Steel uncertain: Harrison flips message on Tomlin envelope

Steel uncertain: Harrison flips message on Tomlin envelope

James Harrison backpedaled on suggestions Thursday that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin paid his fine for helmet-to-helmet contact in 2010.

Harrison, fined $75,000 for a hit on Mohamed Massaquoi of the Cleveland Browns, said Thursday in a podcast interview that Tomlin left him an envelope after his fine was reduced to $50,000 upon appeal.

The Steelers issued a denial and Harrison’s agent also said the Tomlin payment never happened.

Harrison posted a self-defense statement to Instagram on Friday.

“Wow y’all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!? Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you’d know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn’t even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL’S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then.

“When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it — even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they’d be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!!”

Speaking on Barstool’s “Going Deep” podcast with former Steelers teammate Willie Colon, Harrison said of a helmet-to-helmet hit that concussed then-Cleveland receiver Massaquoi, “The g-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that. I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”

Steelers president Art Rooney II firmly denied the claim.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Absolutely not. Never happened. I would have known that. It didn’t happen.”

–Field Level Media

Rams re-sign DE Fox

Rams re-sign DE Fox

The Los Angeles Rams re-signed restricted free agent defensive end Morgan Fox on Friday. Terms were not disclosed.

Fox, 25, has registered 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one safety in 36 games since joining the Rams as undrafted free agent in 2016.

After missing the 2018 campaign due to injury, he played in all 16 games in 2019 (three starts) and posted 18 tackles and two sacks.

In a corresponding personnel move, Los Angeles released defensive tackle Tanzel Smart. A sixth-round pick in 2017, Smart had 20 tackles in 31 career games.

–Field Level Media

Colts sign three more draft picks

Colts sign three more draft picks

The Indianapolis Colts have signed seven of their nine 2020 NFL Draft picks, completing rookie deals Friday with running back Jonathan Taylor, quarterback Jacob Eason and linebacker Jordan Glasgow.

They joined guard Danny Pinter, cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, defensive tackle Robert Windsor and wide receiver Dezmon Patmon.

The Colts’ only remaining unsigned selections are second-round wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and third-round safety Julian Blackmon.

Taylor (second round) rushed for 6,174 yards at Wisconsin, second most in Big Ten history and sixth all-time in the FBS.

Eason (fourth round) passed for 5,590 yards with 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions at Washington (2018-19) and Georgia (2016-17).

Glasgow (sixth round) collected 140 tackles and seven sacks in 52 games at Michigan.

–Field Level Media

Saints’ Payton: NFL was unprepared for PI replay

Saints’ Payton: NFL was unprepared for PI replay

From Sean Payton’s perspective, pass interference replay is going away because the NFL never truly prepared for the arrival of a second look at the pass-play infractions.

Payton told 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore on Thursday that no one should be surprised pass interference reviews are being scrapped one season into the failed experiment.

“I think the theory behind what the league voted on certainly had a chance to be successful. But quite honestly we weren’t ready in New York to handle it,” Payton said. “And I know that sounds critical, but that’s just a fact. The consistency and the ability to take in the calls and at least come up with a fairly level basis of what we’re gonna interpret that call on. And if we’re not ready there, then we shouldn’t have it. And I think that’s the feeling that all of us have right now, including myself.”

Only 13 of the 81 pass interference reviews were overturned, including several calls that matched the fundamental rulebook definition of pass interference.

Payton served a seasonlong suspension for the “Bountygate” scandal when commissioner Roger Goodell ruled Saints players earned financial rewards for hits that resulted in injuries.

He was enflamed Thursday when told Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin might have paid a fine for linebacker James Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010. Harrison made the revelation Thursday.

“That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue,” Payton said, referring to the NFL league office. “They’ll look into it briefly. Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary. And honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. And that’s just the truth.”

–Field Level Media

Giants’ Baker, Seahawks’ Dunbar wanted for armed robbery

Giants’ Baker, Seahawks’ Dunbar wanted for armed robbery

New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar are wanted by the Miramar (Fla.) Police Department on charges of armed robbery with a firearm after an alleged incident at a party late Wednesday night.

