Sports

Time to trade Kirk Cousins? How Washington blew it

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/20089406/trade-kirk-cousins-washington-redskins-blew-faces-hard-truths-nfl-2017-training-camp

 

It’s not really a surprise that Washington and Kirk Cousins failed to come toterms on a long-term extension before Monday’s deadline for franchise players.

What is a surprise, however, is what happened next. Team president Bruce Allen released a statement detailing the offer Washington made to keep Cousins in the organization while revealing that Cousins’ representation failed to ever respond to the proposal. While teams often leak information to try to negotiate through various media channels, this sort of public revelation is virtually unprecedented. It also says a lot about Cousins’ future in D.C.

First, let’s talk about the offer itself. Allen suggests Washington made a generous offer on May 2 that would have given Cousins a record $53 million in full guarantees at the time of signing and $72 million in guarantees for injury. The organization apparently did not make a further offer after Derek Carrsigned his extension in mid-June.

While there’s little reason to think that the numbers Allen put out there are inaccurate, they’re nowhere near as impressive as he’s suggesting. For one, Cousins’ franchise tag for 2017 already guarantees him $23.9 million, meaning that Washington’s deal would be worth only $29.1 million in new money. Barring a career-threatening injury, Cousins unquestionably would get more than that in unrestricted free agency next year.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry suggested Cousins could get $100 million in guarantees on the free market. Cousins’ deal would likely top the $87 million Andrew Luck received in guarantees on his extension with the Indianapolis Colts, and $90 million seems like a reasonable baseline.

To keep Cousins in town for 2018, Washington will have two options. One is an unprecedented third franchise tag, which would guarantee Cousins a staggering $34.5 million on a one-year deal. Alternately, Washington could employ the transition tag, which would allow the Redskins to match any offer without compensation at the cost of $28.8 million for one year.

In other words, Cousins was already in line to make a minimum of $52.7 million over the next two seasons without sacrificing the leverage of going year-to-year on his contract. Allen and the organization wanted him to give up that leverage and leave nearly $40 million on the table for an additional $300,000. Even if you want to believe that Cousins should take a conservative approach in a league in which the attrition rate is perilously high, there’s no way to make that math credibly work. This wasn’t the sort of record-setting, no-brainer offer the organization is suggesting in Allen’s statement. It’s barely a credible one given Cousins’ current leverage.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s telling that Washington released this statement publicly. It’s a remarkably transparent attempt to poison the well of public opinion against its star quarterback, painting him as greedy and disinterested in sticking around for the long term. That’s downright bizarre. Can you imagine the Patriots putting out this sort of statement about Tom Brady? Or the Packers throwing Aaron Rodgers underneath the bus like this? Would they call their quarterbacks “Tim” or “Arnold” while doing so?

You can’t. In part, that’s because those organizations aren’t as dysfunctional and publicly dependent upon winning in the newspaper as Washington. More so, those teams wouldn’t try to pit their fans against their quarterback because they expect their signal-callers to stick around for the long term. Every bit of evidence we have suggests that Washington does not expect to have Cousins around for the long haul. It hasn’t made a viable offer to keep him off the market for two years running, even long after Cousins broke out as a useful passer. Slamming him publicly makes things only worse. This is a broken relationship.

Washington is quickly running out of options. It can use the franchise tag on Cousins for a third time next year and make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league by a significant margin, which will mean it will have paid a quarterback who Allen & Co. didn’t believe was worth a long-term deal a record $78.4 million over three seasons and then be subject to the same long-term issues a year from now. Washington can hope that Cousins changes his mind and suddenly wants to stay, which seems unlikely given that the organization just tried to take him down in its own public forum.

More plausibly, the team will try to slap the transition tag on Cousins and be stuck facing down an offer it can’t match. Washington has a little more than $45 million in cap room for 2018 before accounting for its draft class or fellow free agents such as Bashaud BreelandSpencer LongTrent Murphy and Shawn Lauvao. It doesn’t have an easy path to extra cap space outside of cutting one of its superstars such as Josh NormanRyan Kerrigan or Jordan Reed.

Washington hates to pay huge signing bonuses in one fell swoop, spreading the $20 million or so in bonuses paid to guys like Norman and Trent Williams over two seasons via the contract structure or straight-up deferrals. Teams like Cleveland and San Francisco, which will both easily approach $100 million in cap space next year, will be well-positioned to offer Cousins a deal with, say, a $30 million signing bonus and $30 million roster bonus, forcing Washington to clear out a minimum of $36 million in cap space while paying $60 million in cash out of pocket.

It might very well be time for Washington to face some hard truths. If Cousins does leave, this is the day people are going to identify as a turning point for the organization, the moment it became publicly clear Cousins wasn’t going to stick around. The organization has done its best to try to defame Cousins, and while some semblance of the fan base might take it as gospel, this is as transparent an effort as anyone has seen in recent memory.

If Washington lets Cousins leave next offseason, the maximum return it will get is a compensatory pick at the bottom of the third round during the 2019 draft. If it spends in free agency to try to replace Cousins by signing someone like Sam Bradford, it won’t even get that selection. Losing Cousins is a nightmare, but losing him for free is even worse.

Washington is also about to face a 2017 season that will be defined by the battle between Cousins and the organization, one which is (even for Washington) likely to become a circus. Few are expecting Washington to compete for a playoff spot in 2017, and while anything can happen in the topsy-turvy NFL, it’s not as if the organization seems likely to win a Super Bowl this season, regardless of who is playing quarterback.

With that in mind, does it make sense for Washington to try to be proactive about its future and trade Cousins now? And, as is the case with the Oklahoma City Thundertrading for Paul George a year before his own free agency, is there a team out there bold enough to trade for Cousins in the hopes of retaining him next year?

There should be. Teams like the Browns and 49ers could acquire Cousins in free agency next offseason, but they could also try to trade for Cousins now and convince the former Michigan State star that his future lies in their city. They can’t negotiate an extension with Cousins until after the season, but each of those teams would have the cap space to franchise Cousins for a third time without incurring significant opportunity cost in the meantime. Both would also presumably be willing to give Cousins the sort of long-term deal he expects to receive in free agency.

