NFL rules boss Jon Runyan defends decision to not fine Jadeveon Clowney

NFL rules boss Jon Runyan defends decision to not fine Jadeveon Clowney

Last Friday night, we learned of the NFL’s decision to not levy a fine to Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Carson Wentz in the wild-card round. 

It was a decision that left many Eagles fans flummoxed. 

After all, there was clearly helmet-to-helmet contact and the hit gave Wentz a concussion that knocked him out of the game and knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs. 

On Thursday morning, former Eagles right tackle and the NFL’s Vice President of Policy and Rules Administration Jon Runyan was on the WIP Morning Show to talk about his decision to not fine Clowney. Angelo Cataldi first asked Runyan if he expected a lot of backlash in Philadelphia because of the decision: 

“Well, when the ringleader is an old white guy on the radio sounding like a politician spewing stuff that doesn’t have a lot of fact-base on it, yeah, you can get there. … You got quiet all of a sudden.”

OK! Off and running! 

After that jab (done in jest?) Runyan actually did his best to explain his reasoning for not fining Clowney, but in the process, admitted it was close. 

Runyan first outlined all the reasons he thought the play definitely didn’t deserve a fine: 

• “He’s not a defenseless player because he’s not catching a pass and he’s a runner so he doesn’t have the roughing the passer protection.”

• “It wasn’t a leg-whip, it’s not out of bounds, he’s not blocking someone out of bounds, his forward progress had not been stopped, he had not slid feet first. He was not on the ground.”

• “The next one is unnecessary running, diving, throwing your body against a player who was out of the play or should not have reasonably anticipated contact.”

Runyan doesn’t believe Clowney committed any of those sins. 

Then Runyan made an admission that there was one area where Clowney almost earned a fine: The rulebook outlaws using the helmet or facemask to ram, butt or spear an opponent. Runyan made it a point to note that incidental contact doesn’t warrant a fine; that was his defense in the decision. 

It’s a decision that former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira was interested to find out when he was on WIP back on Jan. 7 and called the hit “unnecessary and forceful.”

Runyan clearly disagreed. Or he at least disagreed with the assessment that the hit deserved a fine. 

“So when you go back and look at this play, it is really, really close,” Runyan said. “Carson’s elbow is still off the ground as Clowney’s arm … the first thing that contacts Wentz is Clowney’s arm to his hip and lower back area and then his shoulder rolls in and then his helmet goes in.”

Runyan says that in the process of making a tackle on a player who was not defenseless and not giving himself up, Clowney’s helmet incidentally made contact with Wentz’s. Right or wrong, that was the decision from the league. 

So basically, we’re back to where we started with the ruling on the field. The referee after the game said the contact was deemed incidental and Runyan’s ruling backed that initial decision. 

You can watch the play yourself and Zapruder it to figure out which contact happens first. 

For what it’s worth, Runyan said he also doesn’t take into account intent or past history of a player when assessing whether or not a hit is worthy of a fine. 

“I’m telling you it’s right on the line,” Runyan said. “You guys watch how I played, I kind of know where the line is and that’s kind of why I have this job. It’s right on the line. 

“It’s like proving a legal case. I have to have one of these rules violated blatantly to rise to that level.”

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How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

The 2020 wide receiver draft picture got a lot more interesting Thursday night.

Alabama’s Henry Ruggs did his thing and ran 4.28 when the receivers ran their 40's at the Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. He didn't break John Ross's record of 4.22, but he certainly did nothing to hurt his draft status. 

Neither did his college teammate, Jerry Jeudy, or Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb. They remain the consensus top three receivers in the draft, and the Eagles, who have the 21st pick in the first round, would likely have to trade up to draft any of them.

But a few receivers helped themselves with their performances in Indy and a few may have hurt their stock as well, and it all could definitely affect the receiver-starved Eagles’ strategy in April.


JUSTIN JEFFERSON,  LSU: Joe Burrow’s favorite target ran much faster than expected with a 4.43. We already know he’s productive - he caught a ridiculous 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns - and he backed that up with a faster 40 time than Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. How much that helps him remains to be seen, but he definitely helped himself.

CHASE CLAYPOOL, NOTRE DAME: There’s been talk about the 6-4, 240-pound Claypool moving to tight end, but then he went out and ran 4.42, which according to the Next Gen Stats twitter feed makes him the first receiver over 230 pounds to run sub-4.45 since Calvin Johnson in 2007. He also caught the ball well and performed well in the other drills. 

DENZEL MIMS, BAYLOR: Mims opened a lot of eyes with a 4.38 Thursday night to cap an overall excellent performance. Only Ruggs and Southern Mississippi’s Quez Watkins ran faster. Mims was generally considered a second-round talent before the Combine but running 4.38 at 6-3, 210 pounds could push him into the first round. 


