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    Two of Deshaun Watson’s Accusers Take Their Claims Public

    Over 20 women have filed civil assault lawsuits against the quarterback anonymously, but Tuesday two of the complainants gave emotional statements describing sexual abuse.Ashley Solis became a massage therapist to heal people’s minds and bodies, but after what she said happened to her in March 2020, she can no longer do what she loves without shaking. Her hands tremble when she places them on clients, forcing her to cut sessions short. She suffers from panic attacks, anxiety and depression.Until Tuesday, Solis had been known as Jane Doe, the first of 22 women who have accused the Houston Texans’ star quarterback Deshaun Watson of assault and sexual misconduct in civil lawsuits. She became the first of the women to identify herself, stifling back tears as she accused Watson of behavior during a session on March 30, 2020 — moving his body to expose his penis, then touching her hand with it — that mortified and embarrassed her, sending her into a “tailspin” from which she said she has yet to recover.“I was afraid,” said Solis, who took several long pauses to compose herself as she read from a statement at a news conference Tuesday at the office of her lawyer, Tony Buzbee, who is representing all 22 women. “I’m not afraid anymore. I’m here to take back the power and take back control. I’m a survivor of assault and harassment. Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser.”She added, “People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false. I come forward so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman.”Watson has not commented publicly since the night of March 16, when the first lawsuit was filed. He said in a post on Twitter that he had “never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect” and that he had rejected “a baseless six-figure settlement demand” made by Buzbee before the first suit was filed.Another of the 22 women who have filed lawsuits, Lauren Baxley, also came forward Tuesday but did not attend the news conference held at Buzbee’s office in downtown Houston. She instead provided a letter she addressed to Watson that was read by one of Buzbee’s associates. Baxley echoed, in graphic terms, the pattern of lewd and coercive conduct he has been accused of and condemned him for being “nothing more than a predator with power.”“Every boundary from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading, you crossed or attempted to cross,” Baxley said.In her letter, which she said she wrote at the suggestion of her trauma therapist, Baxley said she was motivated not only to forgive herself for not speaking up sooner or for not being braver, but so that “you can know without excuse or justification that you have deeply and irreversibly brought terror to me and others.”Taken together, the two statements provided the most emotional declarations yet in the case against one of the N.F.L.’s best and most prominent players, who had become a fixture in the Houston community since he joined the Texans in 2017. By attaching faces and names to the flurry of civil court filings, the women appeared to counter some of the arguments made by Watson’s defense lawyers, who have pushed back against the legitimacy of the allegations made against Watson because they had been done so anonymously.After Tuesday’s news conference, Rusty Hardin, a lawyer representing Watson, took aim at the claims by Buzbee and Solis. Hardin released a series of emails that suggested that Buzbee “sought $100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.” All of the accusers, according to the lawsuits, have filed claims seeking “minimal compensatory damages.”In one email from February, Scott Gaffield, general counsel at Athletes First, the agency that represents Watson, rebuffed Buzbee’s demand on behalf of Solis for $100,000 because “we don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong …”In addition to the 22 civil claims, the case against Watson widened last week when the Houston Police Department acknowledged that it had begun investigating Watson after a complaint was filed against him. Buzbee said Tuesday that at least one other person had also filed a complaint against Watson with the police. It is unclear whether either person is also a plaintiff in the lawsuits filed against Watson in Harris County, Texas.While nearly two dozen claims have been filed against Watson in less than one month, the legal machinations are only beginning. The cases are now assigned to several judges for review, but it is unclear when or if they will be consolidated, something that would streamline decisions on the anonymity of the accusers, any motions to dismiss, potential discovery and myriad other steps that might lead to trial.Other factors may shape the contours of the case, including any potential developments in the investigations by the police and the N.F.L., which began its own inquiry and can suspend Watson while it looks into the allegations against him. Though the accusations have mounted in a short span of time, the legal proceedings are in very early stages, according to Stephanie Stradley, a lawyer in Houston who writes frequently about legal matters concerning the Texans and the N.F.L.“If you were making a football analogy, the ball’s been kicked off and people are running down the field, but no one’s caught the ball yet,” she said. “These cases are hard enough as it is when the world isn’t watching. They can be kind of messy sorting out what the full facts are.” More

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    New Study Finds Covid Spikes After N.F.L. Games With Fans

