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Redskins will benefit the least from Richardson, McClain and Hardy suspensions

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Redskins will benefit the least from Richardson, McClain and Hardy suspensions

BY PETER HAILEY

Early Thursday, news broke that both Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain were each suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. 

Understandably, the first reaction after word of these suspensions is made public is to evaluate how they will affect the teams that employ the players. But something else worth examining is how it will affect those team's opponents.

The NFC East and the AFC East will be playing each other this year, meaning that Richardson's suspension means more to the Redskins, Eagles, Giants and Cowboys more than it normally would. McClain's suspension, meanwhile, obviously matters a lot to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, because those teams play Dallas twice a year.

So which NFC East organizations will benefit from playing against a weakened Jets' defense, and how will the division's three teams not located in Dallas be affected by McClain's absence? Let's take a look (Redskins fans, you won't be pleased by what you're about to see):

  • Philadelphia is the team that will gain the most from the two suspensions. The Eagles play the Cowboys in Week 2 and the Jets in Week 3, so they'll get to face both defenses when they're missing key pieces in their respective front sevens.
  • New York is only affected by the McClain news. They start their season in Dallas, but don't play the Jets until Week 13, so they'll have to face the Jets defense when they're at 100%. 
  • Dallas is obviously hurt by McClain's suspension, as they'll miss a player who had a very productive season last year for them for the first quarter of their 2015 schedule. They also won't be able to reap the benefits from playing a Richardson-less New York, as the Cowboys play the Jets in Week 15.
  • And as for the Redskins, Thursday's news won't really affect them at all. Their two matchups against Dallas come in Week 13 and Week 17, and they don't play New York until a week after Richardson makes his return. 

To review, the Eagles get to play the Cowboys once without McClain and also get their Jets game out of the way before Richardson comes back, while the Giants get to play the McClain-less Cowboys once. The Redskins, on the other hand, don't get either advantage, and the Cowboys will miss out on Richardson's suspension and also have to deal with the consequences of McClain's decision, too.

However (cue that corny informercial voice), that's not all, Redskins fans. Here's something else to think about that will make even more upset.

McClain isn't the only Dallas defender in trouble with the NFL. New defensive end Greg Hardy is also currently suspended by the NFL. As of now, he's set to sit out the first ten games of 2015. Will that help the Redskins at all, at least?

The short answer: no.

The Eagles and the Giants play both of their games against Dallas while Hardy is suspended, while (as stated above) the Redskins play both of their contests against their rival in the last five weeks of the regular season. So, though their other divisional foes will get to deal with a weakened Cowboys pass rush two times, Robert Griffin III and company will be going up against the Cowboys' full repertoire of lineman.

For a team that looks like it'll need as many breaks as they can get, they won't find any of them in these three suspensions.

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Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

There are a lot of questions stemming from Reuben Foster's injury at Redskins OTAs, which looks to be a season-ending one.

Where does Foster, whose career has really yet to take off due to other injuries as well as numerous off-field troubles, go from here? What are Washington's options at inside linebacker now, since they were counting on him to produce?

And then there's this: How does Foster missing this year affect his contract with the 'Skins?

The answer, according to salary cap expert J.I. Halsell, is not much.

"When a contract tolls, that means basically the pause button is pushed and whatever you were supposed to make in 2019 carries over to 2020. That's not the case for Reuben Foster," Halsell said Tuesday while on the Redskins Talk podcast.

"Reuben Foster will earn his $1.29 million salary regardless of if he plays this season or not. While he'll probably spend his entire season on injured reserve, he'll make his $1.29 million in 2019."

Essentially, everything proceeds as normal. And that in and of itself is a decent setback for the organization.

One of the reasons the Redskins dealt with the controversy and backlash when they claimed Foster last November was because they were adding a first-round talent on his rookie contract. The team was hoping they could secure two years of elite play out of him at a bargain price, and then potentially exercise the fifth-year option on him to keep him in D.C. through 2021.

Now, however, they're losing one of those precious seasons and will have to make that decision on his fifth-year option next offseason without any tape or experience to really base that decision on. That's an important choice, and one that will carry significant financial implications as well.

"The fifth-year option for the 2021 season will be pretty expensive," Halsell said. "The long and short of it is it's going to be a lucrative dollar amount and given his injury history, his current injury, you would think that when they have to make that decision by the 2020 Draft, they will decline that option."

Haslell's right. The likelihood of the Burgundy and Gold committing big money to a guy with literally one rep in their uniform — and it's not like he was proven for the 49ers, as a linebacker or as a person, either — feels unbelievably slim. 

Yet — and now we're looking pretty far down the line — if he is able to return from this injury and contribute in 2020, the franchise could still look to keep him beyond that. There's a ton of time between now and then, but it's certainly possible.

"Theoretically, even though you don't have the fifth-year option for 2021, you can work on a contract extension for Reuben Foster assuming he comes back to full health," Haslell explained.

Still, not only does the injury hurt the player as well as the unit the player was going to start on, but it limits the team's potential payoff from claiming the player. The situation, from every angle, is an unfortunate one. 

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

NEW YORK -- The NFL and the players' union have two new agreements to address player health in the areas of pain management/prescription medications, and behavior well-being.

The joint agreements, announced Monday, are designed to lead to advancement and understanding of dealing with pain and to improve potential treatments. The league and union also will add to programs already established in education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

"I was hired two years ago and when I was hired I was asked about areas of concern," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical chief. "And I said these were two areas I saw from my knowledge of someone taking care of athletes for over two decades. I felt a real need there."

"We've been working together with the players' union to come up with something that would work proactively for both. We have the same goal, to take care of the whole player and in a holistic way, and to focus on prevention."

Among the stipulations in the pain management area will be formation of a committee of medical experts appointed by the league and union that will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies in pain management and the use of prescription medication by players. The committee also will conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.

That committee will receive periodic reports from a newly developed prescription drug monitoring program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.

Each NFL club must appoint and pay for a pain management specialist before next season.

All this builds on the programs in place.

"We've had an electronically submitted health record for each club in place for a number of years," Sills said. "Medical providers enter the prescriptions they have given to the players. Periodically, our medical advisory committee and the NFL Physicians Society would issue white paper guidelines around strategies. The important change here is obviously it creates a committee tasked with overseeing our educational efforts -- the best practices around pain management."

All 32 teams now must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. The old bromide of "toughing it out" when someone has such issues has long been discarded, Sills said.

"This is not novel to the NFL or to sports," Sills added. "It applies across all levels of society at all age groups and walks of life, and we know these are issues we need to address."

While the NFL and NFLPA have had previous joint programs in these health areas, Sills and NFLPA President Eric Winston note these initiatives are a major step forward in medical care.

"These agreements are positive developments for our membership as they will provide new and important resources to help players and their families," Winston said. "Our union has always advocated for advancements in health and safety and we think this work with the NFL is another important step to improve care for NFL players."

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