Redskins

Loomis returns to Saints in unsettled times

201211061326483954498-p2.jpeg

Loomis returns to Saints in unsettled times

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Now that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis has returned to work, the Saints need his crisis-management skills to be sharp.

The organization continues to be rife with unsettled issues, some of which have made its fan base uneasy.

So there was no time for Loomis to ease back into a routine Tuesday after serving his eight-game suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.

His immediate tasks include clearing up the status of Sean Payton's contract extension through 2015, which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has so far refused to approve since the coach signed it in 2011.

Recent revelations that Payton is still not officially under contract beyond this season have only pushed anxiety-ridden Saints fans closer to panic. New Orleans has struggled while Payton has served his season-long bounty suspension, which, in the minds of many, has only strengthened the fiery and innovative coach's value.

Loomis also will have to oversee contingency plans in the event that defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma have to serve their own bounty suspensions, which so far have been delayed by legal moves.

The GM kept a low profile on his first day back.

The Saints did not make him available to reporters and he did not immediately respond to requests for comments about his return to his Saints duties.

Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said even he did not have much time to chat with Loomis when they met Tuesday morning, but Vitt stressed that people throughout the organization were comforted by knowledge that the GM was back for the last half of what has already been an extraordinarily eventful season.

``Listen, Mickey and Sean are the leaders of this building. It's not only great for Mickey to be back for our players and our coaching staff, but every person in our building,'' Vitt said. ``Slowly but surely we're starting to get people back. Everybody knows here what Mickey means to me, but he also means just as much to everybody else in our building and our football team.''

Vitt also sounded skeptical of the idea that Payton would leave.

``Our football team loves Sean Payton. Sean Payton loves this football team,'' Vitt said. ``Sean Payton loves this city. And this city loves Sean Payton. That goes a long way. That's what I know.''

At 3-5, the Saints are playoff longshots as they head into next Sunday's showdown in the Superdome with undefeated NFC South Division leaders Atlanta (8-0). Yet a sense of hope permeated team headquarters after a 28-13 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night that marked New Orleans' third victory in four games.

``I love this football team. I love the resolve. I love the togetherness. I love their work habits,'' Vitt said. ``All that being said, we've got to get better this week.''

If the Saints are to get better, such strides will have to be made in an environment of uncertainty.

Two people familiar with Payton's contract situation told The Associated Press that the Saints and Payton still see nothing wrong with a provision in the coach's extension that would allow Payton to opt out of his contract if Loomis - who hired Payton in 2006 - were to leave the club. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL and Saints have declined public comment on the matter, say the Saints and Payton believe the provision is similar to one that allowed Bill Parcells to leave his post as executive vice president with Miami if ownership changed.

Goodell has not publicly specified his problem with Payton's extension, which pays more than $6 million a year. The NFL has said the commissioner has not made a final determination about Payton's contract status for next season. Goodell has said, however, that he has discussed his concerns with the Saints and asked the club to rework part of the deal.

Although Payton is suspended, he and the Saints currently may address Goodell's concerns with the extension, providing some hope of resolving the matter before the coach effectively becomes a free agent.

Another major area of uncertainty involves ongoing challenges to players' bounty suspensions.

Although Goodell has recused himself as arbitrator for four current or former Saints players' appeals of their bounty suspensions, the players - Smith, Vilma, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove - objected to Goodell's decision to appoint former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to handle the matter. The players say Tagliabue has a conflict because he works for the law firm that has represented the NFL in bounty-related matters. Tagliabue has given no indication he intends to step down, leaving the matter for a federal judge in New Orleans to decide.

In the meantime, Smith and Vilma keep playing, and Saints coaches make weekly game plans on the assumption they'll have the two defenders in the lineup.

``You have to have a little bit of foresight should something happen. We've kind of just been under that thing all year long,'' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. ``Once we know the week is set the way the week is, we just move on and worry about the opponent we're playing.''

The Saints won't want to lose Smith and Vilma, given their leadership roles on a unit that needs help. The Saints are last in the NFL in yards allowed (471.3 per game) but did come through with clutch plays against the Eagles, including Patrick Robinson's interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and seven sacks. Smith had two sacks and Vilma had two tackles for losses.

If the suspensions are upheld, Smith will have to serve four games and Vilma the rest of the season.

Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said he hopes that won't happen, but added that the Saints know worrying about it won't do any good.

