ALL IS FORGIVEN

How latest Texans violations point to changing tide in football

Texans Roby, Fuller, Tunsil
Things will work out just fine for Will Fuller.Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Texans wide receiver and soon-to-be free agent Will Fuller got popped for performance enhancing drugs and is suspended for the rest of this season and the first game of the 2021 campaign.

One NFL "insider" – these days there are more media types professing to be insiders than outsiders – said Fuller's suspension "certainly will hinder his value in the open market." Tough luck, Will Fuller.

You've heard about Emmanuel Duron, the Edinburg High School defensive lineman who ran back onto the field and clobbered a referee after being ejected from a game last week against Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Early College High School (does that even fit on a jersey?) Duron was arrested, hauled off to jail, and his team was booted from the Texas state playoffs.

Duron's football career is surely over, no college in its right mind or even remotely concerned about its image would ever let him on its team now. Actions have consequences, Emmanuel Duron.

Seriously? Fuller is coming off his career season in his contract year, 57 catches and eight touchdowns. For the first time in his five years with the Texans, he was injury-free and started every game before his early dismissal. Fuller is a deep-threat, touchdown-making, supremely gifted and super-fast receiver.

Fuller, only 26, will get every dollar he would have gotten if his urine had been clean – and probably more.

Duron's collegiate future depends on how many quarterback sacks he's worth, not past transgressions.

The thing about football is, a player's criminal record, lapses in judgment and poor behavior have little bearing on future earnings. In Fuller's case, the suspension might even be a plus - that's six games he won't get injured.

It was only last year when Cleveland Browns' lineman Myles Garrett tore the helmet off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and used it as a weapon to whack Rudolph in the head. Garrett was suspended for the rest of the season.

This year Garrett signed a $125 million contract with the Browns, making him one of the highest-paid defensive players in NFL history.

Quarterback Michael Vick went to prison for two years in 2007 after being convicted on dog fighting and animal cruelty charges. You can't get more despicable than that. When he got out of jail, his skills in steep decline, the Eagles signed him to a $100 million contract. After he crapped out in Philadelphia, two more teams, the Jets and Steelers, paid him millions to keep playing.

Someone leaked a video of Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil wearing a gas mask and smoking something from a bong, mind you, on NFL draft day in 2016. This year our Houston Texans signed Tunsil to a $66 million contract extension. The real price of the contract was multiple early-round draft picks. That deal helped put the "former" in former Texans general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien's time in Houston.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver Antonio Brown is fresh off an 8-game suspension for felony burglary with battery charges. Over the years, he's been accused of multiple sexual assaults. He is one of the all-time bad teammates in NFL history. Possibly his biggest crime was appearing on the Masked Singer. With incentives, he could make $2.5 million this season.

Fuller paying the price for his PED suspension? He's closer to being named NFL's Man of the Year. Two years ago, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman was suspended for PEDs and named Super Bowl MVP in the same season. In 2018, 34 players were facing suspension for performance enhancing drugs heading into Week One. Ten players have been suspended for PEDs already this season.

The NFL is hardly a crime-free zone. In just the past five years, 195 NFL players have been arrested or charged with everything from drunk driving, strangulation, felony intimidation, armed robbery, public intoxication, insider trading, discharge of a weapon, illegal drugs and injury to the elderly. If the U.S. prison system had a football team, it would be 5-point favorites over the Houston Texans.

So don't be concerned about Will Fuller getting less money next year because of his PED suspension. The bidding will start around $85 million and reach $100 million. He's at the top of the list of free agent receivers.

As for Emmanuel Duron, the high schooler who physically attacked a referee, no worries there, either. In fact, by the time Duron is ready for the NFL, the Texans may have a first-round draft pick.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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