It’s no surprise that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has officially filed a notice of appeal for the six-game suspension the NFL placed on him over the league’s conclusion that its 2016 rushing leader injured his former girlfriend in three separate incidents last summer.
The union said Tuesday it would represent Elliott “to ensure that the NFL is held to its obligation of adhering to principles of industrial due process under the collective bargaining agreement.”
The NFL suspended Elliott last week after a yearlong investigation into an Ohio domestic violence case that prosecutors declined to pursue. Elliott’s attorneys blasted Commission Roger Goodell‘s ruling, saying the league “cherry-picked” evidence to reach its conclusion.
The Cowboys open the regular season Sept. 10 at home against the New York Giants.
The Miami Dolphins limped to the end of training camp Tuesday, and it’s difficult to argue they’re better than when they started.
Even by NFL standards, injuries have taken a heavy toll, and the latest will sideline cornerback Tony Lippett for the entire season. Lippett tore his Achilles tendon during practice Monday and will need surgery.
“He jumped up and then came down,” coach Adam Gase said. “No one touched him. That was it.”
So it has gone for the Dolphins, who lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season when he tore his left ACL on a scramble without being touched. Rookie Raekwon McMillan, projected to start at middle linebacker, is also out for the season after tearing his right ACL on his first play in the first exhibition game. And starting guard Ted Larsen is expected to miss much of the season with a torn right biceps.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Gase said.
Lippett, who started 13 games last year and had four interceptions, was expected to be the No. 3 cornerback behind Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. Walt Aikens, Alterraun Verner, and rookie Cordrea Tankersley will compete to replace Lippett.
“Any time you lose a guy who started every game for you last year, that’s not ideal,” Gase said. “But that’s why we’ve collected the depth we have.”
The Dolphins decided they didn’t have enough depth at quarterback, so they coaxed veteran Jay Cutler out of retirement with a $10 million, one-year deal to replace Tannehill. Cutler will make his Dolphins debut when he starts Thursday’s exhibition game against Baltimore.
Other injuries have slowed preparations for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10. Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi was removed Tuesday from the concussion protocol, just as reserve running back Kenyan Drake entered it after being injured a day earlier.
Ajayi, who had a breakout season last year, missed two weeks of practice after being hurt in a non-contact drill.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “You want to be out there with your teammates, practicing and grinding. It’s the time we’re all working on our craft to be better; but at the same time, it is better that it happened now during the preseason.”
The Dolphins have also been without five ailing receivers, although none is a starter.
As if conceding to the injury tsunami, Gase dialed back the intensity and switched to a short indoor walkthrough for the final training camp practice.
“We’ve been going pretty hard,” he said. “The guys have really been working in some pretty extreme temperatures at practice, and nobody said anything and just kept working. We had some guys banged up and fairly tired, and I just thought it was a good chance for us to get work in, but at the same time kind of rest them up a little bit.”
The Dolphins failed to meet perhaps the biggest goal of training camp, which is to stay healthy. But their second-year head coach said the most serious injuries have been the kind that can’t be prevented.
“We haven’t had a ton of soft tissue injuries, which really is the biggest thing you’re preparing for,” Gase said. “You do everything you can physically in the weight room, and try to prepare yourself, and try to schedule practice right, and not fatigue your guys to the point where their bodies are breaking down. But training camp is meant to be hard. It’s meant to harden you up. It’s meant to get you in condition. So you’re not going to prevent everything.”
Lynch declined to comment on why he chose to sit down Saturday night while the rest of his teammates stood during the anthem before a game in Arizona against the Cardinals.
That left his teammates to answer for him on Tuesday after the team returned for its first practice since that game.
“I’m proud of him,” tight end Jared Cook said. “I think it’s awesome. Everybody has points of discussion after what happened in Charlottesville just the night before. I think it’s important for men in our position to step up and speak on unnecessary situations we find ourselves in as minorities in this country. That’s why I’m proud of him.”
Cook said he hadn’t talked to Lynch about his stance and didn’t know what specifically he was protesting. Other players who have declined to stand for the anthem have been much more open about their reasons, starting with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest last year over police brutality and racial oppression made it a major issue in the NFL.