According to affidavits posted online by the Miramar PD, Baker is facing eight total counts — four each of armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm. Dunbar is facing four counts of armed robbery with a firearm. Warrants have been issued for both men.

Shortly before midnight, according to the affidavits, Baker and Dunbar were among a group of people at a house party, where attendees were playing video games, playing cards and gambling.

At some point, an argument allegedly erupted at the card table, at which point Baker and Dunbar both brandished guns and robbed attendees of money and personal belongings. According to a witness, a third person — identified only as wearing a red mask — also took part in the robbery.

That witness claimed that as he walked into the house and the robbery was in progress, Baker directed the person in the red mask to shoot the witness. The witness was not shot, but he alleged that the person in the red mask took $800 in cash and an $18,000 Rolex watch from the witness.

Among the other items taken from the other three alleged victims were nearly $12,000 in cash and watches ranging in value from $600 to $25,000.

The three men then allegedly escaped in three separate vehicles — a Mercedes Benz, a Lamborghini and a BMW.

According to the affidavit, one witness was “under the impression (the robbery) was planned out … because the vehicles (used in the getaway) were later pre-positioned to expedite an immediate departure from the area.”

Another of the attendees claimed he had known both Baker and Dunbar since they were children and because of this he was not threatened nor were any valuables taken from him. He claimed he was able to speak with Baker on a cell phone after the three alleged perpetrators left the house, but when detective Mark Moretti, who filled out the affidavit, attempted to speak to Baker, “Baker refused to speak to me and immediately terminated the call.”

The Giants issued a statement after the issuing of the arrest warrant: “We are aware of the situation. We have been in contact with DeAndre. We have no further comment at this time.”

The Seahawks issued a statement that read, “We are aware of the situation involving Quinton Dunbar and still gathering information. We will defer all further comment to league investigators and local authorities.”

The Giants selected Baker, 22, in the first round (30th overall) out of Georgia in 2019. The Miami native had 61 tackles, two tackles for loss and eight pass defenses in 16 games (15 starts) as a rookie.

Seattle acquired Dunbar, 27, from the Washington Redskins in March in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round pick.

The Miami native and former Florida Gator played five seasons with the Redskins after they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2015. In 58 career games (25 starts), Dunbar has 150 tackles (three for loss), a sack, nine interceptions and 35 pass breakups. Last season was perhaps his best, with a career-high four interceptions in 11 games.

Dunbar actually took part in the Seahawks’ conference call with media members Thursday.

–Field Level Media

Harrison’s report of ‘envelope’ from Tomlin draws denials

Harrison’s report of ‘envelope’ from Tomlin draws denials

Ex-Steelers linebacker James Harrison hinted Thursday that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin reimbursed him for the fine he took after leveling an opponent in 2010, but Steelers president Art Rooney II and Harrison’s agent denied the story.

Speaking on Barstool’s “Going Deep” podcast with former Steelers teammate Willie Colon, Harrison said of a helmet-to-helmet hit that concussed then-Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, “The g-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that. I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”

The hit prompted the NFL to fine Harrison $75,000, though no penalty was called on the play.

After the podcast’s release, Rooney responded in a statement, “I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Absolutely not. Never happened. I would have known that. It didn’t happen. …

“James and I are still together. We were really close during our 18 years. He would have said something along the way.”

Harrison expanded on his memories of the hit on Massaquoi, saying, “Listen, on everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about 50 percent of what I had, and I just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball. If I had knew they was gonna fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him.”

Paying a player to injure opponents is the rules violation that led the NFL to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the 2012 season.

Payton was asked Thursday about Harrison’s remarks during an interview with Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, and he said he doubted the NFL would investigate.

“That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue,” Payton said. “They’ll look into it briefly. …

“Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary. And honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. And that’s just the truth.”

Harrison, 42, spent 15 years in the NFL, playing for the Steelers (2002-12, 2014-17), the Cincinnati Bengals (2013) and the New England Patriots (2017). He recorded 84.5 sacks, 34 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and eight interceptions in 193 games (117 starts). He made five Pro Bowls, was twice a first-team All-Pro, and was named the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.

He was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in Pittsburgh. In Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals, Harrison ran back in interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.

