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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes incentivized Rooney Rule changes

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Mike Tomlin likes the discussion around an incentivized minority hiring process in the NFL.

On “Coffee with Cal,” hosted by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, on Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said he likes the idea of a change to the Rooney Rule that rewards teams for hiring minority candidates.

“We’ve always taken it from the approach of, punitive if you don’t interview minority candidates or things of that nature,” said Tomlin, who is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL. “I just like the different approach in terms of spinning it 180 and talking about maybe incentivizing those that develop the talent and those that hire the talent.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Tomlin is in favor of all the incentives recently discussed. NFL.com and ESPN reported earlier this month that owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams’ third-round draft picks by 6 or 10 spots if they hired a minority candidate for vacant GM or head-coaching openings, along with other compensation for hiring minority candidates for roles like quarterbacks coach.

Those resolutions, though, were tabled during the a conference call last week that replaced the league’s annual May owners meetings.

“We’re making some adjustments because we’re acknowledging right now that the system is broken, that minorities are not getting enough opportunity,” Tomlin said. “And we’re trying to just figure out how to stimulate that. … I agree it’s debatable about the value placed on the incentivized plan, but I just generally like the discussion.”

The league did approve some new measures in that call with the goal of improving diversity in coaching and front-office hiring. Teams are now required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.

In the past, the Rooney Rule stipulated only one minority candidate be interviewed for head coach and none for a coordinator position.

The Rooney Rule was also expanded to some executive positions, requiring teams and the league office to interview “minorities and/or female applicants” for positions like team president and “senior executives in communications, finance, Human Resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology and security.” And, to help strengthen the pool of candidates for minority head-coaching positions, every team is also required to establish a minority coaching fellowship program to “provide NFL Legends, minority and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching.”

Tomlin told Calipari that he will be talking with NBA coaches Tuesday about minority hiring.

“We have a problem with minority hiring, specifically in football,” Tomlin said. “But I guess that it’s an issue of minority hiring across a lot of industries and lines. I’m on with the NBA coaches tomorrow, actually, talking about things that are going on in our game with the Rooney Rule.”

Information from ESPN’s Dan Graziano was used in this report.

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NFL unveils Oakley Mouth Shield to combat coronavirus

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In the name of health and safety, NFL players could be sporting a whole new look in 2020.

The Oakley Mouth Shield — a product designed by doctors and engineers from the NFL and NFL Players Association to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on the field of play — is expected to be distributed to all 32 teams over the next week, when it will receive a test drive on a much larger scale than it has gotten to date.

Safety protocol negotiations are ongoing between the league and players. Currently, there is no mandate to wear a face shield, but the NFL’s medical experts are advocating for the use of the protective equipment.

“That’s certainly what we’re going to encourage,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “And we hope that we’re going to land on a product design that’s something that everyone would want to wear, because they’ll see the value and want that additional protection without any detriment to performance.”

The Oakley Prizm Lens Technology used by skiers, military personnel and, most recently, NFL players for enhanced color and contrast in their visors, is featured in the new design. Plastic sheets extend down and attach to the faceguard. There are airways and openings on the mouth shield but none that allow the direct transmission of droplets, according to the chair of the NFL’s engineering committee, Dr. Jeff Crandall.

The mouth shield has already been distributed to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers — two teams close to Oakley’s home base — per NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer, and has also been sent to various player representatives and equipment managers for feedback.

The two biggest concerns to date have been visibility and breathe-ability, according to Mayer.

“We’ve only had it on a few players — we have 2,500 players in the league — but I was surprised that … claustrophobia has not been an issue yet,” he said. “I think it will be when we [have more players testing them].”

Houston Texans star defensive lineman J.J. Watt, for one, is firmly against the idea of wearing a face shield.

“My second year in the league I thought it’d be cool, I put a visor on my helmet,” Watt told ProFootballTalk. “I was like, ‘It looks so cool, I wanna put a visor on.’ I had it on for about three periods of practice and I said, ‘Take this sucker off — I’m gonna die out here.’ … So now you’re gonna put something around my mouth? You can keep that. If that comes into play, I don’t think you’re gonna see me on the field.”

The current design, however, is the result of an iterative process based in large part on player feedback, with comfort and functionality top of mind along with protection. Quarterbacks who tested them recently were able to effectively call out plays, Mayer said, following initial responses that the sound was too muffled. There was also broad consideration given to field of view.

Crandall said that Oakley has conducted internal testing in which it has sprayed particles of fluid to represent droplets expelled by players and has seen a high success rate of blocked transmission.

