Lurie accuses Banner of fueling negative perception of Roseman

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Lurie accuses Banner of fueling negative perception of Roseman

Jeffrey Lurie is not happy, and the object of his scorn is his boyhood best friend.

Lurie, owner of the Eagles, said former Eagles executive Joe Banner, his boyhood friend, top adviser for nearly two decades and now CEO of the Browns, appears to be the source of anonymous comments sharply critical of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman that appeared recently in a story on a national sports web site.

Im very supportive of Howie, and if theres any criticism coming from afar about Howie, its just off-base, and so I will support Howie completely, because thats not right, Lurie said.

And, you know, if there are league sources that are really based in Cleveland, thats not right. We see through it all.

In a Jan. 14 story that appeared on CBSsports.com, NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, quoting an anonymous source, wrote that Roseman was drunk with power and woefully out of his depth and was a detriment to the Eagles search for a head coach.

Banner released a statement through Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis denying in the strongest terms that he was the source of the comments in La Canforas story.

It is always difficult to comment on a quote that may or may not be accurate or in context. In this case, from the comments which Jeffrey made that were communicated to me, it is necessary for me to make this clear, unambiguous statement. Any implication that I had anything to do with Jason La Canforas story is completely false, outrageous and borders on being libelous.

I had absolutely no conversation with Jason La Canfora. Having demonstrated my character over the last 44 years to Jeffrey and the last 14 to Howie, it is beyond disappointing that they would suggest such a thing. As tempting as it is to go further, other than defending myself, I will continue to take the high road on all such matters as I have since the day I left the Eagles.

The Eagles and Browns both targeted coveted Oregon head coach Chip Kelly for their head coaching openings, pitting Lurie and Roseman against Banner in a very public, high-stakes battle among former friends for one of the most successful college coaches of the past decade.

In the middle of all this, La Canforas story compared the Browns coaching search favorably to the Eagles search and suggested that the Eagles search, led by Lurie, Roseman and team president Don Smolenski, was meandering and bizarre.

When the Eagles hired Kelly as head coach on Wednesday, it was widely seen as a strong measure of vindication for Roseman and evidence that the anonymous source who told La Canfora that Roseman would prevent the Eagles from landing a prominent coach was off-base.

Kelly said in Philadelphia on Thursday that the Browns were never in the mix, that he knew all along he would either return to Oregon or take the Eagles job.

It was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon, Kelly said. When I met with Jeffrey and Howie and Donald right there, I knew obviously I thought that this was the best spot.

Although the La Canfora story successfully fueled strong anti-Roseman sentiment in Philadelphia, it apparently had no effect on the Eagles search to replace long-time coach Andy Reid.

Lurie said he, Roseman and Smolenski were aware of the story and aware of mounting anti-Roseman sentiment but tried to ignore it.

For these two weeks during the search, we werent going to pay much attention to anything, Lurie said. But if Howie did, he just completely was able to deal with it.

He was annoyed by the unprofessional aspect. He was really annoyed. And hurt by it. But he wouldnt let that get in the way here. He was not going to deal with these people.

In a group interview with reporters on Thursday, Lurie said the three-man search committee was determined not to be distracted or discouraged by the growing hostility toward Roseman.

They knew eventually they would hire either Kelly or Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, their second choice, so they knew eventually the negativity would end.

We knew strategically what was going on with league sources and stuff like that, Lurie said. This was such erroneous reporting it was insane.

The people we interviewed and the people who called the people we interviewed were so positive that I think it dwarfed any of the individual agendas of anybody that was quoted as league sources. It was a joke to us, really.

Lurie said he and Banner have maintained a cordial relationship since their working relationship fractured.

He said he and Banner exchanged texts on Thursday, with each congratulating the other on their head coaching hires Kelly in Philadelphia and Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland.

He also said he believes the relationship between him and Banner can be salvaged.

Im intending to have an excellent relationship with him moving forward, he said.

Lurie said he hasnt spoken to Banner recently to discuss his suspicion that Banner was the one who planted negative quotes about Roseman in La Canforas story.

I havent done that, he said. But if I have to do it I will.

To put the depth of the bitterness between Lurie and Banner in perspective, its important to understand how close they once were.

On May 7, 1994, one day after Lurie officially became owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, he hired Banner as his top adviser.