–Field Level Media

Broncos’ Sutton excited to mentor Jeudy, Hamler

Broncos’ Sutton excited to mentor Jeudy, Hamler

If Courtland Sutton is feeling threatened by the Denver Broncos using their first two draft picks on wide receivers, the third-year pro is hiding his emotions well.

Speaking on a conference call with the media Thursday, Sutton said that the team’s wide receivers room is “going to be exciting” this season after the Broncos selected Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy with the 15th overall pick last month and Penn State’s KJ Hamler in the second round.

Denver also added Florida’s Tyrie Cleveland in the seventh round.

While running back Phillip Lindsay admitted he was initially “really upset” after the Broncos signed Melvin Gordon in free agency, Sutton had an inkling the front office was gearing to load up at his position during the draft.

“I had been hearing that there was a possibility that (if) the guys who we wanted were there that the Broncos were going to take them,” Sutton said.

That was the case with Jeudy, the top-ranked receiver in the 2020 draft class by many analysts and whom the Broncos pounced on when he slid to the middle of the first round.

“I have been watching a few of the receivers that were coming out and Jeudy was one of those guys that was highly talked about that I had seen some of his plays just because of Alabama playing in a lot of big bowl games,” Sutton said. “I got to watch him play a little bit.

“I like what I saw. I got to talk to Coach Z (Broncos wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni) about him a little bit even before the draft, kind of just giving an eval on what I saw. I love the way he plays. I do think he’s going to be able to bring value to our room. He’s going to add a lot more pressure to defenses with his speed, his route running ability.”

Hamler joined the group the following day with the 46th overall pick. Sutton was familiar with him from talking with former Nittany Lions receiver DaeSean Hamilton, like Sutton a 2018 draft pick of the Broncos.

“I heard a lot about KJ from him, how he was a speedster, he’s a baller, he’s a playmaker,” Sutton said. “When we went and got him, I had an idea just from Ham explaining what he knew about him and seeing his film and also watching how explosive and how dynamic he is with the ball in his hand.

“I think that he’s also going to be able to be somebody who threatens defenses and helps everybody on the field.”

Sutton led the Broncos with 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns in 2019 despite split quarterback play between Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen and rookie Drew Lock.

He was also the primary focus of opposing secondaries. Running back Royce Freeman was the next leading receiver with 43 catches, while Hamilton finished with 28 catches — fifth on the club and second among wide receivers to finish the season with the Broncos — for 297 yards and one touchdown.

That prompted general manager John Elway’s focus on significantly improving the skill position around Lock as he is handed the full-time keys in new coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense. Rather than feel threatened, Sutton sees a dynamic group of receivers that will make it difficult on defenses to key in on any one player or aspect of Denver’s offense.

“We have guys who can stretch the field vertically and that can take those safeties out of the boxes,” Sutton said. “You make everyone pay respect to everybody on the field.

“It kind of makes all the defenses play their defenses and their schemes the right way. You’re not going to be able to cheat to one side. You’re not going to be able to load the box for the run game. You’re not going to be able to shade safeties over the top of certain places.

“From what I’ve seen in the meetings, (the newcomers are) working their butts off. They’re ready to come in and work.”

When Sutton entered the NFL, he looked around and saw a receiving corps that included veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Now just two years later, Azzanni is referring to Sutton as the group’s “OG” and looking to him for leadership.

“It’s interesting,” Sutton said. “DaeSean and I both came into a room where we had Demaryius and Emmanuel, who were Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl winning guys.

“We walked in there and it was like we must be sponges. These dudes have seen what we want to see and have done what we want to do. It would be crazy for us not to go in there and absorb that knowledge.

“Being able to give that back to the guys that are coming into the room now, it’s awesome to be able to be in a position where we had good leaders who showed us the way. They gave us a blueprint to be able to pass this knowledge on and continue this trend so that our room can continue to grow and continue to get that respect around the league that we feel like we deserve from what we are capable of producing on the field.”

–Field Level Media

Reports: Seahawks re-sign QB Smith

Reports: Seahawks re-sign QB Smith

The Seattle Seahawks agreed to re-sign quarterback Geno Smith on a one-year deal, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Smith, 29, joined the Seahawks last May and wound up being the backup quarterback behind Russell Wilson, after beating out Paxton Lynch in training camp.

