Eagles

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

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Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he will rule Tuesday on an emergency request from attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty heard arguments from lawyers on both sides as the NFL Players Association scrambled to keep Elliott on the field after a federal appeals court last week overturned an injunction that had stopped the league's suspension.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, is on the suspended list. The Cowboys play at San Francisco on Sunday.

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.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFLPA, asked Crotty to prevent enforcement of the suspension for two weeks so that the Southern District of New York judge assigned to the case — Katherine Polk Failla — can return from a vacation and rule. Crotty concluded the hearing by saying he'd look at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Brady case before ruling by the end of the day on the union's request for a temporary restraining order.

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.

Kessler 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 their request for the temporary restraining order, Elliott's attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league's perspective.

NFLPA attorneys, working on Elliott's behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn't practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.

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 and announced the six-game punishment.

That led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses. Elliott has denied Thompson's allegations under oath.

The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list a day after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas court's injunction that kept Elliott on the field.

The case is shifting to New York because the New Orleans court ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott's attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back's appeal through the NFL. Elliott's attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge's findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.

Brady's suspension was served more than a year after it was imposed. A federal judge ruled against the NFL and overturned the suspension, but the league won an appeal.

Eagles finally activate Tim Jernigan after long layoff

Eagles finally activate Tim Jernigan after long layoff

It may be a case of too little too late, but defensive tackle Tim Jernigan is finally back.

The Eagles on Tuesday activated Jernigan from the reserve-non-football injury list, and he’s expected to make his 2018 debut on Sunday, when the Eagles face the Giants at the Linc.

To make room on the 53-man roster, the Eagles released defensive tackle T.Y. McGill.

Jernigan hasn’t played since the Super Bowl. He got hurt during an unsupervised offseason workout, underwent disc surgery and has been on reserve-NFI since. 

During the interim, the Eagles slashed his contract, converting guaranteed money to non-guaranteed salary, so in a way he’s playing for his roster spot these last six weeks. He's earning $3 million this year.

Once Jernigan was cleared to practice on Nov. 5, the Eagles had three weeks to either activate him or shut him down for the season.

How much he can play and how much he can contribute after missing all of the offseason, OTAs, training camp and the first 10 games of the season remains to be seen. 

But considering what the Eagles have been running out there at defensive tackle, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be a major upgrade.

In Jernigan’s absence and with Haloti Ngata in and out of the lineup (he missed three games), the Eagles used Bruce Hector in six games (he’s currently on the practice squad), Treyvon Hester in six games (he had been on the practice squad) and the last two weeks McGill, who got 15 snaps against the Cowboys and 30 against the Saints.

McGill, who had previously spent time with the Seahawks, Colts, Browns, Chiefs and Chargers, earned $82,941 for his two-week stay with the Eagles.

“It’s been a long journey for him,” defensive end Chris Long said of Jernigan earlier this month. “He’s very eager. He’s been patient, because that’s not something to mess around with, but at the same time, I know he wants to be back out here with us. We’ve watched him work every day and he’s ready to roll.

“He’s definitely a complete player. We’re not going to expect him to come back the first game and light the world on fire. [But] he’s going to be a valuable member of the team.”

Jernigan, 26, spent his first three seasons with the Ravens before the Eagles acquired him for a 2017 third-round pick. He started 15 games last year for the Super Bowl champs. He has 15½ sacks in four seasons.

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Eagles coaches to blame for failure to integrate Golden Tate

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Eagles coaches to blame for failure to integrate Golden Tate

During his Tuesday press conference, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh was asked about some confusion the Eagles’ offense showed during their blowout loss to the Saints on Sunday. 

At first, Groh took responsibility, saying it “should not happen.” But then he added they have “a new guy” and are “trying to introduce some different personnel groups.” 

The “new guy” is, of course, Golden Tate, the super-talented and productive receiver the Eagles traded a third-round pick to get just three weeks ago. 

So then I asked Groh if it has been more difficult to fit Tate into the offense than they previously anticipated. Groh’s answer to that won’t instill a bunch of confidence in him or the rest of the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff. 

“I don’t know if it’s been more difficult, but it’s been challenging to integrate him,” Groh said. 

“Certainly, with the way we weren’t able to stay on the field the other day and finding a rhythm to the offense, that's part of it, then everything became a little disjointed. If we can do a better job of staying on the field and having drives then everybody gets more involved in the offense.”

It’s been challenging to integrate him? 

Challenging to integrate him?! 

Well, guess who that falls on. Yup, the coaching staff. If a team is struggling to integrate a guy who has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL for the last half-decade, it all falls on the coaching staff. Figure it out. That’s what you’re paid to do. 

And partly because of their failure, this trade looks worse and worse by the day. 

The Eagles traded away a third-round pick for eight games of a 30-year-old receiver. You can argue the merits of that trade on its face and many did at the time it was made. But once that deal goes through, it’s on the coaching staff to make it work. And they haven’t made it work. 

In two games, Tate has played 54 snaps. He has seven catches for 67 yards. They brought Tate to be a spark to help a feeble offense, but in the two games he’s played, the Eagles have averaged 13.5 points per game. 

It’s not apple-to-apples, but look what the Cowboys have been able to do with Amari Cooper. In Cooper’s first three games since getting dealt to Dallas, he has 14 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. 

What’s even more troubling about this situation with Tate is what it has meant for Nelson Agholor. We all knew Tate primarily plays in the slot, which is where Agholor has thrived. But it was on the coaching staff to figure it out and that’s what everyone was counting on. On Monday, Doug Pederson said he spoke to Groh about the need to get Agholor more involved offensively. 

“I think roles changed a couple weeks ago,” said Groh, who admitted Agholor is now asked to do some different things after the addition of Tate.  

Groh said he thinks Tate is getting more and more comfortable with the Eagles with each passing day. And he thinks they are “definitely making progress” with figuring out how to use Tate and all their pieces. Well, great. 

But the fact that they haven’t figured it out yet is disappointing. And it’s abject failure on the part of the offensive coaching staff.

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