Arizona LB Daryl Washington gets 1-Year Ban for Pot – GM Steve Keim pissed

daryl-washington-pot-suspensionAs is the case every offseason, NFL players are being slapped with repercussions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Just a couple of weeks ago, Indianapolis Colts linebacker and 2013 sack-leader Robert Mathis learned that he’ll miss the first four games of the season. Mathis tested positive for Clomid, a male fertility drug that’s popular for “post-cycle therapy” among steroid users. However, the Pro Bowler contends that he was merely using the drug until his wife got pregnant.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is probably envious of Mathis because he’ll miss the entire 2014 NFL season after testing positive for marijuana. Washington received a four-game suspension last year when he violated the league’s substance abuse policy for a third time. Now, after being caught a fourth time with pot, he’ll have to miss every game of the 2014 season, forfeit his $2.9 million base salary and a $100,000 workout bonus. As if this isn’t enough, the Cardinals will also look to recoup $12.5 million in roster and signing bonuses that they paid Washington over the past two seasons.

Washington’s Response

daryl-washington-pot-suspension-2There’s not much that the starting linebacker can say after being caught with drugs yet again. His suspension leaves a big hole at right-inside linebacker, where he racked up 58 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions, despite only playing in 12 games. Washington was instrumental in Arizona’s 10-win revival last season, especially in huge wins over Seattle (9 Tack, 1 Sack), Atlanta (6 Tack, 1 INT) and Carolina (9 Tack, 2 Sacks, 1 INT).

After learning that he won’t be seeing the gridiron this season, Washington released the following statement that includes an apology and plans to change his substance abuse habits:

I recently learned that I had violations of the NFL Substances of Abuse policy related to marijuana. The Policy is very strict, and I have chosen to take responsibility. I am committed to making changes in my life that will allow me to return to the NFL as soon as possible. I will work extremely hard to stay in top football shape, and will work equally as hard to ensure that my life off of the field meets the high level of maturity and responsibility to which I am committed. I sincerely apologize for the effect of my actions and my teammates, coaches and other colleagues at the Cardinals. I also apologize to Cardinals fans for the time I will miss. I will work diligently during this suspension and will return as a better man and football player.

GM Steve Reim’s Response

If Washington was hoping that his statement would win back support in the Arizona Cardinals organization, it certainly didn’t work on GM Steve Reim. As you can tell from the first line of his statement, he’s not too happy with the linebacker. Here’s a look at Reim’s comments to the media:

It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position. We all know what the consequences are and will deal with them. From a personal standpoint, our hope is that this suspension will give Daryl the opportunity to accept the necessary help and guidance to get his life back on track and we will certainly support him however we can.

As it pertains to our team, our approach is the same as it’s always been: next man up. We talk a lot about how critical depth is to a team because situations always arise where you lose players, whether by injury or other circumstances such as this one. One player’s absence is another’s opportunity. That approach has served us well in the past and we will rely on it now.

Who will take Washington’s Place?

daryl-washington-pot-suspension-1If you’re looking forward to 2014 Arizona Cardinals betting – whether it be on futures, point spreads or live wagering – you might be interested to know who’ll take over at RILB. Washington’s production may not be completely irreplaceable since he didn’t play up to the same All-Pro level that he set in 2012 – when he racked up 138 tackles, 9 sacks and an interception. However, Washington was still an integral part of last year’s defense, which ranked seventh statistically in the NFL.

2013 second-round pick Kevin Minter is definitely a candidate to replace Washington. Minter had a very quiet rookie season because he was buried on the depth chart by veterans like Karlos Dansby and Washington. The former LSU star mainly played special teams, though he’ll be looking to have a much larger role in his second year. This is especially the case when you consider that Dansby was signed by Cleveland this offseason.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Larry Foote is another guy who will look to replace Washington’s production. Foote had a big season in 2012 after tallying 113 combined tackles, however, injuries held him back last year.

But overall, the cupboard looks a little bare at linebacker for Arizona right now. And they’ll be hard-pressed to replace Washington’s blitzing speed, pass defense and ball-hawking skills. That said, the Cardinals’ defense will be a question mark heading into the 2014 NFL season.

Rashard Mendenhall retires Earlier than expected

rashard-mendenhall-retiresNoted running back Rashard Mendenhall has retired after six years in the NFL. In comparison to the average football career, six years is fairly lengthy. But what’s interesting in Mendenhall’s case is that he could’ve stretched his career out at least a couple more years.

Sure, the 2013 season wasn’t a career-best for Mendy, as he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. But the Arizona Cardinals did give him 217 carries, which he turned into 687 yards and 8 touchdowns while splitting work with Andre Ellington.

