NFL notebook: Brady suspension back on table
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could again be facing a four-game suspension for the scandal known as Deflategate after federal appeals court judges spent time Thursday shredding some of his union's favorite arguments for dismissal.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan gave a players' union lawyer a tough time, with Circuit Judge Denny Chin even saying evidence of ball tampering was “compelling, if not overwhelming,” and there was evidence to support a finding that Brady “knew about it, consented to it, encouraged it.”
“How do we as appellate judges reviewing an arbitrator's decision second-guess the four-game suspension?” Chin asked attorney Jeffrey Kessler of the NFL Players Association.
The appeals court did not immediately rule, but it seemed to lean heavily at times against the union's arguments, raising the prospect that the suspension Brady was supposed to start last September before a judge nullified it may begin next season instead.
The appeals panel seemed receptive to the NFL's argument that it was fair for commissioner Roger Goodell to severely penalize one of the game's greatest quarterbacks after concluding he tarnished the game by impeding the league's investigation into deflated footballs, including destroying a cellphone containing nearly 10,000 messages. The league had concluded that deflated balls were used when the Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts at the January 2015 AFC championship game before they went on to win the Super Bowl.
Judge Barrington D. Parker said the cellphone-destruction issue raised the stakes “from air in a football to compromising the integrity of a proceeding that the commissioner had convened.”
“An adjudicator looking at these facts, it seems to me, might conclude that the cellphone had incriminating information on it and that, in the teeth of an investigation, it was deliberately destroyed,” Parker said. “So why couldn't the commissioner suspend Mr. Brady for that conduct alone?”
“With all due respect, Mr. Brady's explanation of that made no sense whatsoever,” Parker said.
Kessler said the league's investigator never asked for the phone.
Neither Goodell nor Brady was in court Thursday. A decision could take weeks or months.
Texans cut rushing leader Foster
Arian Foster's time with the Texans ended after seven seasons.
The four-time Pro Bowler, who was scheduled to make $6.5 million this season, was released after a season where he missed 12 games with groin and Achilles tendon injuries.
The 29-year old spent time on the practice squad before rising to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards in 2010.
Foster ran for 1,246 yards in 2014 for the fourth 1,000-yard rushing season of his career.
He leaves Houston with a franchise-record 6,472 yards rushing and was also a threat out of the backfield, grabbing 249 receptions for 2,268 yards in his career. He rebounded with his big season in 2014 before finishing with a career-low 163 yards rushing in his injury-plagued 2015 campaign.
Foster is recovering from surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon and has said that he plans to play this season.
Future Super Bowls site to be decided in May
Sites for the Super Bowls in 2019, 2020 and 2021 will be decided at the NFL owners' meetings in May in Charlotte, N.C.
The league's Super Bowl Advisory Committee announced Atlanta, Los Angeles, South Florida and Tampa would be in the running for Super Bowls 54 and 55. Previously, New Orleans, Atlanta, South Florida and Tampa were chosen as finalists for Super Bowl 53 in February 2019.
Next year's game is in Houston. The 2018 Super Bowl is in Minneapolis, where the Vikings will open their new stadium for the upcoming season.
Panthers release longtime DE Johnson
The Panthers released longtime defensive end Charles Johnson, a move that will save the team $11 million under the 2016 NFL salary cap.
Johnson started nine games for Carolina in 2015 but struggled with hamstring injuries and missed seven games while on short-term injured reserve.
He had one sack in the regular season and registered three sacks in three postseason games.
Johnson, who spent all nine seasons with the Panthers, had 63.5 sacks — second-most in franchise history. He recorded at least nine sacks in four consecutive years from 2010-13 and had a career-high 12.5 in 2012.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman says Johnson “was an impact player for the Carolina Panthers for a long time, both on and off the field.”
Haynesworth recalls brain aneurysms
Former Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth told a Nashville radio station that brain aneurysms nearly killed him in November 2014.
“Nobody really knows: I almost died,” he told 104.5 FM while attending the Ohio Valley women's basketball tournament. “I had two brain aneurysms that were nearly rupturing. I went and talked to my doctor in Florida, and he was like, ‘Man, your blood pressure is through the roof. I'm going to admit you.' They did a lot of tests and found the aneurysm that was rupturing at that point.”
He had surgery and stayed in intensive care for 11 days at a Fort Lauderdale hospital, he said.
Ravens cut LB Smith, DE Canty
The Ravens released linebacker Daryl Smith and cut ties with defensive end Chris Canty, moves designed to create salary cap space.
Smith led the Ravens with 121 tackles last season. He never missed a start in three seasons with Baltimore, surpassing 120 tackles each year.
Smith played nine seasons with Jacksonville before coming to the Ravens. He turns 34 late this month.
Canty joined the Ravens in 2013. The 11-year veteran had 83 tackles in 35 games with Baltimore, but missed significant time with injuries.
Around the league
The Jaguars cut guard Zane Beadles and defensive end Chris Clemons, saving the team $9.5 million against the 2016 salary cap. … The Titans re-signed running back Antonio Andrews to a one-year contract. … The Chargers released linebacker Donald Butler, who had five seasons remaining on a seven-year, $51.8 million contract extension he signed in 2014.