If you’re San Francisco, do you offer your 2018 second-round pick and Brian Hoyer to Washington? Would Cleveland be willing to give up Houston’s first-round pick and Brock Osweiler (after a contract restructuring) to try to steer Cousins away? And would Washington be willing to take a guaranteed pick and a veteran quarterback to try to move on from the Cousins era with something to show for its efforts? Neither of those options seems particularly appealing, but after a bizarre day, Washington doesn’t appear to have an appealing long-term future at quarterback, either.

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The coach who rose from the Holocaust’s ashes to dominate European soccer

LONDON — On May 23, 1990, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira — considered by many to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time — took a short trip to the Jewish section of Vienna’s central cemetery to pray by the grave of the late Béla Guttmann, a Hungarian Jew and soccer legend, buried there in 1981.

Eusébio, as he was known to fans, along with the rest of his Portuguese soccer squad, Benefica, were to take on Italian football giants AC Milan in Vienna’s Prater stadium later that day in the European Cup final.

The former Benfica player was hoping to break a losing streak that had supposedly cursed Benfica for nearly three decades.

In May 1962, with Guttmann as manager, Benfica had trounced the mighty Real Madrid 5-3 in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam as the club claimed their second European Cup in a row.

But Benfica’s astounding success in Europe was short lived. Following his two consecutive European Cup victories with Benfica in ’61 and ’62, Guttmann walked out on the club when the board of directors rejected his demand for a pay rise.

Apparently Guttmann told those holding the purse strings of the club at the time that Benfica would not win another European Cup for another 100 years.

David Bolchover, author of 'The Greatest Comeback.' (Daniel Spellar Photography)

The story is most likely an urban myth, but since 1962 Benfica have appeared in eight European finals — and have lost every single one.

Whatever the real truth of this sporting mythology, there can be no denying that Guttmann was a born winner.

Guttmann holds an astounding record of success in European football that no other Jewish coach has even come close to before or after.

“I would say Guttmann is the the greatest Jewish coach, and probably the greatest Jew in the history of football,” says British writer David Bolchover, as we sit down to discuss his new biography on Guttmann entitled “The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide To Football Glory.”

“It would be very difficult to argue against that. No other Jewish coach has won the European Cup. And Gutmann won it twice,” he adds.

Guttmann was pretty typical of a Jewish sportsman of his time, living a peripatetic lifestyle with no loyalty to any club or state.

‘No other Jewish coach has won the European Cup. And Gutmann won it twice’

“There were a lot of Jews who moved around [in football] a bit before the war,” says Bolchover. “But nobody moved around quite like Guttmann. He crossed borders 21 times in his career. And he lived in 14 countries. He was the first to really push in a public way for the value of the football coach.”

“Whenever Gutmann was challenged at a club, he would just say, ‘Right, I’m off.’ He felt no loyalty to any country or any team. And felt no rootedness in that respect,” he says.

The stats from Guttmann’s career speak volumes. In addition to his two cups, his victories as a coach include three Hungarian league championships and three Portuguese league championships.

Bela Guttman's Vienna tombstone, with his Hebrew name, Baruch ben Moshe Avraham. (Courtesy)

He managed clubs across a number of countries, including positions at São Paulo, Ciocanul Bucharest, and AC Milan. Guttmann even coached the Austrian national team for a short time.

His brief stint in the world of international management ended in public controversy. Guttmann took on the role in 1964 and it was his first job in Austria since he had fled the Nazis there in 1938. The Austrian team recorded home victories against Hungary and the Soviet Union.

Pretty quickly, however, Guttmann sensed from both the Austrian Football Association, the press, and his own team, open feelings of anti-Semitism that were pretty typical of post war Austria. He was even accused by some as acting like a “wonder Rabbi” in training sessions.

Bela Guttman coaching in Austria. (Courtesy)

Guttmann gave a candid interview to an Austrian weekly shortly after his resignation, where he said, “I always thought that it doesn’t matter at all in sport if somebody is Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. But now, when I have to endure the exact opposite, I am really sad.”

Guttmann’s biographer says that while his latest book is one that documents the career of a European soccer legend, it’s also “ a story about Jewish history in Europe.”

Cover of 'The Greatest Comeback' by British writer David Bolchover. (courtesy)

“Guttmann suffered from discrimination and racism throughout his career,” says Bolchover.

“But he put these things aside and managed to conquer the demons in European society and achieve the success he did. The Guttmann story really mirrors the Jewish story as a whole in the 20th century,” he adds.

Guttmann’s achievements as a player, meanwhile, included a Hungarian league championship; an Austrian league championship; a United States Open Cup, and 4 international cups for Hungary.

And yet, in his native country — despite the fact he is the only Hungarian-born coach to lift the European Cup — Guttmann barely gets a passing footnote in the country’s sporting history.

Bela Guttman in his Milan uniform. (Courtesy)

“The communists took over Hungary [between 1947 and] 1949, and they set their own mythology,” says Bolchover. “The heroes of Hungarian football were the “Golden Team” of the 1950s because they were projected as this great football team that had these great communist values. And also the fact that Guttmann was a Jew.”

“Anti-Semitism was still very strong in Hungary at this time, and hence why he is not lionized throughout Hungary and indeed the world,” Bolchover says.

Bolchover claims understanding Guttmann’s Jewishness is central to the man’s life, achievements, and often forgotten legacy.

Moreover, to really understand the Guttmann story in all of its complexity, tragedy, and glory, one really needs to go back to Fin-de-Siècle, Budapest.

The central European city that Guttmann was born into on January 1899 was one bursting with a vibrant Jewish life. The city had even earned the nickname “Judapest” among some anti-Semites of the time — such was the domination of Jews amongst the urban chattering classes, in professions like law and journalism in particular.

In sports, Jews played a similar role too.

The Hakoah Vienna football club with the Star of David featuring prominently on their uniforms and flag. (Courtesy)

Guttmann played two seasons in the early 1920s with Hungarian club MTK, a football club that had Jewish origins. Jews dominated the MTK team during these golden years, where Gutmann helped the club stroll to the championship in 1920-21.