Last month, through his blog on Huffington Post, Mendenhall opened up about a religious vision he had two years ago. He saw himself swimming in a large body of water at night, commenting that this would be dangerous under normal circumstances. However, he was swimming towards a statue of the Blessed Mother and felt protected during his journey. Mendenhall concluded his post by writing:

That day I sat on my couch two years ago was the very next day after I tore my ACL in week 17. The journey I envisioned is the two years of rebuilding that would follow. And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.

rashard-mendenhall-retires-1Now that the rebuilding process is over, it looks like Mendenhall is ready to move on from the game after a pretty solid career. His pro football days began when he was picked 23rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. Showing an excellent blend of speed (4.41 forty time) and power (26 bench press reps) at the combine, Mendenhall was looked at as Pittsburgh’s running back of the future.

His rookie season didn’t go as planned, though, when he suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder after a hit by Ray Lewis. Mendenhall would come back strong in the 2009 season when he rushed for 1,108 yards and 7 touchdowns on 242 carries (4.6 YPC). He did even better in 2010, racking up 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns on 324 carries. This year also saw Mendenhall play in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers, which Pittsburgh lost.

2011 marked a decline in Mendenhall’s production and carries, though he still remained an integral part of the team. He rushed for 928 yards and 9 TD’s on 228 carries. He rarely played in 2012 and tore his ACL at the end of the year. However, Mendenhall was still able to land a $2.5 million contract with Arizona last season, which shows that he probably could’ve continued finding work in the NFL if he felt like doing so.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 11 (Nov. 13th, 2013)

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans SaintsThis past week was a big dividing line in the playoff hopes of many teams. The Chargers, Dolphins, Titans and Redskins all had realistic postseason chances going into last week’s games; but they all missed huge opportunities to legitimize their hopes of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Eagles, Lions, Panthers and Ravens all took big steps forward in trying to win a postseason bid. There’s still a lot of time left in the season, but keep an eye on these five teams as we move forward. Now let’s look at the Week 11 NFL power rankings.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0); bye week, retains same ranking – Despite their undefeated ranking, many still question the Chiefs billing as the NFL’s top team. They have a huge opportunity to put these questions to rest as they travel to Mile High to face Denver.

2. Denver Broncos (8-1); beat San Diego 28-20, retains same ranking – The Broncos weren’t caught looking ahead as they were able to beat a tough San Diego team on the road. Peyton looks to be handling his ankle issues well after throwing for 330 yards and four TD’s. Now he faces KC in what will be a true test of offense vs. defense.

3. Seattle Seahawks (9-1); beat Atlanta 33-10, retains same ranking – After narrowly grabbing a win two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, the Seahawks looked themselves again in Atlanta. The offense really seems to be clicking, with Russell Wilson throwing for 287 yards and 2 TD’s, and Marshawn Lynch adding 145 yards and a score on the ground.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-2); beat Dallas 49-17, moves up two spots – New Orleans showed why nobody wants to play them in the Superdome after manhandling the Cowboys. Drew Brees (392PYDS, 4TD) looked like he was passing on a JV team, while Mark Ingram had his best game as a pro with 145 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.

5. New England Patriots (7-2); bye week, moves up two spots – With a healthy team, improved passing game, and the two teams above them losing, New England moves up two spots. Now they travel to take on a red-hot Panthers team in Charlotte.

6. San Francisco 49ers (6-3); lost to Carolina 10-9, drops one spot – Given how good Carolina is playing, it’s not a shame to lose to them. However, what is shameful is the way that the Niners offense played. Colin Kaepernick has got to get more going if this team is to make a deep postseason run.

 andrew-luck-rams7. Indianapolis Colts (6-3); lost to St. Louis 38-8, drops three spots – It’s still tough sorting out what happened with this game. A team with wins over Denver, San Francisco and Seattle loses to the Rams by 30 at home!? Andrew Luck had what may be his worst game ever after throwing for 353 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT’s. And the running game was absolutely nonexistent for the Colts.

8. Detroit Lions (6-3); beat Chicago 21-19, moves up one spot – Detroit took advantage of a hobbled Jay Cutler and grabbed a good road victory. Now in sole possession of first in the NFC North, the Lions are in great shape to win the division, given their closest competitors’ injury struggles.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4); lost to Baltimore 20-17 (OT), drops one spot – The Bengals looked pretty bad in this game, namely because of a ton of penalties. Even still, they got a second chance when Andy Dalton’s Hail Mary pass was tipped into the hands of AJ Green. Still, they couldn’t capitalize after failing to score in overtime and allowing Baltimore to drive down for a game-winning field goal.

