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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, which is timely because the team’s recent deployment of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back has a Packers-like twist to it.

That was one of the points that running backs coach Ivan Fears made Wednesday when asked about Patterson leading the team with 10 carries for 38 yards in Monday’s win over the Buffalo Bills.

Emphasizing that it wasn’t a big deal, Fears noted that the Packers had done something similar when they turned Ty Montgomery from a receiver to a running back in 2016. It was often unusual to see No. 88 running the ball for the Packers the last two years before his trade to Baltimore, just as it was Monday night to watch No. 84 taking handoffs that a traditional running back would normally be getting.
Cordarrelle Patterson likely won’t get the 25 caries he talked about getting, in fact he may not get any if Sony Michel returns, but his versatility to be able to get 10 on Monday night helped the Patriots. Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
“Come on! It’s nothing new,” Fears said in his always-excitable delivery. “This is football. You have 11 guys and you take the best guys you can throw on the field, and if they can make a play for you, you try to get them in position. We had a need. We thought this was a great idea, because if you give that kid the ball, he makes things happen. So how many ways can we find a way to give him the ball? Hell, just line him up back there and give it to him! Let him run! Don’t make it harder than that.”

The Patriots did that 10 times with Patterson, compared to eight with James White and twice with Kenjon Barner, and Patterson – who had played some halfback with the Raiders, according to Bill Belichick — loved it. After the game, he said he hopes to get 25 carries this week.

It’s also possible that he might not get any if rookie running back Sony Michel (knee) is ready to return. Without Michel, the Patriots were down to just two healthy running backs. They could have promoted Kenneth Farrow from the practice squad, but that would have required another roster move to make room for him.

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Instead, they turned to Patterson.

“We needed help. The answers were not too many, not many choices,” Fears said of the team’s thought process in turning to Patterson. “There was one looking right at us, and he was willing. He was like, ‘Hey! I can do that.’ Really? Well, let’s see. And then you thought about it, well, yeah.

“You have injuries and stuff you have to deal with, you don’t always have space to get people. You have to use what you got.”

Prior to that point, the Patriots had used Patterson as more of a gadget option on offense.

 

As for how much Patterson might be used as a traditional running back in the weeks to come, Belichick hinted that what unfolded Monday was more of a short-term fix because of the temporary personnel shortage.

“We had a couple things for him and didn’t have a lot of depth at running back, so we were able to utilize him as part of the group at that position,” Belichick said on sports radio WEEI. “A couple plays he got whacked pretty good. But he runs hard, he’s tough, has good size, good power. I don’t think it’s … we’ll see how it goes.

“We’ll see where we’re at relative to who’s available and how we want to structure the game plan. But I’d say [running back depth is] a concern.”

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DAVIE, Fla. — Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out Sunday versus the Detroit Lions, and the NFL has opened an investigation into how the Miami Dolphins reported his shoulder injury, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Brock Osweiler, who threw for a career-high 380 yards in a 31-28 overtime victory over the Bears, will start for the second consecutive week. Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he’s not sure whether Tannehill will be able to play at Houston on Oct. 25.

“Anything that has to do with pocket movement, footwork, things like that, he can do everything,” Gase said Wednesday. “He just can’t throw.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase believes Ryan Tannehill was injured on this hit by Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap on Oct. 7. AP Photo/Gary Landers
Tannehill participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday. He worked on footwork and handed the football off with his right (throwing) arm, but he did not throw during the open viewing period. The Dolphins (4-2) plan to ensure he’s healthy and ready to react to the stresses of throwing before putting him back out there, Gase said. Rest has been the recovery recommendation for Tannehill.

Osweiler said he feels ready.

“Getting reps with the first-team offense and building some relationships out there in practice is huge. It’s very beneficial,” Osweiler said.

Gase said Monday he was “not sure” whether Tannehill faces a long-term injury, but he said he has complete confidence that the 30-year-old quarterback will play again in 2018. When asked about Tannehill’s situation, Gase quickly interjected, “Yes, he will be the starter” when he’s healthy.

Regarding prominent players, particularly starting quarterbacks, the NFL routinely investigates injury reporting. The NFL will gather details of how Tannehill went from full practice participant last Wednesday and Thursday to limited participant/questionable on Friday to out on Sunday, and see whether Miami adhered to the league policy.

Tannehill was made a surprise scratch for Sunday’s game versus Chicago. The Dolphins say his right shoulder injury got “progressively worse” throughout the week.