By 1922, at age 23, Guttmann would transfer to a football club called Hakoah Vienna, in the Austrian capital located just 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from Budapest.

Sporing the blue and white colors of the Jewish national movement, and with a large Star of David on their shirts, the team was more of a Jewish sporting movement than simply a football club.

Bela Guttmann. (Courtesy)

Bolchover says this was primarily because its political ethos was grounded in Zionism.

“There was more of a Zionist movement in the highly politically charged Vienna than there was in Budapest at that time,” he says.

“And that created this football club, Hakoah Vienna, who were founded in 1909, when Karl Lueger the anti-Semitic mayor in Vienna was in power, and when Adolf Hitler was living there too,” he adds.

The team inspired great passion and popularity among young Zionists and Jews in Vienna at the time. It inspired hatred from the local population, too.

Jews were very prominent in the world of football during this period of history. And Hakoah Vienna was a club that was leading the charge, Bolchover explains.

“Hakoah Vienna used to tour around the Jewish world and were hugely successful. They won the Austrian league, which was the first fully professional league in mainland Europe,” he says.

They broke the attendance records for soccer tours they played in the US. And when they arrived in Warsaw in 1924, for example, 10,000 people met them at the train station. There was this hysteria about Hakoah Vienna. And of course, Gutmann was one of the star players on that team.”

‘I hear Jews all the time saying, we make better accountants than sportspeople, don’t we?’

Bolchover says the more research he carried out for this book, the more surprised he became to learn that so few people know about the influence Jews had on prewar European football.

“I hear Jews all the time saying, ‘We make better accountants than sportspeople, don’t we?’ Well, that might be the case in Europe now, but that’s because there are not many Jews left. But that wasn’t the case before the war. Jews were at the forefront of the football world back then,” says Bolchover.

Principally, Jewish influence in European football ended because of the Holocaust.

Bolchover cites, for instance, how Dr. Löhner-Beda — the Jewish founder of Hakoah Vienna — was just one of many Hungarian Jews with a passionate interest in football who was later murdered in Auschwitz.

Bela Guttman with the Hakoah Vienna club. (Courtesy)

“The Jews who could have talked about this [great football era] were murdered. And the ones who did survive were scattered around the world and just wanted to get on with their lives,” says Bolchover.

Guttmann was one of those survivors. But how exactly he escaped the Holocaust is a narrative that up until recently has been clouded in rumor, half truth, and false facts.

‘The Jews who could have talked about this [great football era] were murdered’

Some accounts hitherto — including articles posted on CNN and the New York Times website — of Guttmann’s time during the war claim he escaped to Switzerland. But the truth is that Guttmann actually stayed in the Újpest district of Budapest, while his fellow Jews were being rounded up to be slaughtered.

“Guttmann survived the [Holocaust] by hiding in the attic of his girlfriend’s brother, who was a hairdresser. Later that year he was in a labor camp and he escaped,” says Bolchover.

When exactly Guttmann attempted to run from the Nazis in Budapest is hard to pinpoint. But Bolchover believes a good estimate places him going into hiding sometime in the weeks leading up to May 1944, just as the Hungarian Holocaust was about to reach its hellish apotheosis.

Guttmann’s survival tale is all the more remarkable when one considers that nearly half of the Jewish population in Budapest in 1944 — 250,000 — were all murdered in the Holocaust, and that conservative estimates put 600,000 Hungarian Jews total, among them Guttmann’s father and sister, murdered by the Nazis.

Bela Guttmann with a New York Hakoah banner in New York City. (Courtesy)

Guttmann’s life after the war continued to be one filled with drama, where the smell of death was never too far away.

On Saturday, April 2, 1955, six weeks after being sacked from a managerial position at AC Milan, Guttmann lost control of a car he was driving, killing one teenager and seriously injuring another.

The owner of the car, sitting in the passenger seat, was Dezso Solti, who was later involved in the biggest match fixing scandal in the history of football by bribing Italian referees on behalf of clubs in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Both Guttmann and Solti fled the scene,” says Bolchover.

“Eventually Guttmann was given a sentence of six months in prison. But he was given an immediate pardon of six months, and a fine. What is interesting is that very few people talked about it in the Italian press at the time,” Bolchover adds.

Bolchover claims Guttmann always lived life in the fast lane and close to the edge.
When living in New York as a player — for both the New York Giants and New York Hakoah — Guttmann became involved in an illegal speakeasy business that sold booze during the prohibition era. It earned him a substantial amount of money. And it was around this time too — in Las Vegas — that Guttmann developed a serious addiction to gambling.

It was a habit the Jewish player and coach would sustain right up until his death in Vienna in 1981.

“From the evidence that we have, I suspect that Guttmann was a big gambler. He lost a lot of his money. There might have been some left by the time he retired. He also worked until he was 75 in jobs that really didn’t make sense for such a great coach. So I suspect he might have needed the money,” Bolchover concludes.

She was his rock. Now a failed NFL player is accused of killing his mother

 

An argument echoed through the tidy home perched on a rise in the Windsor Hills neighborhood a half-dozen miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Shouted threats gave way to screams. Then the thud of blows.

De’von Hall stood over his mother’s blood-covered body on that April evening this year. One of the home’s residents, Brandeis Eubanks, dialed 911.

“He hit her. He stomped her out,” he told the dispatcher. “They got in a tussling match and next thing you know she was on the ground and he was stomping her out.”

Alecia Benson lay on her back, unconscious and spitting blood. Her face was swollen, lips sliced open, head battered, nose broken and cut.

“Her son is still here and I don’t want him to attack me,” Eubanks said. “If you guys get here, you can apprehend him.”

In recent months, Benson had taken in her only child. She didn’t see another way to help him.

More than five years had passed since Hall’s final day on an NFL roster. He wasn’t a star, instead one of the anonymous hopefuls who fill out practice squads and 90-man training-camp rosters. But he managed to achieve what few do and forged a career in professional football.

