Wed Oct 13 4:53pm ET
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP National Writer
In this Aug. 10, 2018, file photo, Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden reacts during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Oakland, Calif. Current or former players, along with people in positions of leadership with NFL clubs, have offered differing opinions this week on how pervasive the sorts of racist, homophobic and misogynistic thoughts expressed by Jon Gruden -- in emails he wrote from 2011-18, when he was an ESPN analyst between coaching jobs, to then-Washington club executive Bruce Allen remain around the sport to this day. (AP Photo/John Hefti, File)
When Shad Khan set out more than a decade ago to become the first member of an ethnic minority to own an NFL team, the Pakistani-American heard the scuttlebutt.
''The conjecture was, `You will never get approved, because you're not white,''' Khan, now the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this week.
His attempt to purchase a 60% stake in one club fell through, so ''the narrative that people had been giving to me kind of got reinforced,'' Khan said.
Undaunted - and, he says, encouraged by Commissioner Roger Goodell - Khan moved on and soon reached an agreement to buy the Jaguars. ''Got approved unanimously,'' Khan noted. ''The conjecture and what was going on - and the reality - turned out to be different.''
Current and former players and others around the league have varying opinions about a key question that arose in light of the racist, homophobic and misogynistic thoughts expressed by Jon Gruden in emails he wrote from 2011-18, when he was an ESPN analyst between coaching jobs, to then-Washington club executive Bruce Allen: Just how pervasive are those sorts of attitudes around the sport these days?
It's certainly been a topic of conversation in locker rooms.
''I'm not surprised those ideas exist. ... I guess I was a little bit surprised by that comfort level, sending an email like that to somebody. I would assume you're pretty assured that they're not going to be offended by it or surprised by it or have them say anything to you about the nature of those emails,'' said Corey Peters, an Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman in his 11th year in the NFL. ''But I think it's good for the league to have that come out, and guys be held accountable for the things that they say, even in private.''
Gruden resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night following reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times about messages he wrote demeaning Goodell, union chief DeMaurice Smith and others, using offensive terms to refer to Blacks, gays and women.
Some saw Gruden's words as indicative of a behind-the-scenes culture that could persist in an industry where about 70% of the players are Black while more than 80% of head coaches (27 of 32) and general managers (also 27 of 32) are white - and all are men.
Among principal owners, only Khan and Buffalo's Kim Pegula are members of minorities.
''The bigger issues aren't unique to the NFL, but I think they are stark in the NFL: Who's in positions of power? And who's making decisions? When that is only one group, particularly people who are privileged, who are from the dominant group, then those are going to likely be skewed decisions and skewed world views,'' said Diane Goodman, an equity consultant.
''It's easy to point to Gruden and go, `Oh, isn't he terrible?' and `Look at the terrible things he did.' But that doesn't look at that larger culture, where people were participating with him. People were allowing these emails to exist. It really is about the whole culture and that sense, that I'm sure people have cultivated, to feel like, `I can say these things and they will be, at best, appreciated and reciprocated or, at worst, people may not appreciate them but nothing's going to happen.' And that is about privilege and entitlement,'' Goodman said. ''There is the assumption that `I can say these things to another white man who is going to think they're OK.'''
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons raised the point that representation matters, saying Wednesday: ''You get different backgrounds, you get different opinions.''
He also thinks the workplace culture is getting better.
''Progress has been made. Whether it's good enough or not good enough, I won't go into details about that,'' said Simmons, who entered the NFL in 2016. ''I'm a firm believer that as long as we're taking steps in the right direction, that has to be positive, right?''
Former defensive end Mike Flores figures the sentiments found in the emails, which were gathered during an investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team, do not represent merely one man's mindset.
''I know how people talk and joke around in locker rooms. Most people in the NFL would be highly scrutinized if the `politically correct police' examined everyone's emails,'' Flores - who played college football at Louisville with Gruden's brother, Jay, before spending five seasons with the Eagles, 49ers and Washington - said in a phone interview. ''Even the politically correct have many skeletons in their closets. It's a shame that a man of his stature and expertise is now put on the leper's list and possibly kicked out of the NFL circle for good for something typed a decade ago.''
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas, with the Jets, Eagles and Jaguars from 1995-2004, told the AP that Black athletes are ''conditioned'' to hearing ''the racial stuff'' and hypothesized that owners wouldn't want their emails made public.