Gase said Monday he believes Tannehill injured his right shoulder during a Week 5 loss, on a fourth-quarter forced fumble by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Tannehill’s arm was hit awkwardly from behind before he completed his throwing motion, and he was on the ground for a few moments after the play.

The NFL policy says this about injury reporting: “The policy requires that teams provide credible, accurate and specific information about injured players to the league office, their opponents, local and national media, and the league’s broadcast partners each week during the regular season and postseason. The reporting process is of paramount importance in maintaining the integrity of the game.”

It also refers directly to the practice and game status reports, which must provide clubs and fans with an accurate description of a player’s injury status/availability and how much he participated in practice during the week.

It says this specifically about game status reporting: “Teams must notify the league, their opponent, local and national media, and the league’s broadcast partners of the status of their injured players by 4 p.m. ET the day before their next scheduled game.”
The term “normal repetitions” applies to a player’s participation in both individual drills and the team portion of practice. Consequently, a player who participates in less than 100 percent of his normal repetitions during either the individual or team portion of practice should be listed as “Limited Participation.”

Tannehill was listed as a full participant Thursday despite Gase later saying Osweiler took some of his first-team reps. Tannehill was also listed as questionable up until game time, despite ESPN and other reports labeling him as more “doubtful” than questionable. These are two of the issues that will need to be answered by the Dolphins. It’s worth noting that these investigations regularly result in no penalty if the NFL is satisfied with the answers it receives.

The Miami Herald was the first to report the NFL’s investigation.

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ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger texted his defensive back teammates Tuesday night with a simple message: Don’t let Drew Brees set the record. The responses? A series of exclamation points.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback is 201 yards from surpassing Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time career passing yardage leader. Certainly the schedule makers anticipated a big night, with this game being played on Monday night.

“We don’t want to see this happen at all,” Swearinger said.

Swearinger was part of a record-breaking game in the past. In 2013, Manning threw his NFL-record 51st touchdown pass of the season vs. Swearinger’s Houston Texans. In fact, Swearinger was the safety on the side of the field where Demaryius Thomas caught the 36-yard TD pass.

“I don’t want to be part of two quarterbacks breaking a record,” Swearinger said. “It’s not a good feeling on a defensive side when a quarterback breaks the record on your defense.”

Swearinger reminded the Redskins’ defensive backs that they’re allowing an average of 187 passing yards per game. So, he said, all they need is to have an average game when it comes to yards allowed and Brees would have to wait another week. But to make that happen, they’ll have to play an above-average game.

Keep in mind that Brees hasn’t thrown for fewer than 200 yards in a loss since 2013 in a Week 13 game vs. Seattle. He threw for 147 that day, averaging 3.69 yards per attempt. The Redskins nearly held him to fewer than 200 yards in a 2015 victory, but Brees still managed 209. There were two games in which Brees threw for fewer than 200 yards last season, but both were in blowout victories. That’s not what the Redskins want to see, either.

“Drew Brees is a great quarterback, a Hall of Famer in my eyes,” Redskins linebacker Mason Foster said. “He’s going to break that record sooner or later anyways. Everybody knows that. Our big thing is to limit big plays and win the game.”
D.J. Swearinger, who was on the field when Peyton Manning broke the season touchdown-pass record, doesn’t wish to relive that feeling on Monday night in New Orleans. Norm Hall/Getty Images
The Redskins did a solid job against Brees last season — for three quarters, holding him to 202 passing yards. But he finished with 385, throwing for 183 yards in the final quarter and overtime of the Week 11 game as the Saints rallied from a 15-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining to win 34-31.

The Redskins disguised some coverages well enough to take away big plays for most of the game. They also tried to rush with four most of the time, doing so on 32 of his 42 dropbacks. That enabled them to play with seven in coverage. But that defense was banged up, with multiple starters unavailable because of injury. The Redskins’ line is much better with rookie Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, who was one of the players out because of injury last November.

“I couldn’t care less about it,” Redskins corner Quinton Dunbar said of the record. “If we go out there and take care of business and execute and compete, then it won’t happen. Obviously, if it doesn’t, then it means we’re having a great game. But I’m not waking up with stress on my mind, saying, ‘Hey, man, I have to stop Brees from getting [201].’ No, man, I’m focused on the Washington Redskins.’”

Stopping Brees means controlling his favorite targets, such as receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. Those two combined for 165 yards on 12 catches in last year’s game.