“I don’t know that there’s a direct percentage that anyone’s come up with because a laboratory is not the on-field environment, obviously,” Crandall said. “There’s lots of things that players do on the fields that they’re not easily replicating [in] the laboratory, but it is a significant blockage to transmission of droplets. There is no straight pathway through the face shield or visor for a droplet to be transmitted.”

While Oakley is the official supplier of the NFL, there are other manufacturers of face shields, and players may end up using other brands as well in 2020, according to chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL partnership Renie Anderson.

Mayer called football “probably the perfect milieu or petri dish in which to transmit the virus,” given that it is a contact sport involving a large number of players. The NFL and NFLPA are hoping the different safety measures they are taking, including the introduction of the Mouth Shield, will lead to a safer environment.

“Just like everything we do, whether we’re talking about better cleats or better performing helmets, it’s all about something that’s safer and yet also protects and in many cases enhances performance,” Sills said. “That’s the same mantra and the same sort of approach that we’re taking here. I’m really pleased with how the work is going along. We’re not at a finished product yet. Like most things in health safety, there’s really no finish line here. So we’re hoping to continue to innovate and improve as we go along. But we’re excited about where we are and excited about the potential role this may play in risk mitigation on the field.”

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Better, worse or the same? A look at the Rams’ changes on offense – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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Better, worse or the same?

That’s the question facing the Los Angeles Rams as they attempt to bounce back from an inconsistent 9-7 season that kept them from a third consecutive playoff appearance.

Unlike the past two years, the Rams offseason transactions did not draw overwhelming excitement, as their most notable moves included running back Todd Gurley’s release and the decision to trade receiver Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans.

So now, with free agency mostly in the rearview, and the NFL draft complete, it’s time to look at the Rams’ roster to determine if, based on personnel changes, they improved this offseason.

Let’s start with the offense.

Quarterbacks

Additions: None

Losses: Blake Bortles (Unsigned)

These guys are back: Jared Goff, John Wolford

Better, worse or the same: Worse

This designation has nothing to do with Goff, but reflects the backup situation. Goff has never missed a start since he was promoted 10 games into his rookie season (with the exception of Week 17 of 2017, when coach Sean McVay rested starters). However, last season the experienced Bortles — who once helped the Jacksonville Jaguars to an AFC Championship Game appearance — provided insurance that the Rams’ season could sustain a Goff injury.

An undrafted free agent in 2018 from Wake Forest, Wolford has never played in a regular-season NFL game.

“We love Jared,” McVay said this offseason. “And there’s a lot of upside to a John Wolford.”

In four preseason games last year, Wolford completed 25 of 44 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He spent the season on the practice squad.

Running backs

Additions: Cam Akers (Second-round pick)

Losses: Todd Gurley (Atlanta Falcons)

These guys are back: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, John Kelly

Better, worse or the same: Worse

Gurley’s production declined last season, but he remained an above-average back who commanded respect from opposing defenses as a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Henderson, Akers and Brown do not stoke that same fear in a defense. At least not yet.

Henderson played in 8% of the offensive snaps as a rookie. He flashed in a Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers when he rushed 22 and 14 yards on consecutive carries. But it’s to be determined whether Henderson is a feature back.

Akers could provide a strong presence between the tackles, but growing pains are expected after the rookie missed on-field instruction because of the virtual offseason program.

A sixth-year pro, Brown provides experience and is dependable — he rushed for a career-high five touchdowns last season. But expect the young backs to be featured after the Rams recently invested in them with early draft picks.

“What we wanted to do was get a group that we felt really good about,” McVay said. “This enables us to say, ‘We’re not necessarily committed to any approach, it’s a feel for the flow of the game.’ But you’d like everybody to create a role for themselves, and we’ll see what ends up happening then.”

Receivers

Additions: Van Jefferson (Second-round pick), Greg Dortch (Two-year, $1.5 deal)

Losses: Brandin Cooks (Houston Texans)

These guys are back: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster

Better, worse or the same: Same

Cooks’ speed and ability to stretch a defense is a considerable loss. However, last season Cooks and Goff never established a consistent connection, as Cooks caught 42 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns.

Reynolds and Jefferson can provide a fresh look.

A fourth-round pick in 2017, Reynolds served mostly as a backup the past three seasons, but filled in as a starter when needed. In 48 games, Reynolds caught 61 passes for 832 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rams expect that he will, or at least play a significantly increased role, this season.

“He’s a guy that we have a lot of confidence in,” McVay said. “We would not have made the move on Brandin Cooks if had not been for the confidence that we have in Josh Reynolds.”

McVay touts Jefferson’s ability to separate and catch the ball and ranks him among the best receivers in a loaded draft class. After the virtual offseason program, it’s uncertain exactly how the rookie will fit into the offense, but his versatility will be key.