“We didn’t talk to him,” Cook said. “I don’t know his intentions. I don’t know what he wanted to do by it. But I know that guys like Colin Kaepernick have become my favorite football players for doing it.”
Kaepernick is not on a team this season, but the issue remains with Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett and Lynch both sitting for the anthem last weekend.
Bennett has been vocal about his reasons why, citing social injustice. He said his decision was solidified by the violence last weekend surrounding a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which included the death of a young woman who was struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters.
Cook said he has considered an anthem protest in the past and does not rule out doing one this season.
“As far as the future goes, I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said. “I know I feel uneasy about the situation going on in this country and have been for a while.”
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said last season that players should protest on their own time instead of when they are representing the organization. Del Rio said after the game that Lynch told him he had not stood for the anthem for his entire career and it was a “non-issue” for the coach.
“I pretty much made the statement I care to make on it,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t have anything to add.”
NOTES: WR Amari Cooper returned to practice for the first time since Aug. 3, and DL Khalil Mack was back after missing time last week. … Del Rio said S Keith McGill (foot) and OL Denver Kirkland (knee) will miss some time.
Thomas Davis won’t have to worry about ever playing for another NFL team.
The Panthers have signed the 34-year-old veteran outside linebacker Thomas Davis to a one-year contract extension, keeping him with the team through the 2018 season. The deal is worth $6.76 million and includes $3 million in guaranteed money, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The person spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team doesn’t release financial terms of contracts.
“I’m extremely excited. Everybody knows how I feel about being a Carolina Panther,” Davis said in a team release Tuesday. “This extension solidifies me being here for the rest of my career, and I’m excited about that. Now I’m totally focused on winning a Super Bowl.”
Davis’ contract was set to expire after this season. Some blamed general manager Dave Gettleman’s handling of extensions for Davis and tight end Greg Olsen as the reason he was fired earlier this offseason and replaced by interim general manager Marty Hurney. Olsen has two years left on his current contract but is seeking an extension, too.
Davis has been an amazing story, returning from three torn ACLs in the same knee earlier in his career to become one of the league’s best linebackers. He earned All-Pro honors in 2015 while helping the Panthers reach the Super Bowl. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons.
He was drafted by the Panthers in the first round in 2005 and has spent his entire career in Carolina.
Davis is the franchise leader with 1,086 tackles. He has played in 149 regular season games with 131 starts, both team records for a linebacker.
“Thomas is still playing fast and at a high-level, and the intensity and passion that he brings to the game is unmatched,” Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb said in a release. “He is the ultimate leader, and to continue to have a player and a man of his magnitude on our team is extremely important. I’m excited for Thomas, his family and our organization.”
Davis led Carolina with 132 tackles last season and chipped in with three interceptions. He also scored his first career touchdown on a 46-yard fumble return versus Arizona.
Behind Davis, the Panthers finished second in the NFL with 47 sacks and tied for fourth in the league with 17 interceptions last season.
Since returning from this third ACL injury in 2011, Davis has elevated his game.
In the past five seasons he has averaged 130 tackles per season, including a career-high 151 in 2013. During that span he has 10 interceptions, the second-most among NFL linebackers behind only teammate Luke Kuechly with 12.
Davis has become a fan favorite in Charlotte.
In 2014, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. It is an award given out annually at the Super Bowl recognizing a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
New York Jets wide receiver Lucky Whitehead has a broken foot and will be sidelined indefinitely.
Coach Todd Bowles said Tuesday that Whitehead was injured during practice Monday and it’s uncertain whether he will need surgery. Bowles did not know if Whitehead will be out for the year, saying only that it’ll be at least “a little while.”
Whitehead, who was on crutches during the team’s indoor practice, appeared to be the top contender to serve as the Jets’ primary punt and kickoff returner.
The injury is the latest in a string of bad news for Whitehead, who has had a strange summer. He was waived by Dallas last month following a shoplifting incident that turned out to be a case of false identity. New York claimed Whitehead off waivers on July 26.