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“You can see on film, if he doesn’t go to his first two targets, he’s going to throw to his checkdown almost blind because he always knows where he is,” Swearinger said. “That’s where a lot of his yards come with Kamara. He turns a 3-yard pass into a 13-yard gain. Drew getting to the checkdown so fast is what makes him different.”

 

His career total of 71,740 passing yards makes him different, too. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “Hopefully he doesn’t get it.” But that’s also not his concern — and he knows how hard it is to hold Brees to a low yardage total. He rattled off Brees’ strengths: accuracy, anticipation, pocket skills.

“He gets on his tiptoes and he sees the field extremely well,” Gruden said. “It’s very important for us to disguise our intent and try to get after him as best we can. If he has time to see the field and read what your intent is on defense, he’ll find an open guy. That’s what he’s best at. He gets in unique formations, shows your hand and he gets into the right play.”

Too many right plays, regardless of yardage total, will spoil the Redskins’ night.

“I told the guys we need to do everything we can to stop him from getting 200 yards,” Swearinger said. “It should be real fun. Stay tuned. We’ll be ready.”

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PHILADELPHIA — Crazy to think how a single choice at a crossroad led to the “Philly Special,” a Super Bowl Bowl MVP and an avalanche of Philadelphia sports history, and how none of it would have unfolded in the same fashion if Nick Foles had gone left instead of right. Or, more accurately, south instead of north.
Would there be a statue commemorating an Eagles’ Super Bowl win if Nick Foles had gone to Tampa as a free agent? Who would have been the QB talking to Doug Pederson about the Philly Special? AP Photo/Matt Slocum
The Philadelphia Eagles play at the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday. In a parallel universe, Foles would be coming out of the tunnel wearing pewter and red rather than midnight green.

A free agent heading into the 2017 season, Foles had narrowed his decision down to the Eagles and Bucs. Philly was releasing Chase Daniel and needed a No. 2 to Carson Wentz, and Tampa was looking for a backup to Jameis Winston after Mike Glennon signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Chicago Bears.

“It was close,” said Foles, who will start against Tampa on Sunday while Wentz continues to heal up from multi-ligament knee injury. “We were in discussions.”

Foles has a history with Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter. He committed to play for him at Arizona State when Foles was a junior in high school, but Koetter was fired that year, setting the wheels in motion for him to join the NFL ranks. Koetter was looking to make the union finally happen in the pros.

“We were excited about bringing Nick to ASU to play for us there,” Koetter said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I guess it’s worked out OK on both ends. But, shoot, I loved Nick as a high school player and his athleticism not only as a football player but as a basketball player. I’ve followed his career closely ever since and at one point actually tried to get him come down here. But again, that’s worked out well for him, and we did great by getting [Ryan Fitzpatrick] so it worked out well for both sides.”

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Foles’ wife, Tori, was pregnant with their daughter, Lily during free agency. Their affection for and familiarity with the city of Philadelphia from Foles’ first time with the Eagles proved to be the tiebreaker.
“We thought really long and hard, but ultimately we decided that Philly was our home once before and we loved it, we loved the people here, we loved the city,” Foles said. “And what better place to be when we bring our daughter into the world? So that was the big decision.”

As Koetter said, it worked out for both parties. Fitzpatrick is off to a hot start — he threw four touchdowns in an opening-day win over the New Orleans Saints — and Foles, well, Foles is an icon for helping to deliver Philly its first-ever Lombardi Trophy.

As interesting as it is from the outside to think about what might have been — or not been — if Foles and his family chose differently, the 29-year-old QB says he hasn’t spent much time on it.

“Once we decided to go here, you’re obviously grateful for the teams that you talk with and you go through the business part with, but I was grateful to be here and just focused on being in Philly,” he said, “and being a daddy and all that comes with it.”

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets, one day after naming Sam Darnold their starting quarterback, on Tuesday added one of his former Pac-12 rivals to their practice squad: Davis Webb.

Webb, a third-round pick of the New York Giants in 2017, was surprisingly released Sunday by the Giants. He went unclaimed on waivers and became a free agent.

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“He’s somebody you looked at coming out [in the draft],” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “To have him available and being able to [put him] on the practice squad, it’s something that intrigued us, with the size and the arm. You’re not surprised or surprised he’s available. We just thought we’d take a look at him. He was a good guy to sign.”

The Jets have only Darnold and Josh McCown on their 53-man roster. The plan was to keep undrafted rookie John Wolford on the practice squad, but they decided to change when Webb became available.