``We're at the point now where it seems like every week there's something new to distract us, so people are like, `The hell with it. We'll wait to figure it out when the time comes,''' Shanle said. ``We're trying to fight our way back into something and with all the distractions we've had week in and week out, I think guys just kind of put blinders on.''

Quick Links

Eagles will open just one training camp practice to fans, and charge them

ertz_and_eagles_fans.jpg
USA Today Sports

Eagles will open just one training camp practice to fans, and charge them

Following a growing trend, the Philadelphia Eagles cut fan access at training camp way back. Way, way back actually. 

The Eagles will open just one training camp practice to the public, and what's more, the team will charge fans to watch. To watch the Eagles lone public training camp session will cost $10, but it's important to note that the proceeds will go the Eagles Autism Challenge, per an ESPN report.

Raising money for charity is admirable. That's not a debate. 

Still, Philadelphia might be on the forefront of an NFL wide trend that significantly limits fan access to teams during training camp. Last year, the Eagles held two open practices at Lincoln Financial Field that fans could attend. This year, it's just one, and by putting it at their home stadium changes the atmosphere too. For some fans, it might be great to get to see the stadium without paying game day prices, but for others, the up-close access of training camp will be greatly missed. 

The Redskins were widely mocked nearly 20 years ago when they moved training camp sessions to their practice facility in Ashburn and charged to watch the practices. The outcry was deserved, not to mention that by charging to watch practice allowed other team's scouts to attend. The NFL changed a rule in 2017 that opposing scouts are not allowed to watch a team's practice regardless of cost. 

Other teams around the league are slowly pulling away from the traditional training camp experience of going away for a few weeks of practice. In the NFC East, the Eagles and Giants hold their camps at their facilities while the Redskins and Cowboys travel. Dallas does their training camp in Oxnard, California, while the 'Skins go to Richmond. 

Washington's deal with the city of Richmond expires after training camp in 2020. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Redskins training camp practices after that, especially as the team wants a new stadium. Any new stadium would probably include facilities to hold training camp practices, similar to the Giants in New Jersey. Additionally, the promise of training camp practices could be part of the negotiations for a new stadium. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

rui_hachimura-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

After months of scouting games, watching game tape, conducting interviews and holding workouts, one should logically expect some semblance of order with a given year’s draft class.

That simply won’t occur in 2019. Get past the likely top three picks -- Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett -- and anything is possible.

Over and over that is the position of numerous NBA sources heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft in which the Wizards select ninth overall.

“This draft is pretty unique,” said a Western Conference scout in recent days. “There are a few outliers and then the draft could really, really go in any direction. It’s really an eye of the beholder draft.”

In other words, after those top three, consensus doesn’t exist. Teams will surely add help and some prospects will ultimately turn into viable starters and perhaps more, but in June of 2019, there isn’t much love for the 2019 group especially in the lottery range.

There’s a general agreement within public mock drafts in terms of the five players after Barrett, but the order comes out in a variety of ways. Some observers see little difference between picks 4-12 while others view 9-22 comparable.

That anything-is-possible vibe has some believing more than the usual amount of trades occurring. One already went down, though the Pelicans adding the fourth overall selection wasn’t exactly the main point of Saturday’s deal with the Lakers involving Anthony Davis.

Yet the main reason behind all the anything-is-possible talk stems from several teams simply not loving the options especially in the top half of the draft. Therefore, why trade up if the player available in teens is comparable to the candidates at nine?

The same logic applies for the team holding the ninth pick. For the Wizards, the general hope is one player they truly desire slides to them or some team that covets a prospect is willing to pay a premium for a trade up.

Stay put and even without a shocker ahead of them, the Wizards can help their cause. Not with an obvious slam dunk selection, but in specific areas, eventually, hopefully.

This year, anything seems possible.

As stated above, projecting who goes where and the preferences of each team, especially in this era of positionless basketball, is a true challenge. Before getting into some league-wide notes, here are some educated guesses for the Wizards.

The rebounder: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. There might not a better selection for addressing numerous areas than the athletic 6-foot-8 power forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Wizards currently lack a true forward on the roster. This one brings three years of collegiate experience.

The 21-year-old Hachimura led Gonzaga with 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season while shooting 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts.

The Japanese native lacks upside compared to some other candidates and there are concerns about his basic hoops instincts. There have also been long-running whispers of interest from Washington.