JALEN REAGOR, TEXAS CHRISTIAN: Reagor, whose father Montae played for the Eagles in 2007, said he planned to run faster than Ruggs: “That’s my plan. He runs after me. I’m going to set the bar for him.”  He also said he expected to run “high 4.2, low 4.3.”  Then he ran 4.47, a full fifth of a second slower than Ruggs. He followed that with a 4.50. How much that hurts him remains to be seen, but it wasn’t what anybody was expecting. 

TEE HIGGINS, CLEMSON: Higgins told reporters at the Combine that he was planning to prove a lot of people wrong with his 40:  “My goal is to hit a 4.4. A lot of guys think I’m gonna run a 4.5 or 4.6, but I’m excited to change people’s minds.” Then without explanation he didn’t run or participate in any drills Thursday night. Not good. 

LAVISKA SHENAULT JR., COLORADO: After a slower-than-expected 4.58 on his first try, Shenault skipped his second 40 and didn’t participate in the other drills, presumably because of the core muscle injury that cost him a couple games during the season. Shenault was considered a late first-round or early second-rounder. He’ll have a chance to bounce back at his pro day, but he didn’t help himself Thursday.

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Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple linebackers Shaun Bradley and Chapelle Russell know they will have a ton on the line Saturday when their position group gets on the field for drills at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Their football careers hang in the balance. 

Not to mention bragging rights. 

Throughout the last few months, the two close friends have been in a heated competition and back-and-forth trash talk battle. Bradley was training with EXOS in Phoenix; Russell was training with EXOS in San Diego. The whole time, they kept texting each other performance numbers and egging each other on. 

That competition reached a new level this week when the two found out they were rooming together in Indianapolis. 

“That’s all we do. We sit in the room and talk about who’s going to win the 40, who’s going to have the fastest (time),” Bradley said. “We do it all day. It’s nonstop. We’ll joke, we’ll talk about it. As soon as one thing hits, he’s like, ‘I’m about to run a faster 40 than you.’ ‘No you’re not.’ Back and forth, back and forth.”

At Temple, the pair of starting linebackers lived together in a house on campus, so it’s a familiar feeling to be together this week at the combine. And in such a high-pressure situation, with so much on the line, it’s comforting for both to go through it all with a close friend. 

Bradley and Russell will be rooting for each other on Saturday but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to outperform each other.  

“It’s been cool,” Russell said. “We always talk trash with each other about who’s faster, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that. The competition between us two has been intense so I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when we get out there Saturday.” 

There are plenty of similarities between the two. 

- Russell is listed at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds. Bradley is listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. 

- Both feel like they have gotten bigger, stronger and faster over the last couple of months. 

- Both are from New Jersey (Bradley from Mount Holly, Russell from Lakewood). Both became huge parts of Temple’s defense and were awarded single-digit numbers (Bradley got 5, Russell got 3) — an honor for the nine toughest Owls on the roster — in 2018. 

- Both put up big numbers in 2019. Bradley led the Owls with 86 tackles and Russell was second with 72. Bradley had 8 tackles for loss; Russell had 8 1/2. 

- And both feel like they have plenty to prove this week. 

While there are some big-name linebacker prospects in Indianapolis this week, the two Temple linebackers aren’t considered to be in that class. During their interview sessions on Thursday, while the big-name players spoke at podiums, Russell, Bradley and the less highly regarded prospects were crammed in the corner of the room at little round tables. 

“I think we’re going to open a lot of eyes,” Russell said. “…  I feel like when we go out there Saturday, we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong.”

Bradley and Russell both said the Eagles were one of the first teams to meet with them this week and each would love the opportunity to stay in Philly and continue to play home games at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s something the Eagles brought up to them in their respective interviews. 

Continuing their football careers in Philly would mean a lot to both men. For Bradley, it would allow him to stay close to home, where his family — including his four siblings, all 13 or younger — would be able to watch him play. 

Bradley joked the one problem he might have if he became an Eagle is remembering to go to the Birds’ locker room at the Linc and not to the Owls’ locker room farther down the hallway.  

But each guy basically said the same thing about the Eagles. 

“If Philly wanted to draft me, I’d be all for it,” Russell said. 

In recent months, Bradley and Russell have been in contact with several former Temple players who have already been through this pre-draft process. Since 2016, there have been 11 Owls drafted — 1 in the first, 2 in the second, 1 in the fourth, 3 in the fifth, one in the sixth and three in the 7th. 

A good showing from either Bradley or Russell on Saturday would go a long way in adding one of them to that list. 

Oh yeah, and one of them will earn those bragging rights too. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me,” Russell said. “But that’s the competition between me and him. He’ll say him, and I’ll say me.”

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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