Wolford was released.

Webb didn’t play a single snap as a rookie and was active for only one game. He received most of the second-team reps in training camp, behind Eli Manning, so it was a stunner when the Giants decided to release Webb in favor of rookie Kyle Lauletta and Alex Tanney.

“I didn’t need a reason [from the Giants],” Webb said Tuesday. “They made a decision; I didn’t agree with it. I don’t think many people did, especially my teammates. But at the same time, I’ve moved on.”

General manager Mike Maccagnan saw Darnold play in person for the first time while scouting Webb during a USC-Cal game on Oct. 27, 2016. Maccagnan flew to Cal to scout Webb, who was draft-eligible, but a member of the USC staff told the GM before the game to keep an eye on the Trojans’ freshman quarterback.

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There’s good news as it comes to that largely useless video posted by NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron regarding the new rule against lowering the helmet and making contact with an opponent: It’s been revised both to ditch the Commodore 64 graphics and, more importantly, to add animation that highlights which player is or isn’t complying with the rule.

Here’s the bad news: It still lacks narration or explanation, making it only slightly less useless than it was. (It’s not clear why Riveron didn’t simply do a video that includes his explanation as to why a given play is or isn’t a foul.)

Here’s my quick assessment of the six plays shown on the video, with the first three not a foul and the last three examples of a violation.

In the first play not involving a foul, Rams safety Steven Parker closes in to make a form tackle. As he approaches the ball carrier, Parker LOWERS HIS HELMET. If the ball carrier had shifted slightly to his right (Parker’s left), Parker would have struck the opponent with the lowered helmet, and it would have been a foul.

In the second, Jets safety J.J. Wilcox approaches the Falcons receiver and Wilcox instinctively LOWERS HIS HELMET. Wilcox actually makes contact against the receiver with the helmet. So why wasn’t it a foul? As the grossly broad lowering-the-helmet rule is written, it should have been.

In the third, Jets cornerback Jeremy Clark makes a form tackle on a kickoff return. Just before impact, Clark LOWERS HIS HELMET. Clark manages to deliver the blow without making contact against the opponent with Clark’s helmet.

As to the two situations that clearly aren’t fouls, the outcome is driven more by happenstance than technique. Basically, Parker and Clark got lucky, in that the opponent didn’t move into the path of the lowered helmet. If they had, it would have been a foul, based on the manner in which the rule is written.

In the first play showing a violation, a Rams defender chases down a ball carrier and, at the point of impact, instinctively dips his helmet and makes contact. Technically, it’s a foul. But what was the player supposed to do differently? There will be many plays in which the defender won’t be able to square up and make a form tackle. If what the defender did in that case is a foul, what could he have done that wouldn’t have been a foul — other than sprint down the field and circle back in the hopes of maybe being able to approach him from the front?

In the second play, Browns tight end Orson Charles goes in motion from right to left before the snap, then goes back to the right and delivers a block that seals the path to the ball carrier. Charles instinctively lowers his helmet and seems to make contact with the helmet against the Giants defender Charles is trying to block. Again, what could he have done differently, other than collide with the defender while standing straight up, and in turn been blown up by the lower man? (An arguably more obviously foul appears on that play, when Giants defensive back Orion Stewart, wearing No. 45, performs a head-down lunge into the ball carrier while he is being tackled.)

The third play represents a mirror image of the second one, with a Saints player moving left to right to block Jaguars defensive lineman Lyndon Johnson, who lowers his helmet just before colliding with the blocker. It happens quickly, but it definitely appears to be a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the rule; Johnson could have at least tried to move his helmet to the side instead of putting his helmet in the blocker’s stomach.

Bottom line? The rule continues to be far too broad, its application will far too often be driven by chance and randomness, and it’s becoming far too late to implement a meaningful fix that requires the blow to be forcible and that carves out any incidental contact that happens while the tackler or blocker is attempting to deliver a hit without making contact with the helmet.

In 22 days, this rule will be applied to games that count.

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The Giants had a need for new talent on their roster after going 3-13 last season and three of the players they drafted in April have shot to the top of the depth chart.

It’s no surprise that running back Saquon Barkley is one of those players. Barkley was the second overall pick in the draft and was selected in hopes that he could make the Giants offense great again.

Finding second-round pick Will Hernandez at left guard also isn’t a shocker. The Giants offensive line was a disaster last season and Hernandez’s scrappiness has already won him admirers among his teammates.

