49ers

Ezekiel Elliott's suspension again on hold, now expected to play vs 49ers

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USATSI

Ezekiel Elliott's suspension again on hold, now expected to play vs 49ers

NEW YORK — Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction — the next step in the legal process — until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm — among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted — faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Richard Sherman explains why players should always worry about their jobs

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AP

Richard Sherman explains why players should always worry about their jobs

SANTA CLARA — 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave the team a message before the bye week for players to use the time off for self-evaluation. He emphasized that they should be focused on what they want to prove in the final six games, especially in regards to their future with the team. 

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman believes that playing for your future spot should really be a focus no matter what the team’s record is. He believes that’s the mark of a professional. 

“That’s how it always should be,” Sherman said, “no matter what time of the season, and no matter what the record is.”

“When you’re on a good team and things are going well, you’re still playing for your job, it’s just a little bit more secure, guys feel more secure. But either way, when it’s going good, you shouldn’t feel secure either." 

Sherman practices what he preaches and does not rest on his laurels. The last game before the bye was one of his best since coming to Santa Clara, allowing two completions on four targets for 10 yards. In his eight games as a Niner he has only allowed 11 receptions on 24 targets for 153 yards. 

“Kyle and those guys are obviously evaluating who is going to be here and who’s not,” Sherman said. “Myself included, we have to play great football, and as always do my job at a high level and help my team win.” 

Arriving at Week 12 with only two wins has been frustrating but Sherman sees growth and potential in the young secondary. 

“It’s frustrating but it’s one of those things that comes over time,” Sherman said. “I’ve been through it multiple times, especially with young guys playing substantial minutes, you’re going to have that. They learn from their mistakes and move forward.” 


[RELATED: 49ers 'definitely' want Sherman back]

“I think that’s what we have. We’ve had guys improve throughout the season.”

The goal is not to play a perfect game but to play mistake free, sound football. Sherman sees the team getting closer to it, but recognizes the mistakes that have happened in crucial moments of games. 

The secondary has had the additional challenge of players changing positions throughout the first 10 games. Jimmie Ward moved from cornerback back to safety during the offseason, and rookie D.J. Reed has played corner, slot and safety. 

Sherman believes that staying at one position helps a player master his craft, but also sees the drive in his young teammates adapting to new roles. 

“It’s tough enough in your rookie year, going through the transition of getting into the NFL," Sherman said. "It’s tough for even a veteran to do. But I think everybody has worked very hard to give it their best shot.”

49ers GM John Lynch won't label Solomon Thomas a bust, still a 'big believer'

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USATSI

49ers GM John Lynch won't label Solomon Thomas a bust, still a 'big believer'

The 49ers have received little return on the investment of their 2017 No. 3 overall draft pick.

General manager John Lynch acknowledges defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has not produced to the level expected of a player selected so early in the draft. But Lynch said he has not given up on Thomas, who ranks 17th on the team in tackles and has one sack as a part-time player through 10 games.

“A lot of people use the word ‘bust’ or whatever,” Lynch said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “He’s not that. He’s a good football player for us.

“I think a lot of people struggle when you have the No. 3 pick. ‘Why isn’t he in there more?’ And that’s something we have to answer. But you have to earn those opportunities. That’s something Kyle (Shanahan) has always been clear on. Solly needs to continue to earn those. And we need to continue to put him in position to thrive.”

Thomas appeared in 14 games with 12 starts as a rookie. With 41 tackles and three sacks, Thomas showed signs he could take his game to a higher level. But Thomas’ production has regressed in his second season.

Thomas, 23, faced tragedy in the offseason when his older sister, Ella, died from suicide on January 23. Thomas has used his platform as an NFL player to bring awareness to mental health issues. It is only reasonable to assume his real-life anguish has impacted his on-field production.

[RELATED: Whitner: Thomas not a fit]

“It’s been tough on Solomon,” Lynch said. “I can’t even imagine. I often try to put myself in his position, and I know the struggle that he’s going through. Solomon is very aware that the struggle is real, that it’s something he deals with every day.

“But, also, he needs to find a way to come and be the best he can be at his job.”

Thomas has two years remaining on his rookie contract after this season, and Lynch said he expects the former Stanford star to come back from the bye week and make an impact as the 49ers close out the season.

“I’m still a big believer in Solomon Thomas,” Lynch said. “A lot of people say, ‘Why?’ You go back and study the history of defensive linemen in this league. A lot of them don’t figure it out in Year 1. They don’t figure it out in Year 2.”

Lynch added, “In this second half of this Year 2 for him, he’s got to really start being the player we all know he can be. Some of that is opportunity, and putting him in situations where we think he can thrive. And I think we’ll see that in the second half of this year.”