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

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

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AP

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A former Pennsylvania prosecutor testified Tuesday he does not believe a man who reached a settlement with Penn State over a molestation claim is the same person seen by a witness being abused by Jerry Sandusky in a university football team shower.

Joe McGettigan, a former prosecutor who is now a lawyer in private practice, took the stand as the final witness during three days of testimony in Sandusky's bid for dismissal of charges or a new trial.

McGettigan said his opinion about the man who claims to be the person described as Victim 2 in court records is based on changes in the man's story, that he appears too old to be the boy in the shower and that he did not provide certain details to investigators until after the man who witnessed the attack had given his own story in open court.

Sandusky's grounds for appeal include a claim that McGettigan lied when he said during closing argument that Victim 2 was known "to God but not to us."

McGettigan said he did not believe the man's claim to be Victim 2 at the time of Sandusky's 2012 trial.

"I did not then and I do not now," McGettigan said.

Graduate assistant Mike McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky abusing a boy inside a team shower late on a Friday night in early 2001, and reported the matter to then-head coach Joe Paterno and other top administrators.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of abuse of 10 boys after eight of them testified against him -- but not Victim 2.

McGettigan said the man who settled with Penn State was born in 1987, so he would have been about 14 at the time, but McQueary described Victim 2 as being about 10. McGettigan said the man was unable to properly describe the location of the attack and drew a map of a locker room that was not accurate.

The man denied to police in September 2011 that any abuse occurred and gave the same statement to an investigator working for Sandusky's lawyers. But after McQueary testified in a related preliminary hearing, he hired a lawyer and changed his story, claiming to have been sexually abused. Neither the man nor Penn State has disclosed the precise nature of his claim against the university or said how much he was paid to settle it.

McGettigan said Sandusky, who attended all three days of the Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing, "could at any time have told any number of persons" the identity of Victim 2. "He declined to say so."

Another former state prosecutor, Jonelle Eshbach, testified that her office set up a sting after a March 2011 story in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg disclosed details of the grand jury investigation that led to Sandusky's arrest about seven months later.

She and her supervisor, Frank Fina, placed a fake notice within the prosecution agency's file about someone who had been subpoenaed and then watched to see if it would produce a story that would indicate a leak within the attorney general's office. She said no one took the bait.

Fina, the third person to testify Tuesday, said his doubts about the man's claim to be Victim 2 were based in part on early questions about when the McQueary incident occurred. At first, it was publicly reported to be 2002, which the man confirmed. Later it was determined to have been 2001.

"There was a possibility that (he) had conformed his testimony to Mr. McQueary's recollection of the date," Fina said.

Sandusky previously lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts. The current process, presided over by the trial judge, is under the Post-Conviction Relief Act and therefore limited to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.

The judge did not say when he would rule but indicated there may be additional proceedings.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”