If there is a surprise, it would be that third-round pick B.J. Hill finds himself listed next to Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson on the starting defensive line. With Josh Mauro suspended for the first four games and no other returning regulars, Hill’s chances of keeping that spot into the regular season are probably pretty good.

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The Green Bay Packers made final adjustments to their 90-man roster ahead of the start of training camp on Wednesday.

The Packers placed rookie linebacker Parris Bennett on the reserve/retired list. Bennett announced via his instagram feed that he was retiring from football due to health considerations.

“Today I made the hardest decision of my life, to walk away from the game I love,” Bennett wrote. “I’ve given everything to this sport but I know my health is ultimately the most important thing. 15 years with this game and I have no regrets. I just hope I made everyone around me proud. On to the next chapter. I’ll always love this game.”

To fill Bennett’s place on the roster, the Packers are set to sign former Temple wide receiver Adonis Jennings, according to his agent David Canter.

Jennings initially signed with the Cincinnati Bengals after going undrafted this spring. He caught 83 passes for 1,352 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons at Temple.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — A rainbow of strobe lights dances across the championship banners that line a walkway leading from an ordinary, brightly lit convention center lobby to a dark arena that feels like an alternate universe.

Dramatic theme music fills the air, as smoke from a machine dissipates to reveal a gamer’s heaven.

Oversized monitors in the rafters broadcast the action, and speakers boom with an intense amount of bass.

Then, a team delivers a final kill shot, and a crowd of several thousand erupts in cheers.

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In the middle of this scene at the Call of Duty World League tournament is Los Angeles Rams offensive guard Rodger Saffold. He finished mandatory minicamp only the week prior, and he’s tending to his other job as owner of Rise Nation, an esports team that he founded in 2014, which boasts several of the top video game players and teams in the country.

“The lights are crazy; the energy is amazing,” said Saffold, who, at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, stood out among the crowd, wearing a black sweatshirt and a diamond-encrusted pendant with a Rise Nation logo. “It’s also very stressful.”

For six months a year, Saffold is strictly focused on football. But when the season ends, the nine-year NFL pro fills much of his time with gaming. He grew up loving puzzles. Then during college, he developed a penchant for video games, more specifically “Call of Duty,” the first-person-shooter game.

“I was streaming my play on Twitch,” Saffold said, referring to a live-streaming video platform. “Somebody gave me the idea that we should probably just come up with our own team, and I decided to make it from scratch.”

The structure of an esports organization bears a resemblance to an NFL team.

As the owner, Saffold funds the organization, “like a poor man’s Stan Kroenke,” he chuckled, in reference to the Rams’ owner. He has a partner in longtime friend Kareem Horsley and hired former gamer Jonathan Tucker as general manager.

“In big decisions, we keep him informed,” said Tucker, who first met Saffold in 2014 at a gaming tournament. “Transfers, signings, big-money moves that could affect how we work, we have to consult him. … But as far as day-to-day stuff, me and Kareem do most of it, because it’s just too many things to bother him with.”

Saffold, who studied business management at Indiana, has 10 full-time employees and a roster that fluctuates between 10 and 12 players among seven teams, depending on the games and tournaments the organization is involved in.

To develop his business, Saffold leaned on the friendships he developed within the esports industry. “Just picking everybody’s brain,” Saffold said, “we were kind of able to figure out a formula.”

He also sought the creative input of a Rams graphic designer to develop a Rise Nation logo.

“I wanted to be involved and invested into something that I have a lot of passion for,” Saffold said. “This seemed to be it.”

Saffold isn’t the only person from professional sports getting into gaming. Earlier this year, the NBA became the first professional sports league to operate an esports league when it launched NBA 2K, which features some of the best basketball gamers in the world.

Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins are among former athletes who have invested in esports.

But Saffold is one of only two current professional athlete to own an organization, something he takes pride in.

“I’m making money at it,” Saffold said. “But at the same time, I started off with ‘Call of Duty’ and now I’ve ventured into different games and different sports, and we kind of developed a nice community of people surrounded by Rise that just enjoy the organization that we created.”

His gamer tag is Rise Blindside, and, during the offseason, Saffold can often be found huddled in front of three screens inside his game room at home, competing against friends and Rise Nation players.

“He is so supportive and so engaged,” said Daniel Loza, a member of Rise Nation’s Call of Duty team. “It’s not just a business thing, like you play for me. He gets to know you, know what you like. … I’ve played [Call of Duty] before with him. I’ve played games with him. … He’s a gamer, so he understands.”