Pat Hanlon, senior VP of communications for the New York Giants, tweeted, ''Been in league 35 yrs. Have never heard that language in writing or verbally. I'm not naive. Sure it has been there.'' He wrote ''it is not commonplace'' in a second tweet.
Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers sees a generational gap between the folks in charge and those taking the field.
''I can say with real honesty and pride that I don't feel like those are opinions that are shared by players. I feel like, in the locker room, it's a close-knit group of guys. And we don't treat people differently based on the way that they talk, where they're from, what they're into, what they look like,'' the Packers quarterback said on The Pat McAfee Show.
''I know that there's probably opinions similar to (Gruden's), but I feel like they're few and far between. I really do,'' Rodgers said. ''I feel like the player and the coach of today is a more empathetic, advanced, progressive, loving, connected type of person. ... Hopefully we can all, as a league, learn and grow from this and hopefully it puts people on notice who have some of those same opinions, like, `Hey, man, it's time to grow and evolve and change and connect.'''
Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is Black, echoed that sentiment.
''From my standpoint, what I love about the game is that it brings people together. It really brings people from all walks of life together,'' Flores said. ''So you hate to see anything that brings any type of division.''
Speaking about what happened with Gruden, in particular, Jacksonville's Khan said, ''Obviously, these emails are disturbing,'' and quickly added: ''My personal experience has not been that way.''
In the time since Khan agreed to purchase the Jaguars in 2011, he's seen a change in the league's culture, particularly with regard to social justice causes.
''One hundred percent, I think the league is at the forefront,'' he said, ''and they're going to be doing more.''
New York Giants wide receiver John Ross (hamstring) is likely to suit up for Sunday's outing against the Panthers. Ross has been dealing with a hamstring issue, although he managed to practice sparingly on Thursday and Friday, which is always a good sign regarding a player's anticipated availability. The former Bengal received an uptick in snaps over the last few weeks. However, with Darius Slayton (hamstring) andEvan Engram (calf) expected to play, andSterling Shepard (hamstring) labeled as a game-time call, Ross should be avoided in all fantasy formats in Week 8.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (calf) has been progressing in the right direction after being injured during the Week 6 matchup against the New England Patriots. Prescott spent most of his bye week in the pool, and he should be ready to practice by Wednesday. Nonetheless, fantasy managers should continue to monitor his status and await his official designation ahead of the Week 8 outing in Minnesota.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) is out for Week 7 versus the Panthers. However, while he has a slight chance to make it back for Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, fantasy managers realistically shouldn't expect him back until Week 9 versus the Oakland Raiders. Nonetheless, until Barkley is ready to return, Devontae Booker will likely continue to handle duties out of the backfield and has plenty of appeal in all formats.
Washington Football Team QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip) is still relying on crutches to get around and is not close to returning to action, according to multiple sources. He is expected to undergo an MRI exam in the next few weeks and appears unlikely to return before the team's Week 9 bye on Nov. 7.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzpatrick's rehab process has not moved as quickly as initially hoped and there is a possibility that he won't return to the field this season. Taylor Heinicke will continue to serve as Washington's No. 1 quarterback in the interim and can be a starting option in two-quarterback fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo will start Week 7's game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Fantasy Spin: Garoppolo had been sidelined recently because of a calf injury but is no longer listed on the team's injury report after logging two limited practice sessions and one full session during the week. Although he won't have to worry about sharing offensive snaps with injured QB Trey Lance (knee) this weekend, Garoppolo is only worthy of being a starting option in two-quarterback fantasy leagues.
New York Giants TE Evan Engram (calf) is expected to play in Week 7's game against the Carolina Panthers, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Engram had been listed as questionable on the injury report after missing practice Thursday, Oct. 21, and participating in a limited practice session Friday, Oct. 22. If he is declared active for the game, he should be viewed as a low-end TE1 option in deeper fantasy leagues.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring) is considered a game-time decision for Week 7's game against the Carolina Panthers, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Shepard sustained a hamstring injury during practice Thursday, Oct. 21, and was officially designated as questionable after participating in the following day's practice session on a limited basis. If he is declared active, he should be viewed as a WR3 or flex option for fantasy leagues.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (calf) and wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring) are likely to play Sunday against the Panthers. ESPN's Adam Schefter notes that the two should be good to go unless they suffer a setback in pre-game warmups. Engram and Slayton have had limited roles so far- but could be pivotal players against Carolina with the Giants already down Saquon Barkley (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee), and Kadarius Toney (ankle). The Panthers have a stingy pass defense, ranking seventh in pass DVOA, though Engram and Slayton could see enough volume to make an impact this week.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (shoulder, hamstring), listed as questionable, is looking iffy for Sunday's game against the Falcons. Parker seemed to take a step in the right direction, as he was a limited participant at practice after not taking the field for any sessions the previous week. Fellow wideout Preston Williams (groin) is also questionable for the contest. If Parker misses another game, look for rookie Jaylen Waddle, coming off of a 10-catch, 70-yard, two-touchdown game, to command a large number of targets once again in an excellent matchup against Atlanta. Mike Gesicki should also continue to see his fair share of work in the passing game. Both are strong plays Sunday.
Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (shin), dealing with a nagging injury, is expected to suit up Sunday against the Packers. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Gibson was dealing with a hairline fracture in his shin earlier in the year, an injury that seemed to pop back up during last week's contest. Bothered by the injury, the star halfback has yet to exceed the 100-yard scrimmage mark since Week 3- though he does have three touchdowns in his last three games played. Gibson remains in starting territory thanks to his talent and a favorable matchup against a Packers defense that ranks 30th in rush DVOA. He will likely continue to be more touchdown-dependent than usual.
Philadelphia Eagles LB Genard Avery was fined $5,111 by the National Football League for getting in the face of Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette late in Week 6's game and taking a critical penalty.
Los Angeles Rams RB Sony Michel (shoulder) is expected to play in Week 7's game against the Detroit Lions, according to head coach Sean McVay.
Fantasy Spin: Michel had been listed as questionable on the injury report after logging two limited practice sessions during the week. He should see a decent number of offensive snaps this afternoon and can be considered as a flex option in deeper fantasy leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars S Rayshawn Jenkins was fined $10,300 by the National Football League for his actions in Week 6's game against the Miami Dolphins.
There is optimism that Tennessee Titans WR Julio Jones (hamstring) will play in Week 7's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Jones had been listed as questionable on the injury report after logging two limited practice sessions during the week. Despite the favorable matchup against the Kansas City defense, he should be viewed as a risky WR3 or flex option in fantasy leagues.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) expressed optimism that he would be ready to play against Kansas City, with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noting that that is the team's expectation. Jones suffered a hamstring injury a few weeks ago, sidelining him for two games- though he aggravated the injury during his team's win over the Bills on Monday night. Still, it seems like Jones, who will take on a Chiefs defense that ranks 31st in pass DVOA, will be out there for a big game Sunday. His recent injury track record makes him a risky play, but it could pay off if Sunday's game becomes high-scoring.
Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt was fined $10,815 by the National Football League for committing unnecessary roughness in Week 6's game, when he punched at the football in an attempt to strip Seattle Seahawks RB Alex Collins.
There is optimism that Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder, hand) could play in Week 7's game against the Chicago Bears, even though he did not practice at all during the week, according to head coach Bruce Arians. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (ankle), who popped up on Saturday's injury report, is looking like a game-time call. The Raiders won't know the status of Waller until pre-game warmups after he strained his ankle and inner heel while being unintentionally tripped by a teammate at Friday's practice. With the game scheduled for the late afternoon slate, it sounds like fantasy managers should have a backup plan in the increasingly likely event that Waller is limited or out for the game against Philadelphia. Foster Moreau would step in as the starting tight end sans Waller. Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow could both see boosts in targets.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (ankle), listed as questionable, is expected to play against the Buccaneers in Week 7. Robinson appeared on the team's injury report with the ankle issue before ultimately suiting up last week, so while his availability hasn't been in question, his production has lately. He has just one game with double-digit targets and has exceeded the 50-yard mark twice through six weeks of play, leaving him in the WR2/3 range. Robinson does have a chance for a good game this week against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers.
Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (shin) is listed as questionable in Week 7 but is expected to play in Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers. He was limited in practice this week due to a stress fracture in his shin. The 23-year-old logged a season-low 23 snaps (39%), finishing with 44 yards on 10 attempts and a fumble in a Week 6 loss to the Chiefs. Gibson is an RB2 in Week 7 as the team could be playing catch up and is a game script that favors top-pass catching RB J.D. McKissic more. Fantasy managers should check back on Sunday morning to ensure Gibson is officially active before inserting him into their starting lineups.