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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Rudolph's agent: Garrett legally liable after ESPN interview

Sat Feb 15 2:09pm ET
By TOM WITHERS and WILL GRAVES

Players: Mason Rudolph

In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett leaves an office building in New York. Suspended Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett met Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his possible reinstatement, a person familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)


The agent for Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph says Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett opened himself up for potential legal action after reiterating his claim that Rudolph used a racial slur shortly before their infamous brawl in November.

During an interview with ESPN, his first since being hit with a suspension after slugging Rudolph in the head with Rudolph's own helmet in the final seconds of a Browns win on Nov. 14, Garrett said Rudolph called the defensive end ''the N-word.''

Rudolph, as he did when Garrett made the claim while appealing the suspension in November, called the allegation ''a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character.'' Tim Younger, Rudolph's agent, went a step further. Because Garrett conducted the interview in California, Younger said Garrett's ''defamatory statement'' has now exposed the former No. 1 pick to ''legal liability.''

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin also came to Rudolph's defense. Tomlin said he interacted with ''a lot'' of people within the Browns' organization in the aftermath of the fight and that no player or coach indicated there was a racial element to the incident.

''In my conversations (with the Browns), I had a lot of sorrow for what transpired,'' Tomlin said in a statement.

The NFL said there was no evidence of Rudolph using a slur when it handed out an indefinite suspension to Garrett, a suspension which ended when he was reinstated earlier this week. Garrett, however, hinted the league may know more that it has revealed.

''Most quarterbacks wear mics in their helmets. He somehow lost his helmet and had to get another one without a mic,'' Garrett told ESPN. ''There were guys who were mic'd up near me - near us - during that time who didn't hear anything. And from what I've heard, there have been audio during that game that could have heard something or could not have heard something, but they don't want to say. So, something was said. I know something was said and whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it, that's up to them.''

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy referred to the league's original finding in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.

''As we said at the time the allegation was made, we looked into the matter and found no such evidence,'' said McCarthy. ''There was no sound recorded from the field during that game. As with every game, there were microphones on the center or interior linemen that help amplify the ambient sound as the quarterbacks were calling signals at the line of scrimmage. But they do not record sound. Microphones are opened from the break of the huddle (or when the center places his hand on the ball in a no-huddle offense) through the snap of the ball.''

Although Garrett insists Rudolph used the slur to provoke, the former No. 1 overall draft pick wants to put the incident behind him.

''But I don't want to make it a racial thing, honestly,'' he said. ''It's over with for me and I am pretty sure it's over with for Mason, so we just move past that and keep on playing football.''

Player Notes
Ty Johnson Feb 15 11:10pm ET

Detroit Lions running back Ty Johnson won't be a guarantee to make the team's roster going into training camp, in the opinion of The Athletic's Chris Burke. Johnson, a sixth-round pick in 2019, ended his rookie season with 63 carries for 273 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and no touchdowns on the ground. The Lions notably didn't give him a very big workload when Kerryon Johnson was hurt last year either, and he'll have to compete with Bo Scarbrough, J.D. McKissic, Tra Carson and Wes Hills for depth behind Kerryon Johnson this summer. Even if he makes the roster out of camp, Johnson won't be guaranteed many touches as the second or third running back.

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Jameis Winston Feb 15 11:00pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that the team remains undecided on whether to keep quarterback Jameis Winston or move on from the former first overall draft pick. Arians said they probably won't know what direction they are headed until the start of the three-day legal free-agent tampering period from March 16-18. If Tampa uses a franchise tag on Winston, he'll be guaranteed around $27 million on a one-year deal. The fact that the Buccaneers are waiting to see which quarterbacks become available doesn't really inspire much confidence that they want to retain him. Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and set a franchise record with 33 touchdown passes, but he also tossed a league-high 30 interceptions and lost five fumbles. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at receiver, Winston will have his highest fantasy value as a strong QB1 if he remains in Tampa, but that won't be up to him.

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Robby Anderson Feb 15 11:00pm ET

The New York Jets are highly unlikely to re-sign impending free-agent wide receiver Robby Anderson, according to league sources. Anderson is expected to receiver $13 to $15 million annually on a multi-year deal on the open market, but Gang Green would like to sign him for just $10 million annually. Because the 26-year-old will be one of the better receivers on the open market, his price will be driven up despite the fact that he had just 779 yards on 52 catches for five touchdowns. Anderson also has yet to produce a 1,000-yard season in four years in the NFL, but he will get paid, and it's unlikely to come from the Jets. The Temple alum could be a fantasy sleeper if he lands in the right situation next month.

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Rashaad Penny Feb 15 11:00pm ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (knee), whose 2019 season ended in early December when he suffered a torn ACL, said he got back on an exercise bike earlier this week. The 24-year-old second-year back is ahead of schedule in his recovery, but he still might be a question mark to be ready for Week 1 in 2020. The former first-round pick could be a candidate for the Physically Unable to Perform list if he's not ready, which would keep him out the first six weeks. In 10 games for Seattle last year, Penny had 65 carries for 370 yards and three scores. If he can stay healthy for a full season, Penny has the skills to be relevant in all point-per-reception leagues. Monitor his progress this spring and through the summer.