For 19 years, they worked together to carry out a shared vision of the Eagles franchise. They got a state-of-the-art stadium built. They got a world-class practice facility built. They transformed the Eagles into the second-winningest franchise in the NFC from 1995 through 2010.

But Banner left the Eagles in June after losing a bitter power struggle with Roseman, his one-time protg. A few months later he joined Jimmy Haslams ownership group in Cleveland, soon becoming CEO of the Browns.

Reid alluded to the Lurie-Banner fracture earlier this month when he was asked in an interview with Philadelphia media about the Eagles decline in recent years, a decline that ultimately cost Reid his job.

I would tell you the most important thing is that everybodys got to be pulling in the same direction, Reid said after accepting the Chiefs head coaching position.

When that gets out of whack, bad things happen. Thats how this league works. If you get a little bit out of whack, youre not going to be successful.

As for Roseman, Lurie said the third-year general manager actually had outstanding relationships with all the coaching candidates.

One of the things I learned -- as an owner you learn as you go -- was the really great respect that Howie had across the league, Lurie said. People were calling our candidates to say, This is a young GM, but he is a very, very sharp guy.

Andy Reid also called some of the candidates and told them what Roseman is like to work with.

The benefit we had here, and I cant underestimate it, and it wasnt even our doing, but some of the real iconic names in the sport were telling our candidates before they came in that this was by far the best organization to come in and work for.

Roseman refused to call the Kelly hiring vindication. He said he tried to stay positive throughout the search process and stay focused on the ultimate goal.

Finding a coach who could restore the Eagles winning tradition.

I dont want to make this about me, Roseman said. I think its about our organization, our team and giving the fans back the kind of team theyre used to. That would be vindication for me.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Vince Velasquez says he's ready to pitch early next week

Vince Velasquez says he's ready to pitch early next week

SAN FRANCISCO – Vince Velasquez is back with the Phillies. He was in uniform and threw in the bullpen before Friday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants. If he checks out OK Saturday – and Velasquez was confident that he would – he will be inserted into the rotation early next week in Arizona.
 
Velasquez went on the disabled list after suffering a mild right biceps strain on June 8. He passed a test with a strong rehab start at Double A Reading on Wednesday.
 
Assuming Velasquez bounces back well after Friday’s bullpen session, he could either pitch Monday or Wednesday. Adam Morgan’s spot comes up Monday. He has a 6.55 ERA in 11 starts and could be sent to the minors to get things straightened out. Manager Pete Mackanin did not rule out the possibility of sending Morgan to the bullpen, a move that would necessitate subtracting a reliever from the current bullpen. Still another possible landing spot for Velasquez could be Wednesday if it was determined that Zach Eflin needed more time in the minors.
 
More will be known Saturday, Mackanin said.
 
Velasquez, 24, is a power arm and potential rotation building block for the Phillies. He has a history of arm problems – he is a Tommy John surgery veteran – so the Phillies will be careful with his workload the remainder of the season. That was the plan all along as Velasquez has reached 100 innings in a season just once in his career.
 
General manager Matt Klentak long ago said Velasquez would have an innings cap this season, though he would not disclose it. Velasquez said he and his agent, Scott Boras, have discussed an innings limit of “150-something, 160 tops.” Phillies club president Andy MacPhail indicated that the pitcher, his representatives and the team were “all in the same ballpark philosophically.”
 
Velasquez has pitched 61 2/3 innings in the majors and five in the minors this season.

Andrew Bailey’s injury is Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity

Andrew Bailey’s injury is Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO – Andrew Bailey’s strained left hamstring turned into Edubray Ramos’ well-deserved opportunity in the Phillies’ bullpen.
 
Ramos, a 23-year-old right-hander, was called up from Triple A when Bailey was placed on the disabled list Friday.
 
“I never imagined this,” the Venezuela native said as he stood in the dugout at AT&T Park, the picturesque home of the San Francisco Giants. “I just want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
 
In a sense, Ramos has already taken advantage of an opportunity. He was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a 17-year-old in 2010. He pitched poorly in the Venezuelan Summer League that year and was let go after the season. He was out of pro ball for two years, even played some softball, before the Phillies offered him a minor-league contract. His signing bonus?
 
“Nothing,” he said.
 
Ramos showed improvement over two seasons in the Phillies’ Venezuelan academy, earned his way to the U.S. and never stopped improving. The Phillies placed him on their 40-man roster last fall. He pitched brilliantly at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley before learning of his promotion Thursday. Lehigh Valley pitching coach Dave Lundquist delivered the news through Ramos’ teammate, Edward Mujica, a fellow Venezuelan.
 
