The NFL is demanding reimbursement in excess of $2 million from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for court costs related to star running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension and Jones’ threatened litigation over commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
The owners are citing a rule that has been on the books for more than two decades, that says if an owner participates in bringing litigation against other owners, he must reimburse them for the legal fees.
An earlier report by The New York Times characterized the reimbursement as a fine to be levied on Jones by Goodell.
The league will order Jones to pay all fees that the compensation committee incurred while legally defending itself from the longtime Cowboys owner’s threats to sue over the extension of Goodell’s contract. The Cowboys never followed through on that suit. Jones will also have to compensate the NFL for all its legal fees spent defending the Elliott suspension.
The reimbursement action was generated by fellow owners, not Goodell, and has been approved by the league’s finance committee, sources told Graziano.
Jones clashed with Goodell and the league on multiple issues in 2017. Jones was a vocal advocate of delaying a contract extension for Goodell and proposed on Dec. 1 to implement a six-month moratorium on finalizing the deal. Jones also threatened to sue the league if the compensation committee approved Goodell’s extension, and was publicly critical of Elliott’s six-game suspension.
The Cowboys did not offer a comment when contacted by ESPN.
The issues between Jones and Goodell went back to training camp. Jones asserted during training camp last summer that he did not believe Elliott would be suspended. When Goodell made his decision to suspend Elliott for six games, lead investigator Michelle Roberts was not counseled, nor was her opinion of the case taken into consideration. That played a big part in the legal back-and-forth between Elliott, the NFL Players Association and the NFL. The Cowboys offered “statements of support” through the legal system from their team attorney, Jason Cohen, who attended the hearings in Texas and New York.
Jones insisted his involvement in the Goodell negotiations was separate from the Elliott case and that he was an “ad hoc” member of the compensation committee to serve as an “ombudsman” of sorts for the owners not on the committee. However, last year when the league voted on whether to extend Goodell’s contract, the vote was 32-0 in favor. Jones’ apparent change of heart on the discussions came after Elliott’s suspension was announced.
Jones said his issues went beyond Elliott. He was concerned about lower television ratings, the effect of the protests before and during the national anthem, and the structure of Goodell’s proposed contract.
“They have a term in business called a MAC — Material Adverse Circumstances happen[ed] between the time that you shook hands and the time you did the deal,” Jones said after the owners’ Dec. 13 meetings in Irving, Texas. “It’s a very valid change of scenery. … Anybody who says we haven’t had any changes since last spring would be an exaggeration.”
Jones was granted an “owners only” session during those league meetings after Goodell’s extension was announced. While he could not block Goodell’s deal, he said he believes he was able to win something because of changes that will be made to the NFL’s way of doing business with the commissioner in the future.
Goodell and Jones were in the same room during a news conference that followed the meetings.
“Do I look like I take it personally? Jerry, do I look like I take it personally?” Goodell said, pointing to Jones. “No is the answer to that question. As I have said before, I think people disagree. People who have the ability to do that within the context of our structure is something that makes us stronger. My relationship with Jerry has been great. We don’t always agree. I’m not paid to agree, and he’s not paid to agree with me.”
Said Jones: “I hope Roger earns every dime. That means he’s doing a great job, and we’re doing good.”
Detroit Lions tell CB Desmond Trufant he’ll be released, source says
Trufant, 30, signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Lions before the 2020 season to be the team’s replacement for Darius Slay, who was traded to Philadelphia. Detroit still owes him $3.5 million in guaranteed money for 2021.
It never quite worked out for Trufant, who was the Week 1 starter, as he spent most of the season with hamstring issues that limited him to six games, one interception and four passes defended. He also ended up in a playing-time battle with rookie first-round pick Jeff Okudah and second-year pro Amani Oruwariye for outside spots. Trufant’s role as a No. 1 corner was in question for the 2021 season.
With both Oruwariye and Okudah under contract for the foreseeable future and being much younger, that made the 30-year-old Trufant expendable. He was scheduled to make $9.5 million in cash in 2021 and carry a cap hit of $12.5 million.
By releasing him, the Lions saved $3 million in cap space — and if he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut, $6.5 million. He will carry a $6 million cap charge for the Lions this year, according to Roster Management System.
On Tuesday, head coach Dan Campbell said the Lions needed competition at the cornerback position.
“We need competition in that area. We need depth in areas,” Campbell said. “We need competition. I mean just because for example, we’ve got two young cornerbacks, man, you still want competition. You want guys that they’re having to compete [with] that are able to push them, or they’re pushing for that starting position. I mean, it’s just healthy. It makes you better.”
Trufant, the former first-round pick for Atlanta in 2013, made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and has started all 103 games he’s played in during his career, making 14 interceptions with 83 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles and 7 fumble recoveries. He played all but last season with the Falcons.
Ben Roethlisberger signs with Pittsburgh Steelers for 2021 season
The Steelers announced a new contract for the quarterback Thursday afternoon but did not disclose the terms.
“It is my greatest honor to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and give my all for this organization,” Roethlisberger said in a statement issued by the team. “I am grateful to be at this stage of my career and more than happy to adjust my contract in a way that best helps the team address other players who are so vital to our success. I love this game and love to compete, and I believe in this team and my ability to deliver when called upon. It all starts with great preparation and I am ready to go.”
Roethlisberger was previously under contract for the 2021 season, though the team made it clear he could not return with the $41.2 million cap hit.
“We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same — to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.”
