Star quarterback Deshaun Watson has requested a trade from the Houston Texans, a person familiar with the move told the Associated Press.
The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the request and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Thursday.
Watson has a no-trade clause in his four-year, $156 million contract, so he could have some control over where he might be dealt.
A source told the Associated Press on Wednesday night the Texans hired David Culley as their new coach to replace Bill O’Brien, who was fired after an 0-4 start and replaced by interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
The same source who told The AP about the trade request said Watson made the ask before Culley’s hire. He has been unhappy with the direction of the team for some time and Sports Illustrated reported weeks ago that Watson was upset the team didn’t initially request to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for its coaching vacancy.
The Texans eventually interviewed Bieniemy, as well as Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Buffalo assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell, former Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis and Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady before landing on Culley — the only Black among the seven head coaches hired this offseason. The only other minority candidate who was hired as a head coach this offseason was the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, the league’s first Muslim American head coach.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, wasn’t just disgruntled about the way Houston went about its coaching search. He was also upset that owner Cal McNair did not take his opinion into account when hiring general manager Nick Caserio, according to reports from ESPN and the NFL Network.
The Texans, who had years of woes at quarterback before drafting Watson, don’t want to part with the talented 25-year-old who led the NFL in yards passing this season. But so far they have been unable to change his mind about his desire to leave.
Watson has found support from many players around the league in recent weeks concerning his desire to be traded, including from one of the greatest players in franchise history.
Just after the season, former Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who was drafted in the franchise’s second year and had 13,597 yards receiving in 12 seasons in Houston, tweeted his support for Watson. Johnson criticized Jack Easterby, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. Johnson is the only player in Houston’s Ring of Honor and worked as a special adviser to the team before stepping away from that role before this season.
Some believe that Easterby, a former chaplain for the Patriots, has gained too much power since O’Brien, who was also the team’s general manager, was fired in October.
“If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” Johnson tweeted Jan. 12. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”
If the Texans can’t repair their relationship with Watson they’ll be faced with an even more massive rebuilding process.
Mask order issued for Tampa
Anyone visiting Tampa’s popular outdoor destinations for the Super Bowl will be required to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Tampa’s mayor, Jane Castor, signed an executive order Wednesday saying masks must be worn outside while downtown, in neighborhoods around Raymond James Stadium — where the Super Bowl will be held — and in other tourist hotspots.
The order says those who are not wearing a mask can be cited with a “nominal civil infraction” that carries a penalty up to a $500 fine. It will remain in place until Feb. 13 — nearly a week after the Super Bowl ends.
There are a few exceptions, including children under 5.
“We are incredibly excited to host a fun and safe Super Bowl here in Tampa — but we need everyone to do their part. We want fans to feel confident knowing that when they come out to celebrate Super Bowl LV, they can do so safely in a city that takes this pandemic seriously,” Castor said in a statement Thursday morning.
The NFL is allowing 22,000 visitors to be inside Raymond James Stadium for the game and all will be required to wear masks. It normally has a capacity of 75,000 fans.
There will be official game events around the city, including The Super Bowl Experience, which features live music, food, beverages and football-themed activities. That will be held at multiple parks along the 2.7-mile Tampa Riverwalk and it is one of the places where masks are required even outdoors.
Steelers want Roethlisberger back, at a price
The Pittsburgh Steelers want Ben Roethlisberger to return in 2021.
It’s the money, however, that makes it tricky.
Team president Art Rooney II acknowledged there is work to be done to lower Roethlisberger’s scheduled $41.2 million salary cap hit before Roethlisberger can begin work on his 18th season in Pittsburgh.
The club has already broached the subject with Roethlisberger but with specifics on the 2021 cap still scarce, Rooney acknowledged it’s too early to get into details.
Strahan has COVID-19
NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, the “Good Morning America” co-host and Fox Sports NFL contributor, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in isolation.
“GMA” co-host Robin Roberts confirmed reports that Strahan had been absent this week from the New York-based show because “he has tested positive for covid.” She added that “he’s at home quarantining right now.”
The NFL Hall of Famer tested positive Saturday, according to TMZ. He appeared remotely the next day, as he often did during the season, on the “Fox NFL Sunday” show, which is broadcast from Los Angeles.
“GMA” co-host George Stephanopoulos said Strahan, 49, is “feeling well and looking forward to being back here shortly.”