Inside the two-story home, Hall, 29, dressed and loaded up his backpack.

“Help her,” Eubanks told the dispatcher. “Help her. Please.”

“You’ve got to get a clean dry cloth or towel,” the dispatcher said, “and apply pressure to where the blood …”

Eubanks interrupted.

“No, no, no,” he said. “OK. Please come. Please come now.”

As Eubanks pleaded with the dispatcher, Hall walked out of the home and down the middle of Secrest Drive.

Another man screamed and shouted in the background.

“Get off the phone and get an ambulance here!” he said.

The line went dead.


He had this killer instinct in his eyes. He loved to hit. He loved to play football. That was his passion.

— Stan Coleman

De'Von Hall, far right, had 253 tackles, four interceptions — including a pick-six — and two sacks in four years with Utah State from 2005-2008.
De’Von Hall, far right, had 253 tackles, four interceptions — including a pick-six — and two sacks in four years with Utah State from 2005-2008. (Courtesy of Joshua Taylor)

Hall had a gift. Craig Cieslik witnessed it every day. The football coach at Cleveland High in Reseda rotated Hall between six positions as a senior in 2004. He had an unusual blend of size, speed and strength. He prided himself on toughness — once refusing to exit a game after slicing his hand open — and delivering wince-inducing hits. His grandfather played football at Wiley College, an NAIA school in Texas, and the Buffalo Bills drafted an uncle from Baylor in 1976. Hall wanted to follow their path.

“He had this killer instinct in his eyes,” said Stan Coleman, one of Benson’s brothers. “He loved to hit. He loved to play football. That was his passion.”

The future seemed straightforward: Hall would pursue an NFL career, then coach football. After all, he already acted like a coach on the field. Benson once told Cieslik to let her know if her son ever stepped out of line. The coach didn’t need to because Hall was the sort of rule-follower who answered questions “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” and meant it.

When Jeff Copp, then safeties coach at Utah State, recruited Hall in 2005, he asked the youngster whom he would lean on to decide where to play. Hall didn’t hesitate: his mother. Benson’s daughter died of sudden infant death syndrome when Hall was a toddler. It cemented the tight-knit relationship between the mother and son.

“She was his rock,” Copp said.

Alecia Benson and her brother Tony Benson smile in an undated photograph.
Alecia Benson and her brother Tony Benson smile in an undated photograph. (Courtesy of Stan Coleman)

At Utah State, Hall started the season opener at linebacker as a true freshman. He built a reputation as a quick learner and one of the team’s most punishing tacklers. Off the field he kept to himself, usually holed up in his room playing Madden NFL video games or talking to his mother on the phone. Gaining his trust wasn’t easy, but when you did, he revealed a quick wit and an obsession with maintaining a clean-cut appearance to go along with a burgeoning confidence in his ability to play in the NFL.

“He was a freak when it came to what he could do on the field with how strong he was and how fast he was,” said James Brindley, a former Utah State defensive back.

Entering Hall’s senior year in 2008, Copp noticed he took longer to focus. Hall’s mind wandered. He eventually stopped going to class to train for the NFL draft.

One NFL team’s scouting report hinted at the concerns, saying his physical ability and understanding of the game “does not register” on the field.


When members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers filed into darkened meeting rooms after practice, they flipped on lights and closed doors. They often discovered Hall standing behind a door, staring at the wall without a word. No one knew what to make of it.

Like so many other players clinging to the fringe of the NFL, Hall’s name made regular appearances in the league’s transaction reports. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in April 2009. He was late to meetings and regarded as immature. After being cut five months later, he joined the Indianapolis Colts, had the team’s horseshoe logo tattooed on his chest and played four regular-season games before being waived the day after Christmas. The Buccaneers picked him up two days later, intrigued by his athleticism.

From the first day, Hall’s odd behavior left teammates uneasy, sometimes afraid. He stood by himself on the practice field. Teammates tried to get him to join them for movies or dinner. He declined.

When Joshua Taylor, one of his Utah State roommates, asked what the NFL was like, Hall replied that all he did was smoke weed, practice, then smoke more weed.

Hall repeatedly told a strange story about a car accident in Tampa where he hit his head and had to be put in a straitjacket, then injected with an unknown substance to calm down. Friends pressed for more details. He couldn’t provide them.

The Buccaneers released Hall in August 2010 a few days before the team’s rookies were scheduled to perform their annual skits. Most of them poked fun at Hall being in places where he wasn’t expected. The team’s uneasiness had become a running joke. Executives worried about Hall’s reaction to the skits if he remained on the roster.

On Facebook, Hall mentioned injuring his hamstring during training camp with the Buccaneers. But he told Taylor that coaches wouldn’t give him an opportunity to play because they believed he was unbalanced.


Around 5 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2010, 911 operators in Luna County, N.M., received seven calls reporting a reckless driver on westbound Interstate 10.

The green Pontiac Grand Am, driven by Hall on his way home from Florida, sped to 60 mph, then slowed to 35 mph. He refused to let other cars pass.

A police incident report details De'Von Hall's erratic behavior late one night in September 2010.
A police incident report details De’Von Hall’s erratic behavior late one night in September 2010. (Luna County Sheriff’s Department)

The eighth 911 call was from a woman who said the car tried to run her off the road. A tractor-trailer helped box in Hall until two Luna County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived. Wearing a black hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, Hall denied any wrongdoing. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor with probation and fines.

Hall became difficult for his Temecula-based agent, Derrick Fox, to reach. If they connected, Hall answered “yes” or “no” to questions without elaboration.

After Hall’s grandfather, Leslie Benson, died in June 2011, Hall waved his arms in the air at the funeral. He yelled as if he was riding a roller coaster.

The Carolina Panthers signed Hall a few weeks later. He didn’t last long. A prominent Panthers player and team chaplain called Fox, concerned about his client’s unusual behavior and soiled clothes. The team cut ties.

Hall landed auditions with two Canadian Football League teams. Neither worked out.