Roethlisberger, who turned 39 earlier this week, threw 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, his first after major elbow surgery following a season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2019 season.
Washington Football Team’s Jennifer King on making history as first Black woman to be full-time NFL coach
Jennifer King was named assistant running backs coach for the Washington Football Team in January. The assignment made her the first Black female full-time coach in the NFL. King, 36, previously served as a full-year coaching intern with the team. In her own words, King details her journey to the NFL and how she intends to inspire the next generation of female coaches.
Football was my first love.
I’m from a small town in North Carolina, and Friday night football is a big deal. My family would go to the “big game.” We were always at football games or watching them on TV. But never in my life did I think I’d be working in the NFL. I’ve played basketball, softball, some tennis and football. I coached basketball and softball, I’m a huge sports fan, and I love playing them. But, I never thought this was an option.
Becoming the first Black woman to coach full-time in the NFL is an unknown journey.
Zina Garrison was one of the first Black women I ever saw playing sports on TV. I started playing tennis because I watched her play on television. Garrison messaged me on social media when I was named assistant running backs coach for the Washington Football Team in January. That was special. She was one of my go-to people growing up. I always loved to watch her matches.
It’s been nice to receive messages from these idols, these great women. I even got a congratulations message from Billie Jean King. I’ve been able to speak with some incredible people in the past few weeks. I genuinely appreciate all the love and support people have shown me.
Those messages serve as a reminder that I need to help out the next generation of women coaches. I’ll be able to answer the questions they may have, I’ll provide guidance. I’ll at least try. I want to make that connection with them because they’re on deck to go next. Me being here is an example. It’s an example of the opportunity they could have one day.
Some think football is complicated [for women]. But I’ve never felt that. The game has given me so much. The friendships, the coaches, the teams — everything I’m getting now is just a bonus. This is just the icing on the cake.
And of course, there are critics or those talking on social media about me being named in this role. But I don’t read the comments. When my friends try to tell me what people are saying on Twitter, I reply, “I don’t care.” I don’t worry about the noise, and I don’t want them to worry about it either. I’ve always said that as long as Coach Ron Rivera and the people inside the Washington Football Team organization know that I’m supposed to be there and feel comfortable enough to have me in this position — because I earned it — that’s all that matters. And the team’s growth matters. What other people say doesn’t impact me.
So why would I worry about it?
It’s all on football right now. I want our running back group to be one of the best, if not the best, in the league, just in our production. And that’s just building on what we did last season. We had a pretty good run last year, but there’s still lots of room for improvement. I want to make sure they’re better. That’s my goal right now, and that’s all I’m focused on. You’ll see that as we win more games our confidence will build up. I’m here to shine a light on the next season.
The only time football disappointed me was when I couldn’t play. I played in the neighborhood and at school. The middle school and high school coaches wanted me to be a part of the team, but my parents wouldn’t let me because they were scared I’d get hurt. I started playing all the other sports, and I was fine with it. I was still able to go to games and cheer on my friends. But I didn’t know what would happen with football until I graduated college and started playing again, and I started coaching some then. That’s when I really reconnected with football.
I had the typical childhood dreams. I wanted to be a professional athlete or a police officer. I played tackle football professionally, and I was a police officer [in High Point, North Carolina, from 2014 to 2016, holding that position while coaching]. I knocked those goals off the list. But, I was always a natural leader, from pee-wee leagues to college. I’ve always been the kind of person who could handle a lot on their plate. In a way, this all adds up.
When I decided to make that jump from being a head coach for the [women’s basketball team at Johnson & Wales University – Charlotte] to going to the bottom of the totem pole of this unknown NFL journey, starting as a full-year coaching intern, at least to my face everyone has been very supportive of me pursuing this dream. I don’t know what they were saying behind my back. I have a great circle of friends, so they also encouraged me and were excited to see me start something new. My family has always been very supportive. Anything that I wanted to do, they supported me.
I’ve had great coaches and mentors along the way. When it was time for me to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, coaching was a natural fit. I started with coaching women’s college basketball at Greensboro College. That was my first job. It showed that you could have fun, work hard and win all at the same time. It wasn’t just like, grind, grind, grind, and not have any fun. That laid the foundation for my coaching philosophy.
Growing up, I wanted to win no matter what. I had to be the best. I didn’t care about trophies. I wanted them because they signified the win. As I started coaching, of course, we want to chase wins and championships, but I want my guys to have a good time doing it.
What I offer the Washington Football Team goes beyond my core coaching skills. I relate to the players. I’ve played and coached quite a bit now. I’m able to communicate and be a supportive voice for them. It’s important. And yes, I want to win, but I want those relationships to be strong because that’s what it’s about on the NFL level.
For next season, of course, I want to win the Super Bowl. I saw Tampa win, and I saw my friends [Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar] do it. I want to do that. That’s next. I’ve talked to Lori and Maral, and all of the eight women coaches in the NFL are all very happy for them. They did something great. Any year you get to win a Super Bowl is special because you never know if you’ll make it back. It’s also a celebration of the hard work you put in.
I’m a huge music fan, and I read a lot. And there’s a song that continues to inspire me when I think about all that I want to accomplish in the new year. I’m not even sure who initially performed it, but it’s called “Nobody Knows,” and it’s in an old Steph Curry commercial. [Louis Armstrong released “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” in 1958.] But, the chorus is, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” It speaks to struggle, and how the things you’ve overcome helps you get to where you are, where you should be. And it inspires me. It might not be an easy road, but you’ll get there.
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