    As the N.F.L. makes plans to return to stadiums at full capacity this season, researchers published findings that “fan attendance at N.F.L. games led to episodic spikes” in the number of Covid-19 cases.Major League Baseball, the N.B.A. and other sports leagues have started to let fans back into their stadiums and arenas, with most teams limiting attendance to 10 to 20 percent of capacity, but some allowing more. The N.F.L. has even grander plans. Last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league hoped to open all of its stadiums at full capacity when the season kicked off in September.“All of us in the N.F.L. want to see every one of our fans back,” Goodell said in a conference call with reporters.Yet new research submitted to The Lancet, a scientific journal, in late March suggested that there was a link between the games that had large numbers of fans in the stands and an increase in the number of infections in locales near the stadiums. The study, which is being peer reviewed, is one of the most comprehensive attempts to address the potential impact of fans at N.F.L. games.The authors, led by Justin Kurland of the University of Southern Mississippi, used the number of positive cases not just from the counties where the 32 N.F.L. teams play, but also from surrounding counties to track the spread among fans who may have traveled to games from farther away. After adjusting the figures to eliminate potential false positives and days when counties did not report cases, they found surges in infection rates in the second and third weeks following N.F.L. games that were played with more than 5,000 fans in attendance. The study does not prove a causal link between fan attendance and Covid-19 cases, but suggests that there may be a relationship between the two.“The evidence overwhelmingly supports that fan attendance at N.F.L. games led to episodic spikes” in the number of Covid-19 cases, the researchers wrote.Jeff Miller, the N.F.L.’s executive vice president for communications, public affairs and policy, said in an interview that public health officials in cities and states where N.F.L. teams play found no “case clusters” following the 119 games held with fans in attendance. Miller added that a study done by researchers at the M.I.T. Sports Lab, which was unpublished and independent, found no notable increases in Covid-19 infection rates “in the appreciable time frame following the games.” That study also looked at Covid numbers from surrounding counties but compared them to “synthetic” data used as a control group and found little difference between the two sets of numbers.“Obviously, that was heartening,” Miller said. A study by the Florida Department of Health determined that Covid-19 infection rates were “slightly higher” in the Tampa area compared to the rest of Florida in the weeks after the city hosted the Super Bowl in February. Zack Wittman for The New York TimesMiller pointed to a study released by the Florida Department of Health that was not peer reviewed which determined Covid-19 infection rates were “slightly higher” in the Tampa area compared to the rest of Florida in the weeks after the city hosted the Super Bowl in February. A handful of people were infected after attending related N.F.L. events, but the state’s health department found that most transmission of the virus was “likely from private gatherings, in homes, or unofficial events at bars and restaurants.”About 1.2 million fans attended N.F.L. games last season, as owners bet that the games would not inflame the pandemic any further. Teams sanitized their stadiums and asked fans to wear masks and sit away from other groups.More than a dozen N.F.L. teams, including the three franchises in Florida and the two in Texas, hosted games with more than 5,000 spectators during the regular season. The Dallas Cowboys led the league in attendance in 2020, averaging more than 28,000 fans at its home games, followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars (15,919), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14,483) and Kansas City Chiefs (13,153).Kevin Watler, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, home to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, said contact tracers found “very low numbers” of positive coronavirus tests among people who attended Buccaneers home games during the season, and researchers do not believe those people spread the virus to others.Dr. Rex Archer, the director of health for Kansas City, Mo., said health departments in the region detected no spread of the virus linked to Chiefs home games. The 1,000 or so fans who sat in club seats had to test negative to be allowed to attend, a requirement that prevented up to a dozen people per game from entering the stadium. Bars and restaurants, though, were harder to track because some were shut while others, particularly in neighboring Kansas, were not.“You could have 15,000 socially distanced fans at Arrowhead Stadium, yet some people packed into a bar,” he said.The league cited a separate study preprinted in February that showed that attendance at N.F.L. and college football games last season did not have a “significant” impact on the spread of Covid-19 but only tracked positive cases in counties where those games were held. The research submitted to The Lancet, however, tracked more extensive data from surrounding counties.Positive cases of coronavirus could not solely be traced to N.F.L. games in part because stadiums are not the only place fans gathered. “You could have 15,000 socially distanced fans at Arrowhead Stadium, yet some people packed into a bar” on game days, said Dr. Rex Archer, the director of the health department in Kansas City, Mo.Chase Castor for The New York TimesWhile Goodell is eager to see full stadiums in the fall, John Mara, the president of the Giants, was more measured. His team and the Jets will coordinate with the governor’s office in New Jersey before deciding how many fans can attend games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford during the 2021 season.