Monday's NFL: Steelers decline option on ex-Wolverine Bush; Hopkins suspended 6 games
Pittsburgh — Devin Bush will be playing for his job in 2022.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have declined the fifth-year option on the inside linebacker, meaning he can become a free agent next spring.
Pittsburgh traded up in the first round of the 2019 draft to take Bush with the 10th overall pick. Bush played well as a rookie, getting 109 tackles with two interceptions and a sack while finishing third in the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Bush’s career, however, hit a setback when he tore the ACL in his left knee against Cleveland in October 2020.
He returned in time to start the 2021 season but saw his playing time fluctuate. He played 79% of the defensive snaps last fall, compared to 82% as a rookie and 90% pre-injury in 2020.
Bush, the son of former NFL safety Devin Bush Sr., had 70 tackles with two sacks in 2021.
This is the third time in the past four years that Pittsburgh has not exercised the fifth-year option on a former first-round pick. The Steelers let cornerback Artie Burns – their first-round selection in 2016 – walk after the 2019 season. They also didn’t exercise the fifth-year option on 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds, though they did re-sign Edmunds to a one-year deal late last month.
Hopkins suspended 6 games
Arizona Cardinals three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended without pay for six games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The league announced the suspension on Monday.
It's a stunning blow for the Cardinals, who finished with an 11-6 record last season but faded down the stretch when Hopkins was out of the lineup because of injuries. Now they'll be without the 29-year-old for a big chunk of the upcoming season.
Hopkins played in 10 games last season, catching 42 passes for 572 yards and eight touchdowns. He missed much of the last half of the season — including the team's playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams — because of hamstring and knee injuries.
The Cardinals added a receiver during last week’s NFL draft, acquiring Marquise Brown from the Ravens for the No. 23 overall pick. Brown was a 1,000-yard receiver last season and college teammates with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray when the two were at Oklahoma.
Hopkins’ suspension also likely means a bigger role for Brown, veteran A.J. Green and second-year standout Rondale Moore, along with tight end Zach Ertz, during the season’s first six weeks.
Hopkins has been one of the league's most productive receivers during his nine-year career, which includes six 1,000-yard seasons. He played his first seven seasons with the Texans before being traded in 2020 to the Cardinals.
Hopkins is allowed to participate in the team's preseason games.
Flores lawyer: Unconscionable for Goodell to arbitrate suit
New York — A lawyer for a Black NFL coach who sued the league alleging racist hiring practices told a judge Monday that arbitration is the wrong way to resolve the lawsuit in part because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be the arbitrator and that would be “unconscionable.”
Attorney Douglas Wigdor said the league was trying to force “behind closed doors” the claims of Brian Flores and two other Black coaches. None of the coaches was present for the Manhattan federal court hearing.
It was the first hearing for a lawsuit Flores filed in February, when he claimed the league was “rife with racism” even as the NFL publicly condemns it.
Flores was fired in January as head coach by the Miami Dolphins after leading the team to a 24-25 record over three years, with two straight winning seasons including the most recent, when a 9-8 record left them out of the playoffs. He has been hired since as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His lawsuit was joined last month by two other coaches, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton.
There are six minority head coaches currently in the NFL, a league where the majority of the players are Black.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, representing the NFL, told Judge Valerie E. Caproni that the league believes all claims in the lawsuit must be moved to arbitration according to the terms of employment agreements.
Wigdor said the league demonstrated “this unconscionable bias of the arbitrator” when the NFL said the claims in the lawsuit were without merit after it was first filed. He said it would not be fair for Goodell to arbitrate the claims after he earned $120 million over the last two years from the league's teams.
Lynch said she invited the three coaches and their lawyers to meet with league officials to discuss the “important issues” surrounding racial inclusion that the NFL seeks to address.
“Today, they declined to meet with us,” she said.
Wigdor said he rejected the league's invitation to discuss racial issues because there would be no magistrate judge or judge present.
For now, the judge has put the lawsuit on the slow track, setting up a schedule stretching into August for the submission of written arguments regarding whether arbitration is required.
That schedule is likely to be delayed further once Wigdor formally informs the judge that he wants to seek permission to collect evidence surrounding the arbitration practices of the league before the issue is resolved.
Falcons release RB Mike Davis after tough season
Atlanta — After a disappointing season with his hometown team, running back Mike Davis was being released Monday by the Atlanta Falcons, a person familiar with the move said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Davis' release had not been publicly announced.
Davis confirmed it in a social media post, thanking the Falcons.
The move was not surprising for a team dealing with salary cap woes, especially after the 29-year-old Davis rushed for just 503 yards and three touchdowns last season. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
The Falcons signaled they were moving in a different direction during last week's draft, picking BYU running back Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round.
The team also re-signed Cordarrelle Patterson, who became one of the team's biggest offensive options lining up at both running back and receiver.
“I appreciate everything the Falcons did for me,” Davis, a native of suburban Lithonia, wrote on Twitter “I was able to play for my hometown and impact my community. I appreciate the fans and my family.”
Davis was hoping to make big impact with the Falcons after s igning a $5.5 million, two-year deal ahead of the 2021 season.
He was coming off the best year of his career with Carolina. He led with Panthers with 642 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 2020, while also proving to be an effective weapon in the passing game with 59 catches for 373 yards and two TDs.
But Davis failed to match those numbers with the Falcons, and his role decreased over the course of the season as Patterson claimed a prominent role.
Atlanta is now in a full-fledged rebuilding mode after trading longtime quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and learning that receiver Calvin Ridley, who missed most of last season dealing with mental health issues, will be suspended for all of 2022 for betting on NFL games while away from the team.
The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to take over as the new starting quarterback, selected Southern Cal receiver Drake London at No. 8 overall in the draft, claimed Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder in the third round, and went heavy on offense during the final day of the draft with Allgeier leading the way.
The 5-foot-11, 224 back set BYU records with 276 carries and 1,601 yards rushing in 2021. He tied for for the national lead with 23 touchdowns on the ground.
“We love his yards after contact,” coach Arthur Smith said. "The opportunities there in the running backs room are wide open.”
The Falcons also signed running back Damien Williams to compete for playing time in the backfield.
Turns out, there was no room for Davis.