“I couldn’t believe it, especially because Mujica was translating for me,” Ramos said through Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies’ major-league translator. “I thought he was fooling me.”
 
Ramos throws four pitches. He has a power fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. In 38 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A this season, he had a 1.16 ERA. He walked just four batters, gave just 24 hits and struck out 41. He allowed just one homer.
 
Phillies officials believe Ramos has the makings of a future closer – he saved 10 games this season in the minors – and manager Pete Mackanin said he would not hesitate to use Ramos in high-leverage situations.
 
Ramos has the talent to stick around for a while. This is the chance he’d been waiting for, the one he did not think would even come when he was out of baseball and painting automobiles with his father in Venezuela and cleaning spills in a food-processing plant.
 
“The Phillies gave me a chance and here I am,” Ramos said with a big smile.
 
Bailey’s hamstring strain is not serious. In fact, he didn't believe a DL stint was necessary because he thinks he could be back in a day or two. But Mackanin said the team could not afford to go short in the bullpen for even a couple of days because the bullpen has been used heavily recently.
 
“I think I would have been all right for tomorrow, but that’s my opinion,” Bailey said. “It’s not a move personally I like, but it’s best for the team, I guess. That’s most important.”

NFL Notes: Lawyer doubts Johnny Manziel can stay clean

NFL Notes: Lawyer doubts Johnny Manziel can stay clean

DALLAS -- An attorney handling Johnny Manziel's domestic violence case expressed doubts about the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback's ability to stay clean and said he was given a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in a hit-and-run crash, according to a lengthy text message accidentally sent to The Associated Press.

Defense attorney Bob Hinton's text indicated Manziel's legal team was seeking a plea deal with prosecutors, but suggested that could be tricky.

"Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle," the attorney wrote.

Hinton also wrote that he had been emailed a "heads up" receipt "which purports to reflect" that Manziel made a purchase of $1,018.77 at a Gas Pipe store at 12:03 p.m. on Tuesday, less than a day after his crash. A manager at a Gas Pipe location not far from where Manziel's crash was reported declined to discuss whether he bought anything there. A sign in the store says ID is required for purchases above $200.

"I don't know if the receipt is legitimate or not," Hinton responded when asked about it by the AP. "I just know that it doesn't say Johnny's name on it anywhere that I can see. It's just that somebody in that store, I guess, circulated that to the other store managers and employees saying, `Guess who was here today and spent this amount of money.' That's all I know" (see full story).

NFL: League to interview players named in PED report
NEW YORK -- Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and James Harrison will be interviewed next month by NFL officials in connection to a media report that linked them to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A letter from NFL executive Adolpho Birch that was obtained Friday by The Associated Press says Green Bay linebackers Matthews and Peppers and Pittsburgh linebacker Harrison will be interviewed when training camps open. The Packers begin practicing on July 26, the Steelers on July 29.

The letter also mentions defensive lineman Mike Neal, a free agent who will be interviewed. It does not mention the now-retired Peyton Manning, who also was cited in Al-Jazeera's doping report in December.

But USA Today, citing an unnamed source, reported that an investigation into Manning's possible involvement also is progressing.

The NFL first notified Matthews, Peppers, Harrison and Neal about its investigation into the report on Jan. 11. That investigation has proceeded, but Birch wrote that the NFL Players Association hasn't responded to "multiple requests" to schedule the interviews, which would be conducted with a union representative present.

Al-Jazeera America reported allegations by Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. But Sly later recanted his claims (see full story).

Steelers: Kicker Suisham cut after injury setback
PITTSBURGH -- Shaun Suisham's lengthy run with the Pittsburgh Steelers is over. It appears the longtime kicker's career may be in jeopardy, too.

The team released Suisham on Friday after he failed a physical. The 34-year-old is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during the Hall of Fame Game last August.

The team hoped to bring Suisham to training camp, where he would compete with Chris Boswell for the starting job. Suisham, however, recently experienced a setback that general manager Kevin Colbert says pushed back the timeline on his recovery.

Suisham joined the Steelers in 2010 and converted 124-of-141 field goal attempts and each of his 173 extra-point attempts through the 2014 season. In a statement, Suisham described the knee injury as "catastrophic" and "critical" to his career going forward.