10. Carolina Panthers (6-3); beat San Francisco 10-9, moves up four spots – Is it time to believe in the Panthers? Maybe so after Carolina’s defense pitched a second-half shutout and stopped San Francisco’s five-game winning streak. This team gets no time to celebrate, though, since they face New England at home.

11. Arizona Cardinals (5-4); beat Houston 27-24, moves up two spots – Few would’ve predicted that, with the season over halfway done, the Cardinals would be a game behind Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. Arizona has another very friendly matchup as they travel to Jacksonville this week.

12. Dallas Cowboys (5-5); lost to New Orleans 49-17, drops two spots – The Cowboys lived up to the “boys” part of their name after being dominated by the Saints. The big story following this game was how Jerry Jones publicly regretted getting rid of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s completely transformed New Orleans’ D.

jay-cutler-injury13. Chicago Bears (5-4); lost to Detroit 21-19, drops two spots – Marc Trestman rolled the dice on starting an iffy Jay Cutler and lost big-time. It was plain to see that Josh McCown would’ve been the better option after he came in for the limping Cutler and led a late-game scoring drive. However, a missed two-point conversion sealed this loss.

14. Green Bay Packers (5-4); lost to Philadelphia 27-13, drops two spots – The backup QB couldn’t even stay healthy as Seneca Wallace left early on with a groin injury. This meant Scott Tolzien was left trying to win this very important game. He performed fairly well with 280 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s, but it wasn’t enough as Green Bay falls into a tie with Chicago for second in the division.

15. New York Jets (5-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Jets actually have a solid shot to win a Wild Card berth if they take care of business the rest of the way. But this playoff push starts with a tricky road game against division rival Buffalo.

16. San Diego Chargers (4-5); lost to Denver 28-20, drops one spot – San Diego played well against a superior Denver team, but not good enough. We said it before: their loss last week to Washington probably killed their playoff chances. After all, a road game at Mile High and two contests against the Chiefs still await.

17. Cleveland Browns (4-5); bye week, moves up two spots – The Browns’ season has been a true odyssey, with Brandon Weeden starting at QB, then Brian Hoyer, then back to Weeden, and now Jason Campbell. The latter has definitely provided the best results for Cleveland recently.

18. Baltimore Ravens (4-5); beat Cincinnati 20-17, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t totally dead yet this year. Sure the running game is still busted, with Ray Rice gaining just 30 yards on 18 carries. However, the Ravens still have a strong defense, and decent passing game behind Joe Flacco. The next few games are all winnable too, assuming Baltimore plays up to their potential.

nick-foles-eagles19. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5); beat Green Bay 27-13, moves up three spots – Give this team credit for winning two straight games behind Nick Foles and climbing into a first-place tie with Dallas in the NFC East. Many think that Foles has played well enough to keep the starting job, even when Michael Vick does get healthy.

20. Tennessee Titans (4-5); lost to Jacksonville 29-27, drops three spots – Not only did Tennessee lose to the worst football team in the NFL, but they also lost Jake Locker for the rest of the season. A fairly capable Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the rest of the way.

21. Miami Dolphins (4-5); lost to Tampa Bay 22-19, drops three spots – It wasn’t a good day for 4-4 teams since Miami also lost to a winless team. You have to wonder if the bullying scandal has dismantled a once-promising season.

22. New York Giants (3-6); beat Oakland 24-20, moves up two spots – Eli Manning (140PYDS, 1TD, 1INT) still looked bad with a soft matchup staring him in the face. But Andre Brown gave the Giants a big boost in his first game of the season after rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown.

23. Washington Redskins (3-6); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops two spots – With Washington, it’s just a case of a team that can’t get over the hump. Every time they look ready to jump into the NFC East race, they drop a winnable game.

24. Oakland Raiders (3-6); lost to New York Giants 24-20, drops one spot – The excitement that Terrelle Pryor brought earlier has now been deflated. He had his most anemic game of the season after throwing for just 122 yards and an interception.

25. St. Louis Rams (4-6); beat Indianapolis 38-8, moves up four spots – ‘Wow’ is the only word that describes this one. Tavon Austin emerged as a star in this game after returning a punt for 98 yards, then adding two long touchdown catches for a combined total of 138 yards.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6); beat Buffalo 23-10, moves up two spots – All the talk about CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson taking advantage of the Steelers weak run defense meant nothing. Pittsburgh looked like their old selves with a dominant defensive performance.