During a CFL combine in Santa Monica, Hall arrived in a wrinkled gray suit, full beard and tousled hair. Other players wore workout clothes. He fished a resume out of his backpack. Extra clothes flew everywhere. Hall eventually changed out of the suit and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 or 4.9 seconds, almost a half-second slower than his usual time in college.

His words became garbled. He wore headphones to drown out the voices in his head. He refused to hug Tony Benson, a close uncle. He laughed for no reason. He shouted violent song lyrics. Each Facebook post sounded stranger than the one before.

(Facebook)

“religion single seat single engine F-16 fighting falcon fighter jet.”

“Natural ability has allowed…. Natures ability has caused doubt I am thankful for my choice.”

“I’m not scared of washer machines. I’m nice. I don’t agree with communism. Im nice.”


If he caught the dog, you didn’t know if he was going to pet it or kill it. I wouldn’t want to be in a room one-on-one with him.

— Caleb Taylor

One day a Utah State teammate, Daryl Fields, drove Hall to an apartment in Salt Lake City where Taylor was visiting his twin brother, Caleb. Before arriving, Fields warned the brothers on the phone that this wasn’t the same Hall they knew in college. He wore old Utah State sweats. His eyes were bloodshot and vacant. His teeth weren’t brushed. He smelled bad. He hadn’t shaved or cut his hair recently. And he didn’t seem to recognize his friends.

Caleb Taylor asked how Hall was doing. He sputtered about “chilling busting caps.”

Hall fixated on Joshua Taylor’s black chihuahua named Shadow. No one could distract Hall. He dived on the carpet and tried to catch the dog. He faced the animal on all fours, as if he was going to attack it. The brothers hustled the dog to another room.

“If he caught the dog, you didn’t know if he was going to pet it or kill it,” Caleb Taylor said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a room one-on-one with him. He showed a lot of signs of aggression.”

Each time Hall joined the brothers, something strange happened. Like the night they watched a Lakers game on television and Hall, for no apparent reason, sprinted back and forth across the room while staring at the ceiling.


The last time the Taylor brothers spoke to Hall on the phone, he let them know he was on the way to Caleb Taylor’s apartment in Salt Lake City.

“I’m walking from California to Utah,” Hall said.

He told the brothers he was in Barstow. He plugged in the route on his iPhone and estimated he’d reach them in a couple of weeks. He didn’t find this unusual. After staying in L.A. with his father, Cary Hall, he wanted to become a professional boxer.

Alecia Benson told family members her son would call when he got tired. She eventually drove to Barstow and brought him back.


De'von Hall (second from left) is seen with his cousins Chris Benson, Branden Benson and LJ Benson (left to right).
De’von Hall (second from left) is seen with his cousins Chris Benson, Branden Benson and LJ Benson (left to right). (Courtesy of Stan Coleman)

Hall became a fixture in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a mile and a half west of the Coliseum. His grandfather’s old duplex was on the other side of the park.

Hall’s mother tried to convince him to move into a furnished apartment. He refused. Instead, he paced up and down Western Avenue next to the park. He slept there. He smoked discarded cigarette butts. He stood on bleachers surrounding the baseball field. He looked dazed, but didn’t bother anyone. Sometimes he did football drills. He seemed to exist in a world of his own.

“That’s where he felt most safe,” Coleman said.

One day Hall darted back and forth across Western Avenue. He appeared to be playing chicken with cars. A bus clipped him. Benson found her son at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. He avoided serious injury.

Before finally losing touch with Hall, Copp and Benson talked about how to get him help. But he didn’t think he had a problem. The player Copp remembered as one of the sweetest kids he had ever coached had become a stranger who barely recalled playing for Utah State.

When Utah State played USC at the Coliseum in September 2013, Hall approached a group of teammates in front of the stadium. He dragged a black garbage bag. When he tried to speak, only gibberish came out. He jogged away after about 30 seconds.

Sometimes Marquis Butler saw his former Utah State teammate pushing a shopping cart along the street. Each time Butler called his name, Hall disappeared into the park.

Each morning, Eric Griffin, director at the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, asked Hall how he was doing. It took almost a year before he responded: “Good day. How are you?” Until recently, Griffin knew nothing about Hall’s NFL career.

Trecia Summerville, an assistant at the center, noticed a middle-aged woman speaking to Hall on the street. She asked the woman if Hall was bothering her.

“This is my son,” Benson said.


We’re a proud family and we take on our responsibilities, period. She didn’t want anyone else to be burdened with what he was going through.

— Tony Benson

Before the final encounter between the mother and son in the home on Secrest Drive, Benson told Eubanks to leave the room and not to get involved. She didn’t want Hall to lash out at another person. Her son was her concern.

“We’re a proud family and we take on our responsibilities, period,” Tony Benson said. “She didn’t want anyone else to be burdened with what he was going through. … She took it all on herself, even that night.”

Alecia Benson, 48, worked in the office of a local doctor. She laughed easily and had the gift to make whoever she talked to feel special. She became a confidant for a sprawling collection of twentysomething nieces and nephews, always available to listen or offer advice.

Alecia Benson argued with Hall in the days leading up to the final confrontation. Though he was about 30 pounds lighter than his playing weight of 215 pounds, he remained an intimidating figure. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department responded to multiple calls for service at the address in past years for domestic disturbances. Hall wasn’t arrested. The department refused to provide further details.

This time, the mother confronted him about hygiene. Each time he entered the home, it reeked of someone who had abandoned showering.

Hand-written notes from the coroner describe Alecia Benson's injuries.
Hand-written notes from the coroner describe Alecia Benson’s injuries. (Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner)

As Benson lay unconscious, deputies caught Hall near the home shortly after the 911 call at 10:44 p.m. Family members said deputies speeding to the scene almost hit Hall in the middle of Secrest Drive and they used a Taser to subdue him.

Benson died almost four days later at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on April 28. Her face was so swollen and bruised as to be almost unrecognizable.

The scrawl of a doctor’s handwriting on a sheet attached to the autopsy report reduced the final days of her life to a few words: “facial and traumatic brain injury w/ facial fracture and brain contusion with severe brain edema.”