“Van really provides the opportunity to play all three spots,” McVay said. “He’s a really polished route runner.”

Woods and Cooks return after 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons in 2019.

Tight ends

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2:10

Matthew Berry shares how fantasy managers should handle Tyler Higbee in the draft.

Additions: Brycen Hopkins (Fourth-round pick)

Losses: None

These guys are back: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blanton

Better, worse or the same: Better

Watch for McVay’s offense to utilize two tight ends more often after the Rams found late-season success last year in 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends).

Higbee proved himself as a playmaker in the final five games of 2019, when he caught 43 passes for 522 yards.

Everett, entering the final season of his rookie contract, has played well at times, but also is an inconsistent presence. Last season, he caught 37 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns.

When Hopkins remained available in the fourth round of the draft, the Rams could not pass on the opportunity to select the Purdue product. As a senior last season, Hopkins caught 61 passes for 830 yards and seven touchdowns.

“We really like our tight end room right now,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “But we had him highly rated and felt like he could come in and carve out a role early.”

With Cooks gone, watch for the tight ends to play an increased role in the passing game.

Offensive line

Additions: Tremayne Anchrum Jr. (Seventh-round pick)

Losses: None

These guys are back: Andrew Whitworth (Three-year, $30 million deal), Austin Blythe (One-year, $3.9 million deal), Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Chandler Brewer, Jamil Demby, Coleman Shelton

Better, worse or the same: Same

The line did not undergo any personnel changes this offseason, with the exception of Anchrum’s addition.

Snead and McVay expressed optimism in the group’s ability to continue its development following last season’s injuries (starters Noteboom, Allen and Havenstein were sidelined) and growing pains.

“We felt confident that if we continue grooming and developing these players, they’d have a chance to become a really solid offensive line,” Snead said.

The challenge will be finding the correct combination of five starters after each position shuffled in 2019, with exception of Whitworth at left tackle.

Havenstein and Evans will compete at right tackle, and Evans also could play inside. It’s uncertain if Blythe will remain at center, or if Allen will resume the role. Noteboom, Corbett and Edwards also will compete for a guard spot.

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Washington NFL team says it will retire Redskins name, logo

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The Washington Redskins announced Monday that they will be retiring their nickname and logo after completing a thorough review that began on July 3.

“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in a statement.

“Dan Snyder and Coach (Ron) Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”

It had been widely expected that Washington would change its name, and one source said Saturday night that an announcement of a new name would come soon.

Sports Business Daily reported that announcement of the new name is delayed because because trademark issues are pending.

Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the franchise would not use any Native American imagery. Washington’s logo of an American Indian chief had been designed by a Native American in 1971.

Another source told ESPN that the plan, as of now, is to retain the franchise’s use of burgundy and gold colors. Coach Ron Rivera had said the team wanted to include the military in its new name, as well.

The franchise said on July 3 that it would undergo a thorough review of its 87-year-old name that some viewed as offensive. By that point, multiple sources said, team owner Dan Snyder already was engaged in talks with the league about a possible new name. Multiple sources said the name would be changing, but there was nothing official from the team.

Snyder had, for years, resisted any consideration to change the name — telling USA Today in 2013 to “put it in all caps” that he would never make such a move. Some who have worked for Snyder said they believed he would rather sell the team than use a new name. While it’s uncertain what the next name will be, it is one a source close to the situation said Snyder was excited about.

Snyder had owned the rights in the Washington area to any possible expansion by the Arena Football League, and he was expected to name that team the Warriors, even attempting to trademark the name — a quest he had abandoned.

Snyder and the franchise were under more pressure to change Washington’s nickname after the protests against social injustice began following the May death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Within a few weeks after Floyd’s death, multiple sources said Snyder had been discussing the name for several weeks with the league.

During that time, a letter signed by 87 investors and shareholders with a total worth of $620 billion was sent to sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, asking them to stop doing business with the team unless the name was changed. When that was reported in an Adweek.com story on July 1, multiple people — including current and former employees — echoed the same thought: It’s over. Most, if not all, were unaware that a possible change was already in the works.

On July 2, FedEx issued a statement saying it had told the team it wanted the name changed. The other sponsors later released statements saying the same. Amazon said it would stop selling Redskins merchandise. Walmart and Target said it would stop selling their gear in stores. And, according to The Washington Post, FedEx said it would remove its signage from the stadium unless the name was changed for the 2021 season.

FedEx signed a 27-year deal for $205 million in 1998. The company’s owner and CEO, Fred Smith, has been a minority shareholder in the franchise since 2003. However, according to multiple reports, he and the other minority investors, Dwight Schar and Bob Rothman, want to sell their stakes.

Snyder, his sister, Michele, and his mother, Arlette, own 60% of the franchise.

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