27. Atlanta Falcons (2-7); lost to Seattle 33-10, drops two spots – It’s pretty clear that this has been a busted, injury-plagued year for Atlanta. Maybe they can get a spark going and win a few games to build momentum for next season.

28. Houston Texans (2-7); lost to Arizona 27-24, drops two spots – Give Houston credit for playing hard a week after their coach was hospitalized. Much like Atlanta, Houston has just suffered too many injuries to play at the level they were at last year.

29. Buffalo Bills (3-7); lost to Pittsburgh 23-10, drops two spots – EJ Manuel’s return meant very little as Buffalo managed just 227 total yards. The Bills’ biggest mistake this season has been letting CJ Spiller play game after game with a high ankle sprain.

30. Minnesota Vikings (2-7); beat Washington 34-27, retains same ranking – It was a good day for the bottom of the league. Minnesota grabbed their second win on the strength of John Carlson’s breakout performance (98YDS, 1TD).

31. Tampa Bay (1-8); beat Miami 22-19, retains same ranking – While Tampa Bay lost another running back for the season in Mike James, they did pick up their first win. However, it’s still surprising that it took this long to win for a team that spent so much offseason money.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8); beat Tennessee 29-27, retains same ranking – The Jaguars took advantage of four Tennessee turnovers, and turned these into 17 points. They thankfully avoided the embarrassing 0-16 mark that many thought they were headed for.

NFL Coaching Carousel – Kelly to Browns? Lovie to Bills?

With the NFL regular season now over, there have been a flurry of coach firings lately. Some of the moves were expected, while others were a little more surprising given what the coaches had accomplished. A few of these teams have either found a replacement already, or are on the verge of finding a new front man. This being said, let’s look at what teams have axed coaches along with likely candidates to fill the vacant positions.

Arizona Cardinals: Fired Ken Whisenhunt, no Clear Replacement – After finishing with more wins than any other Arizona coach (45) and taking the Cardinals to their lone Super Bowl appearance (2008), Ken Whisenhunt will always hold a special place in franchise history. But Whisenhunt’s past accomplishments couldn’t save his job after Arizona lost 11 out of their last 12 games. Those being interviewed for this position include Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Buffalo Bills: Fired Chan Gailey, Lovie Smith interviewed – In three seasons with the Bills, Chan Gailey failed to make any sort of impact. Gailey’s record was 16-32, and his best year was just 6-10. Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is the most interesting replacement candidate, and he’s interviewed with the Bills already. Others who are being considered are Horton, Whisenhunt, McCoy and Doug Marrone.

Chicago Bears: Fired Lovie Smith, Several Candidates being considered – Smith had a good run as the Bears’ head coach since he compiled an 81-63 record over nine seasons. He also won three NFC North titles, made two NFC Championship appearances, and guided Chicago to the 2006 Super Bowl; they lost 29-17 to the Colts. But after a 7-1 start this year, the Bears stumbled to 10-6 and missed the playoffs. Potential replacements for Lovie include McCoy, Atlanta special teams coach Keith Armstrong and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

Cleveland Browns: Fired Pat Shurmur, Chip Kelly likely Replacement – Pat Shurmur was only given two seasons in Cleveland, which were largely unsuccessful. He compiled a 9-23 record and finished last in the AFC North both years. While nothing is official yet, Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly is already being tabbed as Shurmur’s replacement. He went 46-7 at Oregon, and the Browns would be his first NFL job.

Kansas City Chiefs: Fired Romeo Crennel, Andy Reid is New Coach – Before the season, some experts picked the Chiefs to win the AFC West. However, Kansas City suffered through a miserable 2-14 season and were noncompetitive in most games. The team has already found a replacement for Crennel since former Eagles coach Andy Reid has agreed to a deal with Kansas City.

Philadelphia Eagles: Fired Andy Reid, Jon Gruden being considered – Andy Reid is the longest-tenured NFL coach to get the ax this season. He spent 14 years with the Eagles and went 130-93 during this lengthy span. Reid also took Philadelphia to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he went 12-20 over the past two seasons with top-level talent at most positions. Former Tampa Bay and Oakland coach Jon Gruden is the most interesting replacement candidate, while Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is also being considered.

San Diego Chargers: Fired Norv Turner, no Clear Replacement – Norv Turner got off to a hot start as the Chargers coach when he guided them to the 2007 AFC Championship game in his first season. He followed that up with a couple of AFC Divisional round appearances in 2008 and 2009. But since then, Norv and the Chargers have missed the postseason in three straight years; he departs San Diego with a fairly impressive 56-40 record there. The Chargers’ coaching search has been relatively quiet – though Lovie Smith’s name has come up a few times.