NFL IN THE CROSS HAIRS

To collude or not to collude, that is the question

Colin Kaepernick and now Eric Reid might expose more issues in the NFL. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Word hit the NFL Wednesday that former 49ers safety Eric Reid, brother of newly drafted Texans safety Justin Reid, has followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead in filing a grievance against the league alleging collusion to keep him from playing. The doubling of players filing collusion grievances will return to an afterthought again while the offseason rolls on, but I thought I would take a moment and address this and its potential impact on the league, which could go beyond the original intent.

First, Kaepernick is and continues to be a lightning rod in the NFL and its relation to politics and community interaction. When he began his protest, it split the country into groups either for or against him. His original intent was lost in the narrative of divisive political pandering that even the President of the United States Donald Trump used opposition to it as an issue to rally his base.

One such owner who has gotten himself into hot water over this and other issues is Texans owner Bob McNair. His comments in a league meeting about “inmates running the prison” was widely denounced at the time it was leaked, but further quotes from him have showed he is completely against the protest.

It was no surprise then that he was deposed this past March in the Colin Kaepernick case. He was not the only one, as Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has also been under the spotlight. But to many it was easy to look hard at the Texans. Especially in 2017 when starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, who plays a similar style as Kaepernick, went down with a season ending injury and it was obvious his replacement wasn’t very good.

But it has been six months since his grievance was filed. More importantly it has been seven weeks since Eric Reid hit free agency and has had only one conversation with an NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals. During that conversation Reid was asked directly about whether he would continue his protest and when he declined to provide a commitment that he would stop, he was left without an offer.

In their minds, and in the minds of others; both players are being blackballed because of their protest. Both players remain committed to it and both remain unsigned. But the interesting argument against them is simply their perceived lack of talent. And neither player can make a clear case that their play on the field makes them a shoe-in for the 53-man roster of an NFL team.

But in the bigger picture, the Kaepernick case is moving forward and the discovery process will include communications from owners across the league. Reid has hired the same attorney, Mark Geragos, to handle his case and will be privy to the same evidence. What comes out of that may or may not be damning, but it could expose how owners communicate their displeasure with players on any number of issues.

Beyond just collusion against these two players, there may be others who have ruffled a few feathers and have subsequently been withheld from rosters by owner collusion. Evidence may also show how much corporate sponsors play a role in this protest. Papa John’s Pizza has already been exposed in this regard. It’s not a stretch to assume that a lot the league’s dirty laundry may be aired during this process.

At a time when the NFL is facing bad PR from these anthem protests; they are also still dealing with the blowback from domestic violence incidents and the focus on head injuries, as well as other concerns from the public. They can ill afford more secrets being spilled. They also can’t afford to have more players jumping on this grievance claim, which is why they will have to throw everything they have at this to keep it out of the courts.

I can’t say what will happen because I’m sure both Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid will try their best to expose the ugly truth. They may not settle for anything less than an open airing of what has really kept them off an NFL roster.

As a final thought, how will this affect Texans rookie Justin Reid? His brother has just filed a grievance related to the anthem protest. Will he take up the mantle and kneel during the national anthem? Or will Bob McNair put the kibosh on it before he has a chance to start?

 



 

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Things are quickly changing. Composite photo by Jack Brame

Proving that things can always get worse, the Houston Texans(1-6) hit rock bottom losing to the Green Bay Packers 36-20 Sunday at NRG Stadium. The Packers (5-1) extended their winning streak at NRG stadium to 6-0.

All phases of the Texans defense failed to stop the Packers' marching orders. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was good for 23-34 throwing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores went to Davante Adams, who had a career day with 13 receptions for 196 yards.

With Gareon Conley still on the IR, defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver moved cornerback Lonnie Johnson to safety. The move did not pan out. The Texans played man coverage instead of zone, which led to Adams having his big day. Houston's corners stunk up the joint, too.

The offense wasn't anything to brag about, either. Quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to struggle with a lack of talent surrounding him. Is there a less effective running back tandem than David Johnson and Duke Johnson? While DeAndre Hopkins was having his 34th career 100-yard game for the Arizona Cardinals, running back David Johnson, who the Texans received in trade for Hopkins, delivered another lackluster performance, rushing for 42 yards on 14 attempts. Johnson is making $12 million this year and averaging less than four yards per carry. Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake (Arizona), Antonio Gibson (Washington), and James Robinson (Jacksonville) all are averaging more than four yards, and all three of their salaries combined are less than Johnson's. Sorry Houston, you won't see a return on the David Johnson investment.

Looking forward

The Texans franchise is clearly foundering. Former multi-untalented general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien didn't just leave a 0-4 record, he left a dumpster wildfire that may take the Texans years to extinguish. While other losing teams may be "Tanking for Trevor," the Texans are bereft of first and second round picks next year.

Last season, the AFC South saw the emergence of the Tennessee Titans and the division is even stronger now. If the New York Jets are in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and that plays out, current Jets' quarterback Sam Darnold could be heading to the Indianapolis Colts. The years of winning empty titles in a weak division are over for the Texans. Davante Adams' performance Sunday made one thing painfully clear to Texans fans: second-tier coaches directing third-tier players is a recipe for disaster.

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