Smith did not appear in a game, however, as Wilson took every regular-season and postseason snap for the Seahawks all year.

A former second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2013, Smith last appeared as a backup for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and last started a game in 2017 with the New York Giants. Across parts of six NFL seasons, he has thrown for 6,182 yards, 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

The only other quarterback on Seattle’s roster is undrafted rookie Anthony Gordon, a Washington State product.

–Field Level Media

Lions QB Stafford ignored trade rumors

Lions QB Stafford ignored trade rumors

Matthew Stafford ignored trade rumors prior to the NFL draft because the Detroit Lions’ franchise quarterback didn’t hear them.

Three kids under the age of 5 and a pregnant wife while on stay-at-home orders in Georgia took all the attention the 32-year-old could muster.

Then his wife, Kelly, caught wind of the reports the Lions wanted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and suddenly everyone was listening.

Stafford said he briefly discussed the rumors, shot down multiple times by the Lions, with head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn. He was immediately at ease with what the team was doing.

“I really don’t pay too much attention to them,” Stafford said Thursday in a Zoom call with reporters. “I pay less attention to them than my wife does. But it’s something that doesn’t bother me.

“I’m here. I want to be here. I love being a Detroit Lion. I love leading this team. So all that kind of stuff is just kind of out there to be out there. It’s a slow news month at that point, and I’m just happy to be where I am and ready to deal with this offseason the way it is and try to make the best of the season that I hope happens.”

Stafford has hosted a few wide receivers in Georgia to stay sharp but otherwise is worried about winning at parenting.

“As much dad time as I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

Stafford said he is concerned about returning to football during the COVID-19 pandemic. His family is lying low after traveling to Florida and California before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown and sorting through the same uncertainty many others have encountered.

“I love playing football,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what I would do in a fall without it, as I think a lot of Americans probably would say the same. But being involved with the game, I love it, and I’m hoping it is safe enough for all of us to get back out there.

“I don’t want to put people at undue risk for us to go play a game. But at the same time, if we can find a way to make it safe for everybody, I would love to obviously be out there as soon as we can.”

–Field Level Media

Report: Rams ask to borrow $500M more for stadium

Report: Rams ask to borrow $500M more for stadium

The Los Angeles Rams have requested to borrow up to $500 million more from the NFL in order to fund their new stadium, The Athletic reported on Thursday.

Per the report, the Rams also have requested to double the term for repaying the money, from the typical 15 years to 30 years. The team has already borrowed $400 million from the league for SoFi Stadium, the expected cost of which has ballooned to about $5 billion, around double of the original projection.

The report quoted a source expecting the request to be passed at next week’s virtual owners meeting, saying that commissioner Roger Goodell “is pushing for it.” The Rams and NFL declined to comment to The Athletic.

The new stadium was scheduled to open for concerts this summer, though some events have already been postponed, and more are expected with the state of California and Los Angeles County enforcing strict bans against large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rams are scheduled to play the first home regular season game at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 13, on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, unless the NFL schedule is altered or pushed back due to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, the NFL and team executives agreed on a proposal to raise debt limits for teams from $350 million to $500 million, a response to expected revenue drops caused by the pandemic.

According to The Athletic, the stadium has had issues with cost overruns, but the sales of personal seat licenses are also falling “dramatically under what was projected,” with the tenant Los Angeles Chargers lagging especially behind on sales goals.

The Chargers released a statement to The Athletic, reading: “Sales were trending positively towards our goal as we turned the calendar and approached the new league year, but the pandemic has had a quieting effect on what is traditionally the biggest sales period of the year — the lead-up to the NFL Draft through the schedule release. Due to the positive momentum, however, created by our free agent signings, draft picks and uniform unveil, we are still seeing significant fan interest in season tickets and continue to onboard new Season Ticket Members.”

Rams owner Stan Kroenke agreed to host the Chargers as a tenant in the new stadium as part of the agreement to move the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles — and the Chargers from San Diego — in 2016.

–Field Level Media