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Ravens’ B. Williams on Reserve/COVID-19 list

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens starting nose tackle Brandon Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.

Williams came in close contact with an infected person, a source said.

The Ravens are now expected to be without two starting defensive linemen for Sunday’s game at the Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck/concussion) is listed as doubtful.

The plans for Baltimore haven’t changed. The Ravens traveled to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.

Williams did not practice Thursday and Friday for non-injury related reasons. After Friday’s practice, coach John Harbaugh said Williams had “a personal excused absence.”

On Thursday and Friday, Ravens players were spotted wearing masks while walking out to the practice field, which is not something they previously did.

When asked a little over two weeks ago about what it will take to avoid COVID-19, Williams said: “Do as much as you possibly can to protect you and the family and the people that you love. Sometimes if you catch it, you catch it. Sometimes, it just is what it is and it’s inevitable.”

Justin Ellis is expected to replace Williams and make his first start since 2018. Jihad Ward or Justin Madubuike could fill in for Wolfe.

Williams becomes only the second Ravens player to get placed on the Reserve/COVID list and the first since training camp officially started.

The Ravens defense currently leads the NFL in fewest points allowed, giving up 15.2 points per game.

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Retweet costs Kiffin $25K as SEC admits error

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The SEC acknowledged Monday that it should have stopped play to review a fourth-quarter kickoff during the AuburnOle Miss game Saturday that appeared to show Auburn’s Shaun Shivers contact the football.

Ole Miss led by 1 with 5:43 left when a kickoff appeared to graze Shivers’ finger before it went into the end zone, where the referee ruled a touchback and blew the play dead. Instead of the play resulting in a fumble, Auburn kept possession and went on to score a winning touchdown on the drive, dropping Ole Miss to 1-4.

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said afterward that referees told him the play was briefly reviewed and upheld, and he later took to social media where he retweeted a post that called SEC officiating a disgrace.

Hitting retweet will cost the coach $25,000.

According to a statement released Monday, Kiffin’s fine was for “his use of social media Saturday after the game made in violation of SEC Bylaw 10.5.”

The bylaw states, in part, that “Criticism of officials or the officiating program by institutional personnel is absolutely prohibited” and comments on officiating “are to be directed only to the Conference office.”

The SEC did acknowledge that further review of the play was warranted.

“Because the play was not appropriately stopped for further review, the necessary slow-motion view of the play was not viewed by the replay official to determine if the ruling on the field should have been reversed,” the statement said.

After the game, Kiffin told reporters, “Someone said postgame it looked like his finger definitely moved, but whatever.”

On Monday, Kiffin said, “everybody in the country could see it hit him.”

“I asked the side judge,’ Why aren’t they replaying it? Do I need to challenge it?’ He said, ‘They’ve already looked at it. There’s nothing there,'” Kiffin said. “I’m not allowed to say anything about the conversation, but I really wish that our fans and players could hear what I was told.”

Kiffin took to social media again after news of the fine, this time retweeting a reporter for The Athletic, who wrote, “Lane Kiffin: Replay blew it

SEC: Replay blew it

Also SEC: Here’s a $25,000 fine, Lane, for correctly pointing out we blew it.”

Ole Miss will go on the road to play Vanderbilt on Saturday.

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What Kind Of Supreme Court Justice Will Amy Coney Barrett Be? 

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It’s official: Amy Coney Barrett will be the country’s next Supreme Court justice. She was confirmed by a 52 to 48 vote margin, and will be sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House tonight — just in time for Election Day.

Barrett’s ascension to the court was incredibly swift — her confirmation hearings started less than a month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, and this is the closest to an election a Supreme Court confirmation vote has been held. Notably, though, despite this accelerated timeline, Barrett emerged relatively unscathed from her confirmation hearings. This is quite a feat considering both the partisan nature of the hearings and the looming questions over whether the rush to confirm her jeopardizes the court’s legitimacy.

Barrett’s confirmation is incredibly consequential, too, as she will likely shift the center of gravity away from Chief Justice John Roberts and toward the right edge of the court’s conservative wing, which could potentially result in rulings that are significantly outside the mainstream of public opinion.

We won’t have to wait long to see how Barrett rules, either. She faces a slew of hot-button cases right off the bat, including a dispute over religious liberty exemptions, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and several cases involving controversial Trump administration policies — not to mention any election-related fights that make their way to the court in the next few weeks, plus the fact that Mississippi recently asked the Supreme Court to consider its 15-week abortion ban, which directly challenges Roe v. Wade.

Why Barrett is poised to remake the Supreme Court

As we’ve written before, it’s hard to know exactly how a nominee to the Supreme Court will rule until they’re actually sworn in and begin weighing in on cases. But we do have data on Barrett’s three years as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and as you can see in the chart below, she was very conservative.

We looked at two separate analyses of her record on the court this month, and we found whether it was in regular opinions or in special en banc decisions in which the entire appeals court ruled together, she was consistently on the right-most edge — if not the most conservative judge on the bench. And she was especially likely to rule in a conservative direction on civil rights issues.

Those findings underscore the idea that Barrett is likely to be a reliable conservative vote on the court. And her confirmation is even more significant because she’s replacing one of the court’s stalwart liberals. If Barrett ends up being ideologically similar to Justice Samuel Alito, who is currently the second-most conservative justice on the Supreme Court, her replacement of Ginsburg could be one of the biggest ideological swings in modern court history.