“As the vaccines continue to roll out, hopefully the positivity rate will be going down in the coming months,” Mara told reporters last week.In a statement, Miller of the N.F.L. said the league would, as it did last year, follow the recommendations of local, county, state and federal public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and “continue to uphold with the advice and partnership of medical and public health experts as we look to the 2021 season.”Trying to establish definitive causal links between a single event and a change in infection rates across a large metropolitan area is complicated. The authors of The Lancet study concede that their research only shows that two events — games with fans and increasing positive Covid-19 rates — coincided. Other events like political rallies, the reopening of colleges or holiday travel may have contributed to an increase in infections, especially in states where preventive measures like the wearing of masks were less widely adopted. Infections may have also increased because fans watched games with their friends in living rooms or at bars, gatherings that were beyond the N.F.L.’s control.“The strength of these studies is they are showing something, but the correlations can only point out the possibilities, not the causation,” said Bruce Y. Lee, the executive director of Public Health Informatics Computational and Operations Research at City University of New York School of Public Health. “It’s not just a football game and people go home. There are all these associated activities around the game.”To establish that N.F.L. games caused the spread of the virus, researchers would need contact tracing data on fans who attended games and then tested positive. That information is scarce, though, since many local health departments used their resources to educate the public on preventive measures and increase coronavirus testing. In Duval County, Fla., health officials said they did not study whether fans who attended Jacksonville Jaguars games were infected or whether the team’s home games increased the spread of the virus.In part because not everyone cooperated with contact tracers’ requests, even people who attended N.F.L. games and tested positive had difficulty determining whether they got infected before, during or after the games.Eight residents who tested positive for the virus told contact tracers that they had recently attended Cowboys home games, health officials in Tarrant County, Texas, said in November.Researchers in the study submitted to The Lancet found spikes in the number of positive cases after games that had more than 5,000 in attendance, a reason, they argue, that leagues and event organizers should welcome back customers cautiously.“We are not saying that the N.F.L. shouldn’t have opened up to fans,” said Alex Piquero, a sociologist the University of Miami and a co-author of the study. “But we have to understand the public health implications of opening up.” More

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    Jets Trade Sam Darnold to Carolina Panthers

    Darnold was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, and this year the Jets have the No. 2 overall pick to use in finding his replacement.The verdict on the most significant decision facing Joe Douglas during his 22 months as Jets general manager arrived on Monday, and with it a point of demarcation on the franchise’s timeline of despair.Rather than retain Sam Darnold as the team’s starting quarterback, giving him an opportunity to bloom in a new offensive system with a new coaching staff, the Jets traded him to the Carolina Panthers, indicating that they will select his successor with the No. 2 overall pick in the N.F.L. draft this month.In return, the Jets will receive a sixth-round pick this year and second- and fourth-rounders in 2022, adding to the stockpile of draft capital amassed by Douglas as he attempts to rebuild a franchise that went 2-14 last season and that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season, the longest postseason drought in the league.“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” Douglas said in a statement. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose N.F.L. story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”It has been just under three years since the Jets, ever searching for a quarterback, chose Darnold third over all out of Southern California in the same draft that yielded Baker Mayfield for Cleveland, Josh Allen for Buffalo and Lamar Jackson for Baltimore.Darnold joined a Jets organization that had long tried and failed to identify and develop a dependable starter. He arrived at a time when, with the New England Patriots closer to the end of the Tom Brady era than the beginning, the prospect of contending in the A.F.C. East seemed a little less daunting.Instead of maximizing that opportunity, the Jets bungled it. They failed to surround Darnold with a sturdy offensive line, adequate playmakers and a consistent run game. They hired an offensive-minded coach, Adam Gase, whose failure to oversee a competent offense resulted in a 9-23 record and his dismissal after two seasons. Under Gase, Darnold regressed and inspired an infamous meme during a 2019 loss to the Patriots. Darnold threw four interceptions in the game, and the microphone he was wearing for the Monday Night Football broadcast caught him saying “I’m seeing ghosts” after one of the picks.In three seasons, Darnold completed 59.8 percent of his passes with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions, fifth most in the league over that span, according to