was benched. I see him being a good fit in the Arizona Cardinals system to develop as an option behind Carson Palmer for a year and then let him take over. His powerful arm is a good asset to have in the Cardinals vertically based offense. Late First Round Grade

  4. Patrick Mahomes II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8tf0eXBURo At one point I had Mahomes as my 2nd rated quarterback in a scenario if Trubisky measured out to be a little person but the cards fell where they did for a reason. I am a fan of his game as he is super fun to watch, literally airing out bombs all day long with the ability to throw the ball as far as the eye can see but with the ability to drop the ball into the bucket against tight coverage. Everyone knocks the system he came out of, the Air Raid system of Texas Tech, and his game lacks any kind of discipline needed to play in a traditional pro style system as a pocket passer. Yet all of the physical and leadership skills are there for him to thrive as an NFL quarterback. I prefer to think of him as a mold of clay that can be molded but it will take at least 2 years for a return on investment. I see the 49ers as a fit for him due to their long rebuilding process and he can be afforded the luxury of sitting behind a bridge quarterback like Brian Hoyer until he is ready to lead the offense. I compared his game to Jay Cutler due to the lack of discipline he has to operate the offense and his propensity to take un-needed risks with the football but there are times when his off the script game style can be a thing of beauty. Early Second Round Grade

  5. Davis Webb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3y6rILNmDo Here is my surprising prospect that I have revealed to be worth my developmental grade as a QB that has all the physical skills to develop into a spot starter or at the very worse, a high end backup. When researching Davis Webb’s game, he shows many similarities to Nick Foles as a tall and strong armed quarterback with an above average arm and average mobility that would need to be developed within a system but has the traits to emerge as a useful backup and a guy who can compete for a starting QB job within three seasons. Webb needs to work on many things including his mechanics, footwork, and speeding up his internal clock during his drop backs but I see a prospect who can thrive in a vertical offense or an offense that is run based. He can be very frustratingly inconsistent at times and can even look like Sean Mannion rather than Nick Foles. He will get a little overdrafted and might even sneak into the second round (don’t buy the lies that he will be a first round pick) but I would feel confident with selecting him as a 4th round prospect and even in the 3rd round. He would be a great fit in the Houston Texans as a QB to develop but we all know that they need someone who can come in and compete right away. Who know, if and when they get Tony Romo, Webb would be another Texas arm that they can develop for a few years until he is ready to take over the job on a full time basis. Third to Fourth Round Grade

  6. Quarterbacks to avoid: Brad Kaaya, I am sorry to bust the bubble of many Miami college fans but I have only a 6th round grade on your boy Kaaya due to both arm strength limitations and poor pocket awareness. During my study of the tape, he seems to get very squirmish in the pocket with bodies around him and doesn’t seem to handle pressure up the gut due to poor foot speed to escape and slide his feet inside the pocket. Sure he has excellent size for the position and is a very accurate thrower when he has a clean pocket but that is rarely the case in the NFL. He was able to show off his natural accurate arm during the combine but on throws greater than 25 yards, the ball tended to float and hang in the air; a sign of a weak armed passer. Hell I ever have Nathan Peterman as a higher rated passer despite his also weak arm, though he is very comparable to Andy Dalton from a physical skillset. I have compared Kaaya to a poor man’s Matt Cassel and everyone knows how much I hate to even see the face of the white idiot Cassel but Cassel isn’t even a good backup quarterback in the NFL. Who knows, maybe Kaaya can land in a west coast system that will do a much better job at hiding his lack of throwing ability but he isn’t the highly sought after prospect many idiots were referring to back in the 2016 NCAA offseason.


FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands in the bench area during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the New York Jets in Santa Clara, Calif. Kaepernick is a free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract Friday, March 3, 2017. The six-year veteran quarterback who drew particular attention and headlines last season by not standing for the national anthem, met with new general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan before making the move. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead Writer

It’s more than a week into free agency and Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Remember, this is a quarterback who played in the Super Bowl only four years ago, yet now it appears he can’t get a look from teams. So I set out to discover, once and for all, what teams think of the 29-year-old former Niner.

“He can still play at a high level,” one AFC general manager said. “The problem is three things are happening with him.

“First, some teams genuinely believe that he can’t play. They think he’s shot. I’d put that number around 20 percent.

“Second, some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team. I’d say that number is around 10 percent. Then there’s another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.

“Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

When I spoke to a handful of executives at the combine a few weeks ago, one even called him “an embarrassment to football.”

For the moment, the interest in Kaepernick is slim, and that’s putting it kindly.

It’s possible teams are waiting for the right time to make their play for him. That’s sometimes how it works in free agency. Weeks or months will go by with little interest in a player and then, boom, it all heats up at once.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

But what’s happening with Kaepernick is highly unusual. So far, it seems he hasn’t visited a single team. I can’t find a quarterback-needy team that’s interested. Again, things can change quickly, but the silence is deafening.

From a football perspective, teams worry about Kaepernick’s throwing accuracy. He still has some difficulty hitting tight windows and sometimes runs even when receivers are open. In 2016, Kaepernick connected on 59.2 percent of his passes, which ranked 26th in the league.