In this scenario, Justice Brett Kavanaugh would replace Roberts as the court’s new median justice, which could lead to a significant rightward turn on the court, as Roberts is often the lone conservative justice to side with the liberals. He has cast several recent pivotal votes with the liberals, too, including a dispute in which the justices deadlocked 4-4 on whether to halt a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that allowed state officials to count ballots that arrive up to three days late. With Barrett on the court, though, Roberts would lose that “swing justice” role.

In the short term, that means election-related cases could have very different outcomes — even including a new iteration of the Pennsylvania case, which Republican officials recently brought back to the court. And in the long term, conservative legal advocates may respond by bringing even more ambitious cases, questioning long-held precedents.

The hearings could have gone much worse for Barrett — and the court

The idea of confirming anyone to replace Ginsburg before the election was quite unpopular only a few weeks ago. While it’s true that most Supreme Court confirmation hearings are pretty partisan these days, around the time Barrett was named as the nominee, a majority of Americans said they wanted the winner of the election to choose the next justice. And polling by the Economist in mid-October also found that Barrett was the most unpopular nominee in Supreme Court history.

Now, though, Americans may actually have warmed to the idea of Barrett joining the court before Election Day. According to tracking polls by Morning Consult, support for confirming Barrett rose from 37 percent when she was nominated to 51 percent after the hearings were over and a Gallup poll conducted during Barrett’s confirmation hearings found a similar result. Notably, according to that Gallup poll, this was substantially higher than the share who wanted the Senate to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 (41 percent), and is even slightly higher than the support previous nominees since 1987 have received on average (48 percent).

Barrett’s confirmation wasn’t that divisive

Share of Americans who said they were or were not in favor of the Senate confirming each Supreme Court nominee

Nominee In favor Not in favor No opinion
Amy Coney Barrett 51% 46% 3%
Brett Kavanaugh 41 37 22
Neil Gorsuch 45 32 23
Merrick Garland 52 29 19
Elena Kagan 46 32 22
Sonia Sotomayor 54 28 19
Samuel Alito 50 25 25
Harriet Miers 44 36 20
John Roberts 59 22 19
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 53 14 33
Clarence Thomas 52 17 31
Robert Bork 31 25 44
Average for previous nominees 48 27 25

Data was not available for Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Douglas Ginsburg.

Source: Gallup

To be sure, this isn’t universal support for Barrett’s confirmation. Partisan opinion on her confirmation is really divided — according to Gallup, only 15 percent of Democrats wanted the Senate to vote to confirm her, for instance. A deep partisan divide in support isn’t a good sign for the court in general either, as it can reinforce perceptions that the court is itself a partisan institution. But Barrett could have emerged a lot less popular from her hearing — which is why the level of support she does enjoy is pretty notable, especially when you consider most Americans agreed that she’d push the court to the right (54 percent in that Morning Consult poll).

Barrett will be faced with highly controversial cases immediately

Barrett could be immediately faced with tough decisions, too, including voting on the fate of ballot deadlines in several states. There are a number of important or even precedent-altering cases at stake, too, and considering that the Roberts court has already been overturning more precedents with slim 5-4 majorities than any other court in modern history, that trend could further accelerate with Barrett on the court.

The day after the election, for instance, the justices will hear a case in which they’re being asked to reconsider a 30-year-old religious liberty precedent. In that case, the justices will consider whether that precedent makes it too hard for religious people to sue for exemptions. The majority opinion in that precedent-setting case, Employment Division v. Smith, was actually written by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, but four of the current conservative justices have already signaled they may be willing to strike it down. Barrett could overrule it, and make it much easier for nondiscrimination provisions to be challenged by religious litigants.

fAnd a week after the election, a case involving the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will come before the court, in which the justices could declare the entire law invalid. Another important signal will be whether Barrett’s presence on the court gives conservatives a fourth vote to hear a case involving Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which the state attorney general described as an “ideal vehicle” for “clarifying” how the court’s precedents on abortion should be interpreted. There are also several important Trump administration policies on the docket a little later this term — including the administration’s attempt to exclude undocumented citizens from the census count used for redistricting, and whether Trump unconstitutionally commandeered Congress’s power when he diverted Defense Department funds to expand the border wall with Mexico. Given that several recent Supreme Court decisions on Trump administration policies — including an attempt to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census — split 5-4, with Roberts casting a deciding vote with the liberals against the Trump administration, Barrett’s presence on the court could make a decision in favor of Trump more likely.1

Barrett made it through her confirmation hearings mostly without controversy, but we’ll see whether that lasts. It won’t take long to get a sense for just how far the Supreme Court’s conservatives are willing to go now that they hold a decisive majority for the first time in decades.

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Cowboys DC feels heat after hot sauce mishap

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FRISCO, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys practice Wednesday, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be on the injury report. The reason? Tabasco.

Nolan had to step away from his weekly conference call with reporters on Monday because he got some hot sauce in his eye in the middle of answering a question about the effectiveness of pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.

“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger, and it went in my eye. That wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”

It has been that kind of season for Nolan.

The Cowboys are on pace to allow 555 points this season. They have given up 243 points so far, which is more than they have given up in 11 seasons in franchise history, not counting the strike season in 1982, and equal to what they allowed in 1992.

Nolan was able to clean out his eye and return to the news conference.

“My eye feels a lot better,” he said, “but it was burning.”

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