Pro Football Reference.With Darnold gone, the Jets are primed once again to give this drafting-a-quarterback thing a try: According to the ESPN researcher Evan Kaplan, if the Jets take a quarterback at No. 2, they will become the first team since at least 1967 to select two quarterbacks among the first three overall picks in a four-year span.With Trevor Lawrence of Clemson expected to be taken with the first pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the leading contenders for the second selection are Zach Wilson of Brigham Young and Justin Fields of Ohio State.The Panthers, ready to move on from Teddy Bridgewater, have been searching this off-season for an upgrade, and they no doubt concluded that Darnold, 23, offered more appeal than choosing a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick or trying to move up in the draft. With the status of one potential alternative, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, in doubt because of accusations of assault and sexual misconduct leveled at him in multiple lawsuits, the Panthers opted for Darnold. He will get the chance to work with a sharp offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, and a better offensive line and cast of skill positions than he did with the Jets.Already this off-season, Douglas has made significant changes to reshape the perception of the Jets by hiring the dynamic Robert Saleh as the head coach and adding receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and the edge rusher Carl Lawson, among others, in free agency. The optimal, though perhaps most difficult, path to contending in the N.F.L. is securing a great quarterback on a rookie contract, with its slotted salary and modest cap charge allowing a team to bolster other areas of its roster.The previous Jets general manager, Mike Maccagnan, tried to do that with Darnold and failed. Now comes Douglas’s turn. More

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    With 17 Games, the N.F.L. Evolves for Streaming Generation

    The last time the league expanded its regular season 43 years ago, it was evolving for TV broadcasts and priming for an offensive era.We come to praise the 16-game N.F.L. schedule, but also to bury it.The 16-game regular season was the Platonic ideal of professional sports scheduling for 43 years, in part because the number 16 itself is a neatly divisible, perfect square of almost fearful symmetry. Each team’s schedule could be easily subdivided into even numbers of divisional games and interconference matchups. With the addition of a bye week in 1990, the 16-game schedule occupied almost precisely one-third of the calendar year, making football season feel comprehensive yet brisk and intense, unlike the sprawling 82-game N.B.A. and N.H.L. seasons that nearly overlap themselves.Unfortunately, the 16-game schedule is going the way of the leather helmet. The N.F.L. formally announced Tuesday that its regular season would expand to 17 games, rubber stamping a move team owners have been preparing for over a year. Farewell, even numbers and familiar statistical benchmarks! Say hello instead to Super Bowls that take place on Presidents’ Day weekend and mediocre playoff teams that boast winning percentages of 52.941176.The expanded schedule means expanded revenues for the league, of course. The new 17-game season dovetails with the recently announced 11-year, $110 billion media rights agreements with broadcasters and streaming services that take effect in 2023.But the N.F.L. is not merely adding a week of games. The league is evolving so it can become an even larger part of a changing culture and multimedia ecosystem, just as it was doing when it expanded the regular season from 14 games to 16 in 1978.That year, the N.F.L. did much more than add two games to its schedule. It introduced wild card teams so it could add an additional round to the playoffs. League owners also enacted sweeping rule changes designed to increase passing and scoring, which would become something of a habit for them over the next four decades. The new rules permitted blockers to open their hands to push defenders without incurring holding penalties and prohibited defenders from dragging wide receivers around the field behind motorcycles. (More precisely, the rampant and often vicious downfield contact that made defenses like Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” so effective became illegal.)As a result of relaxed rules and the 14 percent longer schedule, pre-1978 statistics looked quaint just a few seasons later. The All-Pro Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese threw for 2,252 yards and led the league with 22 touchdowns in 1977. By 1984, Dan Marino shattered existing records with 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns while playing beside some of Griese’s former teammates.Before the arrival of the 16-game schedule, the N.F.L. preseason lasted six grueling weeks. The regular season did not begin until the third week of September and ended in mid-December, followed by two short weeks of playoffs. Even Super Bowls were held on Sunday afternoons, as if they were just another game, until the end of the 1977 season. Starting in 1978, the regular season and playoffs essentially took their modern footprints and culminated in a prime-time television spectacular.Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, center, posed with quarterbacks Earl Morrall and Bob Griese, right, in 1973, just before the team finished an undefeated season with a Super Bowl victory.Mark Foley/Associated PressPro football’s changes were so pronounced and swift that the advent of the 16-game season looks in retrospect like Dorothy’s arrival in Oz. The game’s history before 1978 is sepia-toned, with fans in parkas and fedoras huddled on icy bleachers watching grizzled, hung over quarterbacks who smoked cigarettes during pregame warm-ups (as John Facenda narrated the scene). Everything after 1978 is in vivid color, faster-paced and poised for the era of cable television, satellite packages, video games and fantasy sports.The 16-game schedule provided a durable framework as the N.F.L. expanded from 28 to 32 teams and six to eight divisions, increased the number of playoff participants from 10 to (as of last year) 16, added bye weeks, introduced Sunday and Thursday night television packages and conditioned football fans to watch live coverage of off-season events like the draft and scouting combine. The schedule was so well-structured in later years that fans knew which opponents their favorite team would face next season the moment the previous one ended. Yet droves of fans tuned in to watch schedule announcement shows anyway.The new 17-game schedule arrives at another time of rapid change. The N.F.L. has long embraced fantasy football and is now welcoming legalized gambling partnerships. Media rights have been awarded to streaming services in addition to traditional TV broadcasters, and the league is expected to use some of the extra games to expand its international presence. Just as it ditched bell-bottoms and abandoned midcentury trappings in 1978, the N.F.L. in 2021 is putting away its cargo pants, downloading TikTok and getting ready to appeal to zoomers.Traditionalists howled in the first years after the N.F.L.’s 16-game expansion, when old records were easily eclipsed and men with nicknames like “Hacksaw” and “The Assassin” ceded the stage to golden boys like Joe Montana. Purists will also fret in the weeks and months to come about a supposedly diluted product with too many games and playoff teams.Come winter, those same naysayers will surely end up rushing to finalize their fantasy lineups before plopping on a bar stool or sofa for that extra week of games. Within a few years, we will all grow accustomed to wild card teams with 9-8 records, commonplace 5,000-yard passing seasons and play-by-play announcers on 5K-resolution broadcasts updating the point spread after halftime. The 16-game era will then feel grainy and fusty by comparison.On a related note, the N.F.L. also shortened its preseason by one game. No one will complain about that change. More

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    N.F.L. Officially Adds 17th Regular Season Game

    The measure passed by team owners Tuesday is the first expansion of the N.F.L.’s regular season schedule since 1978 and will force the league to push the Super Bowl back one week.The N.F.L. formally agreed to add a 17th regular season game on Tuesday, the first expansion of the league’s schedule since 1978.To make room for the extra game, the league’s owners removed one preseason game, leaving three for each team. The upcoming regular season will begin on Thursday, Sept. 9 and end one week later than usual, on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Super Bowl LVI, which will be played in Inglewood, Calif., will also move back one week, to Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.Teams will continue to have only one bye week during the season.Team owners approved the expansion at an annual meeting held virtually, but the new calendar structure had been all but guaranteed to move forward after the league announced on March 18 that it had reached a series of long-term distribution deals with CBS, Fox and other media companies. The current collective bargaining agreement, reached in March 2020, gave team owners the option to add an extra regular season game if the league signed at least one new media deal.With the addition of a 17th regular season game on top of the two extra playoff games the league added last season, the N.F.L. negotiated substantially higher rates for its media rights. The new deals, which total more than $100 billion, nearly double the amount of the expiring contracts.“One of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world,” N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.During negotiations on the labor contract last year, many prominent players, including Richard Sherman and Aaron Rodgers, opposed adding a 17th regular season game. The owners ultimately won over reluctant union members, who approved the agreement by just 60 votes, with players getting a bump in their share of the N.F.L.’s revenue, up to 48.5 percent from 47 under the old deal.Some players remain opposed to a longer season. Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson called the additional game “complete BS” in a post on Twitter. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara used spicier language to convey his displeasure, before tempering his reaction by writing, “17 games still dumb,” on the app.Goodell said in a conference call with reporters that players would still play a total of 20 preseason and regular season games. Injury rates, he said, are higher during preseason games, so eliminating one could lead to fewer injuries. Most established players, though, play only sparingly during the preseason, when coaches prefer to evaluate free agents and rookies as they vie for roster spots.On Tuesday, the owners also approved a rule that would require all 32 teams to play an overseas game at least once every eight years. This will allow the league to schedule up to four neutral-site games each year outside the United States starting in 2022. Teams like the Green Bay Packers have been reluctant to play internationally because they did not want to give up the revenue from a home game and because of the stress of additional travel. In recent years, some franchises have been willing to play games in London and in Mexico City in exchange