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A.J. Bouye Feb 15 10:50pm ET

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Leonard Fournette Feb 15 10:40pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars must decide this offseason if they will pick up running back Leonard Fournette's $10.1 million fifth-year option for 2021. It's an interesting decision because they are limited for salary cap space, so they could decline the option and wait to see how he performs in 2020 before considering a contract extension. The 25-year-old had 265 carries for a career-high 1,152 yards, but he rushed for only three touchdowns in 15 games. It's Fournette's second 1,000-yard season in his three seasons. Despite the lack of TDs in 2019, he should be seen as an RB1 in a run-first offense next season. He has yet to play in a full season, though, so he's a bit risky as an RB1.

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Nick Foles Feb 15 10:40pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars need to continue searching for a franchise quarterback. Rookie Gardner Minshew showed flashes in 2019, but he'll need to prove he's more than just a game manager in a larger sample size. The team could also seek to find a trade partner for Nick Foles, who flopped as a big free-agent acquisition in 2019. Because of the presence of Minshew on the roster, Foles likely doesn't have much of a future in Jacksonville, and his lack of mobility limits his production with Jacksonville's offensive line a work in progress. Foles broke his collarbone in the season opener and played in just four games while being benched after he returned from injury. Even if he wins the starting job heading into next season, he'll be a midrange QB2, at best.

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Kwon Alexander Feb 14 5:40pm ET

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander (biceps), who had surgery on his pectoral muscle last season, was also dealing with a biceps injury and is undergoing surgery on Friday, according to sources. Alexander should be fully recovered in time for the 2020 season. The 25-year-old played in just eight games in 2019 in his first season with San Fran because of his pectoral injury. In those eight contests, Alexander had 34 tackles (22 solo), half a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. He's played in just 14 games the last two seasons and will need to stay on the field if he wants to remain with the 49ers past the 2020 season.

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Paul Richardson Feb 14 5:30pm ET

The Washington Redskins released wide receiver Paul Richardson and cornerback Josh Norman on Friday. Richardson, 27, was due to make $6.5 million this year, but he caught just 48 passes in 17 games in his two seasons and made almost $17 million in that span. Norman, 32, played just 53 percent of the defensive snaps last season and fell down the depth chart late in the year for his poor play. He was scheduled to make $12 million in 2020. Norman didn't make one Pro Bowl in his four seasons in D.C. and had seven interceptions. Richardson could latch on elsewhere as a deep threat and bounce back, but he will need to stay healthy.

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Kenyan Drake Feb 14 5:20pm ET

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Patrick Peterson Feb 14 11:10am ET

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said that the team has had initial contract-extension talks with cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is heading into the final year of his contract. Peterson, a fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been one of the best cover corners in his nine seasons in the NFL. He missed the first six games of last season due to suspension and finished 2019 with 53 total tackles (46 solo), one sack, one forced fumble and two interceptions. He had a falling out with Arizona recently, but he has gone back on trade demands and is willing to remain in the desert.

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David Johnson Feb 14 11:00am ET

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Tyrod Taylor Feb 13 10:00pm ET

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Diontae Johnson Feb 13 9:40pm ET

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Philip Rivers Feb 13 3:50pm ET

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Ben Roethlisberger Feb 13 2:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that "all signs are good to this point" with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow), who will have a medical checkup on Feb. 21. The team's medical staff has constantly been working with Big Ben, and Colbert said Roethlisberger could be better than he was a year ago. The 37-year-old (38 in March) played in just two games in 2019 before requiring right elbow surgery. It will be tough for him to be better than he was in 2018 (5,129 yards, 34 touchdowns), but Big Ben could still have QB1 upside in 2020. The smart play is to take him as a QB2 with some upside in fantasy drafts, though. A healthy Big Ben will be great news for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was a huge bust in 2019.

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Anthony Firkser Feb 13 2:20pm ET

The Tennessee Titans agreed on a one-year contract extension with tight end Anthony Firkser on Thursday. Firkser was on track to become an exclusive-rights free agent in March. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The Harvard alum had two big touchdown catches in the playoffs and hauled in 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in 15 games during the regular season. Firkser caught three passes for 45 yards and the two scores in the postseason. Tennessee might be moving on from veteran Delanie Walker this offseason, but even so, Firkser will likely back up Jonnu Smith in 2020, making him a fantasy afterthought.

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Matthew Stafford Feb 13 12:20pm ET

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn refuted a Wednesday night report that the team is in talks to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford. "100% False!!" Quinn wrote in a text message to the Free Press. Stafford is entering his 12th season in the NFL and threw for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions while setting a career-high passer rating in just eight games before suffering a back injury that caused him to miss the rest of the season. Detroit has the No. 3 pick in the draft, prompting speculation that they could move on from Stafford and select another QB. Stafford gives the Lions the best chance to win in 2020, and the team would incur a $32 million salary cap hit if they trade him.

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Matthew Stafford Feb 13 10:23am ET

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford is the subject of trade rumors, but general manager Bob Quinn stated the rumors are '100 percent false.'

Fantasy Spin: Stafford was third in fantasy points per game at the position, but he missed half of the season. He'll be a midrange QB1 with some injury risk next season.

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Kenny Golladay Feb 13 12:53am ET

Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay is reportedly not concerned that a contract extension will get done at some point as he enters the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. 'I wouldn't mind being in Detroit for a while. Everything should work itself out. I'm enjoying myself,' Golladay told USA TODAY's Doug Farrar.

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