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When Kirk Cousins first spoke to reporters after signing with the Falcons, he admitted (unwittingly) that the team committed multiple violations of the league’s tampering policy. This week, for his second time against the logos-and-sponsors background, Cousins was asked about the status of the investigation.

The league’s still kind of going through that,” Cousins said. “So, I’ll let them do it. But there’s not a whole lot there.”

Um, there is a whole lot there. If the league wants to find it.

Cousins admitted that he spoke to (after starting to say he met with) the team’s head athletic trainer during the 52-hour negotiating window where direct communication between team and impending free agent are strictly forbidden. Cousins said he spoke to director of player personnel Ryan Pace, presumably during that same window. Right there, two violations.

Cousins said tight end Kyle Pitts (who strongly denied our suggestion that he was talking to Cousins a week before he agreed to terms) actively recruited Cousins for multiple weeks. If Pitts was acting at the direction of or with the knowledge of the team, that’s another violation.

Cousins also admitted that, during the 52-hour window, he personally called Bears receiver Darnell Mooney to close the deal that brought him to Atlanta, too. So, basically, the Falcons’ tampering with Cousins was so thorough that it turned him into a tool for tampering with Mooney.

Of course, the league has to want to find violations — and act on them. When it comes to situations like this, the league is horribly inconsistent. Especially with Falcons executive Rich McKay serving as chair of the Competition Committee.

The compound tampering question posed to Cousins included a mention of whether he had to give up his phone. His reaction suggested he wasn’t required to do that.

Why wouldn’t he be? If the league wants to get to the bottom of this, shouldn’t the league want Cousins’s phone, Pace’s phone, Pitts’s phone, the trainer’s phone, coach Raheem Morris’s phone, G.M. Terry Fontenot’s phone? Shouldn’t the league want to see security footage from the team facility to see whether Cousins was there before 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday?

In every case, the quality of the outcome of an investigation hinges on the quality of the investigation. If the NFL simply called the Falcons and asked, “Did you tamper?” of course there’s not going to be a whole lot there.

But if the NFL went scorched earth on the question of, for example, whether someone took air out of footballs, how can it not go scorched earth now?

That’s the problem with the league’s make-it-up-as-we-go approach. With no consistency, there’s no fairness.

Yes, everyone tampers. Cousins’s remarks from March painted the most blatant picture of it that I’ve ever seen. We’ll see whether the league looks the other way — or takes appropriate action.

Regardless, Patriots, Raiders, and Saints fans know what would have happened to their favorite teams if they’d done what the Falcons did.


Vikings pass rusher Dallas Turner is a slight favorite over Colts pass rusher Laiatu Latu to win the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Turner, whom the Vikings traded up to No. 17 overall for, is listed as a +400 favorite at DraftKings.com. Latu, the first defensive player drafted at No. 15 overall, is at +550.

The defensive rookie of the year has been a pass rusher four of the last five years, so it’s no surprise that the oddsmakers see a pass rusher winning it again this year. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year is Texans pass rusher Will Anderson.

The next-best odds belong to Eagles cornerback Quinyon Mitchell and Rams defensive end Jared Verse, both at +1100. Lions cornerback Terrion Arnold is at +1200, Dolphins defensive end Chop Robinson and Seahawks defensive tackle Byron Murphy are at +1300, and Eagles cornerback Cooper DeJean is at +2000.


Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores had a 24-25 record in three seasons coaching an oft-dysfunctional Dolphins team. The fact that he finished within a game of .500 is impressive, given that the team’s owner allegedly offered Flores $100,000 for each loss in 2019, is impressive.

(Not allegedly. It happened. Ross crafted a cover story that it was a joke.)

Flores spent 2022 as an assistant with the Steelers before landing in Minnesota as a defensive coordinator. Despite dramatically improving one of the worst defenses in the league a year earlier, Flores got zero interviews for any of the eight head-coaching vacancies in 2024.

It’s no surprise. Within a month after Flores was fired, he filed a landmark race discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, Giants, and Broncos. (Flores later added the Texans, claiming retaliation in failing to hire him instead of Lovie Smith.) With four teams specifically and the NFL generally forced to spend time and money defending their hiring practices, Flores becomes persona non grata for having the gumption to pursue his legal rights.

Against that background, Flores will participate in next week’s coach accelerator program, held in conjunction with ownership meetings in Nashville. It feels like part of the awkward dance that will continue until his case is resolved. (More than two years later, the case remains stuck at square one, which focuses on the NFL’s effort to force the claims into the secret, rigged, kangaroo court of arbitration run by the league.)

From Flores’s perspective, he needs to make it look like he’s trying to get a job, even if he knows it’s likely fruitless. From the league’s perspective, they need to look like they’re giving Flores fair consideration — even if they aren’t.

At this point, it’s not about his claims of racial bias. It’s about the NFL and the teams taking a how-dare-you-sir approach to someone who mustered the nerve to sue them. Most people think that’s fine and dandy. The truth is that it violates federal and state law to shun someone who has engaged in legally protected activities.

Maybe one of the NFL’s owners will eventually do the right thing and treat him as someone who didn’t apply a scarlet letter to his coaching career. The Steelers gave him a lifeline after he sued. The Vikings put him in charge of the defense, both of which are admirable.

The next step will be much bigger. Will an owner risk disapproval from his or her partners in Club Oligarch by giving safe harbor to their courtroom nemesis? If the Haslams think cracking the collusion code with the Deshaun Watson contract prompted a cold shoulder, making Flores one of 32 NFL head coaches will get the owner who does it absolute-zero head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

I’ll hold out hope that an owner eventually will gives Flores another opportunity. If no one does, it will reconfirm that, collectively, they are who we thought they were.


Tight end Robert Tonyan will complete the NFC North grand slam this year.

The Vikings announced that they have signed Tonyan to their 90-man roster. No terms of the deal have been reported.

Now that the deal is official, Tonyan will have spent time with all four of the teams in the division. He signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and then moved on to the Packers after being cut in Detroit. He remained in Green Bay through the 2022 season and played for the Bears last year.

Tonyan had a couple of 50-catch seasons and an 11-touchdown season while playing with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but only had 11 catches for 112 yards with Chicago last season. With T.J. Hockenson coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, Tonyan could be part of the early season plan at tight end in Minnesota.


The Vikings now know their schedule for the 2024 season, but they are still waiting to find out when tight end T.J. Hockenson will be joining them on the field.

Hockenson tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 against the Lions and he said on NFL Network Wednesday that there’s no clarity on when he might be fully cleared to return to action at this point.

“They haven’t really put a timeline on it,” Hockenson said. “We’re just kinda taking it day by day, week by week, there’s just so many variables that you can go through in this process. I’m doing really good right now. We’re attacking each process. I’m attacking each one and it’s been awesome, the progression has been incredible.”

One of the first decisions the Vikings will have to make on Hockenson is whether to put him on the physically unable to perform list for the start of the regular season. If they do, Week Five’s game against the Jets in London would be the first game he’s eligible to play. The Vikings have a bye in Week Six, which could make Week Seven against the Lions a potential landing spot as well.