for the right to host a Super Bowl. The new rule would end that trade-off.As the league looks to grow the game’s international footprint, N.F.L. executives said it may also return to playing games in Canada, as well as in South America and elsewhere in Europe, including Germany. Chris Halpin, the N.F.L.’s chief strategy and growth officer, said finding a Canadian stadium that meets the league’s specifications for hosting a game remains an issue.The 17-game regular season will give half of the N.F.L.’s teams an extra home game each season. For simplicity’s sake, the 17th game will be hosted by all teams from one conference on a rotating basis. In 2021, every A.F.C. team will host nine regular season games, while N.F.C. teams will host eight. In 2022, N.F.C. teams will get the ninth home game.As usual, teams will play home and away against their three divisional rivals for a total of six games. Interdivisional games within the same conference will continue on a rotating, three-year cycle, interconference games, on a four-year cycle. Remaining games will be determined based on the prior year’s standings.The newly added 17th game will be between interconference teams based on the prior year’s standings. A first-place team from one division will face a first-place team from a division in the opposing conference that it had not been scheduled to play based on the usual scheduling rotations.That will lead to some intriguing interconference games in 2021. The Green Bay Packers, for instance, winners of the NF.C. North last season, will travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs, who won the A.F.C. West. The Seattle Seahawks, winners of the N.F.C. West, will play the Steelers in Pittsburgh, while the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Colts in Indianapolis.The N.F.L. will announce the dates and times of all these games in the coming weeks. More

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    Howard Schnellenberger, College Coach Who Built Winners, Dies at 87

    After assembling the formidable offense for the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins, he breathed new life into football programs at two universities.Howard Schnellenberger, who built the offense for the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ unbeaten Super Bowl champions, then revived downtrodden football programs as head coach at the Universities of Miami and Louisville, died on Saturday. He was 87.His death was announced by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, whose football program he had created. The university did not say where he died or give the cause.Brash and supremely confident and a distinctive figure on the sidelines, usually wearing a sports jacket and tie and sporting a bushy mustache, Schnellenberger was eager to defy the odds.And he was very much the taskmaster.“Football is the last place, outside of the military, where we have an opportunity to develop the proposition that the team is more important than the individual,” he told Sports Illustrated after putting his 1995 Oklahoma Sooners — the third of four college teams he coached — through a grueling spring workout.Schnellenberger was the offensive coordinator under Coach Don Shula for the 17-0 Dolphins of 1972, assembling a unit featuring Bob Griese and Earl Morrall at quarterback, Larry Csonka at fullback, Mercury Morris at running back and Paul Warfield at wide receiver.He embarked on his collegiate head-coaching career in January 1979, when the Miami Hurricanes hired him to take over a football program that was in disarray. Two weeks earlier, Lou Saban, the latest of several head coaches Miami had gone through in the 1970s, had suddenly departed for Army.Schnellenberger watching his Florida Atlantic University team run drills in 2008. He coached Florida Atlantic to a bowl game in his fourth season there.J. Pat Carter/Associated PressIn his five seasons with the Hurricanes, Schnellenberger focused on recruiting players from Florida high schools, proclaiming that “the State of Miami,” delineated by an imaginary line that ran from Tampa eastward, would be the northern boundary of his prime recruiting territory. And he installed professional-type offensive and defensive schemes.The rebuilding program reached its pinnacle when quarterback Bernie Kosar (who was from Ohio) led the Hurricanes to an 11-1 record and a No. 1 ranking for the 1983 season, capped by a 31-30 victory over the previously undefeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.After posting a 41-16 record at Miami, Schnellenberger left in 1984 for a prospective head-coaching post in the short-lived United States Football League. But that deal collapsed, and in 1985 he returned to Louisville, where he had grown up, to coach the Cardinals.He said he was unfazed by the challenge of reviving a football program that had long been in the shadow of the school’s basketball squads.“We’re on a collision course with the national championship,” he said at his introductory news conference. “The only variable is time.”He coached Louisville to a pair of bowl victories, most notably a 34-7 rout of Alabama in the 1991 New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl, the climax of a 10-1-1 season.Schnellenberger became the head coach at Oklahoma in 1995. But the Sooners went only 5-5-1, and he resigned.He retired after that, but Florida Atlantic University hired him in 1998 to raise funds for the creation of a football program. He began recruiting players as the head coach a year later, and his first team took the field in 2001, in Division 1-AA. Florida Atlantic transitioned to the higher Division 1-A in 2004 and won the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and the 2008 Motor City Bowl at that level.Howard Leslie Schnellenberger was born on March 16, 1934, in Saint Meinrad, Ind. He was of German-American descent. His father was a truck driver, and his mother worked in a munitions plant during World War II. He played for Kentucky under Bear Bryant and Blanton Collier, as an end, and was named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press in 1955. He was an assistant coach under Collier at Kentucky in 1959 and 1960 and under Bryant at Alabama from 1961 through 1965. Schnellenberger’s wife, Beverlee, bronzed a pair of shoes that she said he had worn during every game he coached from 1959 to 1972.Scott McIntyre for The New York TimesSchnellenberger recruited Joe Namath and Ken Stabler for the Crimson Tide. When he went to Beaver Falls, Pa., to induce Namath to play for Bryant, he once told The Sun Sentinel of South Florida, “a three-day recruiting trip turned into 10 days,” since Namath and his family took some persuading.“I was out of money and had to buy him a plane ticket to return with me,” he recalled. “I wrote a bad check to Eastern Airlines to get both of us to Alabama.”When Stabler asked Schnellenberger to bring a small gift for his mother when he was wooing Stabler for Bryant, Schnellenberger recalled, “I took his mom a fifth of bourbon.”Schnellenberger was an offensive coach on Bryant’s national championship Alabama teams of 1961, ’64 and ’65. He became the receivers coach for George Allen’s Los Angeles Rams in 1966, then was hired by Shula as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 1970.Coming off the Dolphins’ unbeaten season, he was named the Baltimore Colts’ head coach in 1973. But after the Colts went 4-10 and then got off to an 0-3 start the next season, he was fired. He was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator again from 1975 to 1978.Schnellenberger with the Peach Bowl trophy after Miami beat Virginia Tech in 1981.Joe Sebo/Associated PressSchnellenberger had a career record of 158-151-3 as a collegiate head coach. He was 6-0 in bowl games, coaching Miami, Louisville and Florida Atlantic to two bowl triumphs apiece. He retired a second and final time after Florida Atlantic’s 2011 season.He is survived by his wife, Beverlee; his sons Stuart and Timothy; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His son Stephen died in 2008.Miami and Florida Atlantic met for the first time in August 2013. The Hurricanes won, 34-6, with Schnellenberger and players from his 1983 Miami team on hand to mark the 30th anniversary of their national championship season. Schnellenberger was both a winner and a loser at that 2013 matchup: He was the honorary captain for both teams. More

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    Daniel Snyder to Buy Out Other Owners of Washington NFL Team

    The league is expected to approve a measure that will allow Daniel Snyder to buy total control of the team.Seeking to move past a year of tumult over the team’s former name and a sexual harassment investigation of its front office, the owner of the Washington Football Team is close to a deal with fellow league owners that will give him greater control over the organization while he pays a fine for executives’ misconduct.The arrangement effectively resolves two pressing issues: a protracted boardroom fight over ownership that spilled out into the open and an investigation by the N.F.L. into allegations that women who worked for the team were sexually harassed by staff members, a number of whom have already been dismissed.The league owners next week are expected to approve a special waiver that would allow the owner, Daniel Snyder, to take on an additional $450 million in debt in order to buy out minority partners he has been battling, according to a copy of the resolution reviewed by The New York Times. The N.F.L.’s finance committee last week unanimously recommended that the full cohort of owners waive the limit of debt a buyer can take on to buy into a team. Snyder will have to repay the money by March 2028.Support for Snyder’s purchase comes as the N.F.L.’s investigation into sexual harassment claims made against former Washington Football Team executives concludes. In the coming days, Commissioner Roger Goodell may address the findings collected by Beth Wilkinson, a Washington-based lawyer whom Snyder hired last summer to investigate after several Washington Post articles reported widespread sexual harassment of women who worked for the team over a 15-year span. The N.F.L. took over her investigation from Snyder.Snyder’s pending purchase of his partners’ shares and the end of Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s internal culture come after a chaotic year for the franchise. The team decided to drop its nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from some Native American activists who considered it a racist slur and threats from major corporations that they would end sponsorships if the name stayed. The Washington Football Team is still reviewing possible new names and logos.Since then, Washington sought to rectify its 3-13 record from the 2019 season by firing numerous front office executives and hiring a new coach, Ron Rivera, at the beginning of 2020. In August, Rivera learned he had cancer and began treatments for it, but he coached the full season, leading the team back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.To try to revive the club’s tattered image, Snyder has hired several new executives, including Jason Wright, the N.F.L.’s first Black team president. A coed dance team will perform on game days, replacing the cheerleading program, which had been overseen by one of the since-fired executives who had been accused of sexual harassment.Snyder will pay $875 million for the 40.5 percent of the team owned by Dwight Schar, Robert Rothman and Frederick