At the Call of Duty World League tournament in Anaheim, fans in Rise Nation jerseys stopped Saffold for photos and autographs.

“At first they’re like, ‘Oh man, there goes the Rise Nation owner,’” Saffold said. “Then they’re like ‘Oh, it’s a Rams football player.’ … So I’ve had autographs for my gamer tag as well as for football.”

But when his team took the controls, Saffold became all but unapproachable. His eyes were fixated on the screen as he hardly blinked.
Saffold’s Rise Nation team in action. MLG
“This is about to get serious!” he said to no one in particular, when his team heated up after a slow start. “This is going to be close. Wow, that shot was ridiculous. … Let’s go!”

The running commentary continued until his team completed a come-from-behind win in the first game and swept the match. Following the victory, he quietly made his way to another screen to scout future opponents. Even during a meal break, Saffold clutched his phone to watch the action online.

“Before I got started with this, I was a fan,” Saffold said. “I wasn’t a corporation trying to just get into esports. … So being able to come to these things and just watch game play, because as a gamer, I watch these guys, and I’m picking up tips.”

Tucker said it was rare to see an owner as involved as Saffold.

“He likes games,” Tucker said. “So it’s a lot different to come sit around all day with everybody.”

The four-member Rise Nation Call of Duty team has won three tournaments this season, including its most recent in Anaheim, where it took home $80,000 of a $200,000 prize pool.
Rise Nation’s team is the favorite going into the Call of Duty World League Championship in Columbus, Ohio, in August, where the prize pool will increase to $1.5 million.

“Definitely want that world championship for Call of Duty,” Saffold said. “It puts us at another notch and just that premier level. … We’ve got a pretty decent following, but I think grabbing a world championship would take us over the top.”

And other Rams want to get involved.

Saffold won’t reveal any names. He’s not ready to expand the business yet and doesn’t want to tip other teams to potential investors or owners when they could one day help him grow Rise Nation.

“At first we were thinking this was more of a hobby,” Saffold said. “But now it has kind of grown, and having more than one team and having players from all over the world has really been shocking thus far. We’re only five years into this.”

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Like Train in Vain as the hidden caboose on London Calling, the NFL deftly slipped the new helmet rule into the list of proposed 2018 rule changes, item No. 11 on a 10-proposal list. And that initial cloak of secrecy has followed the new helmet rule for nearly three months since it made a sudden debut.

As explained by Dom Cosentino of Deadspin.com, the new helmet rule could dramatically change football as we know it. He’s one of the few (only) to see it that way. And, of course, I’m sharing his take in this space because I’m one of the few (only) to see it that way, too.

Consentino has learned from the league that the rule itself won’t appear as a new provision in the rulebook. Instead, the new helmet rule results from the removal of only three words from one of the many ways that a player can be penalized for unnecessary roughness. Of the 10 different types of unnecessary roughness, item (i) has been changed from “using any part of a player’s helmet or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily” to “using any part of a player’s helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent.”

In other words, the NFL has removed the key words “violently or unnecessarily.”

Which, of course, doesn’t make sense. If the butting, spearing, or ramming isn’t violent or unnecessary, how can it be unnecessary roughness? And why bury this potentially dramatic change in a portion of the rule book that articulates instances of unnecessary roughness by expressly removing the words “unnecessary” and “violent” (i.e., roughness) from the definition of the prohibited act?

It’s just another example of the scavenger hunt that the new helmet rule has become, a quest complicated by plenty of influential people claiming that there’s no cause for concern while the reasons to be concerned continue to pile up.

If the rule is consistently enforced as written, with all non-violent and necessary instances of butting, ramming, or spearing drawing a flag, the game definitely will change, especially in the trenches. If the rule isn’t consistently enforced as written, yet another arbitrary rule potentially will potentially mar the outcome of games when the foul isn’t called on one key play but is called during another.

Just in time for the proliferation of legalized gambling.

The new helmet rule has the potential to be a mess, because it already is a mess. At very best for the NFL, another significant disconnect will exist between the language of a rule and its application, creating way too much discretion and, in turn, an opportunity for officiating shenanigans. At worst, the helmet will be taken out of the game to the point where it will become glorified two-hand touch with linemen in two-point stances and the table set for a second fall football league to embrace the game the way it used to be played — and to siphon off NFL fans who will potentially reach their personal breaking points regarding an evolution of safety rules that may soon become a revolution.