Another form added eight words.

“Her son is the suspect in this homicide.”


The NFL, in my opinion, should’ve done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid.

— Tony Benson

Some family members don’t think Hall understands his mother is dead. He pleaded not guilty to murder and is jailed at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A. on $1-million bail. Cary Hall and Coleman tried to visit. De’von Hall refused.

In recent years, Utah State teammates felt Hall would snap. They figured a random person would be the victim. But his mother? He didn’t love anyone more. The friends are scared by the thought of what might happen next.

“If he’s in jail with the regular population, he’s going to end up getting killed or killing someone else,” said Dionte Holloway, who played at Utah State with Hall. “De’von mentally is gone. That’s not the De’von I know, that’s not the De’von I went to school with, that’s not my friend, that’s somebody who was out of their mind.”

De'Von Hall smiles with his cousins in a photograph from around 1991.
De’Von Hall smiles with his cousins in a photograph from around 1991. (Courtesy of Stan Coleman)

They search for answers. Family members believe Hall suffered a head injury with the Colts in 2009 that changed his personality. A team spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The NFL, in my opinion, should’ve done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid,” Tony Benson said.

At Utah State, former defensive coordinator Mark Johnson, Copp and several teammates didn’t recall Hall sustaining a concussion. But one of the teammates, Gregg Clark, cautioned that “a lot of things go under the table” when head injuries are involved.

A separate theory circulated among some teammates had Hall attending a party in Miami while he played for the Buccaneers and smoking weed laced with cocaine, heroin or another hard drug. They believe the episode triggered an addiction.

No evidence has been made public to support any of these theories or further explain his behavior.

In a brief court hearing June 28, Hall’s public defender, Ashley Morgan Price, told L.A. County Superior Court Judge Yvette Verastegui that she doesn’t believe her client is competent. The judge suspended criminal proceedings and ordered a mental evaluation.

Hall and Price didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“In the final analysis, it’s about De’von, but, in reality, it’s about Alecia and what she did for her family,” Tony Benson said. “She’s an angel and we lost her.”

That’s not the only loss. Coaches, teammates, family members, friends all speak about Hall as if he’s dead.

That’s not my nephew. He’s not a regular person. This was someone who possessed De’von’s body. His mother didn’t have a chance.

TOUCHDOWN IN ISRAEL: 18 US FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMERS (IDIOTS) ARRIVE IN HOLY LAND

 

Joe Montana, Jim Brown and Roger Staubach were among 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to begin a weeklong visit to Israel on Thursday, with a small field in Ramat Hasharon playing host to one of the most impressive groups of former athletes to ever visit the Holy Land.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker are leading the delegation named “Touchdown in Israel II – We Are All Patriots.”

 

“It is so special to bring the best of the best to ever play my favorite sport to my favorite country in the world,” Kraft told The Jerusalem Post. “In almost 100 years of the NFL, I don’t believe a group of this caliber has ever come together outside of the US, and I am very proud to be able to put this trip together.”

The star-studded group of Hall of Famers – which also includes Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams and Ron Yary – viewed a series of scrimmages between local teams on the artificial turf in Ramat Hasharon.

“When the mainstream media speaks about Israel, it is usually brought up as a place not to visit,” noted Faulk. “But so far, our experience in Tel Aviv has been nothing short of incredible.”

Several of the former NFL greats joined in as honorary coaches, adding to the festive atmosphere and the excitement of the young players.

As well as touring the country and visiting the holy sites, the “Gold Jackets” will be hosted by the American football community in Israel at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The program in Jerusalem will include addresses by Kraft, Baker and American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz. Several members of the Hall of Fame will recall stories from their playing days and the visitors will take part in a breakout session, where they will have an opportunity to “meet and greet” their Israeli fans.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, opened in 1963 with 17 original inductees. There are currently 310 Hall of Famers who have been elected. Those enshrined are chosen annually on the day before the Super Bowl by a group of 48 selectors, who are members of the media.

Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family have been the leading sponsors of football in Israel since 1999 with the opening of Kraft Family Stadium.

The AFI is the official federation for all football activities in the country. The AFI includes the Kraft Family IFL (men’s tackle football), the Kraft Family IHFL (youth tackle), and eight flag football leagues (including men’s, women’s and youth) totaling over 80 teams. Under the auspices of the AFI are currently almost 2,000 players, coaches and officials taking part in organized football activities in Israel.

“It is really amazing to see how football has really taken hold here in Israel,” exclaimed Montana.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this trip and to experience the influence of our wonderful sport throughout the world.”

How (some) Jews across the US rooted for baseball’s first black player

When Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball 70 years ago with the Brooklyn Dodgers, American Jews were there to cheer him on.

Throughout the 1947 season, Robinson could count on support from Jewish fans — and from Jewish superstar Hank Greenberg, who offered praise and encouragement after an impromptu collision during a game.

“[Robinson] had very close relations to Jews, and Jews felt a kinship to him.” said Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, a senior associate dean of academic affairs at Temple University and the author of “Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball.”

Now, scholars are reflecting on Robinson’s Jewish supporters during his historic first season.

Since the 1880s, an unwritten color ban had barred African-Americans from the major leagues. Separate “Negro leagues” subsequently arose for black players, but Dodgers president Branch Rickey sought to integrate the majors and he chose Robinson for what was described as baseball’s “great experiment.”

“I would argue [Robinson] was the finest African-American athlete in America,” said Long Island University professor Joseph Dorinson, co-editor of “Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream.”

Robinson was a multi-sport star at UCLA and an officer in the US Army during World War II. He was court-martialed after refusing to sit in the back of a segregated bus, but was acquitted.

Cover of Inside Baseball magazine, February 1953, (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“The Jackie Robinson experiment could not have taken place in any other city, largely because of its Jewish population,” Dorinson said. “They were prone to support minorities.”

Brooklyn’s Jews included Dorinson’s family. His parents were Russian immigrants who, “at one time, both were extremely radical in their political beliefs,” he said. And, he added, “they always preached racial equality.”