Smith, ensuring his total control of the franchise he bought a majority stake of in 1999.When the purchase is completed, which is expected shortly, Snyder and his family will hold 100 percent of the club and end a very public fight with Rothman, Schar and Smith, who bought into the team in 2003. Last spring, the three men banded together to try to sell their stakes after Snyder declined to pay them annual dividends as a way to conserve the team’s cash with the 2020 N.F.L. season still in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic.In August, the private disagreement over distributed dividends turned into corporate warfare that spilled into public view. Snyder all but accused Schar of orchestrating a smear campaign against him by contending in court documents that Schar facilitated the spread of negative information about him to the media with the hope that bad press would ultimately force Snyder to sell his majority stake. In that situation, the trio’s shares would have garnered a higher price if the team was sold as a whole.The three minority owners — Schar, a real estate developer; Rothman, an asset manager; and Smith, the chairman of FedEx — turned against Snyder, accusing him in federal court of bad-faith dealing and malfeasance.Even as Wilkinson was brought in last July to conduct an investigation into team executives’ conduct toward female employees, the N.F.L. had hired in late June former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to untangle the squabble among the Washington Football Team’s owners.The Washington Post reported that two women had accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating to 2004 — which he denied — and that he reached a financial settlement in 2009 with a female former executive who had accused him of sexual misconduct during a trip on a private jet.Now, with the investigation into his and other team employees’ conduct wrapping up and the conclusion of his boardroom battle in sight, Snyder can focus on another major task: deciding how to rebrand the football team whose future is entirely under his control. 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    Deshaun Watson's Lawyer Issues Denial of Assault Claims

    Since the quarterback’s initial denial on social media, an array of civil suits have been filed that accuse him of a pattern of coercive behavior and, in two cases, sexual assault.Allegations of assault and sexual misconduct against the Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson have mounted over the past week, as 16 women have filed civil suits against him and their lawyer has publicized the accusations on social media and in a news conference that was streamed online.Aside from an early denial of the first two claims, Watson has remained mostly silent. In the first substantive rebuttal to the accusations, Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, on Tuesday challenged the veracity of all the claims and described one of the two allegations of sexual assault as an attempt to blackmail his client.In a statement, Hardin blasted Tony Buzbee, the lawyer representing the women, saying he had “orchestrated a circuslike atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 ‘Jane Doe’ lawsuits” to malign Watson’s reputation. Buzbee filed two additional suits on Tuesday.Watson’s attorney also said that he had “strong evidence” demonstrating that the first lawsuit claiming sexual assault was false, and he said that “calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.”“I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false,” Hardin said.Since March 16, a total of 16 women have accused Watson of assault in civil lawsuits filed in Harris County, Texas, where he is a resident. According to the complaints, the incidents have taken place from March 2020 to this month. Although most are said to have occurred in Texas, two were said to have happened in Georgia, Watson’s home state, this month, and in California, where he was visiting in July 2020.The civil suits accuse Watson, 25, of engaging in a pattern of lewd behavior with women hired to provide personal services — coercing them to touch him in a sexual manner, exposing himself to women hired to do massages, or moving his body in ways that forced them to touch his penis. The suits that accuse him of sexual assault say that Watson pressured both women to perform oral sex during massages and that he grabbed one woman’s buttocks and vagina.Hardin’s statement referenced the first allegation of sexual assault, which is said to have occurred on Dec. 28, 2020. That day, according to the complaint, he coerced the woman to touch his genitals and perform oral sex. The woman was so upset, the complaint said, that she blacked out for a few minutes.The statement from Watson’s lawyer on Tuesday included a signed affidavit from Bryan Burney, the quarterback’s marketing manager for the past three years. The affidavit states that Burney spoke in January with a woman believed to be the plaintiff in the first claim of sexual assault. Burney said that the woman had asked him to pay her $30,000 on Watson’s behalf for “indefinite silence” about an encounter with Watson that Burney said she characterized to him as consensual.After Burney declined to pay, the statement said, he received a second call from a man who claimed to be the woman’s business manager. That man claimed something embarrassing would be revealed if Watson did not pay to keep it a secret. Watson, Burney said, did not meet the man’s demand.Hardin added in the statement that Watson’s team was “taking the allegations very seriously and we ask only that people not rush to judgment, that people not be unduly influenced by opposing counsel’s antics, and that they let fundamental fairness to both sides rule the day.” More