There’s also the perception—a wrong one—that he has difficulty learning new schemes.

And if those weren’t enough, concerns linger that he is moody and not a good teammate. That belief also may not be accurate. From speaking to 49ers players about Kaepernick, it’s clear most of the San Francisco locker room liked him.

Kaepernick can take hope in how putrid the quarterback market is. When Jay Cutler is at the top of the heap, that says it all.

There are still teams desperate for a competent QB, so much so that one eventually will find the risk in signing Kaepernick is worth any potential backlash. That’s my guess.

Still, it’s hard to emphasize how unusual Kaepernick’s current situation is. If a Super Bowl quarterback can walk and chew bubble gum simultaneously, he gets opportunities. Those opportunities usually arrive until that player is totally and completely done. That’s not the case with Kaepernick.

Four years ago, he ran for a playoff-record 181 yards and two scores at Green Bay as the 49ers beat the Packers in a divisional playoff game, 45-31. The Niners would then go to Atlanta and upset the Falcons in the NFC title game before losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Ravens when a last-gasp drive fell five yards short. Throughout those playoffs, Kaepernick was more than capable, completing 61.3 percent of his passes, throwing only two interceptions and producing a combined quarterback rating of 100.9.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Guys like that get multiple shots.

Further adding to the intrigue is that teams understand Kaepernick hasn’t been playing with a great deal of talent around him recently. The 49ers, frankly, have been a dumpster fire the past few years, and it showed with some of the players with which the team surrounded their QB.

Despite all of that, his phone is not ringing off the hook. Or at all, for that matter.

Kaepernick’s new agents appear to have foreseen all of this, which is why it wasn’t surprising when sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Kaepernick would start standing for the anthem.

Now, he sits. Waiting and waiting. A still-talented player whose political statement may have cost him his NFL career.

Five (out of original 11) NFL players (Niggers) touch down in Israel for post-Super Bowl tour



Five National Football League players began a post-Super Bowl visit to Israel on Tuesday, following a storm of criticism by some of the other invited athletes who pulled out after expressing their displeasure with the stated goals of the visit sponsored by the Israeli government.

The five football players — down from 11 — currently in Israel are Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals, the Oakland Raiders’ Dan Williams, Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints, Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles player Mychal Kendricks.

All five were present at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital on Tuesday, one of the planned stops on the seven-day trip.

The trip’s organizers, including Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Tourism and America’s Voices in Israel (a branch of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a non-partisan group), did not confirm or deny which players were in Israel.

The planned trip also includes visits to major sites in Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Haifa, as well as Christian sites in the Galilee. The players will also head to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and meet with representatives of the Black Hebrews in Dimona.

Steve Leibowitz, president and founder of the American Football League in Israel, said the group would probably have a “meet-and-greet” at Jerusalem’s Kraft Stadium — the outdoor football field created by New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft — on Saturday night, February 18.

Team owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP)

Team owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP)

The original 11-member crew of athletes included players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett from the Seattle Seahawks, Bennett’s younger brother and New England Patriots player Martellus Bennett, Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers player Carlos Hyde and Denver Broncos player Justin Forsett. ESPN football commentator and former NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison was also set to join.

The visiting players have been mostly silent on social media since their arrival in Israel Monday night, with the exception of Philadelphia Eagles’ Mychal Kendricks, who posted an Instagram video on Tuesday in a Tel Aviv eatery, singing along to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s get it on” and asking an Israeli waitress to say hello to the camera “in your language.”


The withdrawals from the trip, which garnered international headlines, were led by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who pulled out saying he felt he was being “used” by the Israeli government after reading comments about the trip made by Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in a press release published by the Tourism Ministry on February 5, Super Bowl Sunday, and reported by The Times of Israel.

The Brothers Bennett, NFL players Michael Bennett (left) and Martellus Bennett, captured during an ESPN interview, were supposed to visit Israel on a seven-day trip; Michael Bennett has now become an outspoken opponent of the purpose of the trip (YouTube screen grab)

The Brothers Bennett, NFL players Michael Bennett (left) and Martellus Bennett, captured during an ESPN interview, were supposed to visit Israel on a seven-day trip; Michael Bennett has now become an outspoken opponent of the purpose of the trip (YouTube screen grab)

Both ministers suggested the trip’s purpose was to “show a balanced picture of Israel” in the fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as Erdan was quoted as saying, so that the athletes could become “ambassadors of good will for Israel,” said Levin.

Registering his refusal to participate, Bennett first tweeted a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., saying “Im not going to Israel.” He then followed it with a long letter late Friday in which he talked about his discomfort with being considered an ambassador for Israel, and proposing that when he does visit Israel, he will go to the West Bank and Gaza as well.

Bennett’s public exit was followed by that of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills and then reportedly by his younger brother, Martellus Bennett, of the New England Patriots. Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett said he would nix the trip as well, and then later indicated that he and his wife had decided against it some weeks ago, because of the upcoming birth of his child.

There were also pressures on the football players from the BDS Movement, with an open letter published in The Nation and signed pro-Palestinian groups, activists and high-profile supporters including Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Alice Walker, who urged the players not to go.