“My mother asserted the reason Robinson was welcomed in Brooklyn was because it had a lot of liberal Jews,” said Alpert, who also grew up in Brooklyn, during the 1950s. “My mother was not alone. When I started research as an adult, [I found other] stories of [similar] experience, Jews feeling kinship towards Robinson, [from] our own group sense of oppression.”

“His first home was in a Jewish neighborhood,” Dorinson said. “He was not received warmly by everyone. But Jewish neighbors took him to heart.”

‘He was not received warmly by everyone. But Jewish neighbors took him to heart’

However, Alpert said that “there were Jews in Brooklyn who did not want him in the neighborhood,” and that he faced both Jewish support and opposition when he later moved to Connecticut.

“It’s a complicated story,” she said. “Nevertheless, there’s certainly a positive Jewish element to that story.”

Dorinson recalled going to Dodgers games as a boy and hearing Jewish fans use a Yiddish equivalent of their hero’s name: “Yankel, Yankel, get a klap! Smack the ball!”

“They embraced Jackie as a surrogate son,” he said.

Jackie Robinson signing autographs during spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1948. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

Another young Jewish fan of Robinson’s was Swiss immigrant Benjamin Blech — today a rabbi, professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and author of 12 best-selling books.

Back then, Blech wrote in an email, “I was a little boy, a Jewish immigrant in love with America but aware of the powerful — at that time — barriers to full integration, both for blacks and for Jews. I was keenly aware that Robinson’s struggle was comparable to my own, hoping and praying that discrimination for whatever reason would be removed from the American landscape.”

Jackie Robinson in dugout, circa 1950. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“Remarkably, as I vividly recall it to this day, a Yeshiva ‘bochur’ in Brooklyn — that was me — identified with the racially different star player of my beloved Dodgers because we were both victims of incomprehensible and unjustified hatred,” he concluded.

Early in the 1947 season, such hatred caused a crisis.

“On May 9, Robinson had come out and gone public about receiving threats to kidnap his son, and death threats against his wife,” said John Rosengren, author of “Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes.”

Then, when the Dodgers went to Philadelphia to play the Phillies, the Phillies’ manager, Ben Chapman, “was inciting the players to say nasty things,” Rosengren said. “Players were pointing bats at Robinson as though they were rifles, after he had come out about the death threats. By the end of the series, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

That was the situation on May 15, 1947 — exactly one month after Robinson’s debut, which had taken place during Passover. The Dodgers were now in Pittsburgh, playing the Pirates and their superstar, Greenberg. During the game, because of an error, Robinson collided with Greenberg, who stood over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds.

Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio, 1939. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

“A lot of people thought the Robinson experiment would lead to a racial brawl,” Rosengren said. “It seemed to be just the moment this would happen. A black man was not supposed to knock down a white man, especially an aging superstar. Had it been one of Greenberg’s Southern teammates, it might have well had ensued.”

Instead, both players reacted with professionalism and continued the game. When they encountered each other again the next inning, a civil conversation ensued.

‘A black man was not supposed to knock down a white man, especially an aging superstar’

“Greenberg said, ‘Hey, listen, are you OK?’” Rosengren recalled. “Robinson, surprised, said, ‘Yeah, I guess I am.’ Greenberg said, ‘Listen, you are a good ballplayer. Just keep your head up. You’ll do fine.’ Robinson was touched.”

A reporter asked Robinson about the incident, and Rosengren quoted his response: “Class tells. It spills all over Mr. Greenberg.”

“One columnist said he never had a prouder moment as a Jew than hearing about that interaction, the compassion and support Greenberg demonstrated,” Rosengren said.

Greenberg knew what it was like to experience hostility, having endured anti-Semitism with his previous team, the Detroit Tigers.

Brooklyn Dodgers team photograph, 1953. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“Henry Ford was Detroit’s paterfamilias and an arch anti-Semite,” Rosengren said. “The Rev. Charles Coughlin, whose parish was in a suburb of Detroit, was spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric on the radio to 10 million listeners on Sunday afternoons.”

Greenberg even received taunts from “his own fans,” Rosengren said. “He bore the weight of his tribe on his shoulders.”

Greenberg embraced his Judaism, choosing not to play during the 1934 pennant race so he could attend Yom Kippur services. He also defended himself.

“There was an incident when he tore into an opposing team’s dugout and demanded to know who delivered slurs, invective, epithets his way. No one would own up,” said Robert Cottrell, a professor at California State University, Chico, and the author of “Two Pioneers: How Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson Transformed Baseball — and America.”

With the Tigers, Greenberg hit over 300 home runs and won two Most Valuable Player awards and two World Series championships. But by 1947, the WWII veteran was in his final season, with a different team.

Hank Greenberg hitting a third inning homer against the Philadelphia Phillies, 1947. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

“The Pirates were horrible that year,” Cottrell said. “The moment with Jackie Robinson was one of the few that really stands out.”

Dorinson recalled another Greenberg-Robinson moment years later, in 1962. Dorinson and a friend were watching a Yale University football game in which Greenberg’s oldest son was playing. In front of them sat Robinson, his wife Rachel and their youngest son David. After the game, Robinson congratulated Greenberg on his son’s performance.

“Jackie and Hank were in the center of the field,” Dorinson said. “Greenberg was wearing an elegant camel coat. They embraced.”

Jackie Robinson. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

Robinson and Greenberg were “two pioneers battling very nefarious forces, ideas and isms,” Cottrell said. “They did it with such courage and such dignity. And it cost them. Jackie died way too young. [Robinson died in 1972 at age 53.] The stress factor was enormous. Hank was able to endure in a different way and live to a decent age. But Jackie died way too young.”

In April, the Brooklyn Historical Society unveiled a new exhibit, “Until Everyone Has It Made: Jackie Robinson’s Legacy,” honoring Robinson’s historic first season.

“As the season went on, it became clear that he was a key asset to the Dodgers,” said Kathryn Lasdow, an assistant public historian at the society. “His skill and ability on the field were really important to the team.”

Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award that season and helped the Dodgers reach the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees. Two years later, he won the MVP award and the Dodgers returned to the World Series, again losing to the Yankees.

The Dodgers eventually moved to Los Angeles a few years after winning their first and only World Series in Brooklyn, in 1955, over the Yankees. (The LA Dodgers included another Jewish superstar, Sandy Koufax.) Robinson did not join them on the West Coast. But he left a substantial legacy.

“It’s amazing how time flies,” Dorinson said. “My late, lamented colleague Jules Tygiel, who wrote the definitive study of Jackie Robinson [‘Baseball’s Great Experiment’], he argued that every Passover… every Easter, whether you’re Christian or Jewish, the story of renewal and resurrection is relevant to Jackie Robinson’s trajectory and narrative. It’s important to renew every year.”

Fiancee: Aaron Hernandez thought he was going to be freed

https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/05/12/aaron-hernandez-fiancee-suicide-death-prison

 

BOSTON (AP) — The fiancee of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez said in an interview that she didn’t initially believe he had died in his prison cell and doesn’t think his death was a suicide.

The first part of a two-part interview with Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez aired Monday on the ”Dr. Phil ” show. The second part is set to air Tuesday.

Jenkins-Hernandez told host Dr. Phillip McGraw she doesn’t think the former New England Patriots tight end’s death April 19 was a suicide, as authorities have ruled. She said he was upbeat in their last telephone conversation before he was found hanged and there was no indication he was suicidal.

”He was very positive,” she said.

She said she thought the news of Hernandez’s death was a ”hoax” and some cruel person was playing a trick on her. She didn’t offer an explanation for Hernandez’s death if it wasn’t a suicide and said she had no reason to believe anyone would want to kill him.

The death of Hernandez, who grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played football at the University of Florida, came days after he was acquitted in a 2012 Boston double slaying. He was serving a life sentence in a 2013 killing. A judge recently erased the 2013 murder conviction against him because he died while he was appealing.

Jenkins-Hernandez expressed doubts about the investigation into Hernandez’s death, saying the findings didn’t seem ”believable.”

She answered questions about the legitimacy of a suicide note Hernandez wrote that was addressed to her.

”It was addressed to Shay, instead of babe or bae,” Jenkins-Hernandez said.

She said she thought that was ”odd” and the letter did not seem personal or intimate.

A Bible was nearby, open to John 3:16, with the verse marked by a drop of blood.

Some inmates have said Hernandez had become increasingly spiritual during his time in prison, but Jenkins-Hernandez said the bible verse didn’t sound like Hernandez and he’d never mentioned it to her.

Part of the message to Jenkins-Hernandez also said: ”You’re rich.” Those words have fueled speculation Hernandez left assets to her, but she said she thought about love when she read it and couldn’t speak to whether the note was a will and testament.

Aaron Hernandez found with ‘John 3:16’ written in ink on forehead, report says

BOSTON — Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez wrote a reference to a biblical passage in ink on his forehead and in blood on the wall of his prison cell before he hanged himself with a bed sheet, state police said in an investigative report released Thursday.

The former New England Patriots tight end was found naked April 19 at the Souza-Baranowski prison, where he was serving a life sentence in the 2013 murder of a man who had been dating his fiancee’s sister. His suicide came five days after he was acquitted in the 2012 gun slayings of two men in a car.

A report released by state police on Thursday says “John 3:16” was written on Hernandez’s forehead and on the cell wall.

The Bible passage says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The report, from a state police detective assigned to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.’s office, said a correction officer found Hernandez around 3 a.m.

Correction officers found that cardboard had been shoved into the tracks of Hernandez’s cell door to prevent the door from opening. Hernandez also had put shampoo on the floor to make it slippery, the report states.

Once the correction officers got inside the cell, they found Hernandez hanging from a bed sheet tied around the window bars. The officers and medical staff performed CPR, but Hernandez never regained consciousness. He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

State police said Hernandez’s right middle finger had a fresh cut and there was blood on adjacent fingers. Besides the “John 3:16” written on his forehead, there also appeared to be a large circular blood mark on each of his feet.

On the wall of the cell were several drawings and “John 3:16” written in what appeared to be blood. Under the drawings was a Bible open to John 3:16, with the verse marked in blood. Three handwritten notes were found next to the bible. A description of the notes was redacted from the state police report.

Correction officers told police that Hernandez had been locked in his cell just before 8 p.m. on April 18. One officer said he last saw Hernandez around 1 a.m. on April 19.

About two hours later, the officer saw a sheet hanging in front of the door to Hernandez’s cell. The officer said he asked Hernandez to remove the sheet or sound off. As the officer poked at the sheet it fell, and he saw Hernandez hanging from the window, according to the report.

After that officer and others opened the door, they tried to lift Hernandez to relieve pressure. After Hernandez was cut down, officers began performing chest compressions.

State police said a review of video surveillance shows Hernandez was on the phone just before being locked in his cell. Police said they listened to the last five phone calls Hernandez made.

“Hernandez does not make any apparent indication of an intent to harm himself during any of the phone calls,” the report states.

An autopsy performed by the state medical examiner’s office determined the cause of Hernandez’s death was asphyxia by hanging and the manner of death was suicide. The state police report said toxicology tests showed Hernandez’s blood came back negative for all substances tested, including synthetic marijuana.

Hernandez’s lead attorney in his recent double murder trial, Jose Baez, has pledged to do an independent investigation into his death. The defense team sharply criticized state investigators, saying some leaked information to reporters while failing to keep the Hernandez family informed.

“The unprofessional behavior of those entrusted to impartially and professionally conduct an investigation into Aaron’s death has caused grave concern as to the validity and thoroughness of the investigation,” Hernandez’s attorneys said in a statement.

Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. His suicide left friends, family and his legal team in disbelief as many searched for an explanation to the tragic end of a young man whose football skills earned him a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the NFL’s top franchise.

Why the Patriots could owe money to Aaron Hernandez

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/19195908/why-patriots-owe-money-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

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2017-nfl-draft-look-five-horse-race-top-quarterback-selections-012228467.html

 

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.