The defender: Sekou Doumbouya, France. The still maturing 6-foot-9 forward with good size and length showed off his freaky athleticism in France's top league. As the youngest player in the 2019 class, Doumbouya will need more than a minute to find his footing and develop his perimeter shot, but his physical traits and defensive versatility match the direction of the modern NBA.

The polarizing upside: Cam Reddish, Duke. Reddish goes third on this list even though the likelihood is, based on year-long player projections, he becomes the pick if available. While it seems doubtful he falls past eight, Reddish feels like the one heralded prospect who could take a tumble on draft night.

The 6-foot-8 forward turned into a clanky 3-point shooter around mid-February and often faded late in games. While his perimeter stroke is pretty, Reddish struggled significantly around the rim. Yet his athletic fluidity is ideal. Combined with strong measurables (7-foot-1 wingspan) there is plenty to like. Where he lands in terms of team culture feels like a huge key to unlocking the potential vs. bringing out the worst.

Considering all the variables, Reddish represents a big test for the league's talent evaluators -- All-Star level talent or underachiever?

The scorer: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky. The likely wing threats available in the 9-22 range epitomize the risk-reward aspect in this class. Despite specific concerns, Nassir Little (raw instincts), Romeo Langford (27 percent on 3’s), Kevin Porter (undisciplined) and Tyler Herro (short wingspan) could all hear their names called before Johnson and with good reason due to their intriguing potential.

Meanwhile, the UK product offers hope with impressive athletic traits and a 38.1 percent clip on 3-pointers during his freshman season. On the other side, Johnson lacks playmaking skills; he averaged 1.6 assists in 31 minutes per game.

Nine seems high based on perception, but Johnson might be the prospect who turns out more coveted by teams than public big boards. While his range is considered 10-20, sources feel Johnson goes somewhere 15 or higher. Potential target if the Wizards trade down.

The high floor: P.J. Washington, Kentucky. Washington’s profile lacks the wow factor compared to the names listed above. What the sophomore offers is a steadier baseline in numerous areas including rebounding, defending, 3-point shooting and maturity. All of that comes with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. If the Wizards go safe rather than star chasing, Washington makes sense especially if they move down in the first.

*The feeling around the league is a lottery-picking team has made a draft promise to Hachimura with Minnesota the likely spot. That’s assuming the 4-man gets past the Wizards.

*For those of you wanting Oregon’s Bol Bol at nine, I hear you based on the height (7-foot-3), length and impressive perimeter shooting. Some of Bol’s game tape is wildly mesmerizing. The downside, however, ranging from his weight (208 at the Combine) to the injury risk to an inconsistent motor to defensive concerns beyond shot blocking, seems a bit much for the Wizards’ situation. Also not hearing much about a landing spot in the lottery, but subterfuge is real this time of year.

*Interesting that North Carolina guard Coby White worked out for the Wizards Monday considering most projections have him off the board by seven. Say Reddish goes before White and the scoring threat remains available at eight. Do the Hawks, already loaded with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, go elsewhere? That’s one way White could fall to nine.

*Speaking of promises, University of Washington wing Matisse Thybulle received one in the first round according to multiple sources and... Arkansas center Daniel Gafford to a team in the 17-23 range?

That would be quite a jump for Gafford based on public projections; NBCSW ranks him 31, Sports Illustrated 36 and ESPN 40. If true, the best guess among those teams is...Atlanta at 17? The Hawks need a center. This approach would allow them to take the best available at 8 (Reddish?) and 10 (Doumbouya?).

*Georgia center Nic Claxton, slotted 21st on the NBCSW Big Board, is receiving interest from teams picking in teens.

On to the main event...

2019 NBA Draft Big Board (with tiers)

TIER 1

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

TIER 2

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

TIER 3

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

TIER 4

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

TIER 5

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, France

10. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

11. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

12. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

17. Goga Bitadze, C, International/Georgia

18. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

19. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

21. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

22. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.

25. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

28. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

29. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

32. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova      

35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA

36. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee   

37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

38. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

39. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA

40. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

41. Louis King, SF, Oregon

42. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

43. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

44. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU

45. Naz Reid, C, LSU

46. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi

47. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

48. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

49. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College

50. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga

51. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania

52. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest

53. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

54. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan

55. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel

56. Miye Oni, F, Yale

57. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

58. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan

59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa

60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State; Justin